Today I expected that I would reach Salyan, where I would find accommodation, have my first shower in four days, wash my riding clothes and rest under a roof in a comfortable bed. I even begun to think I might have a day off the bike. I reached Salyan and found accommodation, but that’s as close as my expectations came to becoming reality. On riding into town, I had already thought about how much I thought a hotel in this country might charge. I had come to the conclusion it would be around 15m (AU$12). I was quite pleased to hear, then, that a room at the only hotel in town was 14m. My pleasure turned to shock, however, when I realised I had misheard the hotelier and a room was in fact 40m. I couldn’t hide my disappointment. The guy asked how much I expected it to cost and I said I didn’t know because this is the first hotel I have been in, as ­­I normally sleep in a tent. He laughed at me and basically said, ‘Well, this is the price of an Azerbaijani hotel’. Fair enough. I said I’d probably be back.

I didn’t really have a plan as I rode away. As I rode through town I stopped each time someone greeted me with some English words. I knew that they would ask me what I’m doing, to which I would answer that I’m trying to find a place to sleep, but the hotel is too expensive. My vague hope was that someone would offer a solution. No solution appeared so I knew I had to make a decision. Either return to the hotel, or ride out of town and find a place to camp while it gets dark. I chose the latter. I stopped off at a shop to get some supplies, then rode south out of town. Fortunately, I only had to ride a few kilometres before an opportunity to escape from the main road appeared. I left the main road on a walking trail, which led me to a dirt road running parallel to the main road. It soon turned and took me away from the main road and behind a tall stand of trees. To one side of the track was a field with a crop. To the other was a thick wall of trees. I spotted a small break in the trees and ventured through it. It led me to a small grassy area. It looked to be the perfect campsite, except for the fact that I had to sneak onto someone’s property to find it. It soon became far from perfect, for as soon as I stopped moving, I was attacked by mosquitoes. I felt I had no choice but to just get on with what needed doing, which was put up with the mosquitoes and make camp. I set up my tent in record time, threw everything inside, then dove in myself, zipping myself in before too many mosquitoes followed. I sat for a few minutes to gather myself and cool down a little. I felt disgusting. I was soaked to the skin in sweat and it was a while before it stopped pouring out of me, and my feet and lower legs were black with sweat and dirt. I knew I couldn’t relax until I was a little bit clean. I braved the mosquitoes for a few minutes as I gave my face and legs a wipe down outside, using a bowl (dinner pot) of water and my body wash cloth. Back in the tent, I went against the warnings written on the tent’s tag, and set up my stove inside. I worked carefully and managed not to make a mess or burn anything. The dinner was absolutely delicious – two packets of noodles (with the sachets of goodies), cooked with two tomatoes, can of corn, capsicum and a tin of tuna in tomato sauce. I also managed to do the dishes inside the tent. I re-entered the danger zone one last time to go to the toilet and brush my teeth. Back inside, I have just finished washing the rest of myself, readying for bed. I still feel pretty gross though and my riding clothes are nasty. I’m fairly close to a major river so tomorrow I will try and get to its edge and have a proper wash and maybe even do some clothes washing. It’s well and truly dark now, so I’m pretty sure I’m safe for the night.

The rest of the day wasn’t the most enjoyable, mostly because I’m exhausted and the roads were in terrible condition. I got lost a little around Sirvan, but this meant I enjoyed a nice ride right along the river’s edge for a while before picking up a proper road. I was then able to choose between continuing along the rough dirt road that ran close by the river (slow going but nice views), or the bituminised main road that ran parallet to the river (faster riding, but also very rough as at least half of the bitumen had disintegrated, and with no pleasant views). I alternated between the two, all the time wondering if I should just find a more major road that would offer a smoother ride. I thought my map was telling me there was a major road nearby; however, I eventually realised that the broken ‘bituminised road’ I was on was indeed the area’s major road.

At a major turn off I stopped in a little shop where a boy tried to charge me three times as much as the standard price for a water and a cool drink. A man looking on told him to give me the correct change. A crowd watched my every move as I pulled out my camping stool in a piece of shade of slowly drank my purchases. Just as I was readying myself to leave, one of the spectators bought me another cold water as a gift. Several hours later when I needed another break from the overbearing heat, I stopped at a market to buy an ice cream and a coke. Again a little crowd formed and I spoke to them as best I could. When I left the shop owner have me another coke as a gift. So nice are the people here that they are willing to gift you with the dregs of an energy drink that they think you might desperately need. I was initially thrilled when a car came up beside me and the passenger passed out a can containing an energy drink. I was then disappointed to discover it only had about two mouthfuls left in it. I was appalled for a second, then like the bum I’ve become, I downed what remained anyway. I didn’t drink my coke gift until the very end of the day. I’d set up my tent, had dinner and was sitting still for a few minutes, waiting for my body to cool down and stop sweating before I put it to bed. It was then that I allowed myself to crack it open and relish it.

Morning light

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 89.39km
Average cycling speed 14.8kph
Total distance ridden 23,429km