We headed back to Baku in the morning, packed up our bikes and headed straight to the port. Newly laden with two 5-litre bottles of water each, a water filter, extra spare tire and the tent Ant had been carrying, our bikes challenged our control over cobbled streets and tested our brakes downhill…
Our third visit to the port, however, was fruitful: a ferry was leaving for Aktau today. The fact that today meant at 11PM was not explained to us, nor do we think anybody had any idea when it might leave! We were sent to customs to get our visas checked, then came back to the ticket lady to ask for tickets, withdrew money to pay the fee and stock up on food for the crossing and came back to pick up our tickets. We were then sent back to customs, then to the police, then to border patrol and round a couple more times before we were told we had no one left to see until the ship departed “between 15 to 20 hour”.
We took that as a hint to head back into town and meet our host and his international judo coach (and head of security) friend for lunch. Qutabs, chicken, lula, leb-lebe, vegetables and of course tea were our final delicious bites of Azeri cuisine and after going gold coin hunting with Javid, we headed back to the port and said our goodbyes. Josef, a Bavarian motorcyclist without a motorbike (an irreparable fault had curtailed his riding across Asia), provided a Germam language refreshment lesson as well as interesting stories through the afternoon as we waited until, almost inevitably, our host reappeared with t-shirts of the Old City as leaving presents and asked whether we may invite him to our weddings!
For the next couple of hours we watched train cargo being arranged carefully onto our ship for the crossing: Balakan (Alex: curiously also the name of the town we entered Azerbaijan!) Although it means we will be joined by far fewer people than we may otherwise have been, this ship is the newest of the fleet and we even get a shower in our bedroom: utter luxury. We left port only just before Thursday officially started and watched the glorious lights of Baku fade into the distance. However great they looked, getting good pictures of them proved very tricky on a moving ship!
As we sailed into the Caspian, we passed a huge oil fire which lit up the horizon ahead reminding us of the treasures that lie below. Baku has been a brilliant experience and we are very thankful to everyone who has welcomed us and been so generous!