Speedy, Sleepy, No one remembers…to Baku
Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku, Azerbajian
Apologizes for no photos or fun visuals in this post, but we were all sleep deprived and not coherent enough to take any photos… I think I may have take a few videos.. but those will have to wait..
The cheapest hostel in Tbilisi had a lot of character. When we arrived at 4am, we saw a handmade sign with the word “Hostel” ominously printed on a strip mall, next to some men drinking vodka in a parking lot. When Josiah went to investigate, there appeared to be no sign of a hostel… until he found steps to a basement underneath the strip mall…
Upon entering he was greeted by a tough (but nice) female front desk worker and a crazed-eyed french Santa Clause with insomnia. The hostel itself consisted of one giant room with handmade walls that comprised individual dorms (they looked like mud at first, but we think they were some form of drywall). There were very little lighting and the bulbs that did exist didn’t have switches (operated only by turning the bulb). There were no plugs and the wiring consisted of a mass of shoddy extension snaking around the hostel. The bathrooms were handmade, made out of plywood and the beds bunk beds barely stood upright, strung together by something… (as were the pillows and mattresses).
But the sheets were clean, the staff nice and we got a solid sleep in the dark basement rooms.
After a few hours of sleep in our interesting Tbilisi hostel after arriving at 4:30 in the morning. We were back on the road headed towards Azerbaijan. We got to the border around 2:30 in the afternoon and to our surprise the line wasn’t all that long which led us to believe we might be in and out fairly quickly. We hung out outside of the car and chatted with some of the others waiting in line.
One of our newly found friends happened to live in Baku and was headed straight there as soon as he got through. Perfect! If we can convoy with this guy we might be able to avoid all of the police, or at least have someone with us that can speak the language if we do get pulled over. We had been hearing horror stories of teams getting pulled over and harassed by the police constantly. Our friend, Фархад Квентин Т. Оджагнавин (pronunciation, no idea?), was several cars ahead though, and we didn’t want him to have to wait for us to get across the border.
“Fast forward” 4 hours and we were finally at passport control. Josiah had to stay with the car and go through customs by himself (The owner of the car drives the car across the border, while the rest of the passengers walk — this was the norm since Georgia). Jon, Patrick and I walked through the pedestrian border control anxious to see how the border guards would react to our Armenian stamps. We had several people tell us earlier that if we went to Armenia we would not be able to enter Azerbaijan as the two countries are currently at war with each other. We made it through without even a question, great success!
We walked to the other side of the border and tried to look back up the road for any signs of Josiah, but he and the car were no where to be found. It was a waiting game now, we didn’t know what sort of torture they were putting Josiah through, how many bags they were thoroughly searching, or what kind of bribes they were asking for. We figured it was probably going to take a while and Jon had to pee, so we headed to a cafe down the street. As we were walking there Фархад jumped out of his car and asked us how everything went.
He waited for us! I couldn’t believe it, he had to have waited over an hour for us to get through. We told him Josiah was still with the car at customs and he immediately looked troubled and said
“Oh this is not good.”
He started going up to every guard he could find and asked them where the car was and why it was taking so long. The guards kept telling him the same thing. Our yakmobile has born in 1997, and the cutoff to not pay an “old car security deposit” was 1998…how convenient. The guards said the deposit could be up to $4000, but we would get the money back upon exiting the country, I almost laughed. Фархад explained to them that we were just transiting through the country, so we did not need to pay the security deposit. After talking to a number of guards over the course of at least an hour we were assured that we would not have to pay the deposit and our car would be given a transit visa good for 3 days. We waited for what seemed like another eternity before Josiah and the yakmobile emerged.
It was now 7:30pm and the 7ish hour drive to Baku meant we would be getting in around 2:30am. Фархад graciously offered to drive two of us to Baku in his car. So Patrick and I hopped in Фархад’s car since all of our bags that were on the roof were now in the back of our car.
After we drove for a bit, we stopped at a convenience store to get some snacks and restock on water. When we went to pay we discovered that they did not accept card, which was a problem for us since we did not have any Azerbaijan money. As if helping us avoid a $4000 fee wasn’t enough our hero Фархад stepped in and paid for our groceries.
We continued on into the night and finally arrived in Baku at 6:00am Since it was officially breakfast time, we thought it was appropriate to stop by a cafe and get some breakfast as the city slowly awoke around us. We all had massive portions of Azerbaijan Kebabs and tea. The least we could do for Фархад was buy him breakfast, but when the check came he insisted he pay. He said the credit card machine was broken, but we all knew the truth, this was just an incredibly generous man who wanted to help us. We said our goodbyes and headed to our hotel where we finally laid our heads down for a few hours of sleep at 7am.
Tomorrow (or really later today) was going to be interesting, we needed to figure out the chaos that is getting on the ferry to Turkmenistan.
We wake up that morning to go meet Ismael, the ferry fixer at the Hilton… aaaannddd its getting late.. so long story short we paid him $640 for the four of us and the car for a ferry that may or may not leave that evening…
Sleep deprived Team Post… Marshal & Josiah… I think… no one really remembers who wrote this post…