Sniper Alley

Posted by on 2, Jul 2010 in 2010 - The Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Caucasus, Europe

Sniper Alley

Last night was the first night we’d found it hard to find somewhere to camp. The main reason for this was the non stop road works which made getting off the temporary road very difficult. In the end we stopped at a police checkpoint and they said we could camp there. At 7:30 the next morning they were banging the door wanting the tour with the chief examining the fridge and asking for a beer! Corruption is rife here and whilst I cleaned my teeth I saw through the bathroom windows two pay offs take place. Having said that all the police ever ask for from us is something English (for which we have pens) or occasionally beer, and they are always helpful and let us fill up with water too.

We decided we couldn’t face another morning of roadworks so headed towards the border with Nagorno Karabakh! This area is another FCO no go area due to sniper fire but as Taffy has bullet proof windows…. It also is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. The road ceases some miles from NK and there are checkpoints from the army along the route, our guides say you are unlikely to get past them if they know you are foreign. We drove to the first checkpoint and met a young man who spoke excellent English who told us the army were happy for us to continue on the road if we wanted to but he said that you couldn’t get much further and the best views of the mountains were before the checkpoint not after. So we turned around and pulled off onto a grassy layby to plot up. The view was amazing. We are perched about 500m up the side of a hill overlooking a valley below with the near 4km peaks of the caucuses just behind the hills opposite. The peaks have snow on them and in the valley people are picnicking and others harvesting crops by hand. The hills are tree covered and the road here was lined with cafés and picnic sites. It certainly doesn’t look like the snipers have put anyone off here! We had a lovely afternoon reading, planning the Armenia section and doing nothing and then the tour parties arrived! Not conventional tour parties but families out for the day. The first family- 10 in a Lada- stayed an hour, gave us flowers, took photos and invited us back for tea. The next group all men 10 minutes and the next lot overlapped with them – more men. Then another family, more photos a few less brave groups just wandered around the outside and then our final double family group who stayed from about 8 till 11! They took photos and invited us for tea and to come back to see them another year. Their 15 year old daughter was the translator And it was a wonderful night. We were exhausted when they left! In total we’ve had about 60 people tour Taffy today.

We will cross back Into Georgia and then Armenia in the morning and so will lose our blackberry email as it seems neither of these countries have support for uk phones. So you may now have the next 12 days in peace, unless we find a wifi connection that is!

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