Coastal Colombian food

Coastal Colombian food

One of the first things someone warned me about when I arrived in Bogota was that ‘people don’t come to Colombia for the food…’ and after a few days of the hotel buffet  (which was provided at training) I was definitely not questioning this statement.

Our meals were made up almost exclusively of rice, corn and meat, all consistently unseasoned. A Colombian girl on the course explained to me that locals prefer ‘neutral tastes,’ and that when she traveled to the US she thought everything tasted too much like garlic. I’m not gonna lie, I was worried.

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And my only foray into Bogota’s local cuisine didn’t exactly reassure me. 

Unfortunately, apart from a disgustingly hungover McDonald’s, and the oddly traditional cheese and hot chocolate combo, I couldn’t justify skipping the free food to go and discover the culinary delights that Bogota was surely hiding. 

Since arriving in Santa Marta I’ve been able to branch out, and things are definitely looking up.

Here are some highlights so far:

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“Calle hambre” as 18 con 5 is affectionately known, or Hunger St. 

 

  1. Salchipapas

When I first heard people talking about salchipapas I heard ‘Salty papa’s’ and pondered not for the first time on Colombians obsession with papi/mami references. Turns out salchi is short for sausage, and papa means potato, (or the Pope) and they’re even more fun to eat than they are to say.  Salchipapas are a layer of chips and sliced fried sausages, covered in salad, a thousand-island kind of sauce, and topped with grated cheese (and shame, so much shame.)  In Cartagena you can get a version with fried plantain instead of the chips. This feels a lot more Colombian and less like you’re just eating sausage and chips. 

  1. Paparellenas

Can you see a theme emerging already? Potatoes are definitely a big deal over here, and if you’ve ever tried paparellenas you’ll understand why. Literally translated to stuffed potatoes, paparellenas are a delicious ball of fried mashed potato, stuffed with minced meat, chicken, chorizo, egg or a combination of the above. Siiiii papi. 

papaface
A Colombian guy once said to me “who needs a boyfriend when you can have food”… I told him that I wasn’t sure they were mutually exclusive. BUT I think he had a point, because a) this is a ball of fried mashed potato stuffed with chicken, chorizo and egg, b) It even has a face, and c) He was kind of a dick. 

3.Patacones

Patacones are mashed-up,  fried plantains, which are served as a side with almost every Colombian meal. Street food vendors also do stuffed versions of these with juicy shredded beef. As far as I can tell these don’t have their own name, although patarellenas would make a lot of sense. 

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6 months on,  and thanks to Calle Hambre, my legs are definitely not this skinny.  I’m ok with that. 
  1. Arepas

Arepas are a big staple of Colombian food, and are a magical blend of corn and cheese. You can get them on the street, in hipster gringo places, and pretty much everywhere else in between. My favourite so far has been in a place called Barbacoa in Santa Marta where they pile on rice, two types of meat, salad and pretty much every other topping known to man. Arepa con huevo is a popular Colombian breakfast, and if you’re lucky the egg will have been cooked inside the arepa. Basically witchcraft. 

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While random remixes of the happy birthday song aren’t uncommon in Colombia, this tablecloth was because our staff Salcocho-fest turned out to be a surprise birthday lunch for me organised by my co-teachers. 
  1. Salcocho 

Soup is also a big deal in Colombia, which is kind of surprising given the heat.  Salcocho is the traditional soup which has different cuts of chicken and beef, with root vegetables and corn, and is served with rice. They even have a kind of chicken broth for breakfast, which is the most comforting thing in the world once you get past how weird it is. If you order a menu del dia (menu of the day) it often starts with a bone soup, which as well as being all kinds of good for you, is delicious. I’m told that eye soup is also a thing but haven’t had the chance to check that out yet!

I’ll keep my eyes peeled…

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Lunch for one… 
  1. Almuerzo

Almuerzo literally means lunch, and again, surprisingly given the heat, lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Colombia. To get a taste for local food and to make the budget go further, getting a set almuerzo, or menu del dia is definitely the way to go. It starts with a soup,  followed by  some kind of grilled meat with rice, fried plantain, beans or lentils, and a fruit juice or ice tea. This usually costs between 4-10 thousand pesos depending on where it is on the authentic-to-gringo scale. As a general rule, if there are plastic chairs, concrete floors and no written menu but lots of locals, it’s going to be good.

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At a gringo cafe in Taganga…Twice the price and half as tasty… But definitely more photogenic. 

7. Pargo rojo

Go to the kind of beach restaurant that consists of a tin roof on wooden poles, and where the closest thing to a menu is pointing to the fish you want.  My favourite so far is the first restaurant on Playa Grande in Taganga. Tuck into some fish soup from a plastic bowl while you wait for a fish so crispy you can eat it’s face.  Usually served with patacones, salad and coconut rice. (Arroz con coco is definitely the most Caribbean flavour on the coast. I found it to be way too sweet when I first tried it, but once my palate adapted to how much sugar is in everything over here I learnt to like it.)

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The best thing about Playa Grande…The ceviche guy knows me. 

8. Ceviche

While most people may warn you against eating seafood from a bucket when it’s 30 degrees, as far as I’m concerned you can’t beat beach/street vendors for ceviche. Less than £2.50 for  plastic cup full of prawns, chopped red onion, coriander and lime juice. Some people add ketchup and mayo, someone needs to have a word with them. 

9. Lobster

Cabo de la Vela in Riohacha is one of the only places in the world where I’ll ever be able to afford to eat lobster two nights in a row. And it’s no coincidence that it is one of my favourite places in Colombia. For about £7.50 you can get a whole lobster in a delicious creamy garlic sauce. Who needs running water when you have this kind of luxury?

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Mi amor…

10. Fruit

Although not technically a meal, I can’t finish this post without mentioning the fruit in Colombia… You can get fresh fruit juice almost anywhere, and as usual the best place to look is on the side of the road. Chunks of watermelon with ice, mango blended with milk, and maracuya, (giant passion fruit) are my favourites, but I’m not very adventurous.

If you want to branch out, lulo, guyaba and gyuabana are examples of fruit that only exist in this part of the world and are impossible to explain. Tomate del arbol has the best name (tomato of the tree) but isn’t as exciting as its name.

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I’ll just leave this here….

 

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Why are men such wankers?

I know this question has been thrown around over cocktails and cups of tea since time immemorial, but I mean it in the most literal way possible. Why do (some) men think that it’s OK to masturbate at unsuspecting women in public?

I’m on the other side of the world and I get a message from my ex-girlfriend.

‘Last night I experienced what happened to us in the park in Rome, well 3 different times, 3 different men to be precise…I feel horrible and I guess I just wanted to talk to someone who understands.’

My heart sinks and I feel sick as I’m treated to flashbacks of the man on the bench opposite us, in one of Rome’s busiest parks, his penis peeking out of his shorts, casually stroking it whist staring at us. In broad daylight.

I feel obliged to say that we weren’t even indulging in any excessive PDAs. We definitely weren’t looking particularly sexy or even being particularly gay. We were actually sheltering from the heat to nurse a hangover. I don’t even think we were holding hands. And then I get a surge of anger that I even feel the need to defend myself in this situation.

I feel as powerless now as I did then, but more than anything I feel angry. Angry that it’s 2017, and so many female travellers that I know have a similar story. And too often more than one story.

It’s a story that provokes so many different reactions; from resigned indifference to the guys that think it’s absolutely hilarious. And from a detached perspective they’re right, it is so ridiculous that It’s actually comical. I mean what kind of grown man, no- what kind of human, masturbates in front of a stranger, in public, in broad daylight? It’s animalistic.

But the people who see it as a disgusting but funny travel story can’t begin to understand how vulnerable and violated it makes you feel. You are powerless to do anything except leave. You feel like a victim, even though you haven’t been physically attacked. You begin to question your behaviour, your appearance, your reaction, or how you could have reacted. You feel wary in public spaces, even when there are crowds of people around. You feel dirty, and ashamed, even though logically you know it’s not your fault.

It’s hard enough trying to figure out how to behave in a same sex relationship while traveling, how not to offend, or draw attention to yourself. It’s hard to accept that this is still something you have to worry about, without the added fear that some men will see your sexual orientation as an excuse to degrade you in public.

But it’s not just a problem faced by obviously queer women. The first time it happened to me I was on a beach, away with my mum. She was leaving and I was planning on staying in Greece and travelling. I was 18 and about to embark on my first solo adventure, but the trauma of this event put me off for years.

It’s still seared into my memory. Before my mum flew home, we decided to get up early and go to the beach. It was about 9am and we chose a strip near the main road to maximise sunbathing time. With a stack of snacks and magazines we found a spot at the edge of the beach and I quickly fell asleep.

After a while I became vaguely aware of someone walking past, and then back again. In my sleepy state I didn’t think anything of it. Until I heard my mum scream. I opened my eyes to find them shaded from the sun by a looming figure. He was tugging and grunting directly above my face.

Now there are a number of ways I could have or should have reacted to this. Present day Kiki would probably have grabbed him by the rapidly shrinking penis, and beaten the crap out of him. Past Kiki almost threw up, and ran screaming towards the sea, while her mum threw stones and delivered an impressive stream of Greek abuse.

The man ran away, also screaming by this point, and made a quick escape in a van (someone pointed out years later that it always seems to be men in vans…) We were both in a state of shock, I remember shaking and feeling sick right to my soul. We packed up our things quickly, and headed back to my aunt’s house, where I showered before getting straight online and booking onto mum’s flight home.

While I was shaken and upset, the thing that disturbed me more than anything was the lack of reaction that this got from my family. They told me not to bother going to the police, as it wasn’t like I was raped. The general consensus was that I should avoid quiet beaches and not go anywhere alone.

So I got over it. Slowly, the weird feeling of shame that I couldn’t quite put my finger on started to fade away. The story got funnier with every re-telling. Yeah, I actually got wanked at, in public, while I was asleep. Isn’t that hilarious? What if mum hadn’t woken up? What if my mum had seen me getting the money shot while I was still asleep??

Last summer on a hike with my friend we started comparing travel horror stories. It turns out that getting wanked at in public by strangers was pretty high on both of our lists. She had a terrifying story about being alone on a beach in Indonesia when a man came and sat near her and started masturbating. He actually ran after her when she tried to run away. She also had a friend who had a similar experience. All of a sudden my experience had gone from a disgustingly weird travel story to a frightening pattern of abuse.

So I did what anyone would do and googled it. And of course, there was an article in the Guardian about it.The journalist had retweeted a woman’s experience of being masturbated at on a train, and was approached by over 400 women who had similar experiences. She then consulted the Everyday Sexism project database to find that in the preceding two years there had been 525 reports of this kind of thing. The worst part is that a ‘staggeringly high amount’ of these reports happened when girls were on their way to school.

A quick survey on Facebook pages for female travelers reinforced this pattern, with the general consensus being that ‘I don’t think it’s as uncommon as some may think.’ Women were quick to make it clear that isn’t just a problem they have faced while travelling, but tends to happen back home too; especially on public transport. I’m flooded with replies from women who have experienced it in parks, bath houses, taxis, on the street and on busses as well as at touristic sites. Clearly nowhere is safe.

These incidents rarely make the news, and when they do their coverage is worrying to say the least. Last year the Sun ran the headline ‘Hilarious moment sassy commuter confronts train passenger she accused of secretly masturbating in a packed carriage.’All of a sudden the wanker becomes the victim. His ‘public telling off’ is referred to as an ‘expletive ridden rant’, ‘a tirade’ ,‘a loud lecture’ and, wait for it, ‘verbal abuse.’ While his masturbation is treated in startlingly neutral terms with ‘rubbing his penis’.

It’s baffling how in the 21st Century a refusal to sit back quietly and allow someone to masturbate at you can qualify you as a ‘sassy woman.’

Last month in Delhi a woman returned from a festival where she had been groped, only to find semen stains on her jeans. She posted the photo to Facebook and it went viral. But alongside comments from women about their similar experiences she received a barrage of abuse from people claiming she was ‘attention seeking.’

Again and again we are expected to shake off this disgusting kind of male behaviour and only see the funny side. One woman told me she went to the police about repeated attacks and was told to ‘point and laugh’ next time. While this is certainly one way of dealing with it, I can’t help but feel like a more serious response is needed, especially from law enforcement.

So why don’t we hear more about it? Are women discouraged from reporting it, like I was, because it’s not seen as ‘proper’ sexual assault? While in the UK, it is an offence to expose your genitals, attackers are rarely prosecuted. In the United States, public indecency is classed as a ‘misdemeanor’ and is only upgraded to a felony if a perpetrator has previous sex-related convictions. In 2013, a man was actually acquitted of masturbating on a beach in Sweden, as the judge ruled that he wasn’t doing it at anyone in particular. In Italy last year, a case was brought to the supreme court where a man was accused of pleasuring himself outside a university in front of female students. His lawyers argued that the low light meant he was unlikely to be seen, and the court ruled that masturbating in public is not illegal.

Assuming that public masturbation is a victimless crime reinforces the idea that women’s bodies are fair game;that by simply existing as a woman in a public space we are opening ourselves up to this behaviour.

I refuse to think so lowly of men as to believe that their urges are so consuming that they can’t control themselves until they go home. This is calculated exhibitionism. It’s all about power. It’s about taking pleasure from a woman when she is powerless to stop you. Looking her in the eye and daring her to do something about it. This is why most victims are schoolgirls, or women traveling alone, out of their comfort zone. This is why it happens in confined spaces, where you can’t run away. This is why it is time to take a stand.

Catching up on Colombia pt.1

Catching up on Colombia pt.1

I’ve been in Colombia for three months now, and I broke my main resolution that I had coming here almost straight away. I was supposed to write every day. And post regularly. Well I kind of kept to the writing part, but most of it is the kind of stuff that I’d only feel comfortable publishing once I’m dead and famous.

So to spare you the rollercoaster of ups and downs (mostly ups!) I decided to do a quick round up. (edit: I tried to make it quick, I promise)

Background

I’ve been obsessed with coming to South America for years, but I really wanted to make sure I did it properly. I didn’t want to just blow loads of money drinking with gringos on different beaches (although that is still one of my favourite things…)

After an underwhelming experience in south-east Asia, I wanted something more authentic.  I wanted  to live and work and learn the language. Preferably on a beach.

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Spoiler alert: There is still a lot of drinking on beaches with gringos…

The programme

I stumbled upon Heart for Change’s program on an EFL cafe online, and applied there and then through a recruiting company called ESL starter. I was thrilled to have finally found a volunteer programme that didn’t sound massively douchy or ask for a huge lump sum up- front. And most importantly, genuinely seemed to be about sustainable change.

The programme is an English teaching fellowship funded by the Colombian government, who aim to get Colombia bilingual by 2020. The government has a bigger budget for education than defense this year, which is pretty bloody impressive at the best of times, never mind the fact that the country is only really at the beginning of a peace process.

After around 50 years of civil conflict (seriously, Narcos barely scratches the surface!) a peace treaty was finally signed last year. But everyone is aware that it is very much a process, and a delicate one at that. Many members of FARC have never known another life, especially the children, who are slowly coming out of the mountains to integrate into Colombian life.

…And Colombian life means Colombian state school. Which should have been obvious I suppose, but didn’t occur to me until it was brought up in training, and kind of blew my mind. We were told how we are not just witnessing a crucial part of the countries history, but playing an active role in it. No pressure.

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Our last day of training in Bogota

 

Chalet fever

Chalet fever

 

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Sometimes the best part of traveling is just taking a step back and not doing anything at all. Well, except maybe snowboarding.

And the not-so-catchily named  Chalet Pierra Menta 2 in La Plagne was the perfect place to do just that.

Having worked the last two ski seasons,  enviously watching guests suited and booted before 9am when I was about to go up and start cleaning their rooms, I was determined to finally make the most of being a punter.

I rolled out of bed to  cooked breakfasts, dragged my sleepy arse out onto first lifts and spent my days knee-deep in powder. Stopping occasionally for Tartiflette or Irish coffee.

By the time I made it back to the chalet at the end of the day (via the most deliciously powdery tree run) I barely had the energy to tuck into the lovely homemade cakes left out by our host, Holly. (I say barely, on the first day I definitely had three slices…)

Throw in a quick sauna before dinner, plus unlimited chalet wine and it soon became obvious that I would struggle to even see eleven o’ clock, never mind actually leave the chalet…

But the great thing about Chalet holidays is that you don’t even need to leave the chalet in order to socialize. Chalet set up means you have a little ready made squad just waiting for you around the dinner table. Ten-ish strangers from all walks life, who feel like family by the end of the week.

And I know this is a traveling cliché, but I think in a chalet even more so than in a hostel, you meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter. I mean when would I ever meet a financial adviser? Even though geographically we come from the same place, I definitely feel like I have more common ground with the random hippies that populate most dorm rooms.

Yet sitting around the table with a group of men who on first impressions I had very little in common with, it was surprising to see how quickly we all clicked. Well, most of the time anyway. I made a conscious effort to avoid talking politics…

On that note, although it didn’t seem like it at the time, I actually chose the perfect week to lose my phone. Being cut off from civilization (i.e. the internet) meant that I was able to switch off from the world, and remain blissfully unaware of all the horrible things that were going on in the world (AKA Trump)

Having said that, losing a phone off piste is no picnic. While I knew the chances of getting it back were slim to none, and the chances of it actually working were even slimmer, I couldn’t help but try and comb the patch of powder in between the lift and the restaurant where I’d lost it…

If you’ve ever tried looking for a needle in a haystack, I can assure you, this was far, far  worse. Picture a frozen haystack. Made of quicksand. On a hill. And then imagine you’ve just snowboarded for over five hours without a snack (ok maybe there was one snack.)

Needless to say there is probably a marmot somewhere with a very shiny new toy.

Anyway despite that minor set-back I actually had a really perfect week. I only wore real shoes twice. And one of those times was to have a go on the Olympic bob-sleigh track!

I’ve always thought of chalet holidays as something that posh people do, and kind of scorned the whole idea of having everything arranged and done for you…But the truth is, it turned out to be a lot cheaper and a hell of a lot easier than organising it all ourselves.

Skibeat have some unbelievably cheap deals, especially if you book last minute during quiet weeks…I’m not great at planning ahead but I’m already trying to pencil in a few weeks next January!

My A-Z of Azerbaijan

My A-Z of Azerbaijan

(Get it? A-Zerbaijan? Yeah I thought it was clever and original. Turns out someone else has already done it (http://www.atoz.az/) Anyway, mine is in no way based on this official tourist propaganda site, so read on for an honest breakdown of the country…

A is for…Architecture

Beyond acknowledging that the Shard is pretty cool, architecture isn’t something that I tend to focus on when I’m visiting a city. This was definitely not the case in Baku.

The Flame Towers

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See? Total Fan Girl…

 

The Flame Towers are Baku’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, iconic and inspiring. Housing  offices, apartments and a hotel (the Fairmont) the sky-scrapers also double up as giant LED screens, showing flames or the Azeri flag at night. Not too shabby. 

Look up from almost anywhere in Baku and you can see them, flames rising up over the old town.flames from palace.JPG

From the boulevard you can take the funicular, or walk up the steps to the towers, enjoying a view of the city and the Caspian.I wouldn’t recommend walking during the summer, but in early November the climb warmed us up nicely.   Look out for the distorted reflection of the city in the glass.flames and reflection.JPG

At least 60% of my photo album consists of the towers from a different angle, in different light, or with a different contrast. Juxtaposed against the mosque. Mirrored glass reflecting yellow sandstone. Sweeping curves over soviet blocks…

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Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center 

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If Apple did buildings…

I could go on, but Zaha Hadid’s design for the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center is even more breathtaking. A big white bubble plonked in the middle of a busy junction, a beacon of calm among the beeping and fumes. Its flowing curves are proof that a building does not have to be phallic to be impressive. Go Zaha.

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Never has a building given me such an urge to skateboard..

Walking here from the Old Town seemed like a good idea in order to see some less touristy parts of the city, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Trying to find safe places to cross the tangle of  motorway surrounding the center was pretty traumatic (but ultimately worth it!)

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While the building is home to various exhibitions, including a collection of late leader Heydar Aliyev’s cars, the building itself is definitely the main attraction.  Space-ship,  skate-park, futuristic sex-toy or even giant cat head, every angle brings a new perspective. The front of the building is also a perfect vantage point for admiring the rest of Baku’s skyline, especially at sunset.

 

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Azerbaijan Carpet Museum

In a competition for Baku’s most creative building, the carpet museum may be the underdog, but it’s definitely up there. Designed to look like a rolled up carpet, I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the designers’ brainstorming session.

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While it definitely draws attention to a museum that conventionally wouldn’t bring in the crowds, its curved walls aren’t exactly well thought out as far as the exhibition is concerned. Nevertheless the museum is interesting and also has a great restaurant (Xalca)…With a red carpet entrance! carpets.JPG

B is for…Baku

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It’s a cliché but Baku is definitely a blend of East and West. Not like the vibrant chaos of Istanbul, a more subtle blend. Balconies and boutiques lining the boulevard are distinctly Parisian (Dior, Delloyau and even Bistrot du Paris) while the smell of oil wafts off the Caspian.

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Maiden’s tower, or Qiz Qalasi  marks the beginning of the old town from the boulevard. From this point glass and marble fade into sandstone. Carpet shops and cats dominate here. The tower and the palace of the Shirvanshah’s (Azerbaijan’s old dynasty)are the main attractions and they have impressive interactive exhibitions and a Game of Thrones vibe.

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Despite the rise in tourism it is refreshing to see an ‘old town’ retain authenticity and not become too gimmicky. Vendors are nowhere near as pushy as in other eastern countries. Expect random locals to stop and chat, and maybe even offer you tea!

Moving out of the old town, the National History museum tells you everything you need to know about the country (from their side, of course) and is housed in the former mansion of an oligarch. Their living quarters are exquisite, and give you an idea of the kind of wealth that oil brought the country.

In a similar vein, Port Baku lies to the east. And is definitely not a port. A complex of tower blocks including apartments and offices, a luxury shopping mall and restaurants…In short a little bubble in which expats can go about their lives whilst forgetting that they are actually in Azerbaijan.

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Maybe this is why the city seems so empty. While its modern streets are spotless and orderly, they lack the bustle of a capital city. Starbucks is probably the most ambient spot during the day.  I don’t want to use the word soulless, but I had the feeling that Baku was missing something. It seems like modernisation has pushed the city’s soul out of its heart.

C is for… Corruption

Despite signing the UN Convention against Corruption, it is still a big problem in a country where political opponents are routinely imprisoned. When Baku hosted the European Games in 2015, hoping it would raise their international profile, critics of the government seized the opportunity to voice their troubles. Most international media coverage focused on the country’s dirty little secrets. If they even covered the Games at all.  

Amnesty international has reported several cases of journalists who are critical of the government being locked up on tenuous charges. The most high profile case of this kind was that of Khadija Ismayilova. The investigative journalist was incarcerated because she was about to spill the beans on the first family’s infamous use of the national oil company (SOCAR’s) superyachts. Their use costed an estimated 12$ million a year.  

Agil Khalil was less fortunate still when investigating illegal land clearing by authorities. He was harassed and then stabbed by two men who were eventually identified as agents from the Ministry of National Security (So 1984!)

It comes as no surprise then that almost half of the country perceive the judiciary and the police force to be corrupt. It is well known that judges accept bribes or ‘facilitation payments’

On the surface efforts are being made to clean up the country, however like in most of the region, the culture of bribes or patronage is too deeply ingrained.The main problem is that there is no legal framework in place to protect employees who dare to  report corruption. I actually heard about someone who works in procurement having a client complain to their boss because they refused to take a bribe!

On a darker note I also heard expats lamenting that it is far more difficult to bribe police officers these days. While this remark was probably tongue in cheek, it points to the fact that cleaning up the country is not in everyone’s best interests. The government have actually postponed negotiations to enter the World Trade Organisation in order to protect the interests of local oligarchs.

D is for…Driving

Ok so D should definitely stand for Dolma, but since I’ve already waxed lyrical about them in my post on Azeri food (link) you’re going to have to make do with Dangerous Drivers…

I’ve driven in a lot of places. Being half Greek, I’ve always thought of myself as having  pretty thick skin when it comes to keeping my cool on foreign roads. I’ve kept it together on a moped in Ho Chi Minh, and even managed to fall asleep on Laotian mountain passes. But Baku is different.

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Only when safely out of the city did I relax enough to start snapping!

Driving out of Baku in a hired car was one of the most stressful experiences of my life (and I was only the passenger /navigator!) Cars merge continuously, from all directions without indicating or even beeping. It’s like LA on acid. They double (or even triple) park on main boulevards causing hold- ups, if they’re lucky, and pile-ups if they’re not.

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The open road gets a bit tedious when you have to do the speed limit…

When we finally saw the open road we started cheering. However our spirits were soon dampened when the car rental clerk’s warnings started to sink in and we realised that there is actually a police car for almost every mile of road. Having heard horror stories of police corruption and hefty fines we played it safe and stuck to the speed limit for the whole 3 hour journey. Even when we were overtaken by Ladas that looked like scenes from Borat.

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Nothing to see here…

While driving was a great way to see a bit more of the country, with taxis/ drivers being so cheap, it’s almost not worth the stress. We paid around 30$ a day to rent a car (from Azcar at the Hilton)  but took it back a day early and instead booked a taxi to visit Gobustan. The taxi cost  60 Manats (around 35$) and our English speaking driver doubled up as a very knowledgeable guide, even braving the treacherous road up to the mud volcanoes…

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Stay tuned for E-Z! (Take it E-Z 😉 )