After picking up the car at the docks we were given 3 days to exit Azerbaijan if we were to pass as a temporary import. Talk about temporary, we were never told this when we applied for our 30 day visa but anyway.
Baku seemed like an interesting city so we decided to spend a day looking around. We knew nothing about it and were caught by surprise by the size and abundance of money here. The architecture is really interesting in Baku, some very modern buildings being built, people call it the Dubai of Central Asia. We decided to head outa town first to the burning mountain. Just on the outskirts of town is a place of some holy significance that has been noted in history going back to the 5th century. Basically natural gas leaks from the mountain side it ignited centuries ago and has been burning ever since. It was almost impossible for me to get up the mountain but we saw it from a distance and were satisfied.
On the way back into town we took a wrong turn off the freeway and ended up in suburbia. Just as abruptly as it began it stopped and gave way to an ocean of oil pumps. This was one of the most unexpected and also the most hideous and toxic looking landscapes I’ve seen. Done with complete disregard for the environment oil is the number one priority here. Sadly much of Azerbaijan shares the same story.
We headed back into town checking out a few interesting buildings on the way then onto the old town. After checking out a few sites in the old town we found a nice little restaurant with some quality local food. It was great to finally be away from the usual Central Asian cuisine and enjoy something different.
We were waiting for sun set as what’s probably the most famous building in Baku, known as the flame building, puts on an impressive light show. It didn’t disappoint with three different themes all equally cool. It was then time to hightail it outa Baku we followed the Baku boulevard outa town, impressed by the scale and forward thinking.
Being dark and really windy we pulled off the freeway, down a dirt track and parked the car for the night. First night we just crawled into the back and crashed without even setting foot outside.
It rained heavily in the night turning the dirt into a clay pan. We made it out luckily and back onto the freeway where we cooked some porridge under a freeway overpass.
It was onto the petroglyphs at Gobustan National Park dating back 100 000 years apparently. We rocked up and the security guard who spoke good English invited us into his booth for some tea. He then took us on a tour of the petroglyphs explaining all about each of the carvings. Top bloke.
We had earlier googled the mud volcanoes which we had a rough idea of the whereabouts. He drew us a really detailed map and warned us of the rough and muddy track the leads up to them. I was starting to get really excited about the prospect of playing in the mud. Jess doesn’t mind as long is I don’t get the car bogged which is fair enough. I’m sure this all sounds very childish but unless you’ve driven through thick mud in a 4×4 you probably wouldn’t understand just how much fun it is. Anyway, we followed the directions given to us, after leaving the Tarmac the road became seriously muddy particularly since it had been raining since last night. We locked the Diffs engaged low range and pressed on. It was seriously slippery so when we got to the final climb we were very weary about choosing the right route. Loosing traction in the mud on a slope can be very dangerous as the car will slide backwards uncontrollably. We made a calculated decision of which path to take and hit the throttle the car was crab walking and sliding from side to side, we kept the momentum going as the hill peaked and made it over with all four wheels spinning. Very proud of the troopy to have made it up there and glad we had chosen the mud terrain tires. The track alone was worth it for me but we still had the mud volcanoes to see this was like a double delight. It was great you could just drive around them with no one in sight. You could hear them bubbling and boiling as pressure from deep below the earths surface forced the mud upwards. I was able to spot a few from the car spewing mud into the air but Jess wanted to get a closer view. Armed with two cameras and plastic bags on her feet she ventured out of the car and carefully began to scale one of the volcanoes.
While she was having all the fun playing in the mud I decided it was my turn to do what any yobbo Aussie would, pin the throttle and do some donuts in the mud. It was a glorious moment with mud flying through the air in all directions, the turbo whining away keeping all four wheels spinning and the car sliding in a beautiful circular motion. Call it what you want, this is my idea of fun. Donuts in the mud at the mud volcanoes.
Anyway most people reading this are probably bored or have completely tuned out well that’s ok because that’s pretty much all of Azerbaijan covered. Watching the dude at the truck wash try to figure out how it was possible to get so much mud on a car was pretty funny. He was proud of the job he did after 45 minutes blasting the car with a seriously high powered pressure washer.
The next day was our last day to get out so we continued on for the border. Surprised at how varied the landscapes were in such a small country. They apparently have 9 of 11 climatic zones, an interesting fact. The border crossing was an easy one with Georgia being visa free. Azerbaijan’s side was the biggest most lavish we’ve seen yet on this trip, particularly next to Georgia’s. As if they are trying to make some kind of point.