Back to Europe (Azerbaijan)

Great expectations

So it came to be that, instead of crossing Turkmenistan, we will have to travel back to Europe, cross Azerbaijan as fast as possible and board a ship which will take us from Baku to Aktau in Kazakhstan. Somehow we managed to transit through Azerbaijan in three days and leave the country before we even started to realise that we had arrived. We had learned from our previous mistakes and this time we did not have any expectations towards Azerbaijan – probably the only things we knew about this country were connected with oil and Nagorno-Karabakh. We think that you should let yourself form your own opinion and let everyone else form theirs. Truth be told, there was one reason why we wanted to cross the Iranian/Azeri border as fast as possible – after the dry law of Iran we finally had an opportunity to test real Azeri beer (preferably from two liter plastic bottle).

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We had planned to find a way how to cross the Caspian Sea with a ship

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One Year. A summary.

One year has passed since we left Latvia on 15th September 2014 and now, 15th September 2015 we are in Thailand, 7900km away from home.

We have crossed 12 countries, had 2 bicycles stolen and got 2 another bicycles in their place. Each of our passports has been supplemented with 8 glued visas and 28 border control stamps.

So, where do we spend our nights?

  • 141 nights with 24 Couchsurfing hosts;
  • 70 nights out camping;
  • 43 “One Nights” in Bangkok;
  • 6 nights in trains;
  • 3 nights in hotels (courtesy of our CS hosts);
  • 2 nights in buses;
  • 1 night in: a furniture shop; a Baptist church; a Buddhist temple; a cave; inside a train station; outside a train station; sea port; China Tobacco factory; a town hall meeting room; a truck; a ship.

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Making the visas and our way out of Iran

From mountain tops to under the sea* – Tehran to Azerbaijan

*The surface level of Caspian Sea at the moment is around -27 m below mean sea level.

(If you are interested about practicalities of getting some visas in Tehran and extending Iranian visa – see the end of this article)

We got our visas for Azerbaijan really fast – the same day we applied for them. So, on the same evening of 4th May we also decided to hit the road again. Our departure had already been postponed before so now it was time to leave this concrete jungle behind without further delays. We said our goodbyes to Park Abshar and had the last supper with Simin (“You got to eat a lot because you will need a lot of strength cycling! It is goood for youu!”). Continue reading

Isfahan and Shiraz/Persepolis – hitchiking in Iran.

So, all along during our stay in Iran, everyone kept repeating – “Have you been to Isfahan, Shiraz? You got to go there, you got to see!” The thing is that they are quite far away from the route in Iran that we had in plan and also from the route we had to do in the end. To cycle 940 km to Shiraz or even 450 km to Isfahan and then the whole way back would take too much time, and to take busses all the way would deplete our already empty wallets too quickly. But we knew that we had to go – in the end we decided for a one-way ticket to a night-bus ride to Isfahan which cost us each 270’000 IRR and to try our luck in hitch-hiking to Shiraz and afterwards back to Tehran. Continue reading

Finding peace in chaos in Tehran – from Park-e Shahr to Park Abshar

Exactly two weeks after entering the Islamic Republic, we found ourselves in the heart of it – Tehran – a metropolis that alone hosts seven times more people than my whole country. Three Latvians (plus one French guy) felt even punier being here because of this fact and because they did not know where will they be staying this night. We hadn’t succeeded to find a CS/WS host but we had heard that you can go to almost any park of Tehran and just pitch your tent up there. So, we had arrived in Park-e Shahr (City Park) which was recommended to us as one of such parks by our last night’s host Hamed.

Turned out that Park-e Shahr is close to the opposite kind of parks where you could camp. It’s not even allowed to ride a bicycle there. We came to the realization that, probably most (or all?) of the parks in the capital would not be meant for camping. Of course, some sort of solution always comes for these kind of problems, especially in Iran. While we were just standing there, scratching our heads, the solution really came, it was a he and he even had a name – Rasoul. A guy suddenly appears and starts telling us about his grandfather’s house where no one lives and where we could stay, maybe. We were guessing that he is telling us that, because, as usual in Iran, his English was far from fluent. But, just following his motorcycle and seeing ourselves was our best option at the moment. Continue reading