Nothing stops Calypso, revolutions a mere hicup
Trip Start Apr 18, 2010
14Trip End Oct 13, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Seman Hotel Kashkar China
Dear reader, reluctantly we leave Tiblisi heading for the Azerbaijan border but before we have a pleasant lunch at Sighnaghi ....... This village is walled and during the Russian era the village was decaying, a few enterprising people refurbished the village making it a tourist attraction. After a walk I had lunch with Darryl,Ben and ..... we had these little lamb dumplings. You hold the dumpling by the twisted end, bite a small hole then suck the broth out. Then you eat the dumpling and meat, very nice.
It is now getting late and it is started to rain. Now we have not had any rain for weeks. Pete finds a vacant cow paddock we pitched tents in the rain and mud
The Azerbaijan border crossing formalities over with drove up into the mountains to Sheki. A pretty little village with a Palace that was the ruling Shah’s . Khans Cinari Palace is a small double story place with very intricately carved cornices and ceilings. Lots of stained glass windows, wooden floors, very colourful walls. A small garden with a fountain and large trees.
After the palace I had a nice pot of lemon tea and sweet coated walnuts.
Hey, I had to tell you about the accommodation. We stayed in an old Caravansary, these places are part of the Old Silk Road caravans would stay in these places. Stables for the camels and horses, great rooms and a fabulous tea room. The Caravansary is very large over forty rooms. Mine a small suite with the bedroom at the back, then the bathroom with a entrance room to sit and contemplate ones luck at being able to experience these wonderful places.
I found out about a small village called Kish, Arranged a taxi and Barry, Pauline and Maggs came along for the drive. Kish has a connection with the explorer Thor Heyadal. He believed that the Scandinavian people came from Azerbaijan. There is an Armenian Church has been turned into a nice little museum
Next morning I strolled back into the main town it was drizzling. At a small butcher shop the butcher was slaughtering a lamb on the footpath....... Normal village life I guess . I found the best hotel and thought that I would have a coffee. The price of the buffet was reasonable so a full breakfast started my day well.
Next place was a bush camp at the mud volcanoes.
How Pete finds these places in a mystery to me. We are running down the highway when we stop and take a dirt road into the fields. We bounce along then stop near these small mounds. Pete and Kirsten climb the largest were Pete starts to sink in the mud. The crust broke and he quickly pulled himself out. Lost his thongs,,,,,,,,,, we all had a laugh.
These bubbling mud ponds, appear all over the place
James, Ben and I went for a walk across the hills. Lesley ran past on her usual afternoon run. The land was covered with grass and scrub. Pete was telling me that last trip there were no grass or vegetation. It must have been an erie sight seeing these mud mounds in a desolate area.
Darryl covered himself with mud and scared Kay and rubbed himself over Pete, not impressed but very funny as only Darryl can be.
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and an impressive city. The first impression was one of disgust. The entry to the city was though the results of the excesses oil companies. Waterways contaminated, the houses suffering the smells and sights of unrestricted corporate action. Then the city changes............. The waterfront has a wide esplanade with gardens and fountains. Amusement parks and tea rooms. People strolling around all good. Our hotel is in a very favorable area. It is easy to walk to most of the cities attractions. The only old parts of the city left are The Maidens Tower and the old city. A nice place to walk around.
Later that day I took the metro up the hill to the last stop. Now I know that we complain about our home towns rail system. The people of Baku have little to complain. The metro fast, efficient, clean, no graffiti, each station a work of art. The last stop has little to enthuse about. Rows of high rise apartment buildings. Had a nice cheap lunch in a small cafe while I watched life go by. Tonight a nice meal with a bunch of fellow truckers. A walk to the esplanade saw families having fun at the amusement parks. It was after eleven at night and still the little children played and had fun.
We are here to catch a ferry across the Caspian Sea. There is no schedule so we have to be ready to leave at short notice. Pete goes back and forth speaking to the Captain of the Port. We are booked only one night in our hotel. We had to stay another night but not enough rooms. Pete and Kirsten negotiate with the hotel manager and another place was found but only a short number of rooms. We had to share rooms with some sleeping on floors. My room had seven people. The girls on the double bed and me the senior citizen the other
I join Pete and Mick at the truck which is in a customs compound at the Port.
Five in the morning the Ferry arrives and we are on the go. We walk back to the hotel and all are ready. Baku has had enough of us.
It is ten in morning we have been up all night or have had broken sleep, at last we are on the ship and have sailed leaving Baku in our wake. The crossing of the Caspian Sea will take us to Turkmenistan. En route the only other ship we pass during our cruise is another ferry going to Baku along with a small tanker. There are many oil platforms that inhabit the horizon. The weather is great for a Caspian Sea crossing except for the heat. A cool breeze helps. Most sleep on the upper deck or in the salon. I have made up my bunk, though I had to cover the mattress with a couple of sheets. You would not believe the state of it. I opened the scuttle and had a good nights rest
The evening meal of two minute noodles followed an impromptu cocktail party on the upper deck. Wine, olives, pickles, biscuits, nuts, a beautiful sunset. All good.
We drop anchor at three in the morning about two hours short of the port of Turkmen Bashi. All around us are small tankers and another ferry.
It seems Turkmenistan Port operates on a who cares basis, or should I say they don’t care basis. They don’t care when they unload you.
There is only a zephyr of breeze to prevent the Turkmenistan Flag from being as limp as the Port services. The only noise the constant drone of the engine room fan intakes. Upper deck the sun relentless but we felt that the air below is even hotter. The nautical boredom only relived by the occasional tapping of a chipping hammer coming from an industrious deckhand on an adjacent ship. What a seaman on the Caspian does to relive boredom is anyones guess. Looking around I see bodies laying in what ever shade they could find. Another thread in life's tapestry
We weigh anchor and head for Port, spirits are lifted, life is good. After a hour or so steaming we drop anchor again. They are not ready for us yet. It is late in the evening that we finally arrive in Turkmenistan.......... The fun continues. we have to arrange visa’s and clear customs. Some hours later we depart the port and head for a bush camp.
It is desert country Pete once again finds some vacant land this time a road heading into the desert. Tents are pitch quick time and we all get a couple of welcome hours sleep before we are on the road again.
Today we will arrive in the theme park city of Ashgabat. The hotel a five star place you can only imagine how we felt. After two days in Baku hanging around in anticipation of sailing then two nights on the ship in conditions that leave a lot to be desired, a bush camp....... Hot water clean beds and cool air conditioning...................... Yeh what joy.
I am not sure that I can explain Ashgabat to you dear reader, It is a city under construction. Walking distance in most directions are new white marbled buildings. The first President of The Republic of Turkmenistan was a bit eccentric he decreed that all buildings would be constructed of white marble
The buildings are superb, beautiful designs, by Presidential decree white marble, golden domes, wrought iron fences with shafts with gold tips. The streets wide, with polished stone curbing, street lights that are reminiscent of old French lights......... Many of the apartments are not occupied.......... One rather strange quirk of Ashgabat, is that taking photographs of government buildings or gold statues is forbidden.
There are police or soldiers on most corners and if you raise a camera they are on to you immediately. It is a very clean city, in fact I feel that it may be the cleanest city that I have visited. It is also an uncrowded place you do not see many people on the streets. maybe it was just the weekend and the people go to the country,, who knows?????
Outside of Ashgabat, it is a rural setting that you experience, mud brick homes cattle around the homes
It is to a desert bush camp that we are heading for. We will set up camp, a large ex-Russian six wheel drive truck will come and take us to the Davasa Gas Crater.
After diner and a nice sunset were Darryl and I sat on a hill and took many photographs our “monster Truck” arrived.
The Davasa Gas Crater is a large deep hole in the ground. Apparently some oil industry people thought that if they were to light the gas it would burn of in a short time. Some thirty years later it is still burning. Turkmenistan’s President wants to fill in the crater to save gas. Me thinks the tourist potential is worth more that the gas.
A very strange but interesting visit.
Tomorrow we cross the border into Uzbekistan but not before a visit to the Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum. The Mausoleum was built in 1172-1200 quite a while ago. It shows it’s age a bit but there is evidence of restoration work. At the complex is a minaret and a number of smaller mausoleums. It is very open and the temperature very hot no shade so the walk around is a chore, but worth it
The border crossing next. We started off on the wrong foot by setting up lunch tables under the Uzbekistan customs awning. They were not happy!!!!!!!
“This is a custom area not a picnic place” says one official. I guess that he was right as I could not imagine setting up a lunch camp at an Australian border.
The exit from Turkmenistan no problems after a little bit of a drug problem............ But now that we appear to have upset the officials on the Uzbek side we are now required to hang around. Some hours later they decide to check all our bags. the things that they check are any drugs that we are carrying. Each drug is checked and after a while the Custom Official started to find some humour. One of the guys had some drug which pregnant women use. So he Said “ Don’t get pregnant” Ha Ha ha.
At last we are through and back on the road. After a very long drive Pete finds another cow paddock for a bush camp. It is a welcome stop as we have been on the go all day and it has been a very hot day.................. Needless to say it was early to bed
Today we head for one of the worlds best examples of what man can do if he sets his mind to it.............. The Aral Sea once one of the largest lakes in the world has now seen it’s shore line retreat over 250 klm. At Manak a small ex fishing town all that is left of it’s once busy fishing fleet are rusting hulks sitting on the sand hundreds of kilometers from water. Looking around the only water to be seen is some low lying marshes. the irony of it all is the monument to the disaster.................... Funny how we build monument to our follies.
We of course climb over these sad boats and all wonder why.
Our next visit is to Central asia’s best Art Gallery in Nukus. The gallery has a lot of works from a group of Russian artist from the early nineteen hundreds. They formed an enclave in Nukus where they collaborated on the styles. Not unlike the Australian group called the Heidelburg group. this group produce some of Australia’s most recognized art.
I know that these musing are getting longer. It is the time between internet and the fact that I am out and about instead of sitting in front of this computer. So I will write about the famous Silk Road Cities of Central Asia as a block.... Here goes........
It is the Silk Road that we are following and the mystical cities of Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Bishkek, Kashkar and more are next
You really find traveling the Silk Road a step back in history. It is not until you stay at these places that you get an appreciation for what life must have been like way back when.
Walking around them you can drift back to the time of the “Great Game” when Britain and Russia were maneuver to take control of the area. When those intrepid and brave adventurers traveled these parts.
Standing at the top of The Ark in Khiva, imagining the Khan and his ladies watching Stoddard and Connelly, who after years in the “bug pit” and despite Connelly converting to Islam were beheaded at the Khan’s whim.
Standing in the courtyards of the great Madressz’s of the Registan of Samarkand in awe of the great scholar Ulughbek Temur son of the Great Amir Temur ( Tambalain).
Sitting beside the pond Lyabi Khauz drinking tea as people of Bukhara have been doing for centuries. Bribing your way up a minaret of one of the architectural masterpieces of ancient times to get that once in a lifetime photo
Staying in places that were built over a hundred years ago that were the premises of wealthy Jewish families, or caravanaisse and are now hotels for us the new Silk Road Wanders.
Taking the lift to the top of Tashkent Tower (built in more modern times) before sending time in the large and hectic markets at Chorsu. Or visiting the History Museum of Bishkek with a whole floor dedicated to Lenin one of the architects of the Soviet Union.
All of this and more I have experienced on this wander along The Great Silk Road.
Then there are the people. Who just like those you meet where ever you go, when you have the chance to meet and talk with are friendly and helpful. All you have to do is take the chance.
A quote from the Observatory in the Registan (1400 AD just a couple of hundred years before Europeans set foot on my country) “Knowledge is the esteem in this world and fame in another” So to my grandchildren and others as well....... keep learning.........
As you can imagine I and my fellow truckers are filled with wonders of these parts
Still no problem for us. A night in Bishkek and it is to the mountains we head. First a bush camp besides Lizzyk Kol Lake. With a beautiful sunset with which to look across the water.
Dev.......... is our destination for a couple of days of R&R. This is a truly beautiful place. Our guide Erkin has some walks prepared. Some of us climb to an alpine lake 3500M simply stunning. The effort well worth the expenditure. Others walk to a waterfall atleast some tried and got lost but found other interesting stuff. Some rode horses. Barry Pauline and I just had to climb a mountain. Barry made it to the top, me I had had it from the day before to the alpine lake. I had found a very large mushroom about two kilos
Our time at D.... was wonderful the scenery, the weather, the air, the food. Yurts which the locals live in. Horses, cows, sheep and goats. Mountain meadows with flowers starting to bloom. There are not the superlatives to adequately describe this place. Suffice to say I enjoyed it.
We haven’t finished with the Kyrgy Mountains yet. First a nice home stay in ....... washing done and a chance to go to the market and buy some surprises for someone. we are having a fancy dress at Song Kol Lake. I have to get some thing for Roberta. I find a nice outfit but more on that later.
I have been given a beautiful all pink room and I mean all pink. It was only the floor that was not pink. Everyone thought it so funny, me I just thought that it matched my feminine side
Song Kol is next with a bush camp on the way. The drive is up the mountain to about 3300M The snow capped mountains lord over us the sky is blue and we are in good spirits after our stay in....... We stop for the night and a local man and his son come to camp. He rears his horse to show off as does one of his boys. We try and chat but we can not speak Kyrgyz and they English all good. After another remarkable truck meal it is off to our tents. I think that most of us think that the best meals on this trip are truck cooked.
We climb higher the views just getting better. Some of us sit on the top open air seats and marvel at the vista. A flock of animals, sheep, goats, horses and cows impede our way for a while. We pass Yaks grazing by the road side look for the elusive marmots who seem to scurry away when they hear the truck
I go with Pete and erkin to discuss a game of goat polo. What I mean is Pete took me along to sample the “kumus” fermented mares milk. Marmot and his wife invite us into their yurt. Present us with kumus, cheese and cream. This is cholesterol stuff let me tell you. I take a drink of the kumus then Pete tells me that it I can expect to get diarroie as everyone does. Fortunately I don’t but heh he does, ha ha ha.
The funny things that happen with you are on a trip are simply to many to remember all at once. i will be having flashes for the rest of my life on the things that happened during this long and most interesting adventure.