September 4: Baku, Azerbaijan
5:12. I’m jolted awake by a loud thud. The ship has obviously come to a stop. I can’t imagine why but my head hurts.
5:27. I go for a walk on deck. We are anchored about 2 km offshore. If the sunrise is any indication, we’re in for a beautiful day in the Azeri capital of Baku.
8:30. Breakfast is served. I suppose it might be the freshness of the eggs, although that’s hard to believe as we’re at sea, but the fried eggs are really good.
10:10. We walk down a gangway and wait with our bags while agents decide if they will search all bags or just a random sample.
11:09. I have cleared customs. No bag search for me.
11:15. Rodney and I say goodbye to our new friend Aleksandr. I’m sure he’ll make something of his life and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in North America.
11:26. It’s been 37-1/2 hours since our first interaction with the customs agents in Turkmenistan and nearly 47 hours since we arrived at the port. We’re not clear yet though so the contest clock is still ticking. I guessed 23 hours so no prize for me.
11:28. We have driven about 200 m and are now stopped at a construction trailer that serves as yet another customs and immigration office. Helen collects our passports and heads inside.
11:58. Passports are returned. The passengers are clear but the truck requires more documentation that is only issued at a second office on the other side of the port complex. It’s a 5 km drive.
12:15. We arrive at the second office and present the truck’s carnet one more time. Despite the red tape, my first impression of Baku is very good. It’s been a while since I’ve arrived in a city and instantly recognised the work of two star architects (Frank Geary and Daniel Libeskind). Despite the low price of oil, Baku is definitely booming. The cars on the roads are a mix of about 50% Mercedes, 25% Toyotas, and 25% other makes including a few old Ladas. There are definitely more Land Cruisers than Ladas.
13:37. We pile into four taxis and head for the hotel. We leave the truck in a safe parking lot at the port rather than attempt to drive it into some narrow streets near the hotel.
14:00. I’m officially in love with Baku. More details and photos tomorrow.