Builders and birthdays in Baku
The perfect campsite. You might think that would be found high in the Himalayas, or beachside overlooking a picture perfect ocean. But as Mummy always says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That day, in Azerbaijan, we'd spent nearly 11 hours & 130km in the saddle. It was not usual in the 2010 Till When books and it'd been a tough one, what with avoiding badly-driven lorries and confronting headwinds on a main-highway all day. It's also not what many people would have in mind for their 27th birthday celebrations and it certainly wasn't in Thumper's. Only the thought of finding a celebratory slap-up meal had kept us going. We'd read of astronomical prices for accommodation and food in the oil-rich capital Baku & finding a campsite was out of the question, theyjust don't exist. A tactical stock up 7km from the centre was thought useful. We'd need to keep costs down whilst waiting in Purgatory for onward VISAs and the notoriously unpredictable Caspian Sea Ferry, so the next week's grub was destined to be hotel-room cuisine.
Our champ Ruslan at work
As Sammy was outside the shop keeping molestation of our bicycles to a minimum, a man in dusty overalls stopped to say Hello. This softly-spoken chap with a big peggy grin introduced himself as Ruslan. On learning our story and plans he said: "You have tent, I help you. City hotels very expensive. I come from my building site. You camp there. No money." Wow. Erm, okay... let's see where this leads us shall we? We walked, well, actuallywe heaved our bikes alongside our new friend, up one of the steepest tracks we've found yet, to arrive at his building site which, as we pitched our Zhota was enriched by sea views and a steady chatter coming forth from Ruslan.
Jamtime on the building site with Ruslan
Now up to this point our contact with Azeris had been minimal, as we'd ridden the 450km from the Gerogian border in 4 days. Again this is not usual in our books. It could be said that we'd enjoyed ourselves too much in Turkey, sticking to our ethic "know the people, know the country". We took in the Black sea coast at a slow pace, accepting most offers of chai and a chat with the locals. It was good, fun learning experience, so lost track of time.
On arrival in Georgia the prospect loomed that if we didn't get our heads down, we'd be in store for some sub-zero Kazakh winter weather, so there began a big push that altered our experiences with the countries ahead. No longer did we seek out the back roads that weave their way through the native's home turf, we chose main thoroughfares which usually blast through a country in an offensive manner through more removed places.
This was an alien concept to us. We wonder what's the point of whizzing through life without taking a look around? You don't have to slog the well beaten path to achieve, nor ride a spectacular mountain road to find beauty. As much as sweating down a straight & windy alley taught us a lot about patience and grit, along every side-street there's a new story, another person willing to teach us something equally as valuable. So as the sun set that day over the oil-rigged caspian sea, with pasta bubbling away on the stove & Ruslan cheerfully singing "Happy Birthday" by our side, our camp on a building site couldn't have been any more perfect.
Shooting the Sun. On hearing Sammy is a musician, our host, Ruslan, brought his son's guitar to the building site for Sammy to play with.