Almost Şamaxı – Novxani Beach

The sky was overcast again this morning. We were just getting up when a few vineyard workers arrived. They started their working day watching us packing our stuff.

Today we wanted to reach Baku – almost. That is, since it was likely going to be late at night when we arrive there, we wanted to stay somewhere outside the city to have a relaxed day arriving in the capital tomorrow.

About 40km from Baku the road descended in a long turn down towards the Caspian plain, and we could see the city of Sumqayit and the Caspian Sea in the not-so-far distance. It was a magic sight and we decided to go to Sumqayit, or rather a beach near that city, instead of Baku. The Dutch tourists I’d met in Şəki had told me that it was a nice place.

We rode through Baku’s and Sumqayit’s suburbs and judging from the traffic and the amount of houses it became clear that we wouldn’t find a secluded, quiet beach there.

It was indeed, of course, crowded. A hotel and disco nearby. No way we could camp there conveniently. What’s the major difference between an Azerbaijani beach and a European one? The (almost) lack of women and girls. Azerbaijanis may have a comparatively relaxed attitude towards religion, but they’re still conservative.

Well, we spent some time there anyway, had water melon, went for a refreshing swim, and got invited by a bunch of off-duty police officers to bread and cheese and tomatoes and German Eierlikör.

Eventually we checked into a hotel directly at the beach. There’s a disco there, too, and we wanted to check out the local party scene. The bouncer asked us politely to pay 10 manat entrance fee each (a bit less than 10 Euro), which we politely refused, thinking that was the ‘tourist price’. That almost put an end to our first Azerbaijani party experience. We were almost gone when the bouncer called us back and we were granted free entry. And so we met Azer, friends with the bouncer, hairdresser from Sumqayit, who’d put in a good word for us without us even noticing at first.

He’s of Dagestani descent and offered to help us with anything in Baku, Sumqayit or Azerbaijan. I asked about the Azerbaijani ESC contestants, but he doesn’t know them and can’t help me get an autograph. :( We learned that life is not easy for gay people in Azerbaijan, but he and his (male and female) friends had fun that night anyway. And we did, too.

Cycled: 137km

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