23 May - Tbilise -
Qazax - 101km
At last we left
Tbilisi and cycled off to the border, a fairly easy ride of
about 60km, and got out of Georgia smoothly. Things were a bit
more haphazard on the Azeri side, and our passports went from
one person to the next until, eventually, we got our
entry stamps. We met a Chinese cyclist at the border who has
been cycling for the past 11 years!! After having some tea with
him we cycled on for about 40km till we reached Qazax, where
we camped in the garden of a run-down restaurant.
The time has moved
on another hour so now it gets dark really late, which gives a
real long cycling day.
24 May - Qazax -
Ganca - 99km
The road is fairly
narrow with a very poor road surface and it is mostly better to
cycle next to the road on the gravel as it is not as bumpy. A
head wind did not make it any easier either. Spring seems to be
over as now the days are getting quite hot. In the evening we
found what is called a "Tir Park" (truck stop), where one can
have a good shower for about a dollar.
25 May - Ganca -
Yevlax - 120km
The road is rather
uninteresting, but Ernest insisted on coming this way instead of
taking the scenic road (we had a lot to organize in Baku - so he
didn't want to waste the available time). The road surface is
still very bad and bumpy and we still cycled into a head wind,
all this does not particularly make me very happy. We found the
local people a lot more open and friendly than in Georgia.
Stopping anywhere along the road, normally means that people
come from all over the village to look and enquire where we from
and where we going.
The language is a
lot like Turkish so we can at least tell them where we from and
where we going to. Just past Yevlax we stopped for tea and met
the Turkish road workers, working on the new road, they in true
Turkish style invited us to come and camp at the site. We hardly
had time to pitch our tents and food arrived.
26 May - Yerlax
We had to pack up
early as we were camping in the car park and people were coming
to work. Once again breakfast arrived as we were packing up. Well good thing we had breakfast as it turned out to be another
frustrating day into the wind, in the heat and on a bad road,
give me strength what I am doing here!!!
The village people
stare at us in amazement (I don't think that a lot of tourist
come past these areas) they are truly fascinated and we hardly
ever pay for tea, as by the time we leave someone has already
paid. The most amazing thing is that about everyone has a full
set of shiny golden teeth, must be the fashion around here.
We struggled on
for 123km before we set up camp behind a petrol station, great
place overlooking a dam but it came with a big, big mozzie
problem. No sooner have we pitched our tents when we noticed a
number of snakes in the dam!!!
27 May - Alat -
It feels like our
problems are never ending as we encountered a real strong head
wind. At least the road has improved. All the time people wave
us in to come and drink tea, which is not just served by the
glass, but comes in a pot. So we normally sit for a while and
chat (if that is what one can call it, seeing that we can say
about 5 words in the local language).
We reached the
coast at the Caspian Sea which is by far not a romantic
coastline as it is littered with oil related industries and
pipelines. We camped next to the road again and found later
that it is next to a rubbish dump!!! I'm getting rather tired
of being dirty and it feels like I need a normal life for a
while. I'm covered in, mozzie bites, haven't showered for days
and have run out of deodorant!!!
28 May-5 June - Alat -
Baku - 68km
A short ride into
Baku, along the coast, with oil riggs, pipelines and factories. The area around the coast is very barren, soon we reached Baku
which is a real oil boom town with large modern buildings, and
loads of designer stores, what a contrast to the rest of the
country. We booked into the Canub Hotel which is the cheapest
we could find. The rooms are large but old with torn bedding and
a rather sloppy floor!!! At least there was a shower with hot
water, which was the most important thing at the time.
Now the big search
for visas started. Getting visas for central Asia is not that
easy as one needs letters of invitation for most of those
countries. This can be arranged on the internet but takes time,
a full itinery and money.
All we achieved, after a week in
Baku, was getting a “Letter of Invitation” for Uzbekistan. This
is at least now arranged and paid for. Seeing that this process
takes 10 – 12 days, we decided to cycle to Central Asia, via
Iran, in order to pass the time. The visa for Iran only took one
day, but we were nearly flattened in the process. You need to
shove and push your way to the front. That’s not the end as then
you need to stand your ground firmly in order not to be pushed
away from the windows again.
6 June - Baku
At last we packed up and cycled
off, just to find that Ernest’s rim was broken!!! So off to the
bike shop, which we found at the Velotrek. Good thing Ernest
carried a spare rim. I thought he was crazy, but now it come in
handy. I also used this opportunity to have my bike serviced.
7 June Baku – Shirvan
National Park - 113km
Now, we were really on our way,
with a good tail wind, we headed for the south. After about
110km we spotted a sign for a nature reserve. We stopped to
enquire and were welcomed in. We were even offered the guest
cottage, only paying the small park entry free. What a pleasant
surprise. Loads of gazelle and birds, in the park, even
8 June - Shirvan –
Calilabad - 110km
The road deteriorated, was very
narrow, busy, and with a poor surface. Add a head wind to that,
and it makes for some frustrating cycling. Still we were called
in for tea on various occasions which we gladly accepted. The
countryside is a lot greener now. Fruit stalls were once again
found next to the road, and we were given a whole bag of fruit
by one of the stall owners. We were even filmed by the Azeri TV.
All this took place without us speaking a word of Azeri and them
speaking no English. We camped next to a teahouse under the
trees with lots of spectators. All coming to see what 2 crazy
people on bikes are doing.
9 June - Calilabad – Astara - 107 km
The bad road continued and we
once again encountered a head wind. The scenery became
really lush and green with lots of trees and high mountains in
the background. The road made a loop inland and came back to the
Caspian Sea. About 10km before the border we stopped and camped
behind a petrol station. The whole village must have come to
have a look at as. There is definitely nothing romantic about
camping between old oil cans and rubbish with petrol fumes up
your nose. At least there was water and a sort of a toilet,
which Ernest rightly said could easily feature in Fear Factor.