Continuation from 09. Iran
Welcome to Azerbaijan -----BORDER EXPERIENCE----(Iran departure see block Iran)
12.04.19 127.874 km Day 263 Today border crossing to Azerbaijan from Iran
(Part 1 of the day in Iran bloc)
We were the only ones at the border beside some trucks. We drove very slowly towards the border area. There were only a few trucks, but they didn't move. A few soldiers passing by indicated us to continue driving. At some point we realized that the cars are being dispatched and controlled on the far right in the back part oft he area. We got off and went to the far right in a building. Inside sat a very good-looking young female officer and another young officer, both very correctly dressed in uniforms, we make us wait for 10 min. She played with the cell phone and he ate. We we waited haphazardly . Then another officer arrived, dressed like a soldier, asked for the passports and the eVisa. Typed our data into the computer, we had to stand in front of a camera, were photographed and then he took the ID card in his hand again and looks deep into our the eyes for a minute, comparing the ID with our face, that really took a minute per person . What started with an extremely strict look ended in the end with a grin on both sides. But it was kind of weird.
Now we had an entry stamp in our ID and now the young lady started to handle the entry of the car. The carnet was very helpful here because it could not cope with our vehicle registration papers. After another 20 minutes, we received a voucher and had to go to the bank. approx. 100m back close tot he trucks were parked. Since she only vaguely showed us the direction, Thomas held up the receipt and we were guided further and further by the passing officers. We opened an inconspicuous door and entered the bank. Also a car insurance counter is included if needed. Azerbaijan is also insured via the green insurance card of our insurance company, so we were allowed to pay $ 21 (paid in US dollars) for the import of the car (or maybe it is the road tax, at themoment we really don´t known).
Now we went back to the young civil servant, who warmed up a bit in the meantime, Germans are welcome here. Thomas noticed that a few cars from Europe and Russia have been parked here for a long time, including one from France. Which had a blue French European symbol, but the plate number itself had nothing to do with France. As we found out later, these were stolen vehicles that had been secured here. Back in the building, we handed over the receipt and were asked to wait in the car. We should go to the hall for inspection. Thomas signaled to the officer that we had a dog in the car and pointed to the drug detection dog, whereupon the drug detection dog was led away and I was able to leave the car and wait outside with Jerry. Thomas opened up all doors and waited in front of the car. Now it started. There were two more officers and the car was inspected very, very, very carefully. This inspection was interrupted again and again by finding things that fascinated them, such as my little USB reading lamp, the compressor for inflating the tires or the mosquito net that closes automatically with magnets. The objects in bags, such as the bags in which the groceries were, were placed on a ribbon for screening. All closets that we have have been opened and examined in detail. Then the drug detection dog came. But it was obviously difficult for him because he smelled our dog in the car. This procedure took about 1.5 hours. In the meantime the veterinarian has been called. He looked very closely at Jerry's international vaccination passport, checked all vaccinations for completeness and how up-to-date they are, very detailed, he started to make me think I missed something and we have a problem. He didn't check the chip and didn't look at the dog itself. Then he apparently explained to the two young officials exactly what he was doing, what they had to watch out for, the words "problem" and "virus" were mentioned several times, at some point he turned to me and said "ok, you can go". Puuuhhhh. From this point on, nobody was interested in the dog. The car was also closely examined from below. A total of more than 4 hours for both border crossings. It is also worth mentioning that all medicines and every tablet box were carefully checked, but we had certificates and explanations with us in German and English. But noone can read it here. The drugs were also X-rayed and all the packagings opened. Since we have a lot with us to cover the long time of the trip and all eventualities. That procedure also took quite a long time.
Afterwards we heard a friendly "Welcome to Azerbaijan" and we made it. at least that's what we thought. At the exit gate a soldiers asked for the recipt to check if we really paid.
Finally the gate was opened WE made it. YES, we are in Azerbaijan, which was not originally our plan, but we changed our minds regarding that in Iran and applied for the visa. Thomas googled the closest supermarket and checked the coordinates, why? The first bottle of wine and Bacardi after 2 weeks ... not possible to pay with a credit card, so we first would need an ATM, which worked without problems.
The bottles weren't cheap, 200ml Jack Daniels (nobody knows Bacardi) and a bottle of wine, 13 €.
The next job was to buy a SIM card, that we can talk to people with Google Translater again. With hands and feet and beeing sent from A to B to C, stopping, asking, we found a mobile phone shop from Azercell and within 5 minutes everything was done, 10GB for 6 €. Now we finally had time to notice the incredible change. On the one hand, quite new Mercedes and other brands, but also a lot of old Ladas. The cars are no longer just white like in Iran. So far, the road conditions have been very good and there are rules in traffic again. The chaos, that everyone does what he wants is no longer popular here. Since this whole border crossing procedure basically cost the whole day, we decided today not to drive to Baku today (300 km), but to look for a place to stay nearby, IOverlander suggested a national park 30 km away. It turned later out to be the highlight. For 4 Manat / 2 Euros we had one of the most beautiful places ever, lonely at a small stream, no other dogs nearby. We relaxed in front of the car. The family that runs this place kept out of the way. They only operate the square with a small cafe during the day which was really very clean and well-kept. In the evening when they wanted to say goodbye, Thomas asked the parking attendant with Google translators help, whether we can make a fire here. This was confirmed and he showed us were we can find firewood. We gave him 10 Manat. The money quickly disappeared into his pocket. And now they started bringing the wood close to the car and lighting the fire for us. We were left alone, pleasant temperatures, campfires in front of the car, on a green meadow in a small forest area. Jerry also obviously liked it here. We sat in front of the fire for a long time, our first campfire since Mexico. And we enjoyed our drinks after 14 days. Nobody bothered us anymore and we could sleep really deep and long.
We are noticing that internet is open again here, there are no restrictions and we have access to all websites. It is also more pleasant because I can go back to my original clothes, but I also learned a lot from it.
secretly photographed, border crossing into Azerbaijan (photographing prohibited)
That was expected in Iran, but not seen, but here in Azerbaijan you can see oil pumps (like in Texas) in rough quantities
First evening in Azerbaijan in front of the National Park Cay Evi. Our very first campfire since we are on tour again. We sat for a long, long time and enjoyed the loneliness ( and for me, the freedom that I got back today to dress again the way I want it) and thought a lot about our experiences in Iran
Thanks to IOverlander that we found such a nice, quiet place to stay 30 km after crossing the border. After the strenuous crossing of the border, it was very welcome
one of my most beautiful photos, so again
the family, who managed this place, they drove home in the evening, helped us make the fire (which was not necessary, but it was a friendly gesture).
Day 264, April 13, 2019 128,029 km lets start to BAKU
After a really nice evening around the campfire, we headed for Baku today. The landscape changed suddenly, it became flat. Right and left was sandy desert. The road was new and we drove relatively lonely about 280 km towards Baku. The road was really good against all information and expectations, but the landscape was very monotonous. People were curious but reserved. If you signaled, they come close tot he car, but if you don´t do anything they stay away as well. They looked very polite, but also a little reserved. Until Baku as I said, everything a bit monotonous, but not poor or untended, as we expected. When we drove into Baku, we felt we were entering a different world, everything modern, everything new, everything in a better standard than we know from home. It looks like a western European city, you quickly forget where you are. The corrupt police officers have so far failed to appear. During our entire stay in Azerbaijan there were only nice and helpful police officers. Nerver as described often in the Internet that the police stop you and assume wrongdoing to get Bakschish, but exactly the opposite, helpful, courteous, but also present everywhere . We had googled a parking lot in front of the sea, where we paid 4 € for 2 nights, very central and relatively quiet. In the evening we enjoyed the impressive light show of the Flame Towers and were really excited that we included Azerbaijan in our trip. The necessary e-visa was approved online within 3 hours. And except for the border crossing to Azerbaijan, which was very exhausting, everything was ok, only the country itself is very flat and monotonous.
yes, we are really in Baku, was not our plan
our parking spot for the next two days, monitored, directly overlooking the sea for € 2.50 a night.The flame towers shown in picture 2 do a beautiful light show at nigh
out of the car: Impressions of Baku
the light show of the Flame Towers of Baku, absolutely fascinating. We were sitting in front of the car for more than one hour and watched the show. Wouldn't that be an idea for Frankfurt with its skyscrapers?
14.04.19 128.280 km Day 265 still BAKU
As we mentioned yesterday, when you come to Baku, you will be flashed, comparable with Dubai or Monaco, a pure model city, here are the latest cars, everything is new and modern. And people are wearing jewelry and expensive clothes. Today we start to discover the city. Which was not easy, because in 5 days Formula 1 Grand Prix will be here. Many areas were already closed off and inaccessible. But Baku is inviting and inspires us and we feel really comfortable. And we don't attract attention, nobody cares about us here. Towards evening heavy fog came up, we were really lucky that we were able to enjoy this light show of the Flame Towers last night, because the three towers were now swallowed up in the fog for hours.
In addition to the visits, we take time to relax. Baku is worth the trip.
Image 1: The Azerbaijani flag is represented everywhere, very nationally.
Image 2: Music hall, very futuristic
Image 3: out of the car, Baku
Image 4: Little Venice. Yes,here as well, they recreate everything, like in Dubai
Image 5: Most of the houses here have such magnificent facades
Picture 6: the 3 Flame Towers in the background
Image 1-3: Promenade in Baku
Image 4: there was a barrier for Formula 1, we actually wanted to go to the old town, but now we would have had to walk along a fence for kilometers. Unfortunately, bad luck
Image 5: a new shopping center, somehow reminding of Sidney
Day 266, April 15,2019 128,280 km
On the way midland or
The day that started badly and then found a happy ending
Today we left Baku, it was beautiful here. We just got out of there because they had already started to lock up for the Formula 1 circus that starts in 5 days. And now it got uncomfortable. After just a few kilometers, Thomas looked in the rearview mirror. And you couldn't see the road behind us due to smoke. It smoked from our exhaust so much that you really couldn't see the 2-lane road anymore. There was fright in us. Panic. First idea: engine failure. We immediately turned right. And we stopped there, another car stopped next to us and the man said that we should follow him, he takes us to the workshop. Now it's getting strange. The car stopped to smoke. There was also no error message and everything appeared normal when driving. When we got to the workshop, we didn't know what to do because everything was normal again. We saved the coordinates of the workshop and wanted to drive a bit further to see what happens next. After another 5 minutes at 110 kmh, so whenever the exhaust got hot, he smoked again, not that extreme, but already powerful. We stopped again and googled the situation. We checked the oil pressure, we checked the coolant and the pressure, we checked the oil level, everything was normal, still no error message on the car itself. So we decided to drive a few kilometers further. The problem no longer occurred. At the same time, we also had contact with our local workshop and the analysis showed that the engine probably hasn´t a failure, but the catalytic converter may have gone into regeneration mode and the catalytic converter is now being burned free. Because we got 5000 km of high sulfur diesel in Iran, that could be the explaination. But the background is different, however, because we have already filled up half a tank of fuel after the border in order to dilute the Iranian gasoline and sulfur a bit. We assume that in Azerbaijan we got worse, water-mixed diesel at a branded petrol station. The next morning when we left our car idling for 5 minutes, a green, watery liquid dripped from the exhaust. The strong smoke no longer occurred and after 5 minutes at idle the dripping of the liquid stopped. However, we are still very vigilant in this topic and are close to the Turkish and Russian borders, distance approx. 200 km. If the problem gets bigger, we have insurance cover in Turkey and Russia, the car can be towed from here.
The rest of the morning under a certain kind of tension, but no further smoke appeared, the engine ran normally and there was no error message.
Back to Azerbaijan. After we left Baku, we drove further inland on a very good road without potholes, but it was flat and uninviting, boring, always straight ahead, you could see to the right and left as far as the eye can see, but all the area used for agriculture. But to emphasize here is no rubbish on the side of the road, no matter where you are and you keep seeing people walking along the roadside and collecting the rubbish, everything is really clean here. We expected that everything would be poorer again after we left Baku, it was not the case, all houses looked relatively new, clean and well maintained. According to previous research, this should be one of the poorest countries and when we then asked Google, we found that Azerbaijan has been experiencing an upswing over the past 5 years due to the oil deposits and has been extremely modernized. The poor, russian, what we expected can still be seen from time to time in the form of old busses and from time to time a Lada, but for the most part it's already like at home. Our idea to find a nice place to stay overnight in the middle of the country didn´t work, because there was nothing inviting to the right or left. It wasn´t our today´s plan, but we suddenly arrived at the border Azerbaijan-Georgia at around 6 p.m.
We still had a funny story when it was said that we are going to Azerbaijan, it was said that these are the worst roads, pothole slopes. The 900 km route we drove in Azerbaijan (also apartfrom the main roads) had exactly one pothole, and exactly that single pothole we didn´t recognize in time, but luckily nothing happened.
We don't really want to cross borders in the evening, because the procedure can often take hours and we don't want to start driving in a new country in the darkness. And so Thomas said, let's just see how the border looks like and then we'll pass it tomorrow morning. Suddenly we were standing in such a way that we could not turn back and there was no chance to turn. Now we had to cross the border unintentionally today. Now the positive part of the day begins. The actual border crossing from Azerbaijan to Georgia took 30 minutes if any. Everything was super friendly, on both sides oft he border. The car was examined from both sides only absolutely superficially (and rather due to curiosity, because you hardly know such cars here). Georgia was particularly fast, we the formalities took just 10 minutes. Since the green insurance card is not sufficient for Georgia and you have to apply for a car liability insurance, which is possible at any bank. Thomas asked the very nice, English-speaking Georgian customs officer where he could do it. He referred us to a small wooden container, about 1km after the border. 5 minutes later we had our insurance for 15 days, 30 Lari (10 €). And now immediately afterwards the question of where to get a Georgian SIM card. The policeman standing at the door took me by the hand and led me 10m further, there in the shop you find food, drinks and also SIM cards. The card itself cost 10 lari (€ 3), then we had to go to an ATM-like machine, where I could top up the card. Everything very easy and quick, if that were the case with all borders, it would be a dream.
We needed a long time until the internet really worked (because the first cell phone used was too old for this system, when I then inserted the card in our newer cell phone, it worked immediately). In the meantime Thomas had spotted a huge and empty truck parking lot and now that it was getting dark, we decided to stay here. Again, we were showered with friendliness and helpfulness, they tried everything to help to make the cell phone work, they offered us to use the showers, the toilets, we should park here for free. We parked at the back so that Jerry could sleep in front of the car. Later we decided to go out to eat in the restaurant in front of the shops, we got a delicious salad with sheep's cheese, grilled lamb and there was, although not ordered (but really delicious), woodruff limonade. For the equivalent of 7 € in total. Later we sat really happy in front of the car and blessed that everything went perfectly, yeah, we're in Georgia and we can already feel it. We only heard positive things about the landscape and the people and we are really curious.
Note: if we cross Georgia northwards, it is 230 km left to the Russian border (the only possible border crossing to Russia), we would drive right through from here we arrive at the Black Sea after 400 km, Georgia is not bigger. Then let's see what the next day brings.
Image 1. Out of the car, a small village
Image 2: This is how the houses look mostly, if you have a look on the roofs you see that they are new buil
Impressions of side streets shot from the car, enlarge picture and let it affect you
Image 1: Here you can see another group of Ladas, but the majority of cars are modern, many Mercedes and SUVs are standard here
Image 2: you still can see these ancient buses that are reminiscent of the Soviet Union. But that's almost the only relic
Ups only 30 km to Georgia ... well, then close your eyes and swipe across the border today unplanned
Border crossing Azerbaijan to Georgia.
Welcome to Georgia
We don't really want to cross borders in the evening, because the procedure may take hours and we don't want to drive in the darkness after entering a new country. Thomas said, let's just see what the border looks like and we will cross it tomorrow morning. Suddenly in front oft he border, we stopped in a row and had no chance to turn back. Way back was blocked. Now we had to cross the border unintentionally today. Now the positive part of the day begins. The border crossing from Azerbaijan to Georgia took 30 minutes. Everything was super friendly, at both border controls. The car was examined from both sides only absolutely superficially (and rather due to curiosity, because you hardly see such cars like our here). Georgia was really fast, we were done in 10 minutes.
41.329745, 45.069795 Red Bridge "Customs Border
Since the green insurance card is not sufficient for Georgia and you have to make a georgian car liability insurance, which is possible with any bank, Thomas asked the very nice, English-speaking Georgian customs officer where he could do it. He referred us to a small wooden container, about 1km after the border. Ok let´s go, 5 minutes later we had our insurance for 15 days, 30 Lari (10 €). Next question, where to get a Georgian SIM card. The policeman standing at the door took me by the hand and led me to a shop beside the insurance counter. There they sold food, drinks and also SIM cards. The card itself cost 10 lari (€ 3), we had to go to an ATM-like machine, where I could top up the card. Everything very easy and quick, if that would be in the same way at all the borders we crossed it would perfect.
But it really took a lonf time the internet really worked (because the first cell phone used was too old for the system, but after inserting the card in our newer cell phone, it worked immediately). In the meantime Thomas had spotted a huge and empty truck parking lot and now that it was getting dark, we decided to stay here. Again, we were welcomed with friendliness and helpfulness, they helped us to make the cell phone, they offered us to use the showers, the toilets, we should park here for free. We parked at the back part , Jerry could lie in front of the car. Later we decided to go out to eat in the restaurant in the front of the shops, we got a delicious salad with sheep's cheese, grilled lamb and there was, although not ordered (but really delicious), woodruff limonade. For the equivalent of 7 €. Later we were sitting very happy in front oft he car , everything went perfectly, yeah, we're in Georgia and we can already feel it. We only heard positive things about the landscape and the people and we are really curious.
Note: if we cross Georgia northwards, it is only 230 km to the Russian border (the only possible border crossing to Russia), if we cross the country from here we arrive at the Black Sea after 400 km, Georgia is very small. Let's be surprised by the next day
another wonderful experience of helpfulness. They helped me get the cell phone running and invited us to their parking lot (in the background). They also offered us water and tea
water and tea
We had ordered shish kebab, but we got delicious lamb chops (we still have to practice Russian) and without ordering the woodruff limonade it was added and we were once again the highlight of the evening for all other guests here, they were surprised that we came from Germany
Day 267, April 16, 2019 128,739 km Georgia, let´s discover it.
After we thanked those responsible for the parking lot again, we made our way towars midland. Wetter.com predicts that we will have rain every day for a week starting from tomorrow, so we wanted to take advantage of today's fairly sunny day to discover Georgia. We went west, towards the Black Sea, parallel to the Armenian border. The first impression is irritating, because now at daylight we see many dilapidated, abandoned, very, very poor houses, we feel taken back 100 years. Chickens, geese, cows, pigs, everything run freely here on the streets. Cars that already should be parked in a museum, streets that once, long time ago have been, and turned now into mostly dirt roads or mud slopes, people who look very poor. Large town signs on the side of the road, but only dirt roads (not even gravel roads) lead there. We also had to turn around aWe had ordered shish kebab, but we got delicious lamb chops (we still have to practice Russian) and without ordering the woodruff limonade it was added and we were once again the highlight of the evening for all other guests here, they were surprised that we came from Germany few e times because roads marked on the map ended abruptly in a mud track, shown on the map that they would have continued another 40 km. Since we were practically stuck now, in the form of "how do we get to our destination without being able to drive over these mud slopes", we asked at a taxi driver how we could get out of here. The whole conversation was somehow in Russian and after 2 minutes of explanation the taxi driver got into his taxi and drove about 10 km in front of us to show us the turnoff to get to our destination on a paved road. It is difficult here with the navigation system Maps.me or Google Maps. Yellow road here does not necessarily mean tarred road in reality. Since the taxi driver didn't take baksheesh from us, we gratefully cheered him at least with a German chocolate. The landscape here is breathtaking, everything is green and hilly, simple but beautiful. Ancient, small villages like 100 years ago, time has stopped here. Even if the text above seems a bit negative, it is really an impressively beautiful country. Compared to the monotonous Azerbaijan, this is breathtaking. In the evening the weather got worse as predicted. We don't move very fast here, because the roads are in poor condition and we had to turn around and drive from time to time, we didn't reach our actual destination, the Zsalka Reservoir, but a reservoir lake (that would have been 172 km) stayed overnight after 72 km at another reservoir. Yes, according to the road map the distance is 72 km, in reality 169 km, 5 hours. But has been nice and interesting 5 hours.
The weather is not very pleasant, we are currently lonely and isolated on a reservoir and think about how we want to spend the next few days, Georgia is really beautiful, so we actually want to enjoy it, but unfortunately we won´t have nice weather . Thinking about a unplanned detour to Armenia tomorrow to maybe have better weather here in Georgia later. Let's see …
Landscape of Georgia
t this point we thought we would have already seen bad roads, but later we were taught better in Armenia, but many Georgian streets were really fine, but if bad, you even don´t have the courage to drive on
Pictures from Georgia
Day 268, April 17, 2019 128,908 km Georgia
during the night we were woken up by a beep and noticed that our tire, right rear, was losing air very slowly but continuously, about 1 bar in 10h, something is strange. So we took our compressor we bought in the US and inflated the tire again. That worked only in the beginning. When we achieved 4.5 bar on the tire, the compressor stopped working and we didn't know why. After evaluating a few things, we discovered that it was the cigarette lighter that was no longer working (the compressor runs on the cigarette lighter's 12V connector). Now Thomas wanted to know exactly again, changed the power source to our on-board battery, which has three 12V connections and wanted to increase the pressure of the tire to 5 bar. In this moment, however, we did not know that the fuse had blown out at the front. Nothing worked nothing worked anymore and these connections also no longer worked. In addition, the check valve of the compressor was now broken and the air was now flowing out instead of into the tire. We could stop it at the status of 4.2 bar. Now we no longer have functional 12V sockets in the car, a tire that loses air, quite slowly but constantly and a broken compressor, which we really will need for upcoming tire problems and we are currently in a country where can´t easily buy anything and you may not express the problem in english, because the main part is really only about russian and on top of all, the weather is very bad, it's really cold and it's raining heavily. All in all, these were prerequisites to have a wonderful day. Ok, to put first air on the tires, which was also a bit more difficult, because there is no compressed air at petrol stations, you get coffee, chips, sweets and of course gasoline, but unfortunately there is no compressed air connection. To get air into the tires, you have to find a tire dealer. What we did. After a few kilometers we were successful. Successful in that way that I asked in a butcher shop, they immediately stopped their current work (they were just about to cut up a cow), got into the car and showed us the way to a workshop, we followed his car. The tire was inflated there. And we stayed there for 2 hours, the pressure in the tire didn't change anymore. We used the time weh ad to rest and wait for checking our 12V plugs. An email to car doctor Beierlieb from the company Dietz has sent out regarding the 12 V sockets in the interior, because according to our research everything was fine, but the sockets did not work at all. We asked if there were any hidden fuses somewhere that we hadn't found. After studying the fiat manual, we found that the cigarette lighter had a separate fuse in the engine compartment that which was damaged as well, but we did not replace it, as other, smaller fuses were used there. H. Beierlieb replied very quickly, we found the fuses for the interior, which were also defective and could replace them, we had no replacement for the fuse for the cigarette lighter and now we had to get them here somehow. After 2 hours the tire showed no loss of pressure, we made our way to the next bigger city. That all took place with pouring rain. After various attempts, we managed to find a store where we could get fuses. WE substituted the broken ones, everything fine again. And built everything back, since we had previously removed it before. Take a deep breath. Now we started looking for a new compressor. Incidentally, the police were very helpful here as they took us to a shop where you can buy tools and car accessories. There were exactly two, on stock there was one with a too short cable, the other one with a broken plug. We were a bit perplexe for a moment reminding ourselves that we would look again in Tbilisi to see if we could find a compressor there. The tire still lost no air up to now. On the way back to our parking space at the reservoir, we saw another hardware store and said lets try it here as well. They also had a compressor, but the connection didn´t fit. But there was person speaking perfectly. Funny, all employees of the shop, about 10 people gathered with us and we heard again and again in the background: Allemania.
After a few phone calls from the English-speaking employee, we were informed that a suitable device would be in the shop tomorrow at 2 p.m., it would be ordered now. And we decided to stay here another day and buy the compressor tomorrow.
The weather got better around noon and we took a look around to get back to our old parking lot by late afternoon. As before, no pressure loss on the tire. Now we are sitting in front of the car and recovering from the really annoying and exhausting morning. The language barriers really don't ease the whole thing . I anticipate: at night it beeped again, the tire lost air again, instead of 5 bar, we now only have 3.2 bar, it is really strange. And so there is another “wonderful” day coming up, similar to yesterday. With the small difference that we no longer have to search now, but know where to go.
Here in Georgia, people are very helpful, if at first very reluctant, we always get help, but everything works with the simplest means, often we don't know whether they are currently speaking Georgian or Russian, which we always have to find out with difficulty. You can tell that the Google translator translates crap with the wrong language. It is very tedious.
04/18/19 128,982 km day 268
A wonderful day icluding many moments of happiness
Contrary to the weather forecast, the sun shone into the car this morning. Our tire was still at 3.3 bar instead of 5.0 bar. So again back to our one-man workshop, about 7 km from here. Once there, he greeted us with a smile. Now we have examined the tire more closely and found that there was a nail in it. While Thomas was already unpacking one of our two spare tires we were carrying, he took the damaged one off and in less than a minute the tire was repaired, he took the nail out, a kind of corkscrew in, some sticky brown plasticine was pushed in, the pressure pumped back up to 5.0 bar. Put the repaired tire into a bath filled with water , checked if he sees air bubbles and there were noneand installed the repaired tire again. The whole thing took 5 minutes. Funny, but in the 5 min more locals joined, they were curios. One spoke broken German and said that this repaired tire would work properly. Thomas said we have 2 more spare tires, whether this is changed here or elsewhere, it doesn't matter, lets try it. I am anticipating again: it will hold up despite the most miserable roads we have ever driven in Armenia. Pothole to pothole to pothole to pothole over 200 km. The Dempster Highway in Canada, which we have already driven, is a breeze. Now we wanted pay him for the good work he did but he just smiled and even if we really tried, it was not possible to pay him for his performance. After several minutes of conversation we started back to our route, we were really deeply touched. Once again someone has given uncomplicated and selfless help and we finally know about the reason for the problem (the nail in the tire caused this slow loss of pressure).
Image 1: the man in the workshop
Image 2: the nail
Image 3: the blockage / sealant that was inserted into the hole
Addendum: it has still working for 9000 km
Since the compressor should only be ready for pick-up around 3pm, we drove a bit to the right and left of the main street. The sun was shining, it was really pleasantly warm and the lush green meadows and hills, populated by cattle and sheep, offered an idyllic and inviting impression. We felt really comfortable. Georgia is beautiful. Around 1 p.m. we drove up to our building store after I had made another big purchase of groceries in a Spar supermarket, there is actually a huge variety, I was in heaven after such a long time such a big choice. The basic foodstuffs cost only a few cents here and the standard items about half to compared to Germany. The diesel (not at Spar ;-)) is around 0.80 €/L. And to our great delight, and especially Rudi's, there was EURO Diesel again for the first time. It was more expensive, but Rudi deserved it. We parked in the hardware store car park and the saleswoman rushed towards us, the package already arrived. Great, we had won 2 hours now. Since Armenia is only 20 km and 30 minutes away from here, we made our way straight to the border in really wonderful weather.
Image 1: we often noticed that the European flag almost always hangs next to the Georgian flag.
Image 2: a detergent seller, but here there are 5 or 6 directly behind each other
Georgia to Armenia transition
The Georgian border exit took 3 minutes. Drive in, passport, vehicle registration that´s it, done. Data typed into the computer, stamped, car only superficially looked at without going in and we left Georgia (we'll be back soon)
Welcome to Armenia
In terms of landscape, there is no difference between Georgia and Armenia. Armenias cities are much poorer
we stopped to take a photo of the entrance sign to Armenia and were immediately reprimanded by soldiers and asked to continue "no photo !!!"
We are in Armenia
The Armenian border procedure as follows:
All border guards were very determining (almost arrogant). But the whole procedure was very quick and factual. They looked in the car, continued to drive up, here Susanne had to get out with her passport and our ways parted. Now the passport was requested, drive up another meter. Then he spotted the dog and asked for the dog papers. At that moment Susanne came back, gave him the dog papers for copying and we were sent to the scanner, through which the car was scanned and found to be ok. So back again, pick up the copied dog papers, pay 20 € customs fees. And we were done. Then we were allowed to cross the border, actually quite simply. Directly in the yard in front of the exit there wer a few counters, one for the necessary car insurance (32 € / 10 days, seems a bit expensive, but it was very quick here) and SIM cards (10 € / 2GB). We left the border within an hour, including the necessary things like insurance, SIM card and money exchange.
If you now think that Georgia and Armenia are the same, for us no difference for the time being, two small countries that are close to each other, we were first instructed otherwise. E.g. the road conditions, which were already not good in Georgia, deteriorate many times over, you even can say that Armenia consists of 2/3 of a pothole. It also became much poorer in terms of buildings, cars and people. What was impressive in Georgia was topped here. We drove the first kilometers in the country more or less with our mouths open. Everything is so poor and run down. We already said about Georgia, it looks back 100 years, here you can say, more like 200 years. But we also look for differences and want to see and experience such things, otherwise we could stay at home. The landscape was like Georgia, green, hilly, really beautiful. We decided to drive approx. 200 km south inland towards lake Sewan. What is almost half of the country, Armenia is even smaller than Georgia. We continued to drive through beautiful scenery when the weather and sunshine were still nice, it was really fun. It was actually a pleasant 15°C, but when choosing our intended parking space with a beautiful view, right beside the lake oneof these which makes a camper's heart beat faster and also easily accessible, but we didn´t consider that this place is at an altitude of 2200 m and when we got there in the late afternoon, the formerly +15°C had dropped to a whopping +2°C when the weather was still fine. There was a little surprise, there were two Germans from Erfurt and there was an interesting small talk in our warm car. They were on their way to Iran and so we shared our experiences with them.
And I also fell in love again. But really. So that I have real heartache. And at the same time we had a problem in the evening.
Because a cute little stray dog, but so cuddly, so loving, so cuddly (the opposite of Jerry) sauntered around me and around the car all the time. So that Jerry really couldn't get out of the car and smelled the dog and the dog smelled him. But you couldn't chase him away because he was so nice. The next morning the farewell was so difficult, it was right in front of the car and waiting for us. Which was the reason why we started so abruptly because we could only bring Jerry outside with tricks.
While the cities are old and down, the meadows, fields are really lush, green and inviting, the landscape is really attractive
mage 2 + 3: Unfortunately, that does not reflect how bad the potholes really were. Really extreme.
Image 4: We have not been able to read signs for a long time
mage 1: Entry into a city
Picture 2: a gas station (we did not fill up in Armenia, wasn´t trustworthy)
two photos of these old cars, we had a few more, but none of them with good results (camera was set incorrectly). This type of car is still driving around in bulk
View from our place to stay
fantastic place to stay at Lake Sevan. Unfortunately only a bit cold because we are at 2100m
Day 269, April 19, 2019 129,224 km
Weh ad wonderful weather yesterday, but today it was the opposite, it rained all day, it was partly very foggy and it should remain the same for the next 3 days. So what to do? We have a perfect place, we have everything on board that we need to stay here a longer time. However, it is not raining up here, it is snowing. We thought about what to do for a while, but we didn't really feel to stay here at these low temperatures. And for Jerry, too, it's stupid, since the little cute dog didn't leave our side, which Jerry couldn't accept and understand at all. Also, we had no desire to drive further into the country with these weather conditions, because the road conditions are really critical in these conditions, you can no longer see the potholes properly, people drive like executioners. On the way back we have seen 4 accidents, one with a car lying on its roof. People driving much too fast at these road conditions.
We finally decided to drive back comfortably, through Georgia, towards the Russian border. The Russian border islocated on top of a mountain range, behind which the weather is better again. So we drove back across the beautiful landscape in heavy rain, but you couldn't see like yesterday when the weather was good.
At about 1 p.m. we arrived at the border Armenia to Georgia. This time leaving Armenia cost nothing and was take it easy. I had to get out oft he car again and walk on my own to the passport control. When I entered the building I unfortunately found that there were about 40 people in front of me and it took a while. Thomas was much faster and had to wait 15min until I returned tot he car. The car check was just a quick look in the car, that's it.
Georgia: they just scanned the passport, quick look in the car, drive on. If we subtract my waiting time, it would have been a border crossing totaling 10 minutes. Georgians like the Europeans, what we googled before. The Georgian border is not a problem for Europeans. And you can always see the Georgian and European flags side by side. Since we were very early, we did not drive back to our old parking space at the reservoir, but, as previously considered, drove towards the Russian border, which is a remaining distance of 182 km, although we have to cross Tbilisi once
impressions of Tbilisi, photos were taken out of the car, stopping was not so easy and it was raining heavily, the city did not seem to invite us.
We passed Tbilisi, once across, a few attraction were on the way. The city itself looks very poor, prefabricated buildings everywhere. We crossed the river Kura and then it went uphill continuously. Exactly 100 km before the border there were kilometers of trucks parked on the right side oft he road. We only understood the meaning later. We start to understandthe reason 40 km before the border, we were already at an altitude of 2000m. The pass road is so narrow that trucks are brought across like convoys, because if oncoming trucks would meet, the road would be too narrow, so one lane is always blocked. We couldn't tell whether this also applies to cars. We drove for a while without traffic, neither on our side nor on the opposite side. And this was where my nightmare started and Thomas was enjoying it. Because the cars overtook the trucks harakiri-like, Thomas in the middle. Because the pass road rarely had space for 2 cars next to each other. What makes it even worse, right and left of the road weh ad about 2m of snow. It was snowing lightly and there were tunnels that were judt big enough that a truck could drive just in the middle. They were unlit, unventilated, endless and there were potholes that an elephant could have bathed in. Thomas said that natural selection takes place here, those who reach the top deserve it. We can confirm that not everyone got to the top. Because here and there you found stopped or broken cars in the middle of the road, like obstacles youhave to overtake them as well.
Since Thomas was very concentrated, I couldn't even talk to him at the moment (it didn't work, my teeth chattered), so we didn't notice how close we were to the border. There were also broken trucks that could not make it up the slope of the mountain, which also had to be avoided. It was absolute horror what was going on here. This results from the fact that the border from the Georgian side is the only border to Russia. It's like a bottle neck. Thomas warned me in advance that this day would be our worst if we had to go through this bottle neck. We had calculated a whole day for this. We did it in 6 hours including crossing the border. First of all, the Russian side was easy, well developed road, no more problems driving
mage 1: this is what the pass road looks like, not that trustworthy
Image 2: we snaked our way about 40km, the trucks drove too
Image 3: here you can see the amounts of snow and how narrow it was.
Around 7 p.m. we arrived at the top and stood in front of the Georgian border- Photo 1: this is what the pass road looks like, not that trustworthy
Photo 2: we snaked our way about 40km, the trucks drove too
Photo 3: here you can see the snow masses and how narrow it was
Around 7p.m. we arrived at the top and stood in front of the Georgian border and now the question is, do we still want to cross today or do we wait until tomorrow morning. There was the possibility to stay and spend the night here. But the blowing snow increased and the snow stayed on the groud. Weh ad the impression that there wasn't much going on today, and the chances to have a quick transition might have been good. There are reports of people in the Internet who have been in line for up to 14 hours in front of the border. So we decided to go straight to it, even if we're not really prepared.
And now again very detailed how the border crossing was taking place, (for people who are planning a similar trip). The last 40 km to the georgian border are very tough, it takes a long time to drive and it may also be that you have to wait 1-2 hours before you are allowed back on the pass because one side is blocked. The Georgian border was easy again, only the passenger had to leave the car. Car and Thomas passed through in 3 minutes, I needed again at least 15 minutes, because I had 30 people in front of me at the passport control. Only the documents were scanned, stamped, and there was no inspection itself. The Russian part had a lot to offer. We drove through a very well-developed tunnel again and had to thread our way into marked lanes. Then we stood and waited. In front of us about 2x40 cars on two lanes. Then there was a break, nothing was moving on. We observed that about 10 cars were allowed to continue driving every 10 minutes. After about half an hour it was our turn. You follow a curve and were instructed again. Now we were right in front of the border. There were 7 checkpoints next to each other where cars were handled. We observed the cars in front of us, which were all handled very quickly and superficially, and we were already looking forward to it. And now it was our turn. Left side, passport control, driver's license, vehicle license, immigration card (you should print out and fill in beforehand the form is available in the Internet). An officer started typing our data into the computer and kept the Passports. Another officer kept the driver's license and we were asked to another 10m and wait. Someone would come in about 5 minutes. Very polite, but since this is really only Russian and we don't have an internet yet, so no Google translator works, it was very tedious. They were helpful, but somehow weh ad no idea what is coming next. We waited about an hour until a very well dressed, nice, very good English speaking man came and asked us to follow him. We were taken to a separate building in a small office and then a questionnaire began, who we are, why we are here, what is the route, what is our profession etc. After 10 minutes Thomas was getting annoyed and asked him if there was a problem, what was the reason for this interview. I winced slightly. But the man apologized and said that this is a special border, Georgia does not control anything, so they have to be more precise here and as well brcause of the Syria conflict. Do we look like Syrians, Thomas asked. Now it was my turn. I was asked several questions. He typed into his computer for about 20 minutes. Then he clearly explained the facts about our visa again so that there would be no misunderstandings. We apllied for an annual visa, we are allowed to enter and exit as often as we like, the number of entries is not limited. However, we are only allowed to be in the country for 90 days in a period of 180 days. Latest exit is after 180 days. If you would then enter again you have another 90 days stay within the next 180 days. Since we will cross the border 4 or 5 times, we had to choose this type of visa, other types of Visa only allow 2 entries. The procedure was finished one hour later, the whole thing was recorded by a camera in a corner of the room. The commissioner had photographed all our documents with his cell phone. He escorted us back to the car. Next step is the customs clearance. The form of the customs declaration, a A4 page filled out (be sure to print out the Internet and fill in beforehand, otherwise you will be in line twice) was done very quickly. Thats it, we made it. Another 100m to the border gate and we left thr border area, it was now after midnight, the whole procedure took over 5h. Oh yes, the car was only examined superficially, one or the other compartment was opened, duration 30 seconds. The dog was forgotten,. first thes said a vetenary should be consulted. But later it was forgotten. because in the meantime the shift oft he crew had changed.
The immigration card and customs certificate must be kept when you leave the country. It didn't cost anything. But ... nerves.
However, we have to emphasize, it was absolutely polite, helpful, but with a lot of waiting times.
We parked right next to the border in a parking lot and fell into bed, happy, but also totally exhausted, we fell straight to sleep.
When we started in the morning, we saw that there are a lot of parking spaces after the border, including sleeping, but directly beside the road.
Welcome to russia
Day 270, 20 April 2019 129,636 km
We are in Russia on the way Rostov-on-Don -Volgograd (Stalingrad) -Astrachan.
Around 9 a.m. we started happily because we had crossed the border, heading for Rostov-on-Don, here we come close to the Crimea , distance only about 150km. WE will continue to Volgograd (the former Stalingrad), and then on to Astrakhan, to enter Kazakhstan in a few days. In total, that's about 1800 km, a small tour through Russia.
The first tasks, as always, were to organize Russian rubles and russian SIM card to get us back online. The first attempts at the ATM failed. Everything is in Russian here, you just can't see what to do. We stopped a passerby and asked him to help, it turned out that the machine has no connection today. This man offeed me to come with me to a bank 5 minutes away. There I could change euros to rubles. For 500 € I got 35,000 rubles. One big problem less. When I asked my nice companion where I could get a SIM card, he showed me a shopping center, where I got the card with a 3-month contract, with no volume limit for € 7 per month. Since we will be in Russia most of the time and for a long time from now, that is a good thing. Now it was time to refuel, even if the tank was still half full. We were looking for a gas station with Eurodiesel. Refueling takes place in the following way, you stop at the gas station, pay as much petrol as you like to have, the pillar gets activated, the amount is preprogrammed, if you miscalcute the needed amount you get the money back. All tasks are done and now we are on the way to Rostov. The roads are in good conditions and the country is very flat, no mountains is this area. It actually looks like our home, everything is modern. You really only see a few old Ladas.
But what is really annoying us: We have already driven 200 km straight ahead and have now been stopped 7 times by the police to check our documents. Respectively. also visit of the motorhome. Jerry is totally annoyed because he gets a muzzle every time.
What we can say so far people are very helpful here, but the language issue it is really problematic.
The weather is getting better, it has finally stopped raining, we have 8 degrees again, it is getting a bit brighter outside.
The grocery stores make us happy immediately, there is real bread again, even dark bread, there is sausage, there were actually radishes. That such little things can make you that happy :-))
Day 271, April 21, 129.909 km getting off cheaply
The sun is shining ... finally !! By the way, today it was 20°C. Since we came along major road E50 through larger cities that actually looked like ours at home, almost same cars as we see at home, which means that everything here is as modern as in Europe and not like our russian picture we have in our minds. Thats why we actually decided to change the route and leave a main road and use instead small streets and have a look at the small old villages beside the road from here towards Volgograd. And here we found the original, the rustic. Flat green landscape alternated with small villages, very nice to see, no garbage, everything was very well maintained, tidy, nothing looked like ancient years. The small streets are also in great condition. It was actually a successful day. But there was this police control. Thomas has cut a curve (no oncoming traffic) and has touched the solid center line. If he hadn't done that, we would have had one hour less stress. The situation was recorded by a camera and at the next checkpoint, a few kilometers later, we were stopped and the fun began. First all papers were requested, the car examined and then Thomas was supposed to follow the police officer into the building. Here he was informed that he had driven a solid line and that in Russia it is an offense if the front or rear tire touches the line. Since the official only knew Russian, because of language problems he drawed the offense on a piece of paper. After that, the policeman wanted to write a protocol and explained Thomas that the driver's license would be withheld for 3-4 days and a fast food court would determine the punishment, only then would the driver's license be handed over again. He should get an interpreter. We could still hear that out. The policeman used the Google translator, but it only worked outside the building. Thomas pretended to be stupid and the conversation went around in circles for about 20 minutes. Finally Thomas asked "Am I now under arrest, am I send to jail now?" (he had to went out on the street and typed it into the Google translator and presented the translation to the policeman in the building), so he dramatized a bit from his side, the Police officer waved off and slowly stopped to insist. After about 1 hour we were allowed to continue without a penalty. However, we really had weak knees. It could have been a worse thing. Since several police officers were involved in the topic, we do not believe that they simply wanted money, but that this is really being rigorously pursued. Of course, from this point on we drove absolutely in order to speed limits or took care very much in the solid lines and observed the traffic again better and found that nobody was driving over a solid line to overtake.
Oh yes, Thomas asked the police officer in the beginning for a proof and it was delivered on the basis of a photo they have taken on the road.
We drove only a few kilometers and found a rest area and decided to stop for spending the night here, he control was a bit messy.
The sunset in the steppe nevertheless was amazing.
The population of this area look very different than before, they look very Mongolian / Asian-
Essentials about the catalog of fines in Russia
Although the fine catalog in Russia only predicts a small fine to exceed the speed limit, serious traffic violations can lead to a driving ban. However, the fines in Russia are rather low:
• Speeding up to 60 km/h: 8 euros
• Disregard of the mandatory lighting (highway and outside): up to 200 euros
• Crossing a solid line or even a double solid line: 45 euros
• Alcohol limit exceeded: Blood test or urine released from 0.4 per mille
• from 0.8 per mille: 60 - 140 euros. Attention! Try that you can pay a fine, because if there is a blood sample or urine test, your driver's license is gone
Monument to the armored battle for Kalmykia in Elista
every place has a monument at its entrance
Day 272, April 22, 2019 130,343 km
The weather is good, blue sky, sun, 20°C. We returned for about 20 km this morning to visit the city of Elista, which was really rewarding. The pictures below don´t need any explanation.
People look Asian here. Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia in the far southeast of european Russia. The Kalmyks are a Mongolian people who came and settled in the lower Volga region in the early 17th century. They are the only majority Buddhist people in Europe. And you can see that clearly in Elista. There are Buddhist temples, pagodas and Buddhas everywhere.
Buddhist sounds can be heard in the background. The city exudes something special.
It is the first time in our life that we came into contact with Buddhism so intensely and unexpectedly and it somehow makes us think positively.
We continued towards direction Volgograd / Stalingrad. The landscape remained flat, the road was good, we had a pleasant ride and took a lot of breaks. On the way from Elista to Volgograd, the Russia campaign of World War II took place over 70 years ago. Everywhere there are monuments, memories, tombstones that remind us of this terrible time when the Germans were in Russia. We reached Volgograd at around 4 p.m., driving a car here in the city (1 million inhabitants) was very tiring. We visit the "Mother of Russia" a huge statue that overlooks the city and the Pavlov House, a bombed house that still sustained as a memorial. Then we crossed the Volga, right on the left we had a great place in the sand dunes to stay for the night. Since it was still pleasantly warm, we sat in front of the car for a long time. The history of World War II is omnipresent because we were basically exactly where the battlefield used to be.
Planned for tomorrow: unfortunately weh ave to drive back all along this busy road out of the city, at afterwards along the Volga towards Astrakhan, to leave Russia tomorrow or the day after tomorrow and open a new door, means a new country: Kazakhstan. What we have seen from Russia so far: good roads, everything flat, long streets that always go straight, meadows, everything is green, people are very reserved, we are actually hardly noticed, but if you try to get in contac, it takes a moment but then they are very helpful. Linguistically, it is still a challenge and sometimes leads to misunderstandings, even when shopping in a supermarket, because you can't really read anything. The big cities look like in Germany, nothing is left behind, the villages are a so beautiful. We liked the 2000 km during our first part of Russia very much and we are curious after leaving Mongolia later and driving completely from east to west through the Russian territory.
Every second petrol station has Eurodiesel, the price is converted € 0.64/L, the price level for food is roughly 1/3 lower than in Germany.
So far we have not been able to drive faster than 90kmh on the streets, so 400 km often take a whole day. However, we often drove smaller roads, because we also want to see beuatiful villages and landscape and not just country roads.
Now there are still 300 km to the Kazakh border behind Astrakhon. The navigation system says 5 hourd remaing.
Either we're sleeping right in front of the border, or we're already breathing Kazakh air tonight.
Buddhist temple, Zolotaya Obitel´Buddy Skah´Yamini in Elista. It flashed is
the first time in my life that I touch or turn prayer wheels.
Another Buddhist landmark, the colorful flags hang everywhere and the faithful walk around the landmark and turn a prayer wheel
Pamyatnik - Pagoda of Seven Days, in the middle of the city of Elista. It has a fascinating effect on us, soft music is playing in the background.
Information sign to the museum. It is the only sign with the old name "Stalingrad" on it
Leftover from 1943. This building stands directly on the banks of the Volga and was contested for a long time. Now it is preserved as a memorial
the Pavlov House, remains of which have been preserved and also serve as a memorial. Named for the officer Pavlov, who tried to defend this house for a long time
the Mother of Russia is huge and towers over everything
Mother Russia, watches over Volgograd
On the Mamayev hill in Volgograd in southern Russia is a colossal statue, commemorating the victory of the Soviet armed forces in the great Patriotic war.
Our view of Volgograd / Волгоград / Stalingrad from our overnight stay on the Volga
Day 273, April 23, 2019 130,682 km
As already mentioned, we are heading towards Kazakhstan today. Despite speedy driving along the Volga, we arrived relatively late at the border, 90kmh is the speed limit on the roads, but somehow you can't get ahead. Today we only had one police check. And according to IOverlander, we will find an overnight stay 5 km before the border directly on the Volga, which we also headed for. The dirt road was getting sandy and the fishermen we wanted to stay had dogs, so if we had stayed we would have had a problem with Jerry. We decided to drive across the border today and spend the night directly behind it. We usually describe the border crossings detailled. But not necessary today, because you drive in, there is only one house, it is a very small, less frequented border, handing in a vehicle registration certificate, immigration card and passport. Takes 3-4 minutes, you get the papers back, a quick look in the car and you passed the border. Russian side a total of 10 minutes with a good mood and lots of laughter. More than friendly, laughing border guards. Actually we all had fun, it could be always that way.
The rest of the day you will find on the blog Kazakhstan - border crossing Kazakhstan
that's the way the Russian streets are (Kazakhs are coming soon). Steppe, you look around in every direction until horizon. It looks really comfortable here on the road and really green on the meadows, it will soon change in Kazakhstan, as we unfortunately discovered
shortly before the Russian border we had to cross a pontoon bridge. All cars and trucks above 4t must make a detour of 2x30 km upstream. The bridge fluctuated very badly, the plates move, you have to be very careful because there are also sharp-edged parts up between the plates.