May 20 – Baku II

I spent some time online this morning looking for cargo ferry transport in Baku and with some searching, found the ticket office (that may or may not still be open) as well as many horror stories about securing passage. In someone’s post, I picked up a name and number of a local “fixer”. A fixer is considered someone who makes things “no problem” for a fee. It’s basically someone who knows people and knows how to get things done. There are generally fixers in all towns, it’s just a matter of finding them.

I had someone from the hotel call Ismahel (+994 552861200) to ask him a few questions – I was quickly handed the phone back because Ismahel speaks English. Of course he does; he’s a fixer, if he didn’t he’d just be another person who I couldn’t communicate with.

I go find Ismahel and he works at a travel agency and has been working on setting up cargo passage for people on the side for quite some time. We spend the better part of an hour discussing the logistics (that actually aren’t), more of a best case scenario. The next possible cargo ship leaving for Turkmenbashi will be this Friday or Saturday – not bad.   The only problem is that my motorcycle passport stamp now runs out tomorrow. He agrees to help and we’re set to meet on Thursday to go to customs and try and sort it out. He tells me I’ll need to bring my bike and leave it at shipyard until the boat sets sail. Perfect, I was hoping to leave my bike at the shipyard for the next few days…sounds like a terrible idea, but you play the cards you’re dealt. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow. I tip Ismahel well for this time and head back to the shack to sort gear and do some minor bike maintenance.

After fiddling with the bike for a bit, I was sitting outside a café having lunch and was looking around at all of the people smoking and taking mental note; almost everyone seems to smoke in Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. When in conversation with someone, they almost always ask if you’d like a smoke and look very offended when it’s turned down. Everyone has given me the same disapproving look when I say no. They’re face kind of crinkles up and the body language notes that they just cant understand why you’d turn down such a generous offer – undoubtedly they’re a bit offended. Maybe they don’t understand the long term effects, so I picked up a pack the other day and on the front of it, in bold letters reads, “SMOKING KILLS”. It’s a banner that takes up the bottom half of the pack – you cant miss it, but if you cant read English….it may as well say “PROLONGS LIFE”…go figure.

Attached is a photo of my current bike storage – it looks a little sketchy next to the Azeri anarchy graffiti, but the people who sleep in this alley seem quite nice.

After a rest day and roaming around the city, I’m already itching to get back on the bike. Stranded in Baku – there could be worse things.

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