We arrived in Nukus with enough time to take a long lunch, visit the famous art museum of the city and, after an early and also long dinner, head towards the station. We were already there at 9pm and the train did not leave until 4am, so we had plenty of time to get ready for the almost 30 hours of travel. I went to have a haircut. A haircut in a lost city of Uzbekistan at around 10pm is an experience that leaves you with a very pleasant sensation of freshness although the aesthetic results are not the desired ones. I went back to the dark and quiet station after buying some food for the trip. When I was enjoying checking one more time our train on the screen he came out of the shadows. He asked me if I was going to Aktau. I asked him if he was going to take the boat to Baku. After two “yes” and some laughs, more laughter when we found out that our accommodation in Aktau was going to be in the same place. I introduced my new Japanese friend to my already great friends Sue and Janet. Masa is a guy who is instantly loved, smiling, polite and always willing to help. At about 2am they let us hop on the train. As I have already mentioned, about 30 hours later, border crossing included, we arrived at Aktau. I introduce to you Sue, Janet, Masa and our friend the train “Nukus-Aktau”;)
We stayed 5 nights in Aktau. Janet left us soon and crossed to Baku by plane. Each day new travelers came to the hostel who wanted to cross to Baku, by air or by sea. Most were very young Japanese so the atmosphere could not be better. The day consisted of taking a walk to the sales office of one of the shipping companies that crosses the Caspian. It’s hard to get a ticket. There are no fixed schedules, the boats leave when they are full and when the weather conditions allow it. So every day Sue, Masa and I took a walk of about 40 minutes to try to communicate through Google Translator with the lady of the shipping company and then have a coffee and go for a walk. Then return to the hostel, check on the internet the location of our most likely boat and exchange information with other travelers.
Finally one day Masa and I got some SIM cards. I called a guy who had an agency that got tickets from the port of Kuryk, about 75km south of Aktau. Since we were about 11 people, he promised us that one of his employees would come to our hostel that night to sell us the tickets because a boat would be leaving the next day. At around 10pm he arrived in his car. Another great moment of the trip: the joy of my Japanese friends while they were buying their ticket and holding Masa and Sue. Mission accomplished 🙂
The name of the boat was Professor Gul. Such a teaching name looks very good to me. After going through the customs of Kazakhstan we were able to board. Distribution of cabins and wait for 3 hours until the boat was full. Finally the boat moved. You can imagine the special moment. Everyone happily walking on the deck chatting, taking pictures, thinking … Great memory 🙂
My dear Japanese friends and I enjoyed a lot together. Instead of George they always called me Jyo-ji San. Adding San at the end of a name is a form of affection and respect. I also started calling Masa San that way. My new friend is an artist of photography and a poet. He liked it when I told him that on this trip the sunsets were very special for me because behind that sun it was my home. So he gave me that picture without me noticing so I had a nice memory. Crossing the Caspian meant the beginning of the end of my trip. After that, everything was going to be easier. Arigatou gozaimasu Masa San 🙂
After around 32 hours of crossing we arrived in Baku, where I only stayed two nights. I really wanted to get to Georgia and travel again by train. I said goodbye to Masa San, Sue and Janet and left with the rest of Japanese friends to Tbilisi on a night train. Georgia is a beautiful country full of mountains but I decided to leave it for later and visit Armenia first.
Armenia. I would like to be able to explain what Armenia was like. The landscape is hard, its history too. In a way, getting to Armenia was like coming back home. After more than 17,000km of beautiful Chinese characters, deserts, Buddhist temples, mosques and huge mountains, it was pleasant to sit in a monastery, still so far from home, and feel the crackling of candles among all that familiar iconography. The monasteries, yes, and Mount Ararat, today in Turkey, and the genocide of 1915, and the history of Greater Armenia. And the duduk. Always the duduk, with that wonderful sound for a trip, for any trip, but specially for a trip that you make on your own. Armenia. I will be back…
I returned to Georgia by bus. After a lonely and melancholy night in Tbilisi I went to Kazbegi, where I met up with my beloved Masa San, and from there we decided to travel the country together. We returned to Tbilisi and from there we took a van that took us to the village of Mestia in a hard 12-hours trip. There we made several hikings and visited Ushguli, which if you consider Georgia as Europe, is the highest European population, at 2100m.
And after all those hikings we went back to Tbilisi and said goodbye. Masa headed to Armenia and I tried to search some kind of transport that would take me to Kars, in Turkey, to get to Istanbul. I’ll tell you soon about it from Zaragoza, which will be the last post of this trip. Because now I can say that, if nothing unusual happens, I will be able to finish my trip, Hong Kong-Zaragoza. Greetings from Slovenia 😉