I woke up and drove into Aktau arriving at the port around 10:00am. I had expected to wait here for up to a week waiting for a boat but I arrived to find that a boat was leaving that evening. Unfortunately, they had just sold out of passenger tickets. They could take my motorcycle across though so I decided to ship the bike and take a plane to Baku. At first this actually looked like a cheaper option but in the end I think it was about $50 more.
I spent most of that day running around the port collecting stamps from various unmarked offices. Afterwards I headed to the airport and caught a flight leaving at 01:30 the next day.
I arrived in Baku at 3:00 or so in the morning and after trying to stay up all night so I wouldn't have to pay for two nights in a hotel, I gave up and found a nice couch in the airport to sleep on.
In the day, I found a nice cheap hostel in the old city, took a nap, found the port and then wandered around the city for a while. Its a really beautiful place and Azerbaijan has now become my second choice after Turkey for assignment if I'm accepted into the foreign service.
I picked up my motorcycle from the port at 6:30am and found that I had to spend a bunch more money on two tickets (one from the port and one from some ticket guy) and "safe keeping" bribes to the crew of the ship. I should have just driven off after getting my customs papers...
Azerbaijan is a beautiful country. I started off in hot arid hills. Then I reached the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains where I saw large forests for the first time in a long time. I followed the northern road along the Caucasus through Shamakhi, Sheki to the border crossing at Balakan. I had expected to arrive too late to cross that day but they were still open when I arrived in the late afternoon so I crossed into Georgia. Azerbaijan took me one day to drive across. This was way to fast. I needed to slow down or I would arrive in Istanbul too early.
I found a camp site behind some trees in a field just outside of Lagodekhi and thought about how I could extend my trip. I like driving until dusk and can't seem to make myself quit early if the plan is to camp. Turkey will be expensive and while I'm ahead of schedule I'm exactly on budget and traveling for longer will put me behind. So I decided if I can't do fewer kilometers in a day, I'll just have to pick rougher longer routes and camp pretty much every night. (except tonight...)