More stops along the way on day one.
Tom does an impromptu 'man in the street' interview:
At dusk we arrived at Barda refugee camp where internally displaced Azeri refugees from the Nagorno-Kharabakh war lived in shipping containers. Tom raised money with the Oil Odyssey for three years in a row, which he provided to the NGOs running the camp. The refugee kids piled onto the sidecars and we drove them around the camp. And although we didn't have time -- or a place -- for the musicians and dancers to perform, Bilal sang unaccompanied and without microphone and was received like a rock star.
Refugee kids in Barda:
We drove on to the town of Terter, where our troupe did put on a full show:
We saddled up again after the show -- it was now around 11:00 pm, a long day on the road -- even if a lot of it was spent standing around and not riding. In the chaos of the day, we had had no lunch and no dinner.
We rode on toward our night's destination, a Soviet-era sanatorium and resort called Naftalan, where people come to bathe in naturally occurring petroleum-rich mud that wells up from underground vents.
On the way out of Terter in the pitch dark streets one of the riders, an American named Mark, cut a corner too sharply on a right-hand turn and
hit the curb with his sidecar wheel, which pitched the sidecar up at a steep angle and nearly capsized the whole rig. It would have been a bad accident and it left him shaken.
We continued to Naftalan amidst spectacular thunder and lightening, but no rain, and arrived after midnight, famished and exhausted.
We set up tents in gardens in front of the building -- the resort is so dilapidated that it does not rent rooms -- and were told we had arrive too late for dinner. But after some peremptory demands from Tom -- who speaks fluent Azeri -- a lamb was slaughtered and cut into kebabs, a roaring fire was built. We roasted the kebabs over the coals. Soon after we retired to our tents, the rain came and stayed all night.
Naftalan (the next morning). While it looks fine from the outside, the interior was dilapidated -- the building did not have electricity above the first floor. We explored it -- there were operating rooms, laboratories, a ballroom with a grand piano, all in a state of dilapidation, not used for many years, the ceilings falling down, water leaks, wind blowing through broken windows. But the oil baths in the basement were still operating.
Matt from Alaska in Naftalan:
Sasha chased down electrical gremlins in the morning:
Day two -- pictured here are Vasily from Georgia who rode the green bike, which was sponsored by Georgia's state oil company. And Kazim -- who ran a motorcycle touring company in Turkey -- who rode the white bike with Craig, an American, as his sidecar passenger. He wore a hockey helmet -- reminds me of the Jack Nicholson character in East Rider who wore a football helmet. I think he picked up the habit in the Army, if you know what mean.
Like I said, sometimes the dancing girls would get off the bus and pick someone's sidecar to ride in. Here Anyura models her snakeskin pants. (is that a toe ring?):
We rode in intermittent drizzle and past interminable graveyards from the war, toward the Georgia border.
We stopped in the provincial capital of Ganja -- parked the bikes in the central square.
Kinds in Ganja; Vince took this pic:
Turns out that one of our police escort had lost his police badge many kilometers back while high-fiving one of the passing bikers, so we all had to wait while the police drove back to find it along the side of the road. But this gave us time to eat more kebabs for lunch and then put on an unscheduled show in the town square:
Aynura dancing in Ganja:
We rode on, again in on-again, off-again light rain to the Azerbaijan-Georgia border:
Crossed the border into Georgia -- my sidecar passenger is Vagif, a professional motorcycle mechanic and skilled rider.
It would be getting dark shortly and we were eager to get to Tbilisi.