Baku, I’m begging you : let me go to Aqtau!

14 Jul

Another failed attempt to get into the boat

We are now for more than a week in Baku. We had to get our Kazakh visa (Kazakh embassy : here is the address ; opening time for visa application : tuesday to friday, 9.30 – 11.30 ; need about 3 days to get the visa done). We are now waiting for the boat to leave. There is no passenger boat going through the Caspian sea from Baku, so we’ll get another cargo ship, most likely carrying train wagons full of petrol, and big trucks. There is no schedule and the boat leaves when it feels like leaving. Fortunately, our friend Tahira is helping us a lot by calling the ‘office’ everyday, asking for more up to date information, and letting them know that our azeri visa is expiring in 24 hours…so we better get out soon! Boats are leaving nearly everyday, given that there is no wind (and Baku is windy city!). However they are not supposed to be allowed to carry passengers if there is petrol on board, which is almost always the case. Our experience is that if you manage to have an azeri speaker talking with the captain, it is manageable to get in, with petrol or not.

Sunset over Baku harbour

We met several people in the same situation : Leo and Yves-Marie on bicycle ; Tobias on a motorbike ; Shonny and Fintan with a jeep. Tahira helped them all to get through, and even if it came up quite pricey for some vehicles (around 400 $US for a jeep). Crossing the caspian sea from Baku to Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan should cost you around 100 $US per passenger, plus vehicle and custom fees. And it should be free for bicycles. At least, that is what we got told.  Some people we met were waiting for more than 10 days in Baku, because of lack or misinformation, therefore having to pay a 300 $US fine to Azerbaijan as their visa expired in the meantime (you technically have to be very sick, or doing business, to be able to extend your visa).

Advice for the people who want to get a boat ticket in Baku : you better have an english speaking Azeri with you when you get your ticket, and plan several extra days on your visa.

We set up a little team of waiting tourists and friendly locals, so that we could kill time together ; discover Baku’s beaches and (rather pathetic) night life. There are a handfull of decent bars with good music and atmosphere (maybe 5), for a city of more than 3 million people. Otto is the best we’ve found : good people, good live music, and friendly staff letting me play my music, and Nico sing on the stage. We even had a  late class of kickboxing. Otherwise, most Disko Clubs are empty basements with bad music and few prostitutes waiting for desperate clients.

Fintan and Shonny, waiting for Turkmenbashi boat

Let’s wait some more!

Jamming in Otto

Kickboxing with malaysian fellow traveller

For three days now, we are being told to come ‘tomorrow’ to the harbour as the boat may leave, but never does. We’ll go tomorrow in the morning. It will be our last chance, as the visa is expiring. We hope it’ll work. Otherwise, we may have to take a plane to Aqtau instead of the boat….we’ll try not to, but it might be our only option. The plane would leave tomorrow at 23.30 ; half an hour before visa expiration. Wait and see. Only one thing is sure : it will be tight!

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