T plus 61 - Istanbul
So why then, one may ask, am I on the wrong side of the Bosphorus when I'm not scheduled to be in Istanbul for another couple of months?
Well, a slight miscalculation on my part, that's why. I had thought that it would be easy to get a Visa on Arrival (VOA) at the land border crossing between Turkmenistan and Iran, but turned out that this isn't possible, and I would run the very scary risk of being stuck in the 20km stretch of no-man's land between two sets of very twitchy border guards.
So I broke my golden rule of not flying (I'm not proud of myself), and hightailed it to Istanbul, the cheapest flight out of Turkmenistan (USD168), and flew back to Iran to obtain the VOA at Tehran airport. This very roundabout route did, however, give me a much needed break and some R&R. It took considerable willpower not to go out and photograph anything though - I want to save Istanbul for the grand finale!