Sunday, June 2, 2013

Azerbaijan and the Baku to Aktau Ferry to Western Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

May 1. 585 km. Tbilisi Georgia to Baku Azerbaijan.

I started the day waking up at 7:00 in the morning I had a quick breakfast of leftovers from the feast we had the night before. I also had some Kona coffee my sister sent from her coffee farm. A real treat. By 8:30 I was on the road and by 11:15 I was at the border crossing betweek Georgia and Azerbaijan. There was a long line of cars but people waved me to the front. About 45 minutes and 30 GEL ($20) later, I was heading into Azerbaijan.

The traffic in Az is just like Georgia. People driving fast and passing whenever they feel they can. "Feel they can" means they think the oncoming traffic will move over for them. I had to ride dirt on the shoulder many times because of this. My plan was to get to the Uzbek embassy by close so I could give them my passport for Visa. After the first time getting pulled over by the Az police, I soon realized that my bike was a magnet. In Azerbaijan, if you drive the speed limit, you will be passed by EVERYTHING. So it seems safer to go with the flow of traffic. This is fine if you have Az plates on your car or bike. The police let you go by. If you are American on a 3 day transit visa, they will F##k with you. You can't rely on traffic to slow down, and I think half the speed sings are missing. The speed also changes about once ever km. The speed cameras will take a picture of you and you will get pulled over at the next checkpoint. It was very ironic when one of the photos had a BMW 5 feet off my rear tire with AZ plates. I kept pointing at that car saying "where is he? Why didn't you pull him over? " Each time I got pulled over they demanded 500 euro so I would sit and argue with them. I ended up paying about $600 in bribes to keep going. This happened to be all my emergency money. F##kers. I snapped a few candid pictures when I first got pulled over but one of the police saw me and made me delete them. They also wanted to rev my bike. I thought why not, it might help them to let me go. They rev it 2 time soft the hold it wide open and bounce it off the rev limiter. This happened with a gas station employee and a border guard also. Not sure what is wrong with them but I had to hit their hand off the throttle.

The fun didn't stop there. When it was just getting dark, about 100 km from Baku, my bike died and I coasted to a halt. The FI light was flashing. 3 long, 7 short. "Ignition Coil Fault". Turns out my low voltage + wire broke and this was the problem. I watched the sun set, ate a melted white Kit Kat bar and tore the bike apart by headlamp light on the side of the highway. 45 minutes later she was purring and back together. I got to Baku around 10:30 at night and finally found a hotel with a garage around 11:00. The hotel only cost $160/night.

Baku is like a mini Dubai. Lots of lights and crazy architect. The first thing I notice were 3 buildings with thousands of lights that play animations. The "flame towers" sometimes have fire but when I first saw them, they had a guy waving a flag. Next I went through a tunnel that had colored lights that were changing as I went through. I thought I had eaten some crazy mushrooms when I ate a kababi a few hours earlier. I found the hotel and went to bed.

The next few days I tried to get a ticket for the ferry to Aktau. I met some guys from the Baku Bicycle Club and they helped me out a lot with the language barrier dealing when with the Baku Port people.

Tired Noah

This guy told me a poem, tried to give me flowers... then asked for money. 

I need one of these little guys. 

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

This is oil floating on the water :/
4 guys on Ensfields. They bought them in Nepal and rode to the Netherlands. Now they are on their way back. 

Notice the clogs. 
This is how to get on the Baku Ferry to Aktau.
First, you need to fill your empty tank of patience. Forget all the shit you went through with police and traffic trying to get to Baku. Take a deep breath. Ok now you are ready to start.

There are 2 ports in Baku, the “new port” and the “old port”. The ferry to Aktau can leave from either. There is no schedule. The ferry will leave when it is full of transport. If it is a rail ferry, you will not be able to go on it if there are petroleum cars or chemical cars. No passengers will. I am not sure about the ferry to Turkmenbashi and how to buy a ticket.
The link to Baku Port
(It won't be much help)

You need to find the lady named Vika. She is Russian looking in her 30s. Sandy blond/brown hair. Speaks some English and she is the ONLY person who can sell you a ticket. There are 2 ticket offices and its a crap shoot where she will be. Email me and I will send you her number. The old port ticket office is located near the Boulevard area of Baku. After you enter the main road from the Boulevard, you will drive between a wall on the right and a building on the left. You will cross railroad tracks and see a gate. The first building on the right after the gate is the ticket office. The door with moto stickers on it is the one you want.

Coordinates 40.376178277, 49.8650832704 (Old Port Entrance from Boulevard)
Coordinates 40.3744878209, 49.865611321 (Ticket office)

The ticket office is on the right just after the gate. 

The New Port (RoRo Port) is about 8 km east.
Coordinates 40.3691628766, 49.9352689035 (Ro Ro Port Entrence)
Coordinates 40.3628328103, 49.9344234767 (New port ticket office)

"New Port" ticket office.  Left door is tickets. Middle is Customs. Right is Police. 
The ticket office is the white building on the right side of the gate. There are 3 doors on the west wall. Left door is Ticket, middle door is passport control, right door is police/customs. Call Vika every morning at 10:00 and ask if a ferry is leaving. She will probably say call back around 2 or no, there isn't one. When you call back around 2, the ferry will probably have chemical rail cars in which case you can't go. So you wait till the next day and call again.

Customs office.
When your 3 day transit import for your vehicle is up, you need to leave you vehicle or car at the customs office. Theoretically it is a “secure place” I had no problem with my motorcycle being messed with. I removed all luggage and locked my spare tires to the frame. You don't need to pay any money when you put your bike into custom. You will be able to remove your bike from customs when you have a ticket to the boat. They will let you ride to the new port if that is where the ship is leaving from. You should not have to pay any money to customs when you are leaving. You can leave your vehicle at customs in the new port also I think. But it will not be in a gated area.
Coordinates 40.3719194538, 49.865193405 (Customs office)

On the Ferry From Baku to Aktau. May 7.
I called Vika at 10:00 on the 7th. She said meet her at the old port at 11:00. I met a couple from Switzerland in a Landrover taking the same boat and we all went to the new port to get tickets. $200 later and I have a ticket to Aktau. Taxi back to the hotel to get the bags, Taxi to old port to get the moto loaded up. Ride back to new port to wait for ferry. Around 3:00 I was waiting with the Swiss couple. Document control while we were waiting and around 7:00 pm we were able to load the boat. The sun was setting before the boat left port. Soon after I fell asleep

Waiting to load the boat with my Swiss friends. 

My room mates. 

Sunset. Still at the port. 
May 8.
Woke up in the morning in checked the GPS. We had traveled a whole 25km from Baku. That's twenty five. Not 250. 25. We weren't moving and when we finally started again, we were going about 19km/h. It would take another 26 hours to reach Aktau. I spend the day trying to communicate in Russian, talking with the Swiss couple, editing some video and watching some Futurama on the computer. The sunset that night was amazing.

Hand drawn warning signs.


Sun setting over the Caspian sea. 

$4 for the meal. $2.50 for the beer.  

May 9.
We woke up around 7:00 in morning with Kazakhstan in view off the right side. By 9:00 we were in port and by 11:00 we got to leave the boat. About 6 hours later we were through customs and I was on my way. The image below lists the details.

Later that night after about 204km it was getting dark as I was entering the town of Shetpe. Entering the town there was a modern petrol station that I passed up to fuel on the other side of town. I found an ATM and got some money. The petrol station leaving town didn't have an attendant so I rode across the street to a restaurant/bar. There were about 6 guys sitting and standing around a bbq. I started talking to 2 of them. I didn't even have a chance to take my helmet off when I hear glass break and I get hit with whiskey. They guy who threw his whiskey at me ran up an kicked my side with the bottom of his foot knocking my motorcycle over. I stepped off my bike as it fell onto the left side and he ran around to try and kick me again. He tried to kick my leg with the top of his foot and got the buckles of my boot which I bet felt good. My helmet still on and fists clenched I started yelling at him and got very big. The other 5 guys held him back and helped me pick my moto up. I have no idea why he was so mad but he definitely was drunk. A this point I went back to the modern station and fueled up and got the FOOK out of town. I went about 30km and then 5 or 6 km out into the dark. I camped by the bike and kept opening my eyes whenever I heard a sound. It turned out I was about 1 km from railroad tracks on the other side of a hill so 4 or 5 times I heard a train thinking it was a car coming. The start were beautiful. There were no lights visible and no moon. I was glad when the birds woke me up at first light.

She insisted she sign Kazakh. 

The moto draws a crowd. 
May 9 Into Uzbekistan.
I was packed up and on the road by 7:30 in the morning. The road from Shetpe to Beyneu is total shit. It is about 310km of 2nd 3rd and 4th gear stand up riding. Many times I thought I would have bent rims but the Dirstars are strong. I stopped at the only food place I saw for a breakfast of eggs, sausage and bread (sounds like Yetso, kilbasa y hleb in russian). The sign also said they had fuel but I didn't check. Hit empty on my stock tank 12L and RallyRaid tanks 10L about 40km from Beyneu. I still had 5L in my 4th tank along with 2L in plastic bottles. I found a petrol station in Beyneu and topped off. Shashlik, cucumber salad and coke has become a staple of my diet. About 3:30 I was 20km from the border and got a flat in the rear. It looked like I picked up an office staple somewhere. Back on the road after a patch. At the border soon and I was standing in line in Kazakh customs just before 5. The sun was going down when I finally got through. Both Kazakh and Uzbek customs put me at the front of the line to get me through. The Uzbek form to temp import your bike is only in Russian so save the paperwork from the Kazakh customs. You can figure out info from the Kazakh paperwork to put on the Uzbek sheet. I rode about 50 km away from the border and found a place in the desert to camp. After a dinner of Asian noodles, crackers and sardines I went to bed. And slept amazing.

Glad to see the sun come up. 

Carrying some extra wieght in the rim. 


Time to change a flat in the heat

Hard to believe that little tiny thing gave me a flat (center of screen on lug)

Looking back at the border crossing.

Camping in the desert. (don't tell the Uzbek authorities)


  1. oh noah! so awesome! glad you are traveling the world ! thanks for sharing all your epic pics. It's been amazing to read about all of it. Yay!

  2. Wow!! great to read sounds like you may be currently traveling through the lower colon of the planet.

    1. Its not all bad... at least its not boring. I will try to update Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan soon. The Pamir Highway was quite amazing.

  3. Hi I am flying a light aircraft across uzbekistan and will need to call to petrol stations along the way. How easy going are the Uzbekistan authorities re casual camping and how easy is it to get fuel?


  4. Fuel in uzbek is goat piss. 80 octane at the best. Most petrol stations don't have fuel so you have to buy it from a kid out of a milk jug. The authorities in western uzbek don't care much.. but you are supposed to be registered in a hotel every night you are in the country.

  5. A great and very detailed account of a daring trip. Thanks, Noah. I found in google.maps every point and city you mentioned. It made me feel like I was on the trip myself. I usually travel by bus and train and am trying to figure out how to reach Baku from Thailand, where I live, by land. So the information you provided has been most helpful.