Tuesday 23rd May – Lagodekhi to Zagatala
Distance: 39.95 km
Average Speed: 10.6 kmh
Fastest Speed: 47.8 kmh
Total Distance: 13183.3 km
Last night we found a beautiful spot to wild camp just 2km from the Azerbaijan border.
We enjoyed cheese and biscuits and a final bottle of good Georgian wine in the beautiful sunshine. We couldn’t have our wash until after 7pm because we were still sweating in the heat. We had a lovely quiet night although there were a few rain showers. And again the sauna-like heat in the tent sent us scurrying outside at 8am. It wasn’t much cooler outside and by the time I’d eaten my porridge, I was breaking out in a sweat. Do porridge and warm climates go together? This morning we had a rejig of our packing because we were dividing our food and cooking equipment between 2 bags. Now all our food is in one place – a very heavy white ratpack on the back of my trike. But Brucie bonus – I passed back the toolkit within an hour. We crossed out of Georgia easily but there was a peculiar system at the Azerbaijan border.
Possibly there was some order to it but people just seemed to mill around until the administrators decided to deal with their papers. Also we were searched (yup full cavity for Daz). No, just the trikes in the most random pattern. Open this bag, take that out, put that away, open that bag. He made us open every bag but I don’t imagine he had any idea what he was looking at. Once our passports and visas were stamped and our little exit tokens we cycled downhill to the last barrier between us and Azerbaijan. And the computer (well military gate guard) said ‘nah’. He sent us back up to the passport check. Oh they’d forgotten to stamp our little exit tokens. Back down the hill, through the gate and into Azerbaijan.
We cycled to the first main town of Balakan where we found a bank to withdraw Azeri Manat. Last night we changed all our Georgian Lari into US $. In both Georgia and Azerbaijan we’ve been offered the choice ; local currency or US $ at the ATMs. We also stopped for lunch and pointed at a meat dish a guy was eating at the adjacent table. It looked yummy until it came to our table, kidneys and liver and potatoes and green lemonade.
Fortunately Daz loves liver and kidneys so he ate all the meat, and me, all the potatoes. We also wanted an Azeri SIM and another computer battery. Fortunately a local chap who spoke some Engish directed us to the places we needed. Phone SIM done and my bike computer finally working again (bike computer problem – flat battery in headset dead. Battery replaced but some water in computer as a result of torrential rain crossing Gombori pass. Computer dried out and headset registering but battery in sensor also dead and needed replacing).
Just outside of Balakan we stopped for çay with some guys that called us over. They offered us food and vodka but we declined.
We moved on pretty smartish when they’d necked a bottle of vodka in the time it took us to drink a glass of çay.
After the next village the local policemen sent us to their old disused police station for the night. It’s a bit dirty but we’ve got full cover and I’m convinced there’s going to be heavy rain tonight, Daz thinks otherwise, we shall see who wins that bet!
Initial impressions of Azerbaijan: People are more extrovert and friendly than in Georgia. The ladies dressed up more and also the kids coming home from school. Everyone wants to take photos of us. The roads are as bad as Georgia but the traffic relatively light so far. Mind you, there are alot more Ladas and Trabants on the road!
Wednesday 24th May – Zagatala
The rain I predicted last night didn’t come until this morning and so we decided to stay put. A restful day of eating and reading. The highlight was when Daz spotted 2 cyclists. We invited them in from the rain and made them a cuppa. 2 English cyclists from Nottingham, Beth and Max, taking a year out to cycle the ‘Stans’ and Nepal.
Thursday 25th May – Zagatala to Abbas
Distance: 60.27 km
Average Speed: 10.21 kmh
Fastest Speed: 49.69 kmh
Total Distance: 13243.57 km
This morning the weather appears to have cleared and we’re about to set off when Daz spots he has a flat. Bugger! By the time that’s sorted more rain has arrived. We push on but stop in the first town, Zaxatala, for provisions. Then we push on for Qax. We’re stopped constantly by people in the street or by passing cars wanting photos.
OMG we must be famous in Azerbaijan, we’ve even been filmed by men with big-arse shoulder mounted video cameras. The road surface changes almost by the minute; one minute decent tarmac; then numerous potholes; then just gravel and potholes.
We can see the snow capped hills to our left and between us and them, green fields and forests. It’s beautiful and birds are flying along the hedgerows; horses, cows and sheep graze along the verges. We’ve had a number of horse related problems in the last few days. Basically we scare them. When grazing horses start to get nervy we chat to them and hopefully reassure them we’re human and no threat. But there’s been a number of horses and traps where we’ve tried to warn the driver that their horse might well panic.
But of course they don’t understand until their horse attempts a panicked 180 to get away from us! We stop in a village for coffee – we get free hot water and then use our coffee sachets. Then we sit and watch a group of men playing……..well initially we thought it was backgammon but they seem to be using some sort of blocking technique by filling each line with a single counter ( so not the backgammon we play) although they then exit the board as we would.
About 5km after coffee we stop for an egg and sausage bap cooked by Daz.
After lunch we continue on our gravel track to Qax. We head for the centre but it’s not really that interesting. We stop to ask for directions and within minutes we’re surrounded by a group of men. We’ve noticed that whenever and wherever we stop a group of men will materialise, as if from nowhere, and poke and prod our trikes and generally discuss them in Azeri? Russian?
Out of Qax and it’s a lovely downhill on good tarmac. Finally we spot a camping spot. We’re sitting by our tent enjoying a beer when the local cowsman comes by. We check he’s happy that we’re here and he is but then warns us about snakes. Thanks very much – I’m sure I’ll sleep soundly and not be listening for the slither and hiss of some scary, poisonous snake. Oops – nearly forgot to mention the spotting of our first Azeri tortoise!
Friday 26th May – Abbas to Bucaq
Distance: 45.76 km
Average Speed: 9.83 kmh
Fastest Speed: 46.82 kmh
Total Distance: 13289.33 km
A night without snakey visitors – thank God. It’s overcast today and there’s a little rain in the air so not much hope of drying our wet tent. We picked up an escort – a local cyclist – who seemed determined to cycle with us and video the experience.
Our big plan today was to visit Şeki, it’s on the top 10 places to visit in Azerbaijan. It was a long slog uphill but we finally made it. We found a hotel receptionist who pointed us to the Palace/ Caravanserais – only 1km he said. Well it was a damned sight longer and uphill and when we got there it wasn’t a total disappointment.
Back in the town centre we realised it’s prayer day and the town is full of men going to prayer. We stopped for a delicious chicken kebab and then headed out. We’ve had the usual photograph sessions and crowds of men staring at our trikes. Just before we camp I spot a roadside water stand and fill up our 10 litre bag then wash our waterbottles out as they are going a little green. The group of men are augmented this time by a couple of cops in a cop car. As we are sorting the water out we realise one of the men has jumped on Daz’s trike and is riding around on it. Daz normally doesn’t mind, but all the Azeri attention has hit the mark today. It’s worse as he hasn’t disengaged the parking brakes so Daz has a right go, even waving at the cops who stood there and did nothing! Anyhoo, we cycle on, one more car stops to speak to us then we find a secluded camp spot behind a line of trees and bushes. It’s a bit noisy but private! Not much else to report.
Saturday 27th May – Bucaq to Qabala
Distance: 61.36 km
Average Speed: 11.11 kmh
Fastest Speed: 47.68 kmh
Total Distance: 13350.69 km
After an initial climb first thing, it’s an easy day. We stop after about 3km to do a live video feed from a bridge. At this point there’s thick cloud cover and it definitely looks like rain. But 10km later the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day. We cycle through a village where every 5m or so there’s a lady with a tandor oven baking flat breads.
They start with balls of bread, knead them into a flatbread, brush with egg and then stick to the sides of the oven. Some time later there’s numerous stalls selling jars of pickled produce.
Today we treat ourselves to a restaurant lunch; salad, bread and lamb chops, ribs and cutlets – it’s tasty but 31manat (that’s about triple what we’ve been paying for kebabs). We stop at a petrol station – here a litre of premium petrol costs about 0.60€ – cheap!
We’ve done our 50km but decide to push on for Qabala. Possibly a mistake because it’s 10km uphill. We start to tire and ask at a petrol station if we can put our tent up but they say ‘No’. There’s a track nearby and then loads of houses being built but sadly we can’t break in.
We carry on to Qabala but now it’s becoming built up and the rain is coming. We’re looking everywhere to find a spot for our tent and then a group of men see us and tell us to go with them. We’re taken to a house with a huge lean-to where we hope to put our tent but the man insists we use the house. We even have a hot shower, our first shower in 8 days. Fabulous! Unfortunately the man returns and wants money.
He doesn’t speak any English but rubs his fingers together in the universal sign and puts ‘50′ into his phone. We tell him we thought he was being kind. We feel really pissed off, but although we threaten to go (and possibly make him look bad in front of his friends) we really can’t be bothered and offer him 20. He begrudgingly takes it, then tries to be all friendly again.
Sunday 28th May – Qabala to Tarcan
Distance: 54.38 km
Average Speed: 10.95 kmh
Fastest Speed: 53.72 kmh
Total Distance: 13405.07 km
Despite the money issue with the guy last night we were relieved we’d stayed when there was yet another storm with torrential rain and even hailstones – 8mm hailstones – got to be pleased we weren’t in our tent. We’re up early and because there’s less stuff to pack, out the gates by 0830hrs. Within 10 minutes we once again drenched in sweat, the humidity here seems to be the problem. We head into Qabala because we need to print some documents that are needed in the UK. What a pain! We think a posh hotel will have printing equipment but then I spot an Internet Cafe. Sadly no printers but plenty of PS4s for gaming. Fortunately a young lad understands our problem and takes us to a photo processing shop where I can log into my Hotmail and print. I’m pleasantly surprised, I’d resigned myself to spending most of the day trying to get this job done. After a coffee break to celebrate we head to the post office. It’s Sunday but it’s open, in fact the whole town is open, it’s like a weekday. However, the post office might be open but to post a letter to the UK they’re technically shut. (Apparently they can’t work out the cost on a Sunday). All this has taken 2 hours so we best get cycling.
We stop for an early lunch since breakfast was so long ago and have beautiful views down over the valley and we can just see Ismayilli, our destination, in the distance. For most of the day we’ve got beautiful deciduous woods either side with picnic spots, çay and kebab cafes in abundance. It’s very pretty, the sun glistens through the overhead canopy and thankfully the trees give us some respite from the heat. Early afternoon we’re caught and stopped by 2 Portugese cyclists, Claudia and Luis. They had spent some time with Beth and Max, the British cyclists we met on 24th May. We chat for awhile but then they push on. They want to be in Baku tomorrow and that’s about 195km away.
We reach Ismayilli and get some milk and shower gel. We were hoping the woods and picnic spots would continue so we could find a cosy camping spot instead we’ve got open, rolling countryside.
Once we’ve done our 50km quota we’re lucky enough to find water to fill our 10L reservoir and a couple of kilometers later stop to camp.
Monday 29th May – Tarcan to Acidere River
Distance: 54.82 km
Average Speed: 9.89 kmh
Fastest Speed: 54.58 kmh
Total Distance: 13459.89 km
Last night we watched the lightning over the distant hills. Daz said it wasn’t coming our way but he was wrong.
Happily I barely registered the event, just a dim awareness that it was raining and then back to sleep. For me every second night is usually when I sleep long and deeply. For Daz he usually sleeps 12+ hours every night but now he’s had 2 rotten nights’ sleep; last night because his air mattress deflated and he was lying on stones and the night before in Qabala wasn’t conducive to sleep! We have more visitors, come to examine the strange British couple, their tent and trikes.
It’s a beautiful sunny day but our rolling hills are no longer rolling, instead there’s basically 2 very long climbs between us and Samaxi and of course equally long descents. On the first hill we spot a diplomatic plate (red with white letters). The vehicle pulls over, it’s only the Cultural Attache, Elizabeth, from the British Embassy in Baku.
We have a nice chat and we’ll hopefully meet her again in Baku. Conveniently she’s able to solve one of my problems; I need an independent witness to my signature for that pesky paperwork. So she signs my paperwork on the side of the road – surreal! Finally we hit the top of hill number 1 and stop for an early lunch.
Then there’s an incredible downhill to the river but depressingly we can see the horrendous climb the other side. And now it’s about 30 deg C. It’s sweaty work. It takes us a good couple of hours to make the top of the next hill (not because it’s long but because on a tough uphill I’m lucky if I can make 2.8kmph).
Poor Daz is struggling too, his knees hurt and he’s got calf pains. A nice drink break then we head down the other side. We make a special detour into Samaxi to post that pesky paperwork only to discover it’s a public holiday. Bizarrely, just like yesterday, the post office is open but not for this type of transaction. No I don’t have any idea what transaction they are able to complete on a public holiday.
So it’s back to the main road and once we’ve hit our quota we find somewhere to camp. Actually there isn’t much choice because there’s a big hill right in front of us and I’m not grinding up there with my additional 10L of water! So we end up on the veranda of an old Chapel (?). I’m convinced it’s going to rain again tonight hence the desire for overhead cover. Sausage and egg for tea tonight – tasty.
Tuesday 30th May – Acidere River to Musfiqabad
Distance: 87.28 km
Average Speed: 12.70 kmh
Fastest Speed: 66.21 kmh
Total Distance: 13547.17 km
Ahhhh – no rain last night and despite the traffic noise a good night’s sleep for all. We’re in the Acidere valley and there are birds everywhere. A pair of Hoppee birds, swallows in abundance and the yellow birds – the yellow Oriole. There’s also 2 pairs of kestrels (definitely small hawks), one pair are nesting in the roof space of our building and if we weren’t in their way,would be entering and exiting through the loft hatch above our heads. Unfortunately the heat in the tent drives us out by 8 am. Yeuchhh – hating these early mornings.
We start with a long climb out of the valley and everything is beautifully green with herdsmen tending their flocks on the hills, some on horseback (the herdsmen not the sheep!) Just after our start we spot another butcher with live chickens tethered by the leg and an enclosure with several sheep awaiting the chop. There’s some meat hanging in the shop but none of it is refrigerated! After about 20km we leave behind the beautiful green hills and move into a brown, rather arid area with a very strong wind which is mostly behind us, thank goodness! There’s a pretty good dual carriageway for most of the day but for huge sections one side or the other is closed for roadworks. But we cycle on the closed section and have the 2 lanes to ourselves – mostly.
However we do come a cropper when are progress is interrupted by a huge hole in the road. Fortunately with a bit of effort we’re able to get through it.
This part of Azerbaijan is known as it desert region, there’s nothing about but brown hills and plains and few villages. We’ve struggled today to find any decent food so after a day of eating cake, biscuits, chocolate and other crap from petrol stations we’re overjoyed to hit the outskirts of Musfiqabad and a restaurant.
Meat and salad – result! We cycle on and as we near Baku (only 25km to go) we manage to find a park with some trees for cover between the road and a row of factories.
Tent up and we are just in time to see the sun dipping down into the desert behind us.
Wednesday 31st May – Musfiqabad to Baku
Distance: 21.53 km
Average Speed: 14.13 kmh
Fastest Speed: 50.27 kmh
Total Distance: 13568.7 km
Another hot day and it seems we’re cycling into Baku in rush hour. The traffic is heavy and smog and fumes are pretty horrendous but it’s great fun cycling into the centre of Baku.
We head straight to the British Embassy – well except we’re distracted by a McDonald’s and the thought of a sausage and egg McMuffin (it’s not even 1030hrs yet). But sadly the Azeri breakfast menu in McDonald’s is a poor reflection of the real thing – looks like bread and cheese. But we stop for coffee – there’s a fabulous view over the city centre and then a couple of blocks and we’re in the British Embassy.
Billy comes out to meet us and we go into the Embassy. We meet the British Ambassador – Carole and others. I need more documents to be printed and signed for the UK and once it’s all in the post we head to Billy’s gaff. And what a fantastic apartment, next to Hard Rock Cafe with balconies and views out over the city.
After cleaning up it’s time for a curry – fabulous we haven’t had a curry since Portugal and it doesn’t disappoint. Billy has a work function tonight so we just relax and enjoy some home comforts.
Thursday 1st June
Our main task today is to register with the Migration police. If you’re staying longer that 10 days in Azerbaijan you have to register. We head off to the Migration office, details supplied by Caravanistan but nope, they can’t help us, apparently we’re in the wrong place. They tell us to get bus 202 and have given us the address of the correct office. Off we trot and catch bus 202. We show people the address, right bus, wrong direction.
We catch another bus and show about 6 people the address and soon find someone who can help, who tells us which stop we need. We’re at the Regional Migration Office, 189 Atatürk. Brilliant we’re at the right place we have our passports, our visas and Billy’s address but we should have brought his ID number but then she decides we need the name and ID number of the guy who owns Billy’s apartment. Several phone calls later and we’re sorted. Next job – find equipment for our trikes; we need new tyres, tubes, a mudguard, bike shoes for Daz and a solar charger. Sadly after visiting several shops we’ve only managed bike tyres (and they’re not the Marathon Schwalbe we wanted) and tubes. Bugger! We’ve been chatting to Max and Beth (British cycling couple) and Luis and Claudia (Portuguese couple) and they’re planning to leave on the next boat which they think is departing Friday. We still haven’t received our Uzbekistan (UZ) LOIs so can’t leave until we’ve got that and our UZ visas. Tonight we have a few drinks and food at the HardRock Cafe.
Friday 2nd June
This morning I realise my mail has been going into the ‘junk’ folder and there’s our LOIs. We’ve unwittingly had them since Tuesday. But we need prints and passport photos before we visit the UZ Embassy. Daz still has some bike shops to visit but depressingly he’s unsuccessful on his shopping mission. Billy is a fabulous host and tonight he takes us to the Harbour Bar and we meet his colleague Steve.
Saturday 3rd June
OK what pointless shopping mission should we attempt today. We want a solar charger because if we have a couple of days of low speed and low mileage our SON dynamo can’t keep things charged. Claudine (a teacher from Australia who works for BP) thinks there’s a camping shop that might help. So we decide we’ll tie that in with walking Teddy and sightseeing. Sadly the shopping trip is a complete failure but the sightseeing is great.
Baku, one of the world’s most beautiful cities is located at the joint of Europe and Asia. The capital’s name itself is interpreted as a “wind blow”, “city of winds” or “hill”, “city on the hill”.
The port city of Baku, the cultural, industrial and political capital of Azerbaijan is located on the western Caspian seaside, on the bay shores of the same name in the southern part of the Apsheron Peninsula, rich in its oil fields. Baku consists of 11 administrative districts and 5 townships.
We visit Martyrs Row the focal point of which is the main memorial with the eternal flame at the bottom at the end of the central avenue. The eternal flame is indeed a massive one – you can feel the heat from a couple of yards away (so don’t get too close or you might burn yourself).
The monument stands in the centre of a round open plaza right at the edge of the hillside. From up here you get one of the best views over Baku and the bay curving to the horizon to the east.
Closer to the bottom of the hillside you can also catch a good glimpse into the harbour and shipyards – as well as the new National Flag Square. The central avenue is lined with walls of white marble into which polished black marble stones are set with the names of the martyrs honoured here and mostly also a photographic portrait etched on. Note that a few of the martyrs remain nameless. Here and there you may find a rose placed on the marble … on the anniversary date there’ll be thousands of them.
We also see the less trendy side of Baku with little shops selling local produce and even walk through an area where the locals have their own oil derricks.
Back in the centre we’re going to head off and visit the Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower.
Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th-century defensive walls. The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th-century Shirvanshahs’ Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture.
Baku is currently preparing for the Grand Prix. The 2016 season saw Azerbaijan become the latest addition to the Formula One calendar, with capital city Baku playing host to the fastest street circuit in Formula One racing, on a layout designed by renowned F1 track architect Hermann Tilke. “Our brief to Tilke Engineering was simple – create a circuit that is unique, one that will help the Grand Prix in Baku quickly establish itself as one of the most exciting, thrilling venues on the F1 calendar, and one that the fans and teams alike are excited about,” said Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport.
Sadly Billy is flying to the UK for a course so he’s leaving at midnight. It a shame that he has to leave – Billy is an extraordinary chap and he has had many incredible experiences but due to the sensitive nature of his job I’ve been told it’s best not to repeat them . Discretion is my watchword.
Our last Billy night, but he’s very generously said we can use his flat as long as we need it. Thank you Billy.
Sunday 4th June
This morning Daz heads downstairs to replace his tyres, correct his tracking and generally check over the trikes. Someone has only gone and stolen our pump – arghhhhh. So only the tracking is done. We have a Brunch date at Four Seasons with Claudine, Karen, Greg and Casey. All Australians and on the teaching circuit except Casey who’s a travelling journalist. Freeflow Prosecco and Bloody Marys pretty much terminates constructive activity but the food, ambiance and service is superb and only 44 Manat per head – about 20Euros.
Brunch ends at 2.30pm and so we head back to our gaff (well Billy’s) with Claudine, Karen and Teddy and decide since Billy is due posting in a couple of weeks we should help clear his drinks cupboard – yup very stupid and very naughty. I know we’ll regret this tomorrow but not as much as Karen and Claudine who have to go to work.
Monday 5th June
Today is Uzbekistan visa day. We’re up early and even though we know the Embassy doesn’t open until 10am we’re there at 9.30. We’ve been beaten by 2 other cyclists, Thomas (Italian) and Perry (Australian). At 9.50 they’re allowed into the Embassy whilst everyone else sits outside in the street, waiting. About 15 minutes and they come out. Our turn. On this first visit we’re just given our paying slip (of course we all have our VISA application and UZ LOI from various tour companies). Now back into town to the International Bank of Azerbaijan. Daz and I had hopped in a taxi to get to the Embassy and asked him to wait. So he takes the 4 of us to the bank, pay $75, get proof of payment, then back into taxi and return to the Embassy. Of course all this takes time and now there are others queuing outside the Embassy. So we sit and wait and wonder if we’ll make it before the Embassy closes for lunch. Finally we’re called in and issued our UZ visa. We’ve all amended the date of arrival into Uzbekistan from the date we put on our LOI. Visa – done.
Next job visit the ferry office. So once more our taxi driver is available. Each leg has been approximately 5km and he’s done 4 legs and been driving us or waiting for us for 3 hours. Since 9.30. He charges us 20Manat (so about 10€) and drops us by the ferry port. We’ve been given directions to the Ferry office by Björn, Luis and Claudia so we know where to go. We’re told to ring daily at 11am to check if there’s a ferry. Vika (ticket sales) thinks there’ll be a ferry in the next 2 days. So everything is sorted. We just need to visit a Notary, to complete some paperwork for the UK and then a siesta is in order. In the evening a quiet night in – movie night, Monster starring Charlize Theron.
Tuesday 6th June
Online shopping time. Having failed to find numerous items in Baku, including new bike shoes for Daz and a solar charger, the only solution is to buy them online and then our admin hero (Debbie) will forward them to somewhere down the line, perhaps Samarkand. Next job fix the trikes. So Daz, equipped with our new (but crappier) pump, replaces our inner tubes, his front tyres and fixes his rear mudguard. Meanwhile I attempt to replace our Facebook Group with a Facebook page for more widespread publicity. In the evening we join Claudine at the Hard Rock Cafe to listen to her school musicians perform.
Wednesday 7th June – Baku to Alat Ferry port
Distance: 70.30 km
Average Speed: 16.14 kmh
Fastest Speed: 35.05 kmh
Total Distance: 13639 km
In the morning we wake up a little weary. Another late night, too many beers and not enough sleep and we’re feeling jaded. But we’re convinced there won’t be a boat today.
11am – make duty phone call to Vika at the port, “Any boat today?”… “Yes. Come and buy ticket.” Arghhhhh, mad rush!!
11.05. Daz heads off to buy the ferry tickets, I clean, pack, and draft the Azerbaijan blog.
12.00. Daz returns with ferry tickets. 80US$ each. We need to be at Alat by 8/9pm tonight.
1pm – We’re all packed and our trikes are loaded and it’s time to say ‘Goodbye’ to our incredible flat. Billy thank you again for hosting us and providing such fabulous entertainment. You are one in a million (or possibly 10million????). We head out of Baku – aren’t we lucky that it’s now probably the hottest part of the day!
1 – 6.30pm. 70km to Alat on a flat, open road. We make good time but we’re fortunate it’s not a head wind. We stop a few times for drinks and food. At its hottest it’s 37 deg C.
6.30pm. We arrive at Alat port and meet Perry, Thomas (Australian and Italian cyclist), Justin (UK), Marta and Coco (Spanish couple). They decided not to cycle but came by taxis. After a compulsory photoshoot with the guards at the barriers we go through and we’re told to wait.
6.30-10.30pm. It’s a waiting game. There’s a portacabin shop/restaurant and banks to exchange money so Daz gets rid of his remaining Azeri Manat. We’ve been told by Björn and then Luis that after a long wait, the lorries will load and then the cyclist. They loaded at 6am and 3am respectively. So since we’re pretty tired we put our tent up so we can at least relax and read and possibly snooze.
10.30pm. The guys call us. Apparently it’s loading time. After packing up it’s another long wait.
1am. Finally we’re called forward, our documents are checked and we cycle into the ferry hold. We take essentials from our baggage and struggle up hellishly steep steps to the reception area. We know we can have a cabin and because there’s 2 couples we’re (Magda, Coco, Daz and me) allocated a 4-man room with an ensuite. The other lads are less fortunate and end up in a tiny 4 man room with no bathroom and no window. Their room is sweltering. A quick shower in the very grubby toilet space and into bed! We made it! Kazakhstan here we come.