Azerbaijan 2 – 6/2014
The clock was ticking again as we arrived in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and the port where the infamous ferry departs for Turkmenbashi, across the Caspian Sea to the country of Turkmenistan. We had gotten a letter instead of a visa in Istanbul. With this letter we were to go to the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Baku. We had a vague idea of about where this embassy was supposed to be, but no one really seemed to know for sure. After finding a safe parking place on one of the main streets near the alleged location, we spent an hour wandering through alleys before finally finding the correct address. No sign, no flags, just an address, and of course it was closed for lunch. We waited along with others at the back entrance.
By sheer chance, we struck up a conversation with Intigam Ismayilov (Volcano Travel, email@example.com), a gentleman who seemed to know his way around visas. He was able to speak to the guard and get us into the waiting room where we waited, and waited. Finally, with his help, we were able to get into the office of the person in charge of visas. Inspecting our letter, he made several long phone calls and we finally got our five-day Transit Visa that we had requested.
According to the ferry schedule, (joke), it was to leave the following day. Not a lot of time for sightseeing. We rushed to the port area and after a couple of U-turns, we found the terminal, and then the other terminal where the Row-Row ferry docks. Of course, it had not arrived yet, and no one seemed to know where it was.
We had heard all the funny stories about this ferry, that it was a rust bucket and always late. Some wondered why it hadn’t sunk already. After entering the gated compound, we were told where to park and we found the Customs Office. It was closed. We were a bit concerned that the ferry had not arrived yet. We knew that once it departed it would take about 14 hours to get to Turkmenistan. We gauged our five-day transit visa on the probability, (joke), that the ferry would leave on time. The distance on miserable roads from the entry point at Turkmenbashi via Ashgabat to the border of Uzbekistan was 733 miles. At a reported speed of 35 mph due to road conditions, five days sounded possible with a stop at the “Door to Hell”. “Good Luck”!!