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December 16th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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)

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December 15th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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…

昨日の夜、この3日間と同じように、テントを張らずに寝ました。そして今朝に限って、雨が降りました。そのまま少し待てばやめるだろうと思ったが、結局一日雨が降り続けました。寝たところから道路までの200mの小道が雨で濃い泥になってしまって、タイヤとチェーンに粘りついてしまいました。最悪の状態でした。

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

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

しかししょうがなくて、進むしかありませんでした。大型トラックが近くに通って、うすい泥を僕にかける。あまり楽しくない一日でした。

唯一面白かったのはパイプラインのパンプステーションでした。石油がちゃんと2000km近く流れるように、パンプが200kmごとに設営されています。しかし近づくとセキュリティが起こります。起こられました。そして離れて、写真を撮ったら、車で追われて、写真を削除するように命じられた。しないと警察を呼ぶって。写真を消したが、もう一枚をこっそりと撮りました。

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

イェヴラック町に着いたのは午後4時でした。道の人に聞いたら、汚くて、安いホテルにチェックインしました。トイレの水も流れなくて、窓のガラスの代わりに段ボールが張っていた。今まで最悪のホテルです。しかも一泊700円取られています。

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)

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December 14th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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Flat roads continue….

86kms along the A343 highway, Azerbaijan / 343号線の86km時点看板(アゼルバイジャン)

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December 13th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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)

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December 12th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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.

幸せです。ウズベキスタンと同じように、平らな道路が一日続きました。暖かくはありませんが。日中は5度以上あがりませんでした。休憩をとるときにダウンジャケットは必着用でした。

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)

バクー自転車クラブの皆さんのほとんどが働くBP石油ターミナルは今日のルートにありました。BPは世界位置大きな石油会社で、カスピ海の石油可能性を現在集中的に開発しているそうです。BPが最近できたカスピ海の油田掘削施設は、現在カスピ海に働いている全部の他社油田掘削施設よりも石油油出能力が大きいらしいです。

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)

というか、この辺には小さな油田掘削施設が非常に多いです。個人が石油を生産しているわけです。町の中。環境保護という理念をまったく知らないようで、周りの土地が黒い油に漬かっているところが多い。以下のところは国連の補助金で徐々に回復されている話をBPのスタッフの一人に聞きました。

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)

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December 12th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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…

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December 10th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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!

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December 9th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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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.

Following the BTC Oil Pipeline, Baku, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインを追うルート(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

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.

Following the BTC Oil Pipeline, Baku, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインを追うルート(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

Following the BTC Oil Pipeline, Baku, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインを追うルート(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

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).

Following the BTC Oil Pipeline, Baku, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインを追うルート(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

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.

Following the BTC Oil Pipeline, Baku, Azerbaijan / BTCパイプラインを追うルート(アゼルバイジャン、バクー市)

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December 8th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,equipment

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Did you know that there is a revolution happening right on your doorstep? It is here, and you need to be a part of it.

You    must    conform    to    the     cardboard    people

When Homeless Take Over The World

From the site:
Soon, in a time not far from now, things will change and the people of East Hastings will take the world back from their evil wealthy oppressors. It’s only a matter of time until a batch of dodgy meth genetically mutates the users into Super Humans. There will be blood shed and the once joyously used needles wasted, the spread of ‘the aids’ will be unstoppable. The only survivors of this horrible plague will be… the cardboard people. After years of suffering they will be immune to ‘the aids’, they will be the new rulers and cardboard will be our gold.
 
Prepare yourselves!!!!!!!
 
Live derelict, buy cardboard……….

When Homeless Take Over The World

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December 8th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Azerbaijan

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I got arrested in Baku today for taking the follow two photos:

National museum of art, Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan

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.

Rediculous.

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…

Buildings in Baku, Azerbaijan

Internet cafe in Baku, Azerbaijan

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