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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Azerbaijan - 13 September, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Baku (Hotel Absheron) N4022.446' E04951.344' -21 meters .
Qobustan . . . .
-  Mud volcanoes . . . .
-  Petroglyphs . . . .
Atesgah . . . .
Finish Bush camp near Samaxi N4029.003' E04906.738' 433 meters

265 km

Total Leg 3:

1,241 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

6,412 km

 

Weather: Begins cloudy with the occasional brief rain shower.  Then becomes clear, sunny and very hot.  Partly cloudy in the evening.

 

 

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Breakfast is once again up on the 16th floor with a nice view over the city.  We are leaving before 8 AM today as we have plenty to do and see after we leave the city.  The first stop is on the way out at Martyrs' Lane, a former lovers' lane in a hilltop park south of the city, that has been re-dedicated as a cemetery and memorial to the over 100 people who died in the massacre in 1990 when the Red Army rolled into Baku.  It has also grown to include the graves of those who have died in the Karabakh conflict with Armenia.

 

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It is a moving place, with each grave having a stone with a picture of the deceased engraved on it, along with their name, where they are from and their birth dates and death dates.  As you go along you see the young and the old, men and women who have all died in a needlessly - why do governments have to send in troops to kill demonstrators.  At least it was in cause of national freedom.  We slowly make our way back to the truck through the rows of other people who have died in the fight for disputed land.

 

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We head south out of the city.  Along the way we see the environmental mess made by the oil extraction over the last 100 years.  Many places are a mess, with derricks still standing in pools of oil within the city limits.  Children are playing in and around these toxic waste dumps.  As we leave the city we come upon signs of the modern oil industry taking root with new, high tech floating platforms.  Hopefully they will not make the same mess that the previous oil operators have made.

 

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The next stop is at the mud volcanoes south of Qobustan.  We drive and then walk to the top of the hill where we discover an area pock-marked with the mini craters formed by mud volcanoes that are constantly spewing out mud.

 

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These miniature volcanoes of mud belch and sputter, spewing out blobs of liquid mud.

 

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Where it has had a chance to dry, the cracked mud forms intricate patterns.  But there are many spots where it has not dried, forming very large pools with a very liquid, gray mud.

 

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We tread carefully near the large pools - we would not want to fall in.  One member of our group, however, gets a bit close and his foot sinks into the mud.  He has a heck of a time trying to get out, almost losing his sandal in the suction of the mud.  He is just lucky that in the process of extracting the one foot, the other foot did not get stuck in the soft spot.

 

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Well, to highlight the true madness some tourists exhibit, he decided to go and wash off his leg in the large pool of mud.  Dumb for two reasons - you are washing off mud with mud and secondly you might fall in.  Well, he slipped in and was covered with mud up to his chest.  What a mess.  And we did not let him on the truck until he had at least washed of f the worst parts.

 

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On that exciting note, we head off to the other attraction near Qobustan - the petroglyphs that date from the 12th to the 8th century BC.  In fact, our guide said that some were up to 40,000 years old - amazing stuff.  And these petroglyphs are just out in the open with barely any protection at all.

 

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We first have a brief introduction to the place in a small museum, which is actually pretty good for being in the middle of nowhere with no funding.  One very interesting item is a cast of ancient graffiti - a Roman soldier carved into the stone in the 1st century AD the name of his commander and legion.  This is the most easterly Roman inscription ever found.  Then out we go to see some of the more easily accessible petroglyphs.  It is hard to imagine that people would want to live in this harsh place, but 10,000 years ago following the last ice age it was a lush green fertile area.  The Caspian Sea was also 80 meters higher, linked with the Aral Sea and the Black Sea.

 

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There are pictures of stick people engaged in all sorts of activities and plenty of pictures of animals.  The most intriguing are the pictures that look like Viking boats.  It has even been theorised that the people that lived here are related to Scandinavians and other European peoples.  Similar drawings have been found in Norway.  

 

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In order to collect drinking water, they have carved rain water collection bowls right into the rock, with special channels to collect rain run off from a wider area of rock.  We also check out the music rocks, which make a metallic ringing sound when struck with another rock.

 

Then off again to our next destination.  But to get there, we first have to travel back through Baku.  We decide to have a rolling lunch in order to save time, so we are served in style by the cook group which prepares our sandwiches in the back of the truck on the tables.

 

The final sightseeing stop for the day is a place called Atesgah at a place called Suraxani north of Baku.  It is known as the fire temple.  It is thought to have been a sacred place to the Zoroastrians since the 6th century AD for its eternal flame that comes from a gas vent.  Fire worshippers from as far as India came here to live, pray and worship.  The present structure was built in the 18th century.  The only problem today is that the eternal flame has died and been replaced by a gas pipeline.  This was due to the gas and oil production facility next door which must have reduced the pressure in the gas field so much the flame went out and no more gas came naturally from the ground up through the vent.  There are a number of exhibits in the various rooms - some very grisly showing how the worshippers would punish themselves in various ways in order to redeem themselves.

 

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Then it is off to find a bush camp for the night.  We drive for about two hours and near Samaxi we spot a nice spot up in the hills away from the road in amongst the fields.  We pull up and set up camp for the night.  While we are setting up, a couple of local farmers drive up on a tractor.  They are curious who we are, but are very happy for us to camp there.  They tell us to come any time.

 

Dinner is beef stroganoff with wine - very yummy and we eat our fill.  Then after cleaning up it is the usual routine of relaxing and just taking in the night scene.  We see the lights of the distant occasional cars zooming by on the road below.  We take out the sheesha for a couple of puffs and just sit back and chat about nothing special.  As we get ready for bed, the sky clears and we once again have a clear view of the stars.  We made the right decision to not put our fly on the tent.  The half moon provides a soft and pleasant glow to all that is around us.

 

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