When we took the turnoff to Köw Ata, leaving the highway to Ashgabat and driving towards the Kopet Dagh mountains that are also the border with Iran, a long line of cars was driving just ahead of us. They all had colourful pieces of cloth hanging from their windows, decorations on their cars, and we knew we had arrived in a wedding party. We felt in a good mood, too, opened our windows, and hung one of the newly acquired scarfs outside, too. When we arrived at the end of the road, the parking lots were full of cars. Soon thereafter, we realized that there was not just one wedding party, but three at the same time. Three couples marrying, six families, and lots of noise around. We walked towards the entrance of the lake, but at this point, it was impossible to think that we would go underground with a triple party going on outside.
So, we stayed out, and let ourselves immerse in the parties around us. We noticed that while the men were dressed in quite boring neat clothing, the Turkmen women, already dressing elegantly in everyday life, looked absolutely marvelous. Another thing that surprised us: there was a strict segregation between men and women, boys anf girls. Boys were dancing with boys, girls with girls - there was no cosy dancing of couples whatsoever. The only couples seemed to be the three that were celebrating their marriage here. We ended up getting close to the newly weds. Only then, when much of the crowd was behind instead of ahead of us, did we see the brides. Their dresses were absolutely amazing. Very heavily hanging around their bodies, it was impossible to see anything of their bodies or even face. In fact, they all had a friend helping them out to keep their clothes under control, and to guide them in case they needed to move. It looked like they had just been imprisoned in a golden cage, as their dressed were colourful and spectacular. And then, suddenly, the parties were over, the music and the dancing stopped, the brides were pushed into cars, and off they all went, leaving behind a trail of wrapping paper of ice creams and other quiet reminders of the festivities that had just taken place.
Now was the time to buy tickets for Köw Ata. After the bright sunlight, enhanced by the stark mountains just behind the entrance of Köw Ata, our eyes had a little shock when they entered the dark caves. We walked down the damp stairs until we reached a small platform where two makeshift changing rooms had been installed. After walking down the slippery stairs, we finally reached the lake. Or well, lake, it was more like a pond. But still, its location was special, and after our days in the desert and mountains, we were certainly ready to go in. A few boys were playing in the water when we entered, while our guide was getting very nervous about our safety. But these calm waters posed no danger, and we happily swam around the dark cave. The only thing I really wondered about: how was it possible that in this humid environment there were no stalactites or stalacmites? The surface of the ceiling and the floor did not even show the beginning of any of these features that mark most other ceilings. There must, certainly, be an explanation for that? But we could not be troubled much by it, and had a nice time in the naturally warm waters of Köw Ata. As far as we could see, these sulphurous waters were crystal clear - our guide was adamant in her claim that they were very healthy indeed (but we could not stay more than half an hour, or it could be detrimental according to her).
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Köw Ata underground lake (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Köw Ata underground lake.
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