September 6: Baku, Azerbaijan
10:00. All but one of my fellow Dragoman overlanders left Baku early this morning. They have taken the truck to see petroglyphs and mud volcanoes and will camp outside the city tonight. Jess has decided to visit the spa at the Four Seasons and I’m happy to explore Baku for another day and night so we decide to stay behind.
11:00. My first stop is a cafe called Gloria Jean’s. I’ve been to their locations in Australia, China and Mongolia and have always found their espresso, air conditioning and wifi to be extra strong and their bathrooms clean.
13:00. I have a long chat with two Iranian men who are in Baku on business. One of them has visited Canada several times. He visited a nephew in Newmarket who took him to the final Leafs game played at Maple Leaf Gardens. He seems to be aware of the significance of that game so I tell him that tens of thousands of Canadians claim to have been present at that game. He laughs and says, “Yeah, but I really was there… and you’re the first person I’ve bothered to tell. Nobody here knows anything about ‘hookey’.”
14:10. I’m sitting in a KFC that is large, bright and about 10 degrees Celsius. I order a “Freser” (chicken breast, lettuce and slabs of fresh tomato on a bun). When I ask for the wifi password I get something that sounds like “KFC O’God.” That doesn’t work.
14:15. I notice a poster promoting $1.50 mojitos so I go back to another cashier and order one. I ask her for the wifi code and she also says “KFC O’God.” I’m stumped.
14:17. I notice the napkin provided with my mojito.
15:20. I doubt that buck-fifty mojitos contain any alcohol, especially when they come from the fountain nozzle located between Sprite and Coke.
16:20. For the last hour I’ve been chatting with an 18-year-old guy whose name sounds like Nerbe. He’s from neighbouring Georgia but now living in Azerbaijan. Next week he will start university in Baku and for the first time in his student life all of his courses will be conducted in English. He’s very apprehensive about this and wants to practise his English as much as possible. I’m happy to oblige. Did I mention that he’s 18, out and cute? I feel like a dirty old man but his English is indeed bad and he really does need the practice.
19:00. Unlike the Iranians, Nerbe has never heard of the Jays or Leafs and he’s only vaguely aware that Canada is “at the peak of America.”
19:10. After five mojitos it’s clear the Colonel is now serving hooch. If they sold these things for $1.50 back home I’d have a (larger) problem.
19:12. Duncan writes to say the group had a nice time at the petroglyphs but the campground was closed. Rather than bake in the desert, they’ve returned to a hotel on the outskirts of Baku. Jess and I will grab a cab to their hotel in the morning.
23:00. The jury is still out on my new Adidas. So far, I have one very painful blister.