After 4 day stop over in Tblisi and a failed attempt to reach Kazbegi in the north due to a landslide and it was time to head off to Azerbaijan and a date with a ferry to either Turkmenistan or Kaz.
Travellers at the hostel in Tblisi
The castle - Tblisi old town
The Baths - Tblisi
After crossing the boarder in less than an hour (a new record) and being asked for the 3rd time whether i knew Russell Crowe, it was off to Baku via an overnight stopover at Saki in Northern Azerbaijan. At the boarder i was told that i had to hand my bike into customs within 3 days of entering the country or face a large fine so there really wasn't much time to explore much of the country.
Azerbaijan is visiblymuch richer than Georgia with it's wealth driven from a booming oil industry which can be seem from the neat and tidy towns to the abundance fo fancy 4x4's being driven around the streets.
I'd heard stories from other bikers of the police corruption in Azerbaijan but encountered none of this on the route to Baku. In fact, the police gave me friendly waves and at one checkpoint they even tried to encourge me to pull a wheelie!
Cows on the road to Baku
One thing i did manage to do was spend an afternoon on the peninsular North of Baku, infamous for it's environmental damage due to a poorly managed oil industry during the soviet era. I was frankly gob smacked at the rusting hulks and the huge oil slicks that seemed to cover both land and sea. I have never see a place, in all my life, that looks so down beat and environmentally damaged as the island at the end of the peninsula.
The government building in Baku
Turning up at the 1000 Camels Guesthouse i noticed a familiar jacket on one of the beds and discovered Nathan (biker from the UK last seen in Istanbul) had turned up a couple of days earlier. With Ollie and Jenny also arriving with a huge thirst for beer after being starved of alcohol for 3 weeks in Iran it could only mean one thing..... The start of a trawl of the local bars.
The next day involved trying to get a ferry to Turkmenistan while all the others headed off to Kazakhstan from the same port. Hanging around at the port for 8 hours to buy a ticket and waving goodbye to the guys left me alone on the ferry for the 13 hour crossing of the Caspian Sea to a whole new world, Turkmenistan. The start of the stans was here.......