Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Here & Now
We're sitting on the upper deck of the ferry to Baku, staring at the endless sea (which ends in Azerbaijan). Who would have believed we'd reach so far! Maybe only Erez from Beeri ;-)
Even Gal didn't believe, at the time, that we'll reach the Caucasus. Only after the mountains of West-Sichuan, China, did she understand she can cycle anywhere, and that Turkey is on the way.
We crossed Central-Asia quite fast, but, thanks to bureaucracy we lingered more than we needed, or more than we wanted.
Gal was bit by a dog on our second day in Turkmenistan, so we didn't take advantage on our amazing 10-day transit visa, but took trains in search of Anti-Rabies vaccination. One thing led to another and we found ourselves on the Ferry to Baku, enjoying the quiet and the breeze of the sea.
We have now about 12 hours of peace-of-mind, no need to bargain, show our passports, move our stuff, fight bureaucracy or do anything, just enjoy the sound of the sea and the coming sunset.
The captain just invited us to Turkish coffee and a 'massage shower' (which Rami accepted).
The captain was just like a captain should be. Drank with us 2 Vodkas, had a crazy massage-shower and had wild sex with one of the passengers (the sister of the girl who helped us in turkmenbashi), in his room, just next to ours!

Leaving Turkmenbashi.
Coffee with the captain and his first officer.
Massage shower.
The captain.

Sunset, in the sea, after 10 months.

Our cozy cabin.

The peacefulness & quiet of the sailing only emphasized the difficulties of Central-Asia: the endless bureaucracy and its headaches.

Towards the end of our 'China' chapter, we felt that the major part of our trip will be China. All the rest - small chapters around it. But, then, thanks to the Soviets, the Central-Asian countries have become one big piece of...mutton kebab! The Russian language is still spoken EVERYWHERE, the soviet towns - all the same, the Vodka ("sto gram" - 100g"m) with its drunks, the communist bureaucracy and the inefficiency, laziness & lack of creativity the communism embedded so deep in the nature of the locals, corruption, which we haven't seen till then, a daily matter for the locals (each of the few trucks we've hitched was stopped by police for "Baksheesh"); all this made Central-Asia one big...Nan bread from the year of 1992, stuck in your throat. Obviously, there are differences. The Kyrgyz hospitality is far behind the Uzbek. The Uzbek male chauvinism is extreme (with only Azerbaijan to beat it), while Kyrgyz women drink, smoke and seem rather equal. Unfortunately, we haven't been long enough in Turkmenistan, but its terrible dictatorship (Kyrgyzstan is democratic) makes it a hopeless country. Difficult as it was (the cycling bit was easy), the bureaucracy and the waste of time, we got the feeling of the 'Silk Road' - a route of travelers; the small cafes on the road, where one can stay for the night, the hospitality and, of course, the ancient towns. To conclude: prearrange your visas, less than 2 weeks for each country (more for Kyrgyzstan, if you plan on hiking), and skip the capitals. But, you can try it your own way ;-)