So far I only know what Azerbaijan doesn’t have

The map I carry of Turkey has already been effective, despite the nation being months away on the loose itinerary floating in my head. A partial unfolding was all it took to be struck with just how many cities and villages blanket the whole of Turkey. The margins of the map are huge, a library of minutely typed city indices. This presents a stark contrast to Central Asia, where at the worst of times it took a moderate effort to find a camp spot, and at the best of times the whole day passed with only two cars on the road.

But I’m not there yet. Ahead of me is the Caucasus. With Turkey on my mind, the focus will be finding solitude while it’s still easy (easier?) in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. I’m dreaming of meeting new people, but not too many. I’m dreaming of green mountains, weathered monasteries, of cold lakes on hot days and of being spoiled with sunrises shared with no one.

On my immediate horizon is Azerbaijan, a nation that as of yet only conjures up Caspian Sea oil rigs and manicured Baku for me. Most commonly I hear people describe Azerbaijan by what it doesn’t have: The food of Georgia, the monasteries of Armenia. You could say that I’m searching for a different type of description.

After four days lounging in Baku, it's time to pedal northwest through Azerbaijan.

After four days lounging in Baku, it’s time to pedal northwest through Azerbaijan.

A Baku welcome, seen from the ferry arriving from Aktau, Kazakhstan.

A Baku welcome, seen from the ferry arriving from Aktau, Kazakhstan.

Stepping off into the side streets of central Baku.

Stepping off into the side streets of central Baku.

Waiting...

Waiting…

Men, shade and games in Baku.

Men, shade and games in Baku.

Darren taking a break from dancing to contribute to a communal canvas - set up at an open-air bar.

Darren taking a break from dancing to contribute to a communal canvas – set up at an open-air bar.

Stare down.

Stare down.

Old and new: Baku.

Old and new: Baku.

 

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