What are we doing here?

Posted by on 26, Jun 2010 in 2010 - The Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Caucasus, Europe, Georgia

What are we doing here?

After our previous nights storm we both woke up tired. Linda’s back was still giving her a lot of discomfort and the continuous bumpy roads weren’t helping it either. I’d got food poisoning in Tblisi and the local Georgians were not ‘the warmest most welcoming and lovliest people in the world’ that Lonely Planet had promised. They were in fact sullen faced, highly suspicious of us and seemed decidedly grumpy even aggressive. we have never been to a country and felt less welcomed than in Georgia. This attitude was whether we were in Taffy or not and despite the gorgeous scenery we were wondering what the heck we were doing here.

We headed to the border and had Taffy cleaned along the way by ‘mister Grumpys dad who even though he was obviously charging us way over the odds didn’t have the decency to look happy about it. The police at the border made Linda get out of Taffy and walk alongside it as if to say “and don’t come back”

The customs were completely baffled by our documents and spent half an hour passing them from one to another with all the urgency of a hibernating tortoise. They did however let Linda get back in Taffy. Home seemed a very long way away and if we could have pressed a button to be instantly transported to Norwich we would have done. And we still had the Azerbaijan customs to deal with and we suspected they may not let us in anyway!

To get into Azerbaijan you need a visa. To get a visa you need a letter of Invitation and we had got this all sorted out before we left. When you bring a vehicle into the country you have to pay $0.50 per cc of engine size plus 18% of the value of the vehicle on deposit which allows you entry for 30 days. This is to secure the duty should you sell the vehicle whilst in Azerbaijan. Or, you can get a 3 day transit entry which is free. Its a bit odd and I hope no one ever notices the tiny flaw in the scheme.

We had decided we didn’t like the idea of the huge deposit so asked for a transit pass to Iran! After a bit of pleading – we have to get Visas in Baku- and the old colleague routine, a free tour of Taffy for everyone of the staff including the head honcho they decided that “for the beautiful lady” we could have 30 days free! They were absolutely lovely people. They found an English fixer for us, helped us fill all the forms in, made Linda come into the air conditioned office to cool down and sit down, offered us coffee and changed money for us at better than the bank rate. They were even lowthe to accept a bottle of English Cider as a way of thanks. It was a breath of fresh air and just what we needed.

The country again immediately changed. The villages and towns were more prosperous and the people waved at us with huge gold toothed smiles on their faces blowing kisses and clapping. Half a mile away we’d felt like we were at a funeral – possibly our own- and here we were at a wedding! Amazing.

To cap it all we spotted a lake and drove off to find a quiet bank underneath the towering Caucuses. The local herdsmen came up with their sheep, water buffalo and even a horse to shake our hands and say hello. It was perfect and just as we left the next morning a local cycled up and invited us home for tea! Now that’s what we call friendly people!

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