Day 42 – 46 Azerbaijan

A little bit behind schedule here unfortunately due to some rather interesting and completely internetless times aboard the Caspian sea ferry and through Turkmenistan which you’ll get hear about soon hopefully, but first things first…

A bit more of Georgia and Azerbaijan

 

Days Km: 615, Total Km: 7817

Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku, Azerbaijan - Google Maps

The end of Georgia

We left Tblisi, Georgia in the chaotic Georgian traffic. In fact Georgian driving has been so atrocious that Bruce and I have taken to using the phrase ‘drive like a Georgian’ whenever we do something on the bikes that may blur the lines of completely legal. We’ve been using the phrase a lot recently…

Finally after a traumatic hour or two we finally escaped the press of humanity and were off into the mountains once again. Thankfully the roads this time had been recently tarred and were an absolute dream to ride as we slowly ascended up the curving switchbacks into the clouds themselves. Unfortunately we were still enveloped in the thick impenetrable clouds upon reaching the height of the pass as even the brief glimpses we were allowed through the swirling mist of fields of mottled wild flowers and lazy cattle promised quite spectacular views on a good day.

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After descending back into the lowlands we spent the night, our last in Georgia, on a lovely little vineyard nestled between the majestic mountains and a gently flowing river. With truly humble hosts and bottle of the local wine watching the sunset over the vineyards it was a great way to end what has been a wonderful couple of days travelling through a country that I probably never would have visited if not for this trip but deeply grateful that we have. The people food and scenery have all been spectacular albeit sometimes frustrating.

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Housed in the shed are rows of traditional Qvevris, gigantic earthenware pots buried below the ground used to ferment age and store the traditional Georgian wines produced in the area.

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Final Georgian sunset

The Border

IMG_1630The next morning we arrived at the Azerbaijan border and it was our first taste of what I’m assuming we can look forward to here on out for all the future borders. The massive sign on the Georgian side saying good luck made us both chuckle as we were definitely going to need it. Its a trial of juggling paperwork and jumping between counter windows all the while making sure the puffed up young soldiers taking pictures on and around the bike don’t drop the bloody thing. That being said we made it through relatively unscathed and were off into our 15th country for the trip.

Sheki

IMG_5619We spent our first night in Azerbaijan in the ancient city of Sheki which lies within the thickly forested foothills of the greater Caucasus mountains. And where better to spend the night in than in an old Caravanserai, built by the Sheki Khans to house the caravans passing through overnight whilst traversing the silk road to and from china. We’ve finally joined the silk road and will be following it on and off for the next odd 5000km.

As you dip your head through the small wooden pedestrian entrance carved into the massive wooden doors that used to swing open to allow wholes caravans of camels and baggage through you step into an oasis of calm. The ever present hum of vehicles and close pressed humanity outside fades away to be replaced by the gentle sound of falling water from the entrance courtyards central fountain. We’d heard mixed review about the Caravanserai and yes the bathrooms weren’t exactly pristine but I would highly recommend it to anyone. It pulled us straight back hundreds of years in time creating giving us the feel that we were indeed part of some ancient camel train albeit on rather fancy and extremely fast camels…

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The inner courtyard of the Caravanserai


The next day saw us heading down to Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital but more importantly the port city from which we hoped to catch the ferry. The ride down was a rather long one but made interesting with the ever changing scenery; The lush green forests of the mountains slowly gave way to rolling grasslands which in turn gave way to an arid rocky landscape and very dusty roads made all the worse by the constant roadworks. Pretty soon we had clouds of choking dust swirling through our helmets turning the ride into an unpleasant wilful push purely to get to Baku.

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Baku

Baku itself is a city of extreme new wealth driven by its oil fields off the coast of the Caspian sea. Towering sky scrapers are beginning to dominate the vast city with many more shooting up, yet interwoven between these monoliths and perfectly paved side walks lie dilapidated buildings and streets fallen into disrepair. Its clearly a city of uneven wealth as are most cities these days I guess but here the difference is stark.

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Old meets new

I must be honest however and it was really great to be able to get a decent cappuccino for a change and the people were all extremely friendly. I even managed to get myself a police escort back home to the hotel one day when I turned down a wrong way street the one day after returning from the Kyrgyzstan consulate. I gave the officer my best ‘terribly lost’ look and he just smiled and said follow me. Off we shot through the traffic, blaring sirens and everything.

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The F1 is in town next week as well. It’d have been rude not to make use of the perfect tarmac track and do a couple of laps Hamilton style.

Visas

Speaking of the Kyrgyszstan consulate that was the last visa picked up for the trip, the passport is now overflowing with the buggers. Some have been easy whilst others have been equivalent to puling teeth but all 10 are in there now so hopefully thats the end of the passport woes.

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