Baku, Azerbaijan – the first an/stan countries of our epic journey. What did we know about it? Russia loves building pipelines through there. The Caspian Sea graces a major part of its border. They have massive oil wealth. The most expensive and ostentatious KFC in the world is there.
On the way into town we received what would become commonplace anywhere east of Georgia, west of Mongolia and south of Russia – overt and genuine hospitality. Upon exiting a liquor store just over the Georgian border, Jeff and Jason see Kevin and JH being hounded by 20-30 Aziri men. This could easily be confused for a mob by most inexperienced travelers. Jason and Jeff reveled in Kevin’s nervousness. They were just curious as to why the 4 gringos in a Ford Fiesta were loitering on their corner. We hightailed it out of there for not more than 30 feet before a man literally said in broken english, “let me in.” Jeff stopped the car, said “fuck it” and had JH open the door to let this random guy in. We didn’t know where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. 50 meters later he told us to pull over so he could get out and have some coke with him and his friends at a little restaurant. It was a sensational first few minutes in the country.
We hightailed it to Baku for another 8 or so hours. Jeff was asleep while Kevin and Jason finished the drive. It was 2am and we had nowhere to stay. Jeff awoke in the car in the middle of this modern city. The lads were smashing the obligatory first in country beer, doggin’ it on the street corner.
CONTEXT TIMEOUT: Everyone on the rally talks about the port in Baku being a complete shit show. You see, it is necessary to take a ferry to Turkmenbashi from Baku to continue the rally if that is the rout you want to take. The other options are 1) go north like a little cry baby or 2) take Iran to the south. We chose option 2. Unfortunately Iran thought it wouldn’t be ok for us to drive through their beautiful country and decided to reject our visas. Alas, we needed to take the ferry.
Here is the problem – you can be stuck at the port for days at a time. The boat leaves when it is full/wants to. This can take 1,2,3,4,5 days and you never know. If you leave your spot, you can miss the ferry and be fucked waiting again for another 2-5 days. We showed up that night and said fuck it, let’s go to the port to see when the next ferry leaves so we don’t potentially miss it and have to wait a few extra days.
We pull out and Kev starts to drive. Next thing was flashing lights and sirens. God Damnit!!!
Kevin: Hello officer.
Officer: Can i see your passport please
Kevin: Sure here you go
Officer: Have you been drinking
Kevin: No not really. I had one beer
Officer: Step out of the car – you’re coming with us
Officer 2: One of you drive and follow us to the police station
All of us: Haha yeah right officer – we all had a beer – we can’t drive
Officer 1: why did you drink and drive
All of us: I’m sorry officer i didn’t know we couldn’t do that. In the states you can have 2-3 beers and drive no problem.
Officer 1: You’re not in the states.
Blah Blah Blah
Officer 2 then proceeds to get in our car and rally the shit out of it and off we go to the police station. It was actually a little doctors office to do a proper breathalyzer.
Kevin failed. During the drive, Jeff filmed the officer driving like a maniac for some cool footage. The officer saw him and as soon as they stopped demanded his phone. With slight of hand, Jeff through his phone to the side and grabbed JH’s phone which would have no evidence. This caused the officer to become irate and start yelling at Jeff. He didn’t care since he knew the cop couldn’t find anything. Unfortunately the video was erased by JH during the commotion.
We could smell the bribery coming for minutes. Sure enough we were free to go… provided we pay one of the police guys to drive us to one of their friends hotels that was overpriced and out of town. So that was night 1 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Nights 2 would prove to be much, much different.