Samaxi to Baku – 25th August
Another warmish day in the saddle today as we lost some elevation and continued on our merry way towards Baku, Azerbaijan and our first glimpse of the Caspian Sea.
Actually, the temperature soared in the wee hours of the afternoon as riders made their way to the Police Checkpoint on the outskirts of the city and our meeting place for the 15-20km convoy into the city.
What stood between the riders and the convoy meet up point was around 100km of rolling hills or “undulating ups and downs”…these no longer deter these finely tuned athletes anymore…however the bunch of wild, ferocious, snarling, barking and biting dogs did – a group of naughty but big and ugly dogs had formed a small pack on the side of a hill and took great delight in terrorizing the riders as they went by (and smart too as they hung out on a steep uphill section so the riders couldn’t pedal away fast). Riders had different ways of dealing with it all…grabbing hold of passing trucks and getting whisked up the hill (we call this the “quite dangerous escape”), getting a handful of rocks and throwing it at them (we call this one the “ok, you have a fairly good chance of escape”) and barking right back at them (we call this one “yes, you will be fine as the dog will be on its back laughing at you” escape). All jokes aside…we were lucky as the riders all made it to the meeting point in one piece albeit a little tired and hot.
Unfortunately, poor Phil our mechanic did not adopt any of the above methods and was bitten by one of the nasty beasts…a high risk area for Rabies meant that he was taken on ahead to get the shots whilst the rest of us hung out drinking sodas, eating yummy cookies and devouring chocolate at the checkpoint.
Once the convoy began, it was all business as it was a huge convoy group…TDA cyclists plus the contingent of Azerbaijani cyclists who had been riding with us all week plus our van, two support trucks and police cars and let me tell you…we needed it because if you were under the impression that Georgian drivers are completely crazy then drivers in Baku win the Gold star award for their crazy driving. Nevertheless, the vehicles did a fine job of protecting everyone and by 4pm we were in at the Velo Trek Hotel sorting rooms, getting red boxes and permanent bags, hiding from the heat and having cold waters and beers.
A few riders took a spin on the cycle track next to the hotel while most were happy to have showers (40 riders all wanting to showers at once wreaked havoc on the water system but it somehow survived), put laundry in (a luxury as the hotel does your laundry here…yeeehah!) and then headed off a check out the sights of downtown, mostly westernized Baku.
Tomorrow is a rest day and if it is as hot as it was today…many riders will be hiding in internet cafes, restaurants and shopping malls to get some respite from the heat before we board the ferry for the Caspian Sea Crossing…see you in country number four…Turkmenistan!