Day 150 – Sweet Georgia Brown

Jolly cold this morning. A mild -9 degrees celcius. Great weather for camping.The last few kms to the Azerbaijan border were fairly straight forward, as was getting out of Azerbaijan. Georgia impresses me with it’s zero tollerance to corruption in the public sector. They have special police at the border whose sole job is to enforce the no bribe policy.

And in no central Asian country would you see a sign like this.

Now that's a sign you don't see in central Asia - Red Bridge, Georgia / 親切な看板(グルジア、レッドブリッジ村)

Day 149 – Ganja City to past Qazax Town

Azerbaijan has a ferral dog issue. In no other country have I been kept awake in the middle of nowhere at night in my tent by howling and scrapping dogs.

Today took me through hibernating vineyards, and in one particular town I got the biggest crowd of spectators yet when I stopped to get some food from a shop.

Vineyards near Yevlax, Azerbaijan / イェブラック町の近くのぶどう園(アゼルバイジャン)

The biggest crowd yet around my bike - near Yevlax, Azerbaijan / 今まで一番大きい人込み(自転車のため)(アゼルバイジャン、イェブラック町)

More of the same narrow busy roads. However as usual, the closer you get to a border, the scarcer traffic gets. Towards the end of the day it was nice quiet country roads once again.

Day 147 – Detained in Yevlax

Despite the cardboard window of my hotel room at the decrepid will-fall-down-at-any-moment hotel, I did get a good sleep, and managed also to dry out my tent after yesterday’s muddy fiasco.

Dodgy 'light switch' in a dodgy hotel in Yevlax, Azerbaijan / このホテルは危ない!これが電気のスイッチ(アゼルバイジャン、イェブラック町)

I had just gotten money out of the ATM and was about to leave on my bike when a suit stolled up and began asking all the usual questions about where I was going and….I’m sorry? Do I have a camera? Um, yes, I’m a tourist…

Turns out that this guy is a detective from the Oil Police, a governmental security agency protecting government interests in the oil industry here in Azerbaijan. These guys are very serious about their role.

A Lada Niva 4X4 pulls up and four guys in black jackets step out. One of them walks briskly over to where the Suit and I am, salutes the Suit, and proceeds to tell me in English that I was observed taking photographs of a BP facility yesterday, and that the photo must be deleted.

As I flicked through the photos, I inadvertently show the ones I took of the BP Sangachal Terminal near Baku.

BP Sangachal Oil and Gas Terminal, Sangachal, Azerbaijan / BP石油サンガチャル・ターミナル(アゼルバイジャン、サンガチャル町)

“You will need to delete that photo, Sir.”

I go into defensive mode, and counter that there must be hundreds of tourists that go past the terminal in a bus, click off a photo, and the secret police never know about it. Why come down on me?

“This is a security issue, Sir. You have no right to take photos of such facilities. You do understand, we need to be vigilant. It is a terrorism issue.”

I explain that they need to lighten up and make case by case decisions in matters like this. I mean, do I look like a terrorist? Do terrorists go cycling around for 5 months and 5,000km, on a bicycle that attracts attention, and take photos where everyone can see?

“We’re going to need to see the rest of the photos, Sir.”

104km point on the BTC Gas Pipeline, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインの104km時点(アゼルバイジャン)

“That one also must go” he said, indicating the photo above.

“Are you serious? Look at this photo. It could be anywhere! Are you serious?!” The other ones I could kind of understand, but this one?

“Look, Sir, if you do not delete the photos, it will cause problems for us.”

“OK then, lets just get a bigger picture of things here. What if I refuse to delete the photos. Like, what are the implications for me? Will I be arrested? What?” I really was quite attached to these photos.

“Maybe” is all he could come up with.

“Right,” I proposed, “how about you take a record of the photos I have taken, take my details, and in a way register the photos I have taken?”

“My superiors are on their way, I will ask to see if that is possible.”

And there you have it. Photos registered, every page in my passport photocopied, and I was on my way. I got my beloved photos (except the one of the pumping station), and everyone was happy.

This little setback cost me most of the morning, so it was a short day to just past Goranboy Town, where I pitched the tent and had me a campfire.

Campsite near Goranboy, Azerbaijan / ゴランボイ村の近く(アゼルバイジャン)

Not without taking another picture of government property, of course.

Warning sign on the BTC Pipeline just out of Yevlax, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインの看板(アゼルバイジャン、イェブラック村付近)

Day 146 – From Kurdemir to Yevlax (English Summary)

English Summary: It says on the Baku Bicycle Club website that cycling off road in Azerbaijan becomes impossible after rain. Now I know why. This Azerbaijan mud is straight out of Sticky Mud Hell. The road to my sleeping spot last night became unrideable by morning. Big trucks sprayed mud over me as they passed on this narrow road. Took a photo of what I think was a pumping station on the BTC Pipeline. Security got agro and made me delete it. So took one from further away…


Azerbaijan mud is sticky, very sticky - near Ucar, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan mud is sticky, very sticky - near Ucar, Azerbaijan



Photo deleted by Pipeline Special Police / 写真を石油ポリスに強制に消されました


Friendly truckies, near Kurdemir, Azerbaijan / やさしい運転者達(アゼルバイジャン、クルデミール村)

Day 144 – Qiziburun to Sigiri

Cold and grey day again today as I rode the flat lands of Azerbaijan. This road (the A343) has some revamped sections, but is mostly narrow and in bad condition, albiet sealed. Add to that very heavy traffic including many many old dump trucks, and you have a very dangerous road to be cycling on. Andy from the Baku Bicycle Club suggested that I keep my flashing rear light on all day while cycling in Azerbaijan. Fair enough too. Anything to make sure that these crazy drivers see me.

Fruit stalls along the A343 highway, Azerbaijan / アゼルバイジャンの343号線沿いの果物屋台

My impression of Azerbaijan drivers so far is that many of them don’t actually appreciate that they are driving on a road. It seems as though they are not actually aware of what they are doing, or realise that driving requires their full attention. Any distraction instantly seems to command their entire concentration. That is, me. Drivers will slow down on this busy, narrow highway with no thought that there might be other cars coming behind them. Or they will turn their heads to get a better look at my bike while they drive away. Their heads will stay turned for far longer than is safe…

So, I crossed the BTC Pipeline today. Jolly interesting, this pipeline. It goes for almost 2,000km. If only there was a maintenance road or something that I could ride along beside it. It would at least get me off this busy road.

104km point on the BTC Gas Pipeline, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインの104km時点(アゼルバイジャン)

Oh yeah, and why are there seashells all over these plains?

Seashells 100kms from the Caspian? How does that work? Near Navahi, Azerbaijan / どうして貝殻がここに?海から100km離れているのですが(アゼルバイジャン、ナヴァヒの近く)

Seashells 100kms from the Caspian? How does that work? Near Navahi, Azerbaijan / どうして貝殻がここに?海から100km離れているのですが(アゼルバイジャン、ナヴァヒの近く)

Day 143 – Baku to Qiziburun (English Summary)

English Summary: A cold, flat day of riding. Rode past the BP Sanqachal Oil Terminal – the beginning of the BTC oil and gas pipelines. Azerbaijan has the worst drivers I have encountered so far. Crazy overtaking manouvers, and general ignoring of road rules and road markings.


Caspian sea beach, near BP Sangachal Oil Terminal, Sangachal, Azerbaijan / BP石油のサンガチャル ターミナルの近くのカスピ海砂浜(アゼルバイジャン、サンガチャル町)


BP Sangachal Oil and Gas Terminal, Sangachal, Azerbaijan / BP石油サンガチャル・ターミナル(アゼルバイジャン、サンガチャル町)

Ancient dirty Baku private oil rigs - Baku, Azerbaijan / 環境を汚染する個人油田掘削施設(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)


Ancient dirty Baku private oil rigs - Baku, Azerbaijan / 環境を汚染する個人油田掘削施設(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

そしてそのBP石油ターミナルはBTC 石油パイプラインの始まりでもあります。このパイプラインはグルジアのテブリシ市経由でバクー市からトルコのセーハン市まで伸びます。パイプラインの上陸するところです。

Where the BTC Pipeline lands into Sangachal, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインの上陸するところ(アゼルバイジャン、サンガチャル町)

Day 142 – Big thanks to Baku Bicycle Club

First I must extend my thanks to Patty and Preston from the Baku Bicycle Club for the few days I have shamelessly indulged in their wonderful generosity and hospitality. Thank you so much for putting up with me oops, I mean putting me up. It is people like you that make a weary traveller’s day. Or days, as it has turned out.

Also a really big thank you to Andy for orchestrating my contact with the club. Thank you for your kind support! I am very grateful for the stainless steel thermos that the club donated to my trip – engraved with ‘Baku Bicycle Club’. It is a great practical souvineer from Baku that will be put to use (photos coming soon).

A great big thank you to all the Baku Bicycle Club folks that showered me with support. Your supportive attitude and generosity has been refreshing and very appreciated. A special thank you to Dave and Constance, Neil and Chris, for supplying some well needed bike bits and supplies.

The great master plan was to leave Baku today and head towards Georgia. Only problem was that yesterday I discovered that I needed a visa in order to enter Georgia. Many other developed nations do not need a visa however, so getting this visa seemed more like a formality than anything else. The visa was issued the same day, and although some running across town to pay fees (fees paid at a bank rather than the embassy) was required, it was all very straight forward.

So my wonderful stay here in Baku will come to an end tomorrow morning as I head out in the general direction of Georgia. West that is. I just hope the continental prevailing wind will decide to blow in the opposite direction as to give me a tail wind all the way…

Day 141 – Candy cane mountains with the BBC

Another ride with the Baku Bicycle Club today. This time it was all on road on a recently sealed road up into the hills 50km north of Baku. The road passes some amazing rock formations – dubbed the ‘candy case’ mountains for their bright pink and white stripes.

Riding with the Baku Bicycle Club folks going past the 'Candy Cane' mountains, 50km north of Baku, Azerbaijan / バクー市の50km北にあるカンディーケーン山の近く(バクー自転車クラブの皆さんと一緒に)(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

Today was my first opportunity to ride with other cyclists, with me on my recumbent. On the flat I could keep up, on the downhill I left others in my wake, but the uphills were much slower. I really felt the disadvantage of not being able to shift my weight in order to change how I was using my leg muscles. In a recumbent you are fixed in one position – no opportunity to change your riding ‘geometry’. It was a fun morning – another big thank you to the Baku Bicycle Club!