Sunday, October 15, 2006
I'm in Baku and the Caspian sea. 10 weeks and 6500km on my bike ride to somewhere. I'm waiting on a boat to cross the Caspain to Aktau, Kazakstan. From there I'll try to cross into Uzbekistan from the North West for the long haul to Tashkent.
Interesting Fact: My great great grandparents were Azeri.
Georgia: A quick look at the map shows there are some pretty extreme routes through the Causcusus mountains but I don't have time to make any diversions. The best thing about this country has to be the people. I wonder what it is about the sight of me riding a bike that makes a man who has been dozing away in the sun all day suddenly leap up and start waving and shouting passionatly. A love of sport maybe? It would be fun to stop and talk with everyone but I dare not. Just simple things like stopping for water almost always results downing wine (they are very proud of the wine they make here), exchanging phone numbers and having photos taken with every random with nothing better to do. Made it to Tbilisi, a chaotic little city, for a short break before setting out across Azerbaijan.
For the love of sport.
Riders, past and present.
Azerbaijan: The fisrt thing I like about this country is the language is similar to Turkish so I can communicate (very basically) with people again.
The first thing I don't like about this country is the currency. There are currently two currencys in use in Azerbaijan. Both have the same name and both have completely different values..confusing! When I first exchanged money at the border I thought I had been ripped off, then when tried to spend my money I got even more confused. It took days for me to figure out the system.[1 new Manat = 100 Oebik = 5000 old Manat = 1.2 USD]
Azerbaijan is a flat, featureless place but the over the top hospitality of the people and all the crazy encounters (lunch in a roadside brothel with some very drunk and worked up boxers) more than makes up for that. Long days in the saddle stroking out the kms. The final leg to Baku was fairly horrendous. Another strong headwind reduced me to pushing the bike, it was so strong it had blown a few trucks off the road. At the end of the day (Fri 13th) I thought "oh well it couldnt get any worse, right?"..WRONG. I noticed the rear sprockets were loose on the hub, I took the wheel off and the whole assembly fell apart in my hands. Result: I bodged it back together and cycled the last 100km to Baku stopping every hour to sure up the fix I had made. By the time I reached Baku the sound of metal gouging on metal was deafening and I eventually rode the entire rear hub and sprockets to destruction, made it though.
I thought I would be stuck here waiting here for replacemet parts to be shipped over, but earlier today in a primitive bike workshop in a crappy market in a crappy part of the city the mechanic reached into a box and pulled out some top of line Shimano replacments for me..I could have kissed him.