Achim, a regular visitor and comment-poster on this site, has been extremely pro-active on my behalf, and a while ago contacted the Baku Bicycle Club and let them know that I was going to be travelling through the area. Andy Buckworth from the club kindly contacted me, and to cut a long story short, I am now staying with two of the club’s members, and last night had the opportunity to share some of my photos and experiences from the trip so far with the club members at a slide evening. The slide evening was organised to show slides from a recent mountain biking trip in Bhutan, to which four of the club members took part in.
The club is very active, with rides every weekend. I was lucky enough to strike a Saturday where the mountain biking route was flat and non-techincal, so I had the opportunity to join in on the fun.
The terrain here around Baku is generally hard-packed clay, and very flat. There are of course no fences, which makes cycling off-road a real joy. There are also some hills interspersed between the flats, which I can only imagine, and the club members assure me, is great fun on a mountain bike.
The ride followed the recently completed BTC Oil Pipeline for about 20km before leaving the maintenance road and looping back to where we started (near the BP Sangachal Terminal).
During the ride I discovered that Kyrgyzstan isn’t the only place with angry dogs. They must breed the dogs here in Azerbaijan with only one setting – attack! The fella below has been named ‘Spike’ by the Baku Bicycle Club – look at his collar to find out why.
I got arrested in Baku today for taking the follow two photos:
No great big deal, but after taking the photos, a nearby police officer waved me over and explained that I was not allowed to take photos where we were. It turns out that behind me about 600m away was the parliament buildings or something. Even when I explained that I would delete the photos, the officer would not allow me to leave until I went to the parliament buildings to have my details taken, and for me to make an explaination.
The rediculous thing is that it is totally clear from the photos that I am not taking photos of the parliament buildings. I took a photo of the National Art Museum (the top photo) and a photo of the street adjacent to it (the photo below). The unreasonable nature of the police officer really got under my skin.
I have found out today however that Baku has some very nice old buildings. Funny place this. You have people that drive like Iranians, haggle like Turks, but still often look central Asian. Then you have the Eastern European architecture.
Some more photos. These ones I think are legal. But as I found out today, you never know…
English Summary: Ferry ride was smooth, slept like a log during the night. Got into Baku at 4pm, checked into a US$10 dorm room at the Azer Hotel – very clean. Baku has a European/Middle East, oil money greased feel about it. Lots of flash cars. I am very happy to be out of central Asia – the food was tough there. Here, my mouth is being delighted with a wide selection of foods. This cycling caper may get enjoyable again…
Many of these on the Caspian Sea – an oil driller’s dream (Caspian Sea) / 石油の豊富なカスピ海
On the train to Turkmenbasi, Turkmenistan / トルクメンバシ行きの列車にて（トルクメニスタン）
The Caspian Sea is a deep aqua blue, at least here in Turkmenbasi. Turkmenbasi itself feels like the end of the world. Old Soviet apartments with small wooden framed windows. None seem to have been constructed as if there was a sea to look out on. No bay windows with a view of the sea in this town.
Now it just so happens that the Caspian Sea ferry is not a regular service. That is, it is entirely possible to have to wait three or more days for a ferry to arrive.
However, by some great divine intervention – I prefer to consider it due to my great foresight and planning – there was not only one ferry today, but two. I was in the enviable position of being able to choose which I would travel on. Not that there was much difference. They were both the same black and white, and were identical in shape.
One of the Caspian Sea ferries, Turkmenistan / カスピ海のフェリーのひとつ（トルクメニスタン）
I chose the ‘Azerbaijan’. Here is a run down of costs:
Payable at the terminal:
Ticket – US$45
Bicycle fee – US$5
Documentation fee – US$12
To be paid on the boat:
Bicycle fee – US$5 (yes, again)
Bicycle security fee – US$3
Cabin fee – US$10
The money you pay for a bed (cabin fee) is negotiable. The steward first started at US$50. This was for my own room with shower and toilet. I said he has to be joking (it was in very bad condition), and that I would be perfectly happy to sleep on the floor of the seating room.
Hearing this, he quickly dropped to US$25. I said no way, but if they would consider US$10, then I would take it.
It seems that US$10 for a bed is standard – some other Turkmenistan citizens on the boat said that they also paid US$10.
All payments are made in US dollars only, including the payments at the terminal. It is a wise idea to have lots ot small denomination US dollars – change is not always available.
Meals on board are catastrophically expensive unless you are willing to haggle lots. I didn’t end up eating at the kafe on board since I had my own food, but I was quoted US$10 for fried potatoes and eggs. After saying that it was too expensive and that I would eat my own food, the price dropped to US$5.
I got onto the boat at 4pm, but the boat still hadn’t left the dock when I went to bed at 9pm.