The following report is told from Anja’s perspective:
It is December 29th and after a week of Christmas holidays in Baku we want to go on towards Iran. The whole day I have already had an unpleasant feeling. Then, all of a sudden, Gnubbi’s rear wheel rim breaks. Just a few days ago we had spoken about, what we would do in such a case and how others had found a solution for this problem. We decide to ride on carefully for now. Either we have to go back to Baku or maybe there are some useful bicycle shops with mid-range quality in Iran as well? Somehow we have to find a solution. The highway is fortunately flat, so that the rim isn’t stressed that much. As we reach the Qobustan National Park after 60 km to camp close to the mud vulcanoes we get disappointed. You can only look at some old rock art there. They want an admission fee and close in the afternoon as well. The active mud vulcanoes are 15 km further, close to Alat. There at the train station we want to inquire about the train to the Iranian border.
The train station is totally dead. In the afternoon. The concourse & an alleged desk for getting a ticket have closed, the staff of the signal box can not speak any English. Somehow we can find out that the train leaves at 01:30 am and we can purchase tickets in it. Well. But first we want to take a look at the mud volcanoes. As the maps tell us, there should be a normal road reaching them. No chance! Everything is totally muddy and we can only make the first 50 m of the 5 km long way. Disappointed we return to the train station to kill time until the train arrives.
Upon request at the police station there (who doesn’t want to open the waiting room) we are allowed to sit in the common room of the signal box people. Because in the meantime it got really cold outside. They bring Çay and we eat up the remains of our quinoa salad. Somehow it seems that the police men are watching us the whole time. One of them then starts to communicate with us and says, there are no tickets left for the train. But, he could stop it for us and the we can go on the train for 30 Manat per person … uhh.. 40 Manat (20 €) for us together. We just should give him the money now, then he calls the train and gets the things done for us. We feel uncomfortable with this idea. Why should we pay a police man, when we can just give our money directly to the ticket inspector on the train. In addition, his price is very high. On the internet we read about 14 Manat (7 €) for us two! He tries to build more and more pressure… touches our things, tells us, that we even might not have any money. He has police staff in the train, that’s why we can trust him.. blah blah. After some time he leaves us alone and we want to sleep a bit. But as soon as he recognizes this, he comes back with his old scam: when we don’t pay him, we would not be able to take the train and we cannot sleep here as well, if we don’t take the train. We insist, that we pay in the train. He responds, then we are not allowed to be inside anymore (all the communication is via Google translate, which makes it very difficult and you only get half of the message). I answer him.. okay, if that’s the case, we will wait outside for the train now. So we pack our stuff and bring our bags outside piece per piece. He tries to detain us by writing we should just give him the money, we can trust him. Very annoying. The signal box man gestures us his condolence about the rude behavior of the police man.
Outside, we put on warm clothes and after a while there seems to be a shift change and a new police man who obviously had some alcohol asks us to enter again. He tells us he is a higher ranged man and can decide it. Okay, well. They also all help us to bring all things inside again. They are actually two police men who first seem very friendly, but after some time they are just as annoying as the previous ones. They touch me, want uncountable selfies with me, show all their weird photos on the mobile phone and absolutely want to see ours. But we don’t show anything, neither our pictures, nor do we tell them our social media platforms which they request very very forcefully. Eventually we reach the topic of the train tickets again and it’s about the money again. He wants us to take the train tomorrow, so that we can come home with him and he drives us to the mud vulcanoes, we would spent a nice day with him and in the evening he would bring us on the train. We don’t want this out of no case and refuse several times!! He just answers that we cannot go on the train tonight.
Finally, the time has come and they even show us where to put all our things to get on the train. The train stops, we want to get on. Indeed, there are one ticket inspector and I’ve police man in the train. Immediately they start to talk to each other as it is clear that we haven’t bought a ticket before. The young rude police man talks insistently to the ticket inspector, who just makes a gesture at the end and the train leaves again. Awesome! We just could watch the scene, unable to explain our situation and now we are really pissed off, load our bikes and leave.
The second police man follows us and wants us to come to his home.. and asks where we will sleep now?! At a small store Gnubbi had got the wifi password, there we want to think about what to do now. Instantly we are surrounded by a group of young alcoholized men. Bugged as we already are, we banish them and try to get a clear thought even if it’s very late. Should we go back to Baku by train in the middle of the night, or just take the train to Astara the next day and book an online ticket? But then we would have to get on the train again at this place full of horrible people. Our maybe we ride back to Baku to hop on the train at the very first station. Maybe we can get a lift towards Iran? Can we leave our bikes somewhere to visit the mud vulcanoes?
We decide to consult our pillows and maybe book a ticket tomorrow. We want to ask at the gas stations nearby if we can camp there for the rest of the night.. unfortunately we can’t stay there and an abandoned gas station at the other side of the road doesn’t make a very welcoming impression as well.. A house in the neighborhood with an unmuddy terrace looks appealing to us, but the man is not allowed to let us sleep there. Same same at other petrol stations in the near surroundings. There is no possiblity, maximally behind the building close to the generator. But there we would have to leave at 8 again. Oh no, including building up and taking down the tent that would mean only about 3 hours of sleep after this exhausting day.. that makes no sense. But, the friendly man comes up with an idea. There is a small kind of olive Grove where we can put our tent and sleep as long as we wish. Perfect. Relieved we build up the tent and I go for some hot water for our hot-water bottle.
What a day!!