Azeri Magical Travels

Mud volcano in Azerbaijan

Crammed into a small cab, the three friends excitedly discussed their plans of visiting the petroglyphs located in Azerbaijan. They had traveled for more than 18 hours through 3 countries to arrive in the Azeri capital, Baku. Baku is an city built on the money from the petroleum industry, located on the Caspian Sea. The trio had found a hotel room near the coast, and the decrepit rigs could be seen from their fourth story window. It had been quite a feat to arrange the transportation to get to the park which contained the petroglyphs. Communication was difficult, as the cab driver spoke very broken English, and none of the travelers spoke Russian or Azeri. Luckily, one of the friends had purchased a SIM card with a data package, and all miscommunication was overcome with a mapping app.

The cab slowed as it approached the gated entrance. The driver spoke quickly with the attendant, who promptly took their cash in exchange for some handwritten tickets. After confused glances, they accepted the impromptu tickets, and the driver headed onward, up the hills. Large rocks were scattered around the road until the rocks towered over the road. The cab pulled into the parking lot once they reached the end of the road. The three friends were not familiar with geology or archeology, but they could appreciate the significance of the park. The petroglyphs were estimated as between 5,000–35,000 years old.

Qobustan, petroglyph park, Azerbaijan

The three friends jumped out of the car as soon as it was parked. The cab driver indicated that he would wait for them- they realized that they had hired him for the day. The driver wandered off towards the pavilion. The three friends headed up the path towards the rock overhangs. Signs warned of what must be snakes, though the cold weather seemed to ensure that snakes would not be an issue. They rushed towards the first spotted sign. They examined the rock face until one pointed the carving of an antelope. It was carved into the tannish grey rock face. Some of the rocks seemed to have a whitish paint which had to be recent. Perhaps it was added to highlight the carvings, they mused.

Petroglyphs, Azerbaijan

After wandering around the park, they headed to the cliff edge. They were amazed by the view. They could easily see across to the Caspian Sea, the Baku skyline, the railroad line stretching along the coast. The arid land stretched to the coast, and they appreciated the little greenery they were surrounded by as they walked back to the pavilion. The cab driver was gazing across the cliffs when they approached him. He seemed to have an idea for them- they struggled to understand what he was trying to communicate until he showed them the picture. Mud volcanoes! He would take them to see the rare mud volcanoes. They quickly checked to learn more about this attraction. Apparently, only about 800 are known in the world, and nearly half of those are located in Azerbaijan. After quick consultation, they decided to take him up on his offer.

View from the petroglyphs, Azerbaijan

The road to the mud volcanoes was so rough, and they were surprised the driver wasn’t intimidated by the deep ruts or the menacing pot holes. The road was merely a dirt road through a small grouping of houses. The road was surrounded by plastic garbage for the first tenth of the journey. They were shocked by the litter. Three cattle seemed to be eating from a burning pile of rubbish. The cab quickly left the wasteland, and the road deteriorated as they traveled farther from the paved road. The driver swerved from one side to the other as he headed up a sharp incline. The car circled at the top & stopped. They rushed out into the muddy plain. Small mounds rose out of the mud, and a strange gurgling noise broke the silence.

Mud volcano flow, Azerbaijan

They gathered around one of the mounds, cool, wet mud swelled out of the top. It rushed down the mound, slowing as it stretched along the cracked earth. Timidly, one stuck their finger into the pool of mud. The temperature was much cooler than they expected. They wandered around the mud mounds, amazed at the sights. They had never expected to see anything so desolate, yet beautiful. They felt like they were on the moon. It was one of the strangest experiences of their shared travels. Heading back to the cab driver, they thanked him for taking them to see this sight. Nodding, he was glad to share the magic of his homeland with the travelers. They knew this experience would be treasured.

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