Wednesday – more Baku then bubbling mud volcanoes

We had another lazy start to the day (you have to make the most of them on this trip!). We met some of the others at breakfast who recommended the museum, but as it was a nice day we decided to forego the culture and walk along the esplanade to make the most of our time by the Caspian Sea. As Diane, our representative from New Zealand, was finding the traffic a bit challenging, she came too.

Sadly there was no news of Sarah.

We sallied forth towards the sea and found that we almost had the sea front to ourselves. The broad white marble promenade had wonderfully lush gardens on the land side, the sea glistened in the sun and before us was the wide sweep of the bay of Baku, with its distinctive architectural fins in the middle distance. From this angle, three fins are clearly visible, although you usually see only two at once, thanks to some fancy perspective magic. Apparently one of them is an hotel, one is apartments and one a financial building.

We wondered along towards them, with our back to the docks where the ferry had berthed. This was a very different aspect of Baku to the old walled town we explored yesterday. It was definitely the playground of the oil barons and a showcase for their oil wealth. Their exotic boats, bristling with antennae and beautifully designed water going javelin shapes, could be seen tied up on jetties and in the yacht marina. They seem to bob up and down in the water in a very superior fashion……..

There was a ‘wooden’ pier jutting out into the water – all very tasteful with a sculpture of an angler in bronze hanging over the railing. There was no sign of a any human fishermen daring to fish and sully the landscape with maggots! We continued our walk. At ntervals there were cafés and kiosks selling cool drinks, occasionally there was a young Mum with a child in a jolly upmarket pushchair conveyance – we could have been in the south of France. What was conspicuously absent were joggers. Any long flat expanse like this at home would be a magnet for Lycra bound runners showing their paces.

After walking for over an hour by the sea we came to the carpet museum – shaped like a giant roll of carpet! It was close to the building created to host the Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago (that’s where you might have heard of Baku). We decided to take a look at the Museum. The carpets were amazing. The museum took you through from the old carpets of Persia through to modern designs and processes. We saw how they made a sort of shelter of carpets thrown over bent saplings for travelling and how the Silk Road travellers used carpeting for travelling bags and saddles for their camels and mules. The designs and patterns were exceptional. The skill taken to make them phenomenal. It was a really good insight into the history of carpet making in the area and well worth a visit.

Having educated ourselves on the vexed question of carpet manufacture and all that it entails (no photography was allowed) we wandered into the old city for lunch and then back to our hotel for a 2.00 pm departure to some bubbling mud volcanoes where we were to camp for the night.

Sarah is still in the clinic so has to be left behind. She and Wendy will try to catch up with us when Sarah is well enough to travel. I was really saddened by this news as they are a lovely couple and I am not sure if they will be able to make contact again as we are out in the wilds for several days and co-ordinating transport is not easy in these parts.

We shall see, but it was a sobering lesson that if for any reason you can’t keep up, the journey rolls on without you. We are now down to eight travellers plus two crew. Given that the trucks capacity is 20 (which would be ghastly!) we are beginning to rattle around a bit!

Anyway, after saying fond farewells to Wendy who had come to take their belongings from the truck in case they cannot catch up, we set off for our bubbling mud. We followed the bay road out of town, soon leaving the sophistication of the new city, into the industrial outskirts. In the sea one or two oik rigs could be seen not far from the shore. Eventually we ran out of the urbanisation and back into the desert.

The ubiquitous railway line ran parallel with the highway. After a couple of hours we turned right into the desert on a sandy track. We bumped along, crossing several railway lines and a big pipeline. The track surface got worse, we lurched over it, the truck rocking from side to side. Our route began to climb and pointed hillocks like giant ant hills appeared. The only thing growing on the sandy mud was a prickly shrub which seemed occasionally grow to a small bush size. Penelope ground to a halt. We were at our bush camp.

We piled out and scrambled up to the top of the hill where the bubbling rock pools were. Sure enough, every few seconds there was a gurgle and a large bubble would appear on one or other of the pools. The bubble would then burst with a plop and all would be still until the next bubble. Wet streaks running down the side of these peaks would indicate that occasionally more energetic bubbling causes the wet mud to breach the mud craters and run down the side of the hills. This process has obviously been going on for hundreds of years as this flaw in the earth’s crust allows something of its inner workings to be exposed. I couldn’t help but feel that it looked like a working demonstration of earthly indigestion……..! A little underwhelming perhaps, but yet another new overland experience. Having captured a bubble on camera – not quite as exciting as getting that photograph of a whales tail, but similar – we trudged back down to the campsite to dig out The Ritz and make our nest for the night.

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