We wake up at around noon with a lot of doubt about being able to go to Turkmenistan. Being Sunday there isn’t much we can do. We still decide to make our way to the Turkmenistan Embassy in Baku to see at least if it existed since the phone number we had did not have an answering machine. We took about 5 taxis in total to try to locate the Embassy. Every taxi driver when we showed the address of where we wanted to go seemed to know its way around. They had absolutely no clues. We finally found the Embassy but the Police at the front gate told us that it was closed and to come back the next morning at 9.00. We were released by the fact that the Embassy existed and seemed well organized.
The following morning we wake up at 7.00 Am all ready with our belongings hoping that since my letter of invitation was in their system it would be just a matter of printing it. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We get to the Embassy and we are told that there is no Consul but only the Ambassador and he does not take care of this kind of matters. At this in front of the gate. We were not even allowed to go inside the Embassy. My last resort was to call Natasha which arranged all my Visas for this trip and explain her the situation. She was able to get in contact with the Minister of Foreign Affairs in London and after another 5 hours we finally received an email with my letter of invitation. Exhausted but relieved we jump in a taxi to go back to the port where our bikes were waiting for us. The good news is that there was a Cargo boat ready for departure the same evening. WE ARE OFF TO TURKMENISTAN.
Today is the first day that Matteo and myself feel all the kilometers done so far. We are both pretty tired but need to get to Baku early, as we have no clue on how to board the “Cargo boat” to Turkmenabashi in Turkmenistan. Once arrived in Baku it took us an incredible amount of time to find the port from which the boat should depart. For anyone that wish to do the same itinerary we advise to ask directions for “Denize Vagzali” which is port in Azerbaijanis language. As soon we found our directions we were escorted to the customs and had to go pay for a ticket in a totally run down office. The price asked was astronomical and therefore we did not agree to it. It took us literally two hours before we were able to pay a more reasonable price. A good skill of negotiation is required in these countries, as it is part of the culture.
We were told to go back to the port with our tickets and documents at 11.30 PM to do the final procedures to board the boat. As we were told that there was no food on the boat we went to the market to buy some groceries for the boat ride.
Finally at around 3.00 AM we were told we could board the boat but when we were screened from Turkmenistan immigration I was told that I could not depart because I did not have the letter of invitation from the Turkmenistan immigration office. Matteo on the other hand was fine. He had his. I told them that my letter was in their system and I was told from the Turkmenistan consulate in London that such letter was not required. They just needed to check from the office in Turkmenabashi (Arrival city of the boat) but they refused to do so. After just about 24 hours with no sleep at the customs docks I can let you imagine our state of mind for the denial of boarding the cargo boat. At 6.00 AM we check in the Araz Hotel without our motorcycles. They were confiscated by the customs Police since they were already registered outside Azerbaijan and therefore could not get back in the country. With our moral close to zero we still try to make a couple of phone calls with no success.
May 20th 2011
Left early morning from Akhaltsikhe direction Azerbaijan. The road was defiantly better than yesterday along a beautiful valley with many old castles and monastery. At noon we finally arrived at the border with Azerbaijan. The entry was smooth but we still had to wait for a few hours. Of course we had to pay some extra dollars for some “ administration” fees. As we get out of customs we are obliged to change some money at the black market. We were surprised to learn that 1 Manat (Local Currency) is equivalent to 1 Euro. On the other hand gas is only 0.50 per liter. From here we start our long journey to Baku but after about 100 Km we were stopped by the Police, claiming we were speeding. As usual in these kind of situations Matteo and myself pretended not to understand the reason he pulled us over. The “debate” lasted for about an hour. He wanted 150 Euros and we were able to get out of the situation without paying anything. We then continued are trip toward Baku but at this point we were late in the day and decided to stay for the night in Agdas. Before getting to to Agdas we had the opportunity to visit the mausoleum of the famous Azrbaijany poet named Nizami drinking a good cay (tea) with the local Police.
Dinner in Agdas was based with a great pita bread stuffed with some sort of vegetables and delicious lamb cutlets. The only problem was that the taxi driver set at our table eating practically all the food. He did not speak a word of English. Needless to say we went to bed right after dinner.
A typical entrance to a city