Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Karabakh

(This blog entry and the earlier Baku continued entry will be posted after the event . .so be sure to read them in sequence so they make sense - even though they are published the wrong way round I think)
. . . .
A passengers log of the journey across the caspian sea. . .
Wednesday 15th 16:00
On board the Azerbaijan registered Karabakh. . Taken onto the bridge I meet the captain. And crew. . A happy go lucky bunch it seems.
4 cyclists also come on board. 2 English, John and Jen heading for musical enlightenment in Indonesia and Marco (Italian) and Tifan (French) heading for adventure on the Pamir highway. By chance, the latter two I had asked if they knew where the ticket office was when our paths crossed earlier in the day as we all played the game of find Vika and her mobile ticket office. They too had been given the "opportunity" to travel to the port of Alat to catch the boat, but their journey necessitated a taxi ride with bicycles in the vehicle.
Late in the evening. . I'm now sharing my less than luxurious cabin with an Azerbaijani lorry driver.
We departed somewhere after 23:30. Hard to say when exactly, as the days efforts caught up with me and I woke in the night with the engines throbbing through the ship. Even with ear plugs in it would be impossible not to feel them, but my internal motion sensors told me we appeared to be stationary.
Thursday 16th 07:30
I woke on Thursday morning to find I was partly mistaken.  We were indeed stationary, but far out to sea. Strangely the Karabakh seems to shrug off the movement of the waves sitting motionless at anchor, the wind and water unable to disturb it's bulk. With the trains on board it seems there is enough weight to steady it's movement.
The Azerbaijani driver was up and gone before I woke and I saw him at breakfast where he welcomed me with a smile, a "Salam" and the offer of seat at the table. We broke our fast sat with the 4 cyclists and a shared pot of coffee. 
We appear to not be in any rush to make progress today. So sitting in the "lounge" listening to the unfamiliar daily routine of a working ship I pass the time with a book and some music. There's only so much sea you can look at. One wave is not much different from any other after a while. A steady wind keeps the air fresh and it's time to relax as much as possible and wait.
Food it seems is available on this vessel and the jolly cook is more than happy to oblige with vegetable soup and pasta dishes. A small table for we few passengers  and regular meal times provides a time to chat and share in the experience of the journey.
Thursday 16th 16:00
We had been stationary since I woke. The crew spent the day hosing the ship down and in the process giving my bike a wash under the runoff from the deck. I hope a salt water shower doesn't cause it any problems as by the time I realised, it was already as wet as it was going to get.
I can only guess we will make further headway later today and presume we will stop in Baku perhaps to pick up further cargo. I don't understand any other reason we might be waiting off shore except for a berth to come available. Hard to judge distance but land is on the port side horizon and in seven hours I doubt we got much further than the 70km back to Baku.
Thursday 16th 18:30
The engines have been run up to speed, their huge torque making the ship shudder as the levitation awakes. Maybe we will progress again today?
Or not. . At 19:00 all is quiet again. Engine trouble? Or just the Azerbaijani way?
After an evening meal of vegetable soup and a strangely tasty mushroom and meat dish there is time to watch the sunset over the caspian, which sounds much more romantic than it actually is over this dirty bit of salt water. There is not much more to do but retire to my cabin and read some more.
Thursday 16th 22:30
It seems we have spent the day sheltering in the lea of a spit of land east of Baku from a strong northerly wind. It remains to be seen when we actually make a run for it across to Aktau.
Friday 17th 07:40
Woken to the rumble of diesel engines and the anchor chain clanking the lump of metal at its end up from the seabed. Looks like we will be underway today. A cooler cloudy morning. I was awake a few times in the night and a single pesky mosquito buzzed around my ear for a while. . It won't be feeding on anyone's blood again.
The luxury toilet is blocked and the less than pleasant bathroom is even less appealing this morning. My lorry driver shipmate seems to be sleeping in his truck which is probably more comfortable.. So its time to face the day and watch the waves pass by as we cruise north east.
Friday 17th 10:00
Well under way.  Under cloudy skies with a little rain and a brisk wind. The green Caspian making a valiant attempt to look more like the north sea than the exotic eastern waters of travellers imaginations. The Karabakh still failing to be troubled by the rolling waves as it ploughs it's course.
I missed breakfast this morning by choice. A glug of fruit juice and a chocolate croissant from my own supplies was enough to start the day. With no physical exertion on my part my appetite has lessened. There will be food later in the day if I'm hungry.
Friday 17th 13:00
Lunch was a thin soup with barley and vegetables followed by chicken wings with potato and peppers.
I must be getting bored! I'm reporting on the menu!  The Caspian has turned to a deeper blue and the ship now has more of a battle at its prow to part the rolling swell as we cross the widest part of the voyage to Aktau. The Karabakh seems to have come to some agreement with physics that a ship should at least ride the waves and appears to have begrudgingly admitted some leeway to nature.
Friday 17th 18:30
I passed the afternoon chatting with Marco as he explained his understanding of quantum physics, we lightheartedly discussed the belief in cosmic ordering and the expanded conscience enriched with the benefit of travel.
After which I returned to my less substantial reading.
Having walked both decks available several times there is nothing much more to do other than return to my book. Listen to a little music and dress for dinner. . Or maybe just turn up in the same jeans and Tshirt again. Evening entertainment, a cabaret, a cocktail bar, the on board shopping. All of these are not available on board the good ship Karabakh. But as she toils across the now grey waters we are heading to my next destination.
I think we should be there by Saturday and hopefully there will be little delay in getting into port. If that works out I still have just over two weeks to cross Kazakhstan to get to the Russian border. . But here I go thinking too far ahead again.
Saturday 18th 07:30
Woke after a good nights sleep to calm waters. The Karabakh it seems won it's battle with the waves. Checking the gps on my phone, we appear to be just off the coast of kazakhstan. I guess we'll arrive in Aktau later this morning, assuming there is a berth available
Saturday 18th 13:00
We have been anchored off the coast of kazakhstan for just over an hour now.  Aktau is off the starboard side, tantalisingly close and yet so far. . We are waiting for the port authority to give clearance to enter. I read a lot of accounts of travellers waiting for days for that to happen. I hope I don't have to report something similar!
Saturday 18th 16:00
In port . . Confined to cabin please
19:00
Customs, immigration and military on board. Passport returned.
But still not been allowed to disembark
20:00 please board bus to passport control. . Didn't you just come on board to do that? . . Long story abbreviated got across the border at 22:00 ride to Aktau. . First hotel . .Thanks. . 6000tenge don't care. . Thanks .  .need a shower
Dry land . . Kazakhstan . Will update on next entry . . Too much today. . Badly badly badly badly need a shower . . And a sleep

1 comment:

Jo Biggin said...

No more holidays!. ... sounds like the adventure has begun

not jealous much :-)

stay safe keep enjoy the good and the bad

xx