Saturday, August 19, 2006

How to eat Mexican food in Azerbaijan!

So now with Azerbaijan (I can still spell it) over a week behind us it's time to blog some of the events that happened there. Though being stuck in Beku for 10 days was extremely frustrating a LOT of good things came out of it. We met some extraordinary people in Beku and had some great times. As is well known we setup camp at the port customs lot and pretty much came and went as we pleased. Hatched many plans and even discussed what our chances were of navigating the Caspian if we commandeered a ferry.

This photo is from our group as we boarded our ship to Kazakhstan. By this point Simon and Dan had already left us as we discovered the day before that they in fact had VISA's for Turkministan the entire time. Woops. Pictured here are Tommy (125cc Motorcycle), Rambo (Suzuki SJ), Henry (Citron 2CV), Oliver (Rover Metro), Alex (Lada), Jamie (Suzuki SJ), Drew (Rover Metro), Hugh (Rover Metro), Cyrus (Lada), Theo (Lada), Elenor (2CV), and Bart (Bicycle)

So on one of the more frustrating days we had to go get our VISA's renewed since we had stayed long enough so Alex, Theo, Tommy and I wondered around town until we found the Ministry of Security (I think) and stood in line to get VISA's. While there we ran into the Pandit family bringing the count to six stranded Americans with expired passports. They had actually been in the process of boarding their plan when they were told their VISA's had expired the day before and they couldn't leave until they were extended.

The next day I got a text message from them inviting us to Mexican food for dinner. Me and Theo jumped on that invite. Well ok it actually took us almost two hours to get there but that was super fast in Azerbaijanian time. On the way over Theo asked how they were cooking Mexican food without a kitchen so when we showed up at their hotel we laughed because they had taken over the hotels kitchen to make Mexican food. When we arrived the food was almost ready and the staff at the hotel was extremely curios and seemed to have never seen Mexican food before. All told there were nine of us eating and everyone helped show the locals how to make Taco's. My favorite part of the meal though had to be when they grabbed some flat bread to put on the table since you simply cannot eat a meal in Beku without flat bread.
Pictured here is Neelima, Theo, Salil, Cyrus, and Anjuli. In the background is the hotel Concierge who was pretty cool and helped out with everything we needed and mastered Mexican food after just a few taco's. Well I'm being liberal with the term mastered. Due to my crappy memory I can't remember his name right now but I'm sure Salil will remind me. Neelima lives in Kazakhstan with her husband who was working and couldn't make the trip but Salil and Anjuli are going to college in the US. They also gave us lots of advice for navigating Kazakhstan and told us some great stories about both the current and past trips they had been on. This is one well traveled family, they got me beat hands down and I'm up to 30 something countries.

The next day we all "dressed" up and put in an appearence at the office of the folks who owned the ferries. They were more interested in figuring out how we managed to find them than actually talking to us and told us point blank that it wasn't financially viable to send a ferry to Kazakhstan right now so we would be stuck for at least another week. The person on the right is Simon. He was a local expat working for the AFP as a field journalist and tried to help us broker a deal with the ferry owners. But at the end of the day we knew we had failed.

Later that day the Pandit family invited all of us to go to a local restaurant called Chanek Kala so we showed up in four cabs and sat down to a table of 16. The place was this absolutely amazing outdoor restaurant that could literally seat 200 easily. It had a giant dancing area with load music. I of course left my camera at home (Customs lot) but hopefully we'll get pictures of it soon and I'll edit this blog. We had just gotten news that Simon and Dan had VISA's and would be leaving the next day so we celebrated their good fortune. Maybe a bit in excess. By the end of the night I was sure that the Pandit family would never talk to us again and that we were on a permanent ban list at Chanek Kala but it was a great evening. Food for 16, 25ish bottles of beer & 7 large bottles of Vodka put the total bill at $208. The place was amazing. We had all assumed we were in for $30 - $40 each by the time the meal was over.

I texted Neelima the next day and apologized for how rowdy we got and she told me not to worry. That was quite a releaf. We then got a call from the Ferry Management office telling us they were sending a ferry for us the next day so we were in high spirits. We still don't know why the ferry came but we all doubt it was actually because of us. Unless you include the MASSIVE disturbence we made when we returned from Chanek Kala in the wee hours of the morning... So went back to Chanek Kala that night expecting to get turned away but instead they immidiatly seated us and started bringing Vodka which we turned away as we'd given our boddies enough abuse for the day.

Fantastic Story!!! Wish I could have been there. Tacos in Azerbaijan! I'll bet the ferry did come for you...
hey guys,
sounds like you are having an awesome time all over the world!! good luck completing your trip...rick
you went back?
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