Sunday, May 24, 2015

Over The Garden Wall

The word "paradise" entered English from the French paradis, inherited from the Latin paradisus, from Greek parádeisos (παράδεισος), from an Old Iranian *paridayda- "walled enclosure". By the 6th/5th century BCE, the Old Iranian word had been adopted as Assyrian pardesu "domain". It subsequently came to indicate walled estates, especially the carefully tended royal parks and menageries.  

Short ride out of Tbilisi in consideration of a possibly complicated border crossing into Azerbaijan.  We had been warned in advance of a possible detour close to the border due the main road being severely flooded with high rapidly flowing water.  Arriving at the flooding we found it to be no where near as severe as it had been before so we proceeded to ride through the 1/2 foot or so of water the mile or so across the flood zone.  All made it through without incident.  On the Georgia side there was an interesting sign either bidding as adieu or something else.  The chase van was emptied and we piled the excess gear onto (or behind) our bikes and headed East.

The first few of us made it through relatively easily with little formality but with a whole lot of bureaucracy.  Azerbaijan is a wealthy country from Caspian Basin oil production and that richness was immediately obvious crossing over from much poorer Georgia.  The route we were following was the same from previous years, in fact it is the GPS track recorded from 4-years ago.  While the roads when we first entered were first rate, the main road we were following quickly deteriorated into a sequence of mud holes and gravel piles.  This went on through several villages and 10s of miles and I couldn't have been happier as this was exactly the road I had in my mind when I started setting the bike up last year in preparation for this trip.  As the rest of the group straggled into the hotel we started hearing stories that there were issues at the border and not everything went as swimmingly as the it had with the first few through.  Turns out the license plate capture camera stopped working and the Azerbaijani officials shut down the border in both directions for 3-hours until they could find someone to fix it.

The vegetation changed dramatically from lush and verdant to arid and desert as we rode down from the high country to the Caspian Sea coast.  Rumour is that this will be the last of substantial green we will see for quite awhile.  The Baku drivers have a reputation of being overly aggressive, it being Sunday those guys must have stayed home as we rode through the city to the hotel in a very civilized manner.

Rest day in Baku with a walking tour through old town then catching up on various things.

As usual, we attracted a lot of attention as we walked around.

In the afternoon some people continued on to visit an old temple while others did needed bike maintenance.  When I went to put my sun glasses on that morning I found that one of the little screws had gone missing.  Having done a quick walk about the afternoon before I knew exactly where I could go to get them fixed.  I found the spot and had a completely incomprehensible conversation with the two girls working there that I believed concluded with directions for me to return at 6PM that day to pick up my glasses.  Just before 6 I returned and the glasses had been fixed.  I have no idea if this was just happenstance or I had correctly deduced the correct information but regardless I was the funniest thing those two had ever encountered judging but the amount of laughter I generated from them upon my return.

Big day as we crossed the border into Iran.  The previous night we had been invited to the club house of the local Harley Owners Group.  One of the members is a local media mogul and the club house was about as posh a place as you could imagine.  Over tea and deserts we had been warned and to be prepared for the extended amount of time that would be required to exit Azerbaijan and enter Iran.  7-hours after arriving at the border we crossed through the gates into Iran.  I don't think anyone did not have the hugest smile on their face as we rode the short 10-miles to the hotel.

And the Brian project rolls on through Azerbaijan and Iran.

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