Azerbaijan part 2

Azerbaijan part 2

Continuation. . .

After the police tried to insist we have to take a hotel for the night, we ignored them and put our tent up for the night behind the old guy’s shack. During that night we had super strong gusts of wind and Anton had to get up and stake all the guy ropes so we could sleep. In the morning the wind was still blowing and we were relieved that it was blowing in our direction! So after some breakfast with our host, we set off following the main road to Baku on M2 through Ganja. 

One night we were looking for a place to camp for the night and asked at a house if it was ok to camp in a paddock near their house. They opened the gate straight away, let us in with our bikes and told us we will sleep inside. Immediately after, we were sitting at the table being fed more than we could possibly eat, and they aked us how many nights we wanted to stay. We said one, but they insisted we stay 2 nights. So we had a very nice weekend and had the opportunity to learn some Azerbaijan vocabulary. During dinner, the father of the family called an old friend (Edgar) who lives in Baku, he spoke English and said to message him on what’sapp when we arrive in Baku. 

           We stayed 2 nights with this wonderful family!


The day before we cycled into Baku, we saw lots of police officers and military personnel standing on the side of the road, and were wondering what in heck was going on. After half an hour, a police car stopped and an officer told us we had to go back a couple hundred meters to a fruit shop and wait there because the President of Azerbaijan was on his way to Baku. We were very annoyed as it was almost dark and we needed to find a place to camp. The fruit shop was owned by a former high police officer now retired. After realizing the President was going to pass an hour and a half later and that it would be dark by then, we kind of insisted that he allow us to camp in the garden! He showed us a shed that they use in summer to sell vegetables. It had an old sofa bed inside and he also gave us a heater. Then we went inside the shop to drink chai while waiting for the president to pass. 

                                       Under ‘chai’ arrest

We felt like we were under house arrest as we were not allowed even to be outside. When the long line of police cars were passing, I lifted the phone to take a photo and the police officer immediately  jumped up and told me to put the phone down. He explained that if the police see a camera flash, they will immediately begin shooting! It is not allowed to take photos of the president! These Azeris don’t mess about! After the President passed, everything was more relaxed and we were offered dinner and chai with the police officer. So at least we didn’t have to put the tent up! 

                               The Flame Towers in Baku

“The Flame Towers consist of three buildings: South, East and West. The tallest of the 3 towers is 183m high and the buildings consist of apartments, a hotel and office blocks. The facades of the three Flame Towers function as large display screens with the use of more than 10,000 high-power LED luminaries, supplied by the Osram subsidiary Traxon Technologies and Vetas Electric Lighting.

We arrived in Baku 11 days after we crossed in to Azerbajan. In Baku we were hosted by an amazing family (3 brothers). Even though the sun didn’t shine much while we were there, we still had time to explore the city and walk around taking photos. We also spent a long time going from bank to bank to try to exchange some Georgian Laris we found in a bag that we forgot to change while in Ganja. Apparently no bank is changing Georgian Lari in Baku. One bank told us the Russian bank (VTB) will, but after searching for multiple branches that where marked on the map, we discovered they are all closed in the city centre. We located one near Ganclik metro station but they also told us they do not exchange Georgian Lari. Eventually our friend told us to try near the 28 May station. There are some men who exchange money on the street (illegaly). So we went and started haggling about the exchange and when they heard we need USD because we’re going to Iran, the guy pulled out a wad of Iranian bank notes(Rials) and we realised he was keen to get rid of them, so we managed to squeeze him for a very good exchange. It was hilarious that as we were talking to these illegal exchange guys, some police officers approached us. We thought we might have some trouble. . . instead they became our translators and helped us to exchange money! We felt rich walking away with over a million Rials (35euros)!

We spent 11 days in Baku as Anton’s wisdom tooth decided not to continue cycling with us anymore and had to be extracted, then he had to wait for the stitching to be taken out 1 week later.

Baku city centre

Near home there was a little kiosk that sells freshly made Kutab, so we often ate it on our way home. It was very cheap and delicious!

Freshly made herb filled Kutab

We were lucky enough that our host and his girlfriend are 4th year students at the Baku university of dentistry so we didn’t need to look for one. We had several days to relax while we were waiting for Anton’s stitches to be taken out. 

Dentist team (our host sitting in the middle and girlfriend far left)

Unfortunately he had lots of pain for the first 3 days so we didn’t do much, but it was nice to catch up on a few things, calling home, washing some clothing and just resting. 

One evening we met with Edgar who invited us for dinner in a traditional Azerbaijani restaurant and afterwards he bought us some beautifully hand crafted and painted mugs from the Christmas market as a souvenir to remember our time in Azerbaijan.

One rule of Azerbaijan is that every tourist that stays in the country for more than 10 days must register with the immigration office at an address. We were not informed by the police at the boarder but our hosts tried to register us on the 11th day. They were told it was too late and we must visit the immigration centre to pay a fine.  On the last day in Baku we also had to withdraw some USD from the ATM for exchanging in Iran. Foreign cards do not work in Iran because of the sanctions. In Azerbaijan unfortunately, the ATMs will give only $200 per transaction (to combat black market and money laundering etc.) so we had to pay the expensive ATM fees and bank charges on a few transactions rather than just one, very annoying! We would highly recommend taking USD out in Georgia. 

In Baku we also went to the Uzbekistan embassy to apply for tourist visa to be picked up in Tehran. 

On our way to the border we visited the Gobustan mud volcanos and spent an hour or so looking at all the fascinating mud holes noisily bubbling and overflowing everywhere.

Golestan Mud Volcanos

We decided to go the Lankaran migration office on our way to the border as we didn’t want to cycle back 50km like some other cyclists we heard about. At the office we explained our story and the police officer immediately told us we had to pay a fine as we broke their law. He asked us the name and number of where we stayed in Baku and  made a (very obviously fake) phone call. He told us our friends were not answering, then said we have to pay a 200 manat (€100) fine each. We insisted we don’t have that amount of money to pay and so finally he told us we will have to be deported with restricted entry to Azerbaijan for 2 years. We were annoyed about their disorganised system and said with a shrug that it didn’t bother us at all. We had to fill in various forms and after making us wait for two and a half hours, they finally gave us the deportation papers just before the office closing time after sun set. We were told that we would have 48 hours to leave the country, but it is actually 2 days counting the day we went to the office and the border customs closes at 18:00, so we actually had 24 hours. So the following day we had to make sure to be there on time, we didn’t want any other issues with the officials of Azerbaijan. 

Lankaran Migration Office

We then went in to Lankaran to buy some food and the owner of the shop invited us to sleep at his house. We soon realized it was a second house and we would be staying in the house by ourselves! Our bikes were locked in a secure garage and we were given the keys. After cooking dinner we made chai to share with the owner when he came back around 22:00 to check if we were ok.

The following day we reached Astara by lunch time and wanted to sit in the main street to eat some fruit when a government official walked up and began talking with us. He invited us to a cafe and we spent some time drinking chai and eating some sweet pastries when we realised we had to hurry to the border. There we had to wait almost half an hour for the officer to fill in all the various papers before we could happily cycle to Iranian border control. 

Love,

cyclinghobOz


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Azerbaijan 

Azerbaijan 

Tuesday 21 November

Azerbaijan/Georgia boarder

ANCHE IN ITALIANO SCORREGGIUTO!(scorrete sotto, dopo il post in inglese)

The Georgia/Azerbaijan border at the Qırmısı körpü crossing, was quite nice with both countries writing their names on the hills above their border control points. Approaching the Azerbaijan control point after passing the Georgia check point, we were for the first time wondering how the border control would be like. Several people had told us in Georgia, that if you have an Armenian stamp in your passport, they will Continue reading

Georgia part 2

Georgia part 2

Having decided to cycle in Azerbaijan, we had to cross back to Georgia from Armenia due to conflict in Nagorno-karabak between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is not possible to enter Azerbaijan from Armenia, so we entered at the Gogavan crossing. Passport control/customs was super quiet, but unfortunately as soon as we crossed the border, we saw the first distinguishing signs of Georgia: terrible road!! We had 15km of no ashfalt, and as it was still raining, the road was a total mud soup filled series of potholes from Left to Right. So we slowly cycled our bumpy way down the range to better roads and camped under some apple trees. Georgia is great for camping, always easy to find a nice place to camp, usually under trees with enough wood around to light a fire for cooking.

We followed the E117 to Tblisi where we had to pick up our Iran visa. The road improved but on one section there was fresh muddy water all over the road from mining trucks and this was the result..

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Mud everywhere!

In Tblisi we stayed with some friends so we had a good rest and time to visit the city and pick up our Iranian visa and apply for the Arzerbaijan e-visa.

Tblisi is a very beautiful city, in our opinion nicer than Yerevan and it also reminded us a bit of Edinburgh. There are lots of funny brass statues around the city and you can really enjoy walking along the small streets window shopping.

We also visited one of the hot baths, some local markets and the gorgeous botanical gardens,

 

and went to Mtatsminda park. It was very nice to walk around Mtatsminda park even if we didn’t go to the various attractions, but we still had an awesome view of the city and a nice ride in the cable car with our new local friend who was very exited to show us this wonderful part of Tbilisi.

 

 

Local Market

 

 

 

We spent 9 days in Tblisi because we had such a good time and it was very hard to leave.

 

 

 

 

 

There is so much to see, so if you come to Georgia and like cities, be sure not to miss a visit to Tblisi!

We took the E60 out of Tblisi towards Azerbaijan and reached Tsiteli Khidi border 2 days later. The Azerbaijan visa arrived in 48 hours (you can read here about how we applied for the visa) but we were only able to enter the country 4 days after making the online application. So we took it easy wondering about the questions we will receive at boarder control, concerning our visit to Armenia, (due to the Nagorno – Karabakh conflict and the illegal occupation by Armenian military in Azerbaijan territory).

Love, 

cyclinghobOz 

Armenia

Armenia is a bag of mixed feelings for us. . . We crossed at the Bavra crossing from Georgia on the M1, happy to get out of Georgia into a new country. Immediately we noticed a huge improvement regarding the road, finally we were riding on nice tar again!! That was a big thumb up for us after the extremely bumpy road in Georgia.. But on the other hand

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Georgia

Georgia

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Cute cows in Georgia

Monday 16 October 2017

Just before the Turkey/Georgia border we slept under the car wash roof of a gas station. In the morning, still trying to push on with all the rainy days, we first Continue reading

Turkey

Turkey

Leaving Greece behind was a little sad after the fantastic time we spent and the amazing hospitality extended to us by the people along the way. However, we have Continue reading

Albania

We will always remember Albania because

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