Sunday, 1 June 2008


We eventually got away from Tbilisi after waiting a few days for our Azerbaijan visas. The Georgians has elections during that time, and election day was a public holiday. Due to our extended stay in Tbilisi we moved from our hotel to the less expensive Nasi's Home-Stay, which is popular amongst backpackers. Nasi is a retired Georgian school teacher (photo), who has turned every conceivable space in her house into some sort of sleeping arrangement. She's very strict about cleanliness (leave shoes outside), so our filthy bicycle bags were a major nightmare for her. We met some interesting travellers there, including Claudio and Patrizia who had cycled from Beijing via SE Asia and the Sub-Continent, and were now on their way home to Italy. Later in the week we met Yuka from Japan (cycling on her own from Nepal to Europe), and Lee from China (photo). Lee has been cycling the world for 11 years, and amongst his less memorable experiences are having his bicycle stolen in Brazil, bags ripped apart by Afghan police, and (surprise-surprise) being robbed in South Africa. The day we left Tbilisi we crossed the border into Azerbaijan, and noticed a distinct change in the climate compared to Georgia. The countryside was more arid, with thousands of cattle and sheep being herded by horesemen (often along the main road - blocking traffic for miles). Agriculture mostly involved the use of ancient rusting tractors and hand-held implements. The major fashion accessory in the villages is gold - in the mouth (it's not unusual to see someone with a complete set of golden teeth). By the time we'd cycled East to the Caspian coast the landscape had become almost barren, and most things there seem to revolve around the oil industry (riggs in the sea, and pipelines and oil trains on land). The capital city, Baku, is very different from the rest of Azerbaijan. Although there is an ancient section with various historical sights, the city is becoming rather modern and cosmopolitan. Currently we are in the process of trying to organise our passage to the East (a major headache which will probably take a few weeks - if we're successful). In the mean time we'll probably leave Baku and cycle around the Nortern area of the country before returning. Distances since Tbilisi have been: Qazax 101 km; Ganca 99 km; Yevlax 120 km; Qarasu 120 km; Alat 87 km; and Baku 66 km.

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