A Pleasant Surprise in Azerbaijan
The roads in Azerbaijan are surprisingly good, and as we made our way to Baku Charlie suggested a detour north, into the mountains. The towns north of the city sounded lovely, and we were making pretty good time, so we went for it.
Although the roads were good, the road signage was not, and there were a couple times when we would find ourselves driving into a city, and having no clue where we needed to go. So, instead of driving around and getting more lost, we would pull over and ask a local man for directions.
Each time we stopped to ask for directions an Azerian man would attempt to explain where we needed to go (in Azerian, of course!), then realize that we couldn’t understand him. The man would then say something to his friends, and he or someone else would get into a car, lead us out to where we needed to be, and point us in the direction we needed to go. It was absolutely adorable. I found myself appreciating the men of Azerbaijan more, and more.
When the road in one town was blocked, and we needed to make a detour, we didn’t even need to stop the car and ask for directions, the locals simply waved their arms at us and motioned to where we needed to drive; sure, we got confused at first, but we made the right turn eventually and ended up back on the proper road.
Our luck with Azerian men, and they’re willing to direct us continued when we pulled into Baku at 1 a.m., looking for the bar where we were supposed to pick-up the keys for the apartment we’d be staying in. Charlie and I had taken a detour into the mountains to see some of the towns, and although it was lovely, our night drive through the mountains to Baku was scary as hell. We were tired and without wifi. We had no idea where we were going, and a vague idea of where we were. We needed some help.
After trying to navigate us to the bar I gave up and asked some guys in the car beside us. At first, they said they knew where it was and told us to follow them, then they pulled over and tried to figure out where we needed to go. When I saw one of them holding a cell phone I asked him to call the guy with the keys and ask him for directions. He did, and the guys from the car suggested we have a taxi lead us there. No luck, it was almost 1:30 a.m. and there wasn’t a taxi nearby.
Instead of leaving us on the side of the street in downtown Baku the guys in the car offered to lead us to the bar themselves. Yes, Azerian men come through for us once again.
Fifteen minutes later we were outside the bar, thanking the guys for their help and getting the keys for the apartment.
New problem. We had no idea where the apartment is, and neither does the guy with the keys. I log into the bar’s wifi and try to look for a route on Google Maps. Meanwhile, the guy with the keys is making a phone call. There is a guy who knows where the apartment is. He’s the owner’s boyfriend. He’s close by and coming to us to take us there! Seriously, can these guys be any nicer?!
Riza, Maggie (the apartment owner and a friend of DJ’s) boyfriend, shows up, hops into our car and guides us through the city and to the apartment. It’s 2:00 a.m. when we park the car, walk up to the apartment and thank Riza for his help.
Months ago when I started talking about the Mongol Rally and talking about the countries we would be visiting, my friends and family would ask if I was worried. “Are you sure it’s safe for two women in a car?” they would ask. At the time I was confident in my reply “Of course! Seriously, there is nothing to worry about”. Months later in Europe I started to wonder what the road ahead would bring, and if it was safe for us to be going through these countries. I had no idea what Georgia or Azerbaijan would be like. I had heard that Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan were fine; so I wasn’t worried about them.
I’m pleased to say that Azerbaijan has been an absolute dream. There are not a ton of sights to see here, but I would return again, just so I could explore some of the smaller corners, and meet more of the people.
We have a couple days here in Azerbaijan before the boat leaves and I am really looking forward to it!