Ant’s Departure

Beer and crosswords in the ‘palace’ gardens during the previous night were good fun and will now undoubtedly become a more regular activity. A we woke up, Alex and I headed to the port for the second time to enquire further about the ferry. The old greying lady reputed all over the internet had certainly dealt with a fair few tourists in her time and knew just how to get the information across:

Nicolas: “hello”
Old Greying Lady (OGL): “Passport”
We hand over our prized documents which reveal our Kazakh visa starting in two days’ time.
OGL: “today no”
Alex: “will there be a ferry tomorrow?”
OGL: “tomorrow information. Ship yes: ticket. Ship no, ship no…”
With those wise words and complementary hand signals, we were promptly ushered out of the office to return the next day.

We returned to find Ant finishing his packing; his trip has come to an end as for reasons alien to myself, he is going to be studying a fourth straight year of physics, sheer craziness! Avid readers of the blog will no doubt find a tribute to Ant unnecessary but we felt it important to say how amazing a travel partner he has been and we have really enjoyed his company and already miss him, his creaky bike, and his cutting commentary. We are secretly very pleased too: we get more room in the tent, and only have to divide any food we obtain into two!!

We all met up with our host mid morning for a personal tour of two superb highlights of the Old City: Maiden Tower and Shirvanshah’s Palace. Since his appointment as a senior public figure four years ago, most of the Old City has been restored and though these are still under construction, we were privileged to be allowed in and take a look both from the top at Baku below and inside these historical buildings (foundations dating back 2500 years). We hit Baku central for lunch and as is customary for us, bought as many pastries under 50 cents as possible filling our plates with meat patties, savoury doughnuts and chocolate covered gingerbread among others! I then went to try to cash some American Express travellers’ cheques. Following six unsuccessful attempts in major banks, I asked the manager of the seventh (who also told me no) if he may be able to call American Express Baku to ask where I could exchange them. Apparently, the system is outdated and the answer was simply: “nowhere”…

At 6PM sharp, our host came to pick up Ant to take him to the airport, and spontaneously Alex and me also to join him at his beach house for another night. By 6:45 PM, we were still about 300m from our departure point due to a monstrous traffic jam leaving the city, leaving me to show Javid all of our pictures from the trip so far, and Ant to bite his fingernails nervously looking at the clock! Finally we got moving, sent Ant home and set off shopping with our host who was coming to the end of his fast for the day hence joining us in filling the shopping trolley full of meat and vegetables for the BBQ and plenty of Baklava and Turkish Delights for the evening’s rounds of tea. Once again the welcome there from him and his family was terrific and we are very grateful!

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