Baku by bathroom and life on the poop deck
Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan
I awoke at 8am to what I thought was an earthquake. I quickly came to my senses and realized that it was only my stomach. I ran to the bathroom and discovered that either I was sick, or I had turned into a Keurig instant coffee machine.
No worries I thought, just a few trips to the bathroom and this will all be out of me.
A few trips to the bathroom later I’m wondering if the end is in sight. Luckily we were waiting at the hotel for Ismael to call so I had immediate throne access and no need to rush. We got the call around noon, Ismael told us to be at the docks at 5pm. We decided to play it safe and get there at 2:30 pm. There were a handful of teams camping out at the docks, one team had been there for 6 days. We felt pretty lucky that it was just our second day in the city and we were going to be getting on a ferry that night.
It wasn’t long after we arrived at the docks that I needed a bathroom again so Jon and I went to get groceries, but secretly my main mission was to find and destroy a toilet. We ended up going through this ridiculously fancy mall, so fancy it had a Lamborghini greeting people that entered. Fancy mall means fancy toilets, and I really came to appreciate these, bidet and all. My condition was worsening however, I felt like I had emptied myself several times over, and didn’t understand how more and more could be coming out of me when I was getting close to having not eaten in 24 hours.
During one of my many trips from the dock to the fancy mall I made a deal with myself that if I threw up I would not get on the ferry.
I made this decision for several reasons, first being if I was really feeling as bad as I was, and I had my innards coming out of both ends, I might need medical attention and medical attention is not available on this ferry, and who knows what is around in Turkmenistan.
Second, medical attention aside, If I could come up with two places I absolutely would not want to be with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting, it would be a boat ride sloshing back and forth for ten hours, and the most closed off desert in the whole world. Both of which would await me should I get on the ferry.
We finally got called to port passport control and all the teams waiting surrounded this little trailer that could only hold about 3 people at a time. It was taking forever for teams to get in and out of the trailer and I still wasn’t feeling so hot so I decided to go to the car to get some water. As I was walking back it happened. My mouth started to water, my stomach felt like it was loading a cannon ball into a pistol, and I found myself running to the dumpster several feet in front of me. I’ll spare you the details, but when I was finished I literally checked to see if any organs had just come out of my mouth as I thought I had already expelled everything from the farthest corners of my body.
(Jonathan here for what happen while Marshal emptied his innards)
Finally after asking and guessing where to go for hours, we queue up for the Azerbaijani passport control. Only this is Azerbaijani queuing… if there is space you go. there is no semblance of a straight line.. just crowds of people pushing towards the single door to passport control.. which is just a freight container converted into an office… Josiah uses his filipino DMV queuing skills and makes it to the front block off this rather larger set woman from cutting every Mongol Rally Team that was there hours before her. As he blocks her and lets other Mongol Rally Teams through the door. She is shouting and shoving and pushing him. She gets her 8 year old son even to stand in front of Josiah and try to puppy dog his way through. Josiah isn’t having any of this, but he is getting rocked. This lady is furious. Finally the customs agent and a few Azeri ladies essentially tell the woman to wait and let them through. The chaos ends.
Well thats that I thought. The decision has been made, I am not getting on this ferry. I start the slow painful walk back to the passport control trailer to call an emergency meeting with the guys and let them know my decision. When I get there I find what looks to be the beginnings of a riot or possibly a mosh pit, I’m not sure. All of the rally teams were huddled in a semi circle around the trailer door and they were surrounded by locals who were pushing and shouting trying to get ahead of them. I decided to wait to break the news to the guys until after this madness was over which ended up being close to an hour later. By this time I had started to feel better so I started thinking, maybe that was all I needed, just one good puke to get out the rest of the bad stuff and I’ll be good as new in a few hours. After we got our stamps we headed back to the car and I told the guys what had happened. Luckily we were parked next to another team that had some rehydration tablets they were willing to give me, and after downing those with some ibuprofen, and more anti diarrhea meds I was really thinking I might survive this episode.
We wait until 2am to board the ferry. First thing is first, toilet check. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this boat was equipped with several working toilets, some of which I figured I would be calling home for the next few hours. The ferry ride itself was going to take 10 hours from the time we left Baku to the time we arrived in Turkmenbashi. Leaving at 2 in the morning meant that we would be able to sleep for most of the ride, which was a nice thought. When I woke up at 8 am I immediately looked out the window expecting to see the choppy waters of the Caspian, but for some reason saw a port that looked eerily similar to the one we were supposed to have left from.
Are you serious… WE HAVENT LEFT YET?!
It has now been 15 hours since we were told to be at the port and who knows how much longer we will be here before we even set off. Thankfully it was only 2 more hours after that when we finally set sail. Leaving at 10am should get us into port at Turkmenistan by 8pm, and maybe, just maybe we will be on the road by midnight. The ferry actually kept pace and we found ourselves arriving into port about 11 hours later around 9pm. If you look on Google Maps you might be able to see some of my handiwork. You see I wanted everyone to be able to track us while we floated across this large body of water so I made sure to frequent the john enough to leave a brown streak all the way from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. If you don’t see it, its because Google hasn’t updated the images yet, but trust me, its there, courtesy of yours truly.
(Jonathan, here, stepping in to fill the details of what Marshal missed as he was completely green)
We don’t get off the boat until 2am, a full 24 hours after boarding and 36 hours after getting to the port in Baku. After all the cars drive off the boat, we are escorted around the corner of there port. to the border control office.. note its a right from the port… not a left… we were yelled, whistled, angrily looked at for taking the wrong turn.. now the border control is of course closed at this point. So we set up our hammocks on some staircases and sleep for the night finally at about 2 am. We are told it would be open at 8 am the next morning.
We all wake up at 8 am and are told it will open at 9 am now. Finally inside the office. We are herded like cattle from one window to the next. Fill out this customs form. Give you passport to this guy. Stamp one paper. Take that same paper to the “bank”, pay for the stamp, but first borrow money from other rally team since you don’t have $403 in cash and this bank really isn’t a bank and is really just a cashier… This is where you get a receipt and a stamp for that same paper. Then herded back to the fist stamper for another stamp and signature. Then to customs. Then you are done.
But to exit. Bring out all alcohol and medicine for a search for codeine and excessive amounts of alcohol. We had none. But before you go, go back to the office and pay for parking…
Finally we were home free!!! well… We b-line it to the beach for a celebratory dip in the Caspian Sea then book it to Ashgabat… We end up caravaning with the oldest person ( 64 years young) doing the rally, Ian Hunt. He is doing it solo now, because his teammate got super ill in Tbilisi.
We don’t quite make it there so this campsite somewhere inbetween Ashgabat and Turkmenbashi will do..
(Marshal “solid poop” Mayhew again.)
My diarrhea diary concludes something like this: over the next 2 days nothing was improving, I was loading up on meds but there was an unstoppable force inside me that simply laughed in their face. By the time we got to Ashgabat I was ready to check myself into a hospital. I was having stomach pains that were almost unbearable and the trip was really getting pretty miserable. I started desperately searching for a pharmacy and happened upon a young man around my age that spoke perfect english. He ended up driving me to the pharmacy, ordered my meds for me, (I knew I needed some anti bacterial medicine) which was amazing because I dont think the pharmacist spoke english, and drove me back to where my friends were. I think this man might have saved my life, and I am forever grateful for his hospitality. The antibiotics did their thang and by the next day I was feeling myself again.
Marshal & Jonathan