This is just a little bit about the fun we had in Azerbaijan, for a much more detailed overview of getting a ferry across the Caspian, see Tom’s blog post.
We entered Azerbaijan with, it’s fair to say, a slight sense of dread. This was the start of the unknown, of the logistical difficulties, of the tales of corruption and woe associated with a dodgy police force. We were bid farewell by this Georgian sign.
All this, was assumption. And assumption proved to be wrong in every way. The landscape was glorious, not barren. Baku is truely the pearl of the Caspian, with architecture and infrastructure worthy of the name. The people were truly friendly and helpful. We had no difficulty with any police or border guards (although we did spend our one camping night essentially under a underpass on the motorway, hiding from a police car which periodically drove past and hooted us in the middle of the night).
Logistically, the ferry business was challenging but fun and interesting at the same time. See the post by Tom for much more detailed info…
We found ourselves at the new port to start with and were ushered in to see the Customs Don (the word officer doesn’t do Said justice). He spoke no English but offered us tea, biscuits and sweets whilst he erroneously checked the Beaut though customs. He had a quick dance with the girls and spent the afternoon driving us (10 dollars each way, it turned out) to and from the Old port to try and find out about tickets for the ferry (Bilyet Parum – a useful phrase). We found the number for the ticket office, a very helpful lady called Vika and spent the next few days calling her once every hour or so.
Another phrase you will hear repeated is “Not Today, I will call you”. Please do believe Vika when she says she will call you, it just maybe a few days after you speak to her. Essentially, the ferry to Aktau goes every 7 to 10 days dependent on how much freight there is.
With some time to kill awaiting the ferry, we thought we’d have a crack at changing the exhaust. We assumed this would be easy – again an assumption! We did this in the relative seclusion and quiet of the new port, behind the large government building. Generally speaking it was a huge success, we got the old one off with judicious use of loose juice and persistence. Then came the tricky bit, putting the new one on. We had, of course, offered the new one up prior to getting the old one off. It looked like all the correct mounting bits were there on the right hand side of the chassis as well as the left (the new exhaust tail pipe pokes out of the car on the right hand side, the old on the left). However what we understimated was the height off the ground required to successfully and forcefuly shnurttle (technical term) the new one around the (most cursed) anti roll bar and rear diff. This was, and I’m sorry to use such language, a unmitigated ball-ache. However, we got it on and it put an end to the gassing of the rear occupants of the Beaut.
Finally we got the call and headed to the ticket office in the old port. Vika was there and we paid our dues and got our (phenomenally expensive) tickets. She noticed that we had already been checked out of customs, so promptly called up Said and shouted at him. He then stormed up in his Lada at a million miles an hour to defend himself infront of his boss with protestations of “But I gave them Chai!” In Azeri. All being eventually well we were sent on our way to Alat with vague assurances that it would be ok.
Contrary to our assumptions, it was.