Hey there everyone!
Good News is, we’re not dead! We just haven’t had internet much so this blog is a bit behind, something I hope to remedy. So lets catch you all up with what’s been happening lately.
After we left Armenia we headed back into Georgia, took a bit longer to get out of Armenia (oh paperwork and bleeding money) but we made it. We ended up staying at a hostel which had a lovely host but goodness was it hot.
And our arrangement was basically a mattress on the floor in a room of like 30 people. Hot, hot hot.
The following day we braved the border crossing into Azerbaijan. When we got there spirts were high, we got out of Georgia rather quickly and we thought it was a bit too good to be true…and we were right. The line to get into Azerbaijan was stupidly long. The day was sweltering and we didn’t’ look like we would be moving anytime soon.
Unfortunately the heat got to some people worse than others. An older man collapsed on the walkway, me being me I went over to offer what aid I could. Despite my efforts and the efforts of the people around us, however, he died. Not being able to speak their language made it very difficult, I couldn’t ask them anything about the man or his medical history or what happened before he collapsed. I had to just work with what was infront of me. And worst was not being able to tell them that he was dead. They didn’t understand and continued to try fanning him and it wasn’t until an officer finally called it that his family realised that he haddn’t passed out, he was dead.
It’s certainly a sad place to die I think, just on the side of the road between borders. But it’s how life works right?
After hours of waiting we finally got through the border, but not before putting up with questions about our hair and in my case about my tattoos and lip ring. Then of course there was explaining to the Azerbaijani officer why I went to Armenia (the countries are currently not on good terms with each other) which I got out of by playing up the ditzy, clueless American act. After paying a small fee (of course) we got through and sped on in.
But not before hiding everything and being ultra paranoid about the corruption around us. We had heard about officers demanding exorbitant amounts of money for random fees or tickets, everyone on the facebook page said to just annoy the hell out of them and not to hand over a single document. We got rather lucky, only getting pulled over once for apparently speeding. No sooner had we rolled down the window did the officer tell us right away we had to pay. After explaining where we were headed to, we all began to parrot one another with a chorus of “baku, baku, baku” over and over until the officer laughed and just went with it. Fee forgotten we declined tea with our new Azerbaijani officer friend and left.
Baku was….something else. I wasn’t expecting such a lovely city. It was big, colourful and grand. I fervently wished we could have explored it more, but we were there for one very important purpose. To catch the elusive ferry to Aktau, in Kazakhstan. Following the advice of previous ralliers, we found a nice hostel where we met two brits who made up team On the Run. And spotting a Hogwarts t-shirt and a Zombie Readiness Plan t-shirt I realised I found my people and proceeded to talk nerdy with them.
So we probably got swindled by “the fixer” who did nothing more than walk us to the office where we were to buy our ticket. He charged $160 just for his “services” then we had to deal with the ferry people who charged us $800+ which when you actually look at the ticket, the actual ticket is half that price. Yay corruption. Not.
We spent 2 days at the port, every other hour coming with a promise that it would be “two more hours” until the next ferry. We spent our time doing various things, I chose to hang out with the nerdy boys as well as the Baked Potatoes who are also my nerdy soul mates. We spent our night going back and forth on who would win a fight between Star Lord and Godzilla. It was a nice taste of the familiar to talk to people who are into the sorts of things I am.
Eventually we were let onto the boat, took a while but after a passport check and making sure our team was all present, we skipped to the front of the queue and made our way. And it was hot. So damn hot. The heat is really killing me in this trip. But we had to go up some rickety stairs, down smelly halls, and into a small area where the cabins were. Surprisingly they were actually nice. Unsurprisingly, as soon as we were settled we were knocked out.
I love the ocean, I wish I could sail all over. However, my stomach does not like boats. Particularly, when I’m below deck and everything is wobbling around. Kristina felt much the same as I. Despite this, all of us managed to enjoy our time on the boat, either watching movies, playing card games or laying out on the deck and star gazing.
The star gazing was the best.
The amenities were less than ideal. There was one toilet and it didn’t flush all the time so it just filled up with piss and poo and what ever else. So you had to hover over it. Or hold it. The kitchen staff were nice and there were drinks (for a price) but overall it was passable.
After 1 day on the boat, the following morning we were at port. Which was funny because we thought it was 9PM not AM so when I glanced out and saw people packing and heard the shouts of “we’re going on land!” I had to rush back and make sure Kristina was up so we could get going.
Of course, turns out we had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. Eventually our passports were returned and then we waited again for the soldiers to check us off the list. Then just the owners of the cars were allowed to go to the next office.
From this point on it was a game. A game of how much time can they waste by making you get as many fucking stamps as possible. 10 hours later, I accomplished all the tasks and collected my stamps, also I had to drive eddy as I was the only one stuck on the other side of the border with Eddy.
Leaving the port was amazing. We all cheered. By this point, we’ve bonded with the other ralliers who were with us and I actually learned all of their names (sorry other people out there). We still had no clue what we were going to do for the night, when some guy came up on his bike and offered his home.
Yep that whole “stranger danger thing?” well we ignored it and took the man up on his offer. What we got was a massive apartment with a shower that looked like a space pod. And after the hell that was on that boat, it was a welcome sight. Their toilet flushed! It was glorious!
The next day we drove and drove through the desert. One moment there were nice paved roads, the next we were mad maxing it on dirt roads leaving massive clouds of dust in our wake. Eddy wasn’t too keen on it all but the old boy made it! We found another stranger who welcomed us into his home. He showed us a place to eat and some of the nightlife, we came upon a random festival and danced. Then it was like we were celebrities. They just wanted to keep taking photo after photo of us. It was weird. Talk about a welcome.
And so dear readers I have finally caught you up with us. We’re leaving the home of our host now and off to the next city. Kazakhstan is massive. We have TWO WEEKS left on this trip!! Maybe.
Never really know with these things.