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Halfway Around the World

Crossing into Azerbaijan

AZERBAIJAN | Friday, 30 May 2008 | Views [740] | Comments [1]

    As we left Tbilisi I got my first taste of life on the truck.  It is a converted refrigeration truck painted bright yellow.  Sue, group leader, and George, driver, sit in the cab and take turns driving while the rest of us sit in the back or the "box" as it is called.  The box has two rows of double seats, facing inwards so that people can talk, play cards, etc.  The benches for the seats can be removed to reveal deep lockers where all our gear is stored.  Windows run the length of the box and are made of canvas and plastic so that they can be rolled up when the weather is nice.   At the front end of the box a section of the roof has been cut away and also replaced with canvas.  This can be rolled back so people can sit up there on mattresses in the sun and take photos as the landscape flies by.  The only negative about the truck is that the suspension isn't great.  Those people stuck near the back can be propelled several feet in the air if we hit a bump at speed. 

    We spent the night in a nature reserve on the Georgian side of the border before crossing over into Azerbaijan in the morning.  Originally we were going to camp but since the rain was back in full force the whole group packed into a small house.  We were up early, which turned out to be a good thing since there was already a line of cars at the border.  We had to get off the truck and walk across.  In the end it was far easier for us to get across than the vehicle.  The Azerbaijani border guards wanted a hefty bride to let it through.  There was much negotiation, with Osman our trips Turkish elder statesman acting as interpreter.  In the end we forked over some cash on were on our way.  Interestingly the weather cleared up the instant we crossed the border.

    Spent our first night in Saki, a small town up in the hills of Northwest Azerbaijan.  None of the banks were open so we had to use a black market money changer, ie random guy standing on the corner with a plastic bag full of cash, to change our Lari into Manats.  Azerbaijan only recently revalued it's currency knocking off about three zeros so at first we were all pretty confused by the exchange rate since it was completely different from what was listed in all the guide books.

    We were unable to stay in the famous Caravanserai hotel since it was fully booked.  Instead we were but up by a very nice Turkish family in there guest house.  We had our own little courtyard and terrace.  On Sunday afternoon the father brought out the family TV so we could watch Man U vs Wigan which was being shown on regular Azerbaijani cable.  They are nuts about footie over here.  Spent a day touring the the town, hiked up to the Palace to see it's stained glass windows and painted ceilings.  Ate lunch at the Caravanserai.  The food was pretty poor, usually when they say green salad you don't assume the mean grass, but the building itself and the gardens made up for it.

    After two days in Saki we headed for Baku on the Caspian  Sea  coast.  Unfortunately, as we were on our way out the road gave way under the back right set of wheels causing the left set to rise up into the air.  By the way, the truck weighs about 17 tons when fully loaded.  The wheels had sunk so deep that it took over an hour of digging through rocks, clay and sewage to get the wheels free and have the truck pulled out by a tractor.

Tags: azerbaijan, overland trip, pushmorphine, saki, sunshine bus




Ed--from 1943 through 44, the Baku oil fields were the chief source of oil for Der Furher, and they were pounded incessantly by British and American Bombers....and in fact that played a significant role in shorting the fuel to the Panzers on the Eastern Front..the Russians were less than happy with it, as they saw it as theirs, or shortly to be theirs....keep in mind that Stalin never worried about German Armaments, since he would simpoly send his unarmed refugees from his slave labor camps, at a dead run straight run at the Nazi Machine gun nests or what ever...Sounds like a great trip...I assume there are no weapons among you...too bad...one of these days they might come in handy...U Bruce 1025, 5/29/08

  To Ed Kiernan from Bruce Flanagan May 30, 2008 3:16 AM

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