Day 444: Shurely Shum Mishtake

20.03.10: So I had nothing important to do today, it was a big public holiday in Baku and the main road through town were shut. I was looking forward to meeting up with Lala again later on and she had kindly offered me a couch at her brother's flat. I imagined I'd go to the port, talk with somebody who knew what was going on, find out that the next ferry for Kazakhstan would be leaving in X-many days and have to wait it out. If I was lucky, it would be leaving before Tuesday. If I was REALLY lucky, it might be leaving tomorrow. To be honest, I really couldn't be bothered, what with all the celebrations going on, but I walked down the hill from Nick's to the Metro station, filled up my 'oyster' card (at 20p a trip, it's value for money HEAR…

Continue Reading Day 444: Shurely Shum Mishtake

Day 443: Bless My Lucky Underpants

19.03.10: I called Alex (whom I met at the Irish Pub the other night) and asked him if he could get in touch with the Uzbek embassy to see if there was any chance they might be open after 4pm today. To my shock and surprise, they were - they were open until SIX. This is pretty unheard of where I've come from (which I guess is the rest of the world) - most embassies open for a couple of hours in the morning once a century when the moon is in the Eighth House of Were. THANK YOU ALEX!! Struck with a new sense of urgency (I was firmly convinced that I would be going to the Uzbek embassy on Monday morning) and seeing that yesterday's storm had passed and the skies were bluest of blue, I headed over to the Kazahk embassy to go…

Continue Reading Day 443: Bless My Lucky Underpants

Day 442: The Dolphins In The Dole Queue

18.03.10: The Caucasus – it’s where us whities get our rather daffy pigeonhole ‘Caucasian’, a term lampooned by Lewis Carroll in his nonsensical Caucus Race in which everybody wins a prize - sounds like modern schooling to me. I would say that when it comes to describing the breeds of human, the term ‘Caucasian’ should be left to describe white skinned dark haired buggers (generally sporting a monobrow – think Noel Gallagher) while us fair and red-haired lot get our own categories… something to do with Vicky the Viking or Groundskeeper Willie would be nice. Gallagans, Vicks and Willies - that would sort the men from the boys. Or maybe we could just do away with the whole system of putting humans into different categories and just have one big box marked ‘human’, you know, separate us from the dolphins in the dole queue. Oh do…

Continue Reading Day 442: The Dolphins In The Dole Queue

Day 441: Politics & Modern History

17.03.10: So after yesterday's half-crazied shenanigans, I found myself kicked off the bus at 6am in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE somewhere in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The sky was firing sleet down and the wind chill was making my face freeze. There was a large concrete roundabout under a large concrete overpass. I tried to hide under the shelter of the nearby tumbledown fleamarket while I consulted my iPod Touch to find my barings, but since it takes a good minute and a half to refresh a quarter of a page of a pdf (and I thought my ZX81 was slow) I got moved on by the gruff security guard before I could find them. Hapless and out of ideas, I jumped in a taxi and headed to the main train station. Hopefully I'd find a 24 hour cafe, and I did. Shivering, wet and…

Continue Reading Day 441: Politics & Modern History

Day 435: The Getaway

11.03.10: The fact that I got out of bed this morning just goes to show how dedicated to the cause I am. Atheer didn’t get up until well after noon. First up, I needed my passport back. After a quick (but surprising) fingerprint-taking session, the Iranian Embassy gave me my little burgundy booklet of travel, furnished with a brand new visa. I had Iran in the bag. Now I just have to get there before World War III kicks off. I had got in touch with Jamel, a couchsurfer in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to ask if he could write me a new letter of invitation. No probs he said, but it would take him a couple of hours to get it proofed and everything. The Azerbaijan Embassy closed at 1pm and was way way way on the other side of town. I HAD to…

Continue Reading Day 435: The Getaway

Day 434: My Wit’s End

10.03.10: I dropped the passport, photos, photocopies and receipts off at the Iranian Embassy, expecting a ‘great stuff Graham, here’s your visa!’, but instead got a ‘come back tomorrow’. One more night in Istanbul, then? Humph. Sans passport, there was little I could do about getting my Azerbaijan nightmare solved today, but I went to the embassy anyway to make sure everything was in order. I was told that the Letter of Invitation which I had paid £80 for was now invalid. Why? Because it was addressed to London, not Istanbul. So what?! I hear you cry. Man, this lot LOVE their paperwork. Just love it. Like a teenage boy likes to lock himself in his room. Maybe they kneel down with all their juiciest paperwork spread out in a horseshoe in front of them, undo their flies and... and... oh, never mind... The short of…

Continue Reading Day 434: My Wit’s End