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Old 06-19-2013, 10:58 PM   #94
GuiltyParty OP
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Joined: Jul 2008
Location: London
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While I did the exams Patty strolled the streets with our new friends from the hostel

A little self-indulgence

With exams over it was beer o'clock

or vodka for some

With exams out of the way it was time to get back on the road and head for Baku, Azerbaijan to catch a ferry to Aktau, Kazakhstan. We'd been given a heads up that the police in Azerbaijan were dodgy and had a zero-tolerance approach to speeding fines and increased the cost of fines. One fellow inmate (RoninMoto) racked up something like a whopping $600 in speeding fines. A couple of guys in the Mongol Rally were also given a rough time so we decided to enter the country in the north east close to the Russian border rather than east of Tbilisi where most people would go.

Russia, straight ahead over those mountains

We'd already formed some preconceptions about the country because of the dodgy police and tedious visa process but when a few guys came to us and said "Welcome to Azerbiajan" we decided then we couldn't let our preconceptions ruin our time in the country.

The border entry was a pretty standard affair and took two hours. We didn't have insurance so the border guy said he can give it to us for USD50 but we weren't carrying US notes - we thought that could be an invite for people to increase their prices and try jib us for bribes - so we offered Georgian Lari instead and he took 25, the equivalent of USD15. Go figure.

We couldn't see any speed signs but plenty of cops so we rode along at 50km/h when really it should have been 80+...this was going to be a looooong trip.

Away from the border and running parallel with the Russian border we found some gravel and firguring there is no chance the police would be out here with the radar we twisted the throttle to gain some ground.

The GPS kept wanting to take us to the main road but we knew that would only mean trouble so we stuck to the secondary roads until half-way across the country.

Buffalo and cows

I don't know if the country is in drought or the Russians have built dams on their side of the border but every creek crossing for the length of the border that we rode was almost bone dry. Surely at this time of year there must be snow-melt?

Eventually we could go no further on secondary roads and had to join the motorway. Yep, the motorway

Still no fines but plenty of police. The speed signs were set out in a way to trick you. It would be a 70 zone out in open country then some buildings would appear and at the end of it there would be another 70 sign, implying that where the buidings were the speed had dropped to who knows what. Whenever we saw this sure enough there were police at the other end handing out fines so we took the conservative approach and just stuck to 50km/h whenever there there were any (any) buildings on the side of the road.

Our trip on the secondary roads meant we couldn't make Baku in one day so we stopped in a cheap hotel which had dead spiders and bits of the roof on the bed, a cats home and paper thin walls. We could hear the neighbours have really loud sex in the room next to us, but two minutes later it was over and we could hear him light a cigarette - the walls were really thin.

Next day we pushed on for what should have taken an hour but instead took two and half hours of the most frustrating morning of riding I've ever done in my life. In the absence of any speed signs we were riding 50km/h with a stupidly strong, hot side wind that knocked the bike about and threatened to rip the helmet off our heads. We had to compensate for the wind by leaning the bike into it, so as trucks would roll past us at 80km/h they acted as a buffer against the wind and suddenly my compensation for the wind became over-compensation and almost had us veering into the side of the truck. It was scary.

Not even this transmission tower could withstand the wind (kidding, it was under construction)

Against all odds we made it to Baku without any speeding fines and we now play the waiting game for a ferry to Aktau. Some have waited three weeks for it to come because military and petroleum cargo gets priority - military and petroleum, it's how the world goes round.

RoninMoto describes the wait and tedious process that lies ahead - So far we're still in high spirits on Day 2
Triumph Tiger 800 xc
Walkabout in Russia and Central Asia
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