With finally getting the transit visa for Azerbaijan to enable us to finally carry on we were up at 5 am for 6 o clock start, leaving our new mate Jamie Duncan from Bike magazine who is riding a Suzuki V Strom from Istanbul to South Korea to wait for his visa.
We had been warned by the internet that the police in Azerbaijan frequently stop foreign tourists to exort some cash!!
Another border crossing and another couple of hours sorting out the relevant paperwork. We’re very lucky travelling in Europe, border crossing elsewhere can become very time consuming but are a matter of fact. As always the bikes attract a lot of attention from the border guards and here the big cheese played with my bike switching the mega bright spot lights on and off. I left him to it if it kept him happy and didn’t delay our processing.
We got through and were on high alert for police, and indeed the place seemed crammed full of them. We expected every one of them to stop us and fleece us and stashed money in different palces so as not to produce a wad. However we never got stopped anywhere so maybe we were lucky, though we made sure we didn’t ride in a manner that gave them an excuse to stop us.
I’m not saying the stories we’d read aren’t true, some were as recent as 2 days before; we were glad olf the warnings and escaped like Ronnie Biggs.
Lunch beckoned so we stopped at a small shop and went in for bread and salami to eat at the table outside the shop. A couple of minutes later there was a flcok of people around us and particularly the bikes. The owner came out with some butter, cheese, sliced cucumber and onion to make it a feast. All the extra’s free of charge. We tried to pay him but were rebuffed in no uncertain terms.
Here we are rich travellors in the eyes of people who have an awful lot less than us, and even though we can’t communicate properly they open their hearts and share what they’ve got. A recurring theme of the trip is people’s curiosity and generosity. So far we’ve only come across 2 obnoxious people, against hundreds of great people. I’ll come to the bad ones in due course. Ian is great at talking to anyone, a smile, a handshake and hello goes a long way to breaking the ice.
Now it was time for the first bit of what we’d come for, the off road trails across the mountains.
The trails were absolutely amazing, quite rocky and hard on a fully loaded bike with steep climbs and river crossings. Sad to say we didn’t stop on the hard bits for any photo’s as we just blasted through. We’ve got pictures bit only when we stopped for a breather. As we dropped into another mountain valley we saw flcoks of sheep and tents presumeably for the shepperds.. We stopped at a tricky section to work out the best way through when a pack of about half a dozen big snarling dogs came running over the brow not far from us. I don’t think the dogs are wild, I reckon they’re there to guard the sheep, and they saw us as predators. They were on Ian’s side and closer to him. The sight of big jaw’s crammed full of nasty looking teeth inspired him to make an instant choice of route as he gunned the bike and jumped the gap. The lead dog wasn’t giving up and ran full pelt after him. They were both gone and out of sight round the bend of the hill. The rest of the dogs eyed me up with relish. I felt like their next meal and quite frankly nearly sh*t myself as these lot weren’t your average friendly English sheep dog. Asking them to roll over and tickle their tummies wasn’t going to work, neither was throwing them a bone. I felt like they wanted my bones.
I was on a different side on the stream to where Ian had been, his route was cut off by the dogs, so it was either a U turn adn get split up or go for what was a slippy off camber slope where if I made a mistake I was deep shit.
Adrenaline does greta things for your ridng, quick decision and attack the off camber section before Fido and his mates got me. Only problem was I knew lead dog was still ahead having chased Ian.
Sure enough Fido couldn’t match the pace of Ian’s KTM so was coming back down the track straight at me when I cleared the obstacle. He looked really nasty and was now after me. I just gunned it and rode straight at him and hoped he was chicken. Luckily for me he was.
About a mile later on Ian was waiting for me. He said he he was so glad to see me as it had scared the life out of him as well, and I know he doesn’t scare easily.
All thoughts of wild campimg went out the window after Gnasher and his mates had chased us so later on down the track we came to a small village. No chance of a hotel here, but the local shop owner said we could put the tents up on the grass in front of his shop which happened to be next door to the village bar.
I’m not knocking the locals here as their life is so different to our privileged lives, I’m just trying to describe how these people live. The shop was just a rough building with a mud floor with the barest essentials in, certainly no Trafford Centre and the bar was like a large garden shed built out of mud and wood. There were 3 tables in with plastic table clothes covered in newspaper, a little peat burning stove in the corner which was very welcome as it was cold at 3500 feet high. Plus the surprising single pump with draught beer outside the bar. We got mixed reactions here that most of them wanted us to stay and an old man who didn’t. Ian wanted to carry on, I didn’t as there wasn’t anything else for miles and it was getting dark. We settled in and were having a great time with the guys until one guy who could speak a bit of English turmed up. There was something about him I didn’t like, he was just too friendly but looked very snidey.
The vodka came out along with bread, cheese and some tinned fish as we all partied.
Mr Snide said I was welcome to come back and stay at his house but I declined. He also asked Ian to come back and stay at his house, Ian declined then he asked if he could share Ian’s tent as he wanted to sleep with him. Ian told him “No chance” in a very certain manner!
It wasn’t the fact he was gay, I have friends who are gay, this guy just had a horrible aura from the very start irrespective of his sexuality; was very annoying and over the top “my friend”.
Spoilt the night for both of us, so we didn’t hang around in the morning. We were off on more great trails with a couple of river crossings were you could see that if the water was high you’d never get across as they were a quarter of a mile wide but when we went through it was just a combination of streams on the flood plain.
Next bit of fun was my oil light came on, GREAT. However the oil was full to the top and turned out to be a faulty oil light switch, unless of course the engine goes bang in the next few weeks.
After a great mornings trail riding it was back to tarmac and off to our nlongest border crossing yet.
4 hours stood around in 35c heat. Nearly 2 hours to get out of Azerbaijan, when I thought they just want to get rid of us followed by over 2 hours at the Russian side. Oh joy.