The sun rose over the mini mud volcanoes and was reflected in the muddy pools at their base. We made breakfast and then left this moonscape, bumping back to the track and railway lines onto the road.
Although we have long since left the sophistication of Baku and are in rural Azerbaijan, there is still evidence of a more wealthy economy than we have seen in some of the other desert countries we have travelled through. There were neat single storey houses along the way with smart maroon roofs and new larger buildings, some complete and some in the early stages of development. At one stage a large roadside restaurant was well advanced and was obviously intended to entice the hungry traveller at some stage in the future.
The road itself was still under construction and we were occasionally riding along the edge of the desert to allow a new section to be completed. Where the desert had been tamed the fields looked mostly unkempt and deserted. There is no cotton picking here.
Along the roadside the usual enterprising locals had produce for sale. Though the stalls were mainly selling tomatoes, I saw one car literally full of apples – it’s boot piled high and it’s back window full of bright red and yellow fruit. Others in the group saw a fish stall and live turkeys standing like people at a bus stop, waiting to be purchased. The gardens we passed often had fruit trees. Pomegranates grow here in abundance. In the misty distance mountains appeared a mauve grey on the horizon. Near the road, and somewhat alarmingly, unattended cows wandered and Simons main use of our very loud horn was to warn them that they were getting too close to Penelope’s path.
As the day wore on we entered scrubby pastureland and could see flocks of sheep and cattle either under the care of shepherds on foot or stockmen on horses.
A right turn saw us back over the railway line and our road gradually travelling up towards Sheki which nestles in the wooded foothills of a mountain range. Autumn has definitely arrived here, with the leaves on the trees starting to change colour and the breeze has an edge to it. We drove through the town, the road lined with tiled buildings and probably the most local shops we have seen in any town of its size. Our accommodation is in a large converted Caravanserai. This is the ancient traders accommodation that we have come across so frequently along our route. This was a very large edition. We entered a domed stone courtyard and then mounted steep stone steps up to our room on a stone arched corridor facing into a courtyard where the animals would have been kept. The accommodation itself comprised of an arched ceilinged narrow room, curtained off from wooden steps leading to a bedroom. It had heavy double wooden doors at its entrance and a shower room and toilet arrangement off to either side just before the steps up to the sleeping area. Although the floor was wood, the rest of the walls and ceiling were stone, so it was quite ‘fresh’ shall we say……
There was still enough of the day left to walk back down into the town. Initially there were touristy shops selling the usual ‘tatt’ but we came to realise the majority of the rest of the shops sold sweets!! Mysterious sugary confections lined the counters and boxes were stacked up on shelves. Keith’s view was that a good dentist could probably make a fortune here!
The town of Sheki is renowned for its stained glass windows. The glass is jewel coloured in a wrought iron framework. We saw it in the palace in the Baku old town. There was evidence of it in the windows of several of the buildings in the square and I guess we will see it in the Khan’s summer palace which we are to visit.
We took our supper in a low vault like restaurant that felt as if it was underground. The service of our food took place over a lengthy two hour period. When the final dishes arrived we had more or less forgotten what we had ordered and had made the mistake of filling up with bread while we waited. Disaster!
So was the pouring rain when we emerged……