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A month without posting on the site… I get lazy:-)
During my last post, I was going down to the south of Armenia. I will try to summarize what has happened over the past 30 days… A difficult task, especially since I have taken almost no notes… lazy, I told you. So here is the logbook for the last month.
There are hives everywhere, including in semi-trailers stopped near the road. Beekeepers sell their products right next door. For not having rolled the closed visor I found myself with a stinger stuck in the lower eyelid despite the sunglasses… intense enjoyment….
When you think you’re going through a quiet bivouac and you end up drunk like a shovel tail because some Armenians decided to make a BBQ right next to where you pitched your tent… and of course they invite you to share…….. I didn’t understand the conversation but laughed anyway… and I don’t know what I ate but it was good… and it was fucking strong their vodka.
A honeymoon by bike……
On the road to the South, I meet a French couple on a bicycle…. on a honeymoon: Arthur and Aude. Once again I decide to stay with them. On the first evening, I take out a box of Southwestern pâté to celebrate their two months of marriage. The second evening, we camp on the grounds of an Armenian fig farmer… and wolf hunter. A huge skin sits in his living room. Once again, the passage through the vodka box is mandatory. The man tells us that he spent 25 years in prison for murder… atmosphere…
Once I arrive completely to the south, I separate from Arthur and Aude who continue towards IRAN. I take the direction of the North by passing by a small track in the mountains. When I arrived in Tatev, I took up residence in a boarding house run exclusively by women… and I felt like a rooster in paste. I am brought, apricots, a small coffee table to work, a small pouffe to sit on… I stay there for 3 days and make the trip via the longest cable car in the world: almost 6 km.
Yeravan – the time of an Oil Change.
Yes, it’s been 10,000 km since I left or almost… a small inspection/emptying was necessary… I settle in Arsene’s garage who rewired my clutch a few days ago. Meanwhile my friend Arsène is fixing a car… he needs a part….. he takes the picture, sends it to a friend of his who has a store… Time to have a coffee together and chat a little bit… the room arrives via a taxi… and he takes over the job….. when I tell you that travelling starts by ceasing to be with our timing as Westerners…;-)
To go back to Guymri, I go by a new road more to the EAST. In the evening, the storm threatens. I stop in the forest on the territory of a Kangal who decides to watch over me all night. The next day, I arrived at Hotel Kars in Guymri where I left my tires during the descent to the south. But a biker on foot is awkward and I hurt my right thumb by wallowing on the sidewalk while walking quietly in the street. This gives me a stopover of 8 days in the end: impossible to ride the bike.
Impossible to cross directly from Armenia to Azerbaijan: the border between the two countries is closed. We have to go back through Georgia. I decide to cross a border in eastern Armenia in the middle of the Mountains. I pass by Soviet-era factories now abandoned and cemeteries strangely arranged along the road… a way to remind motorists that life is ephemeral? In the evening, I stop by a peach seller. When I tell him I only want 3, he gives them to me and refuses any payment.
On the Georgian side, a car passed me at 200 km/h and grazed me. I see her turning a little further and stopping in front of a restaurant. I am angry, I am, and I give him the soap of his life in front of the whole restaurant by calling him unconscious… the people at the table who attend the scene, invite me to share meal and vodka….
Azerbaijan and Baku: the land of contrasts
Actually, I had no idea what to expect in Azerbaijan. I only knew that I might have problems because of my time in Armenia: relations between the two neighbouring countries are very tense. In fact, the border crossing goes smoothly. The rather monotonous 550 km in the middle of a huge agricultural plain that separates the border from the capital Baku is done on a magnificent 4 lanes (with central separation) throughout which I could estimate the number of radars at 150 to 200… not to mention the surveillance cameras and the multitude of police patrols in their magnificent BMW all white and brand new. Oxen, sheep and other horses cross this highway quietly and freely, some sections of which allow you to go at 110 km/h. On the edges of this 4 lanes farmers sell their production (grapes, watermelon, melon etc.). The villages look new. The road is lit by streetlights… A curious blend of ultra-tech modernism and traditional life. A country that seemed to me to be at a crossroads. It is also necessary to count with the dozens of men in yellow who clean the highway with shovels and… broomsticks….
Then finally we arrive to Baku on the shores of the Caspian Sea….. A wind to decorate the oxen. I almost got on the ground two or three times because of the gusts of wind that drove the front wheel off. The suburbs are particularly ugly, and don’t want to stop: just continue on your way… then Baku finally… huge and modern. It’s hard to get around it. The city is pleasant with its large shaded avenues, its luxury shops… You can find the mention of Paris everywhere: Paris perfume, Paris bistro, etc…..
Alat: waiting for the boat to cross the Caspian Sea.
In fact, the port of embarkation is located about fifty kilometres south of Baku in ALAT. It is quite simple to find it, just follow the road that goes to Georgia. The port is indicated on a panel. On the spot you can buy tickets if you haven’t already done so. If you have purchased on the internet, you must register on the waiting lists in order to have space on the next boat. The office is in an office without any indication (kind of container – ask). On the spot we find: an ATM (ATM), a kind of grocery store (in a container), and just next door, enough to have a coffee (in another container next door), toilets … with perfectible cleanliness, showers (paying… I haven’t tried) and we can pitch a tent there, in a spartan space stuck between a fence and an empty building. The wait can last several days… but it is rather nice since it is the obligatory passage for all travellers taking this road.
I meet Yves and Mimona, a couple of cyclists, as well as Alex, a German cyclist. There was also Yacoub and Nélia, a young Dutch hitchhiker couple, Luc a Frenchman in a 4X4 who live 9 km from my home in France. In the nearby Hotel, a trio of Austrians have set up shop, travelling to India on a 300 cc Red Vespa Scooter (their website: http://elephant-to-india.com), not to mention the beautiful blogger Thuymi and her two knights in shining armour. She stands out a little in the middle of all these adventurers with her enticing outfits but her good humour is communicative and her smile makes the most vicious of customs officers melt.
We arrive in Aktaou around 9pm… the border crossing will take 6 hours and it is only at 3am that I will finally be able to pitch my tent alongside those of the cyclists who have been sleeping soundly for a long time: with their bicycles, they avoid the long and tedious formalities of importing vehicles.
The next day we split up. For my part, I join Luc and his 4X4. We decide to go on the road together for a while. He has no Uzbeck visa. This means a detour of several hundred kilometres along the road you decide to take. I hesitate for a moment and then decide to follow him: this will allow me to see the Aral Sea to the North (Kazakh side) or at least what remains of it. A second choice comes up quite quickly when it comes to choosing the route. To reach Kyrgyzstan via Kazakhstan, there are two roads: one made of good asphalt all along, but almost 2000 km long compared to the Uzbeck road, and a shorter one, which only extends by about 800 km but which passes through a road that everything leads me to believe that it should not be in good condition. I decide to take this last option… it will cost a gallery and its loading at the Land of Luc, as well as a front suspension triangle, completely twisted after a collision and finally the beginning of separation of the passenger compartment from the chassis… only trucks use this rather brittle road. The engineers we had the opportunity to meet will tell us that the new road being built on some sections will be completed within 3 years. Apart from these trucks, we only see camels and horses (wild?) in this steppe that stretches as far as the eye can see.