THE RACE CONTINUES THROUGH AZERBAIJAN

 

27/07/12 - On ship, docked at Baku, Azerbaijan 1915. Started queing for customs 1945 and through at 2030. i was informed by officers that my visa expires 03/08/12 so i headed into the city to locate train station and catch train straight to Georgia. Changed some money with a local, rode around town. You can see where all the dirty oil money has ended up. Everybody is trying their hardest to look like the Beckhams - pathetic. Flash cars, buildings and bitches yet the back streets are still full of poor people. The difference between rich and poor is monumental, forcing many youngsters into a life of crime (as i later found out when my pump was knocked off outside the internet cafe) Cycling infrastructure is non existant, there aren't any ramps/crossings to get your bike onto the footpath, just massive 300mm high kerbs! Too bad if you're in a wheelchair - you have to mix it with the idiotic drivers. Dragging off the green lights and screeching to a halt for red lights is normal practice here. it's not uncommon to see Ladas trying to race Porsches? Have to get out of here. Eventually made it to train station, but missed train - I think it departed at 2200? Couldn't sleep, found an all night internet cafe near train station and stayed there. Confirmed availability of Georgian visa at border crossing.

 

28/07/12 - 0800 headed straight to train station and got ticket to Tbilisi (capital of Georgia) departing 2045. Another rude lady at the counter was say?ng no luggage when I told her about my bike but after making folding motions she finally sold me the ticket for 30M. Relaxed, rode around town, got some georgian currency. Met a local italian/American cyclist/teacher who helped me find a sports store so i could replace my stolen pump as well as find a bookshop to purchase a guidebook (couldn't find anything suitable though) He invited me back to his place to meet his family. We shared some stories while cooling down with some refreshments. We bid farewell shortly after as he had some plans. i sat ?n park and relaxed, changed some money, pr?nted out Georgian visa application (just in case). Went to train station 1730. Got haircut and wash for 7M. Only stairs up to platform so had to take everything up piece by piece. Had plenty of time before train departed. Restaraunt was good for simple refreshments. Started taking bike and gear up to train carriage number 2 where my bed was waiting. After completion the staff member on the carriage was shouting "no no" and pointing at my bike. They called their supervisor and after about 15 minutes she told me no problems (just had to pay another 14M for my baggage) She told me to take my bags to carriage number 6 at the back of the train. While this was still going on and I started moving my gear, the staff in all the carriages I passed kept saying "no no" Why? When I got to the back of the train, instead of opening the door for me, the attendant here made me walk everything through the length of the carriage to the back. These people were really trying to make things as difficult for me as possible (bunch of old hags) Still I continued with a smile on my face. Funny they were much more courteous with the locals. I was all done and on board at 2020. 4 bed cabin, very hot (they had A/C but for some reason didn't turn it on till about 30 minutes into our journey) There were windows open in the corridor with everyone jostling for some cool air. I shared my cabin with an Georgian mother, grandmother and young child (all obese) who had decided to devour a whole BBQ chicken in the sweltering heat and stink out the cabin. I hung outside in the corridor and went to bed as soon as the A/C was turned on. Fell asleep almost instantly - I was knackered.

 

29/07/12 - On train, we reached Azerbaijan border at 0900. Exit stamp was given by officer coming aboard at 0945. We were rolling again by 1000. 1030 we reached Georgian side of border. Passports were collected to get our entry stamps. We were let off and free to wander around the platforms in this tiny settlement. Store had cold drinks here as well as an exchange office where I got rid of my remaining manat. 1130 we were moving once more and arrived at Tbilisi 1230 (1130 as timezone changes here) I was the last one to leave the train - again the attendant making me walk the length of the carriage with my bike through the narrow corridor. Gave her the bird on exit - had no idea, just stared at me in disgust just like the first time she saw me. Some blokes with a trolley allowed me to load my bags and take them to the front of the station. Found a nice covered spot (it was starting to drizzle) and proceeded to put the bike together. To my surprise my bike was damaged. The downtube just behind the front wheel on the left side had a small dent in it, the paint had chipped off and it feels as if the actual tube has a crack in it! I can only assume that someone had repeatedly slammed the train door into it (the rear door which wasn't used by anyone as the bike was at the back of the very last carriage?) There was nothing I could do as when returned to the train it was gone. Decided to see if the bike rides ok as the exposed steel will soon rust and break if untreated. Luckily bike felt fine so will leave it for now - but it will need welding and some paint. Really disgusted with the staff on that train - if you take this train fom Baku to Tbilisi try to put some padding or something on the bike as once you're seperated from it, you won't see it till the end of the journey (I wasn't allowed to walk through the other carriages to check on my gear throughout the whole journey) Rode around town but didn't find it very interesting so decided to push on, I was feeling good. Rolled into the small town of Mhskheta at 1430 where I found an abandoned warehouse to camp in on the outskirts. There was a store nearby as well as a water supply so I could shower and cook no problems.

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