After a couple of wonderful days in the fascinating city of Ashgabat, we were back in the truck for the 540km trip to Turkmenbashi to find a ferry to transport us across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan.
The road was pretty good (for a change), and although it was 4 lanes for most of the way, only 2 of those lanes were actually in use for any particular stretch of highway. 9 hours of desert scenery later, we caught our first glimpse of the dazzlingly blue Caspian Sea.
Arriving in Turkmenbashi, we found the port without too much trouble, and discovered where all the Turkmen people were! The reason Ashgabat was empty was that everyone in the country seems to be employed in construction at the Turkmenbashi port – which unfortunately doesn’t allow photos – though I sneaked one or two.
Our local guide found the right person to talk to, and it turned out that there was a ferry due in at 9pm (it was 7pm when we arrived). So, although our trip leader, Gayle, had prepared us for the worst by saying that we may be waiting up to 3 days at the port before we could depart, things were looking positive! We parked the truck and went about cooking dinner bush-camp style in the middle of the port.
Turned out the ferry was late in, but at around 11pm we were moved off the truck and into the waiting room of the port “terminal”. Gayle had also encouraged us to take our sleeping mats with us in case we had to sleep in a common room on the ferry, and this came in handy as I settled down on the floor of the terminal to await the call to board. Obviously, the resident cat thought my sleeping mat was heaven as well, as he ended up sleeping up on my feet for the whole night.
We were still there the next morning, but things started to move at around 9am. Passed through immigration and customs, and got taken around to the ferry … which was much newer and much more modern than I was expecting!
Given that we needed a ferry that could also transport our truck, the other thing Gayle had prepared us for was the possibility that there may not be any food available while we waited for the ferry and on the ferry itself – so all of us had about 3 days’ worth of food with us.
However, again it was not required – and we sat down to an amazing lunch of one of the most delicious soups I’ve ever eaten, as well as chicken and rice prepared by the ferry’s kitchen staff.
We also were allocated a bed in a 6-bed room. This was heaven!
We finally got underway at 2pm with the assistance of a tug boat
And headed out into the Caspian Sea. There is something I love about being on a boat. I sat out on the top deck for as long as I could stand the sun watching us navigate the channel out into deeper water.
Retreated inside before I got burned, and then came out again a bit later to further contemplate our progress through the water.
Dinner was more of the amazing soup from lunch, as well as mashed potatoes and stew. Again – absolutely delicious! The top bunk was surprisingly comfortable, but I was very glad I had my sleeping bag with me – it was a tad chilly!
Woke up the next morning in sight of Baku, Azerbaijan. However, there were a large number of boats in front of us, so we dropped anchor in the harbor and waited for our turn.
Estimates were that we wouldn’t get into port until the next morning, so a day of enforced relaxation where we had more delicious food, read books, played games, watched an amazing sunset, and I managed to catch up on all my photo processing!
We were, unfortunately, awoken at 1am for our departure off the boat. It was always going to happen that way! Spent the next several hours standing around on the docks in the cold breeze as we and the truck passed through immigration and customs procedures, and then onto the hostel.