Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Caucasus 2018


It has been a long day.  I woke this morning at 4:00am in Astana, which is 2:00am in Baku (Azerbaijan) where I have finished the day.  It is almost 11:00pm as I start to write today’s diary, which fortunately (given the late hour and overwhelming tiredness) will be a fairly short description.

The first part of the day comprised my flights from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan – two flights in fact, being Astana to Almaty with a connection to Baku.  The good news is that my missing luggage that had been lost since 15th August when I arrived in Osh (Kyrgyzstan) was at Baku Airport waiting for me as the airline had promised.  The bad news is that Di, who was in transit in Doha on her way from Australia to join me, had lost her passport.  Fast forward through about a hundred text messages – her passport has not been found and she is, as I type this, on a flight back to Australia to get a replacement passport.  It seems most unlikely that she will be able to get a replacement passport and make travel arrangements in time join me on the trip through the Caucasus, something that that we had been planning for almost a full year.  To say we are both upset and disappointed would be an understatement.

The transport that was supposed to take me from the airport to my hotel in Baku was missing, but several more text messages and a phone call revealed that the car had been delayed by heavy traffic.  An hour later, the driver arrived and I was on my way to my hotel, the Shah Palace Hotel, which is located in the pedestrian precinct of Baku’s Old City.

After checking in, I decided to go for a walk around the city, not least to get some exercise after sitting in aircraft for much of the day.  It was immediately apparent that Baku is a beautiful, clean, elegant city with a mix of grand buildings from the oil boom of 1870 to 1920 and ultra-modern buildings, many of which are once again being financed by oil.  At the beginning of the 20th century, Azerbaijan was the world’s leading oil producer, and oil and gas continue to provide the backbone of the country’s economy.  Looking at the plethora of high-end brand-name stores and the expensive cars on the road, it seems that the Azerbaijani economy is doing very well indeed these days.

My travels through the Caucasus are part of a group organised by Advantour.  I don’t really like group tours, but in this part of the world it seemed the best way to ensure an affordable trip with as few problems as possible.  Our group of 15 people (it should have been 16 with Di’s presence) met at 6:30pm, and then went out to the Shah Restaurant for a dinner of traditional Azerbaijani food with some impromptu dancing by staff as a bonus.  It was an enjoyable start to the trip, although a late night as the bus seemed delayed (by traffic again?) and we were waiting almost an hour for it to arrive to return us to the hotel.

The trip starts in earnest tomorrow, and hopefully a good rest will have me ready to study this city of Baku that has already impressed me in the few hours I have been here.

Day 1



3 September 2018