Day 26 Ferry customs

25 Jun

Day 26 Ferry customs, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

We spend another day waiting on the ferry. Running out of food, running out of water. Running out of patience. Why is nothing happening? Finally at 6 the engines start, anchors are pulled in, and we head for port. At about 1mph. It takes forever to dock, even slower than the baku end, which would have seemed impossible 2 days ago. Then we’re called to an upper deck room where a russian in a nurses uniform copies passport details and makes us sign. No idea why. We go to the cargo deck and unstrap the bikes, dwarfed by the freight rail carriages. Suddenly there seems to be a dozen other passengers on the boat that we never saw before, all sitting calmly waiting. Two uniformed guards patrol the ramp, ensuring noone disembarks. They are about 12 years old, armed with hip flasks. Reminds me of the guard at baku, wearing camouflage gear and school shoes, with a sniffer dog that couldn’t jump up onto a lorry trailer. We stand around for an hour while nothing happens. It’s 9ish but still so hot, mossies everywhere. Eventually, a gesture to leave. We fire up the bikes and enjoy about 3 seconds riding before being directed to stop near the customs house. We don’t notice that our parking spot is the wrong side of the rail tracks. I can’t possibly describe the next 3 hours of customs procedures, i’ll fill it in later. Enough to say that it involves about 14 pieces of paper, the world’s slowest writer who makes me want to slap his hand away and fill in the form for him, a form with a map showing our permitted route from which we must not deviate, another pathetic attempt to extract a bribe, which we ignore long enough for it to go away, visits to 7 different booths for stamps, about 20 signatures, and a $110 payment. Without our local guide, Maksat, being on hand, we would be lost. After the most agonisingly slow process, we are told to retrieve our bikes for customs inspection and then we will be able to leave. Relieved, we head out to the bikes, only to find our way blocked by the train loading up the next ferry. The engine is running full tilt, but the wheels are just spinning, sparks flying, it can’t push the wagons up the ramp. It takes forever, and the first half chance we get, we dash across the tracks, fire up the bikes and race across, before the train can come back. A quick customs inspection and we’re free, out into turkmenistan at about half past midnight, three days and two nights after arriving at baku ferry port. We make it to the hotel at 1 in the morning. It’s a bizarre tower in the desert, but it looks quite posh. We’re are so dehydrated, tired and dirty that it looks like heaven. First action is to take a shower, but there’s no water from the taps. I call reception. Sorry, no water between 1pm and 6am. So, to bed, still tired and dirty. What a day.