Countries: Azerbaijan -> Kazakhstan
Stops: Alat -> Aktau
Getting on the ferry at 5:30am meant everyone fell asleep as soon as we got into our rooms. For almost 500USD, this ferry provided us rooms with 4 bunk beds, a sink, and no window. We were handed a pile of folded sheets at the door as we walked to our room, not unlike a prison. The pile consisted of one sheet and one pillow case per person. No blanket. You basically had to choose if you wanted to cover the mattress a million truckers have slept on or cover yourself.
The women's bathrooms were locked, so we were to use the men's. The men's, however, didn't have locks on the doors. So both showering and going to the bathroom left you exposed at any moment to a random walk in. All part of the charm.
We all fell asleep instantly once we were in our pitch black room. We briefly woke up around 8am because someone stuck their head into our cabin announcing breakfast. All 4 of us rolled right over and fell asleep again. We were awoken around noon for lunch and found out that even though we've already been on the ferry for 8 hours, we've only been moving for 4 of them at a speedy 14km/h. We figured we should crawl out and go get the food since we were told we only get 3 meals on this ferry (we already missed breakfast) and the ferry is 30 hours long assuming there are no delays (which almost always, there are. One team blogged about being on the ferry for 6 days!).
We stumbled our way over to the dining room, some of us more stumbly than others.... and got in line. Again, not unlike a prison, we were given a tray and a plate was placed on it. Rations didn't seem nearly enough, but luckily (I guess?) I had no appetite. I officially had my first hangover.
They sploshed down an old school Russian China bowl with a lentil soup my grandmother used to make. We received a spoon and a fork, and as we went down the line, another plate was placed on our tray: plain macaroni (no oil, no salt, no anything), and one small chicken thigh (or a wing? Don't recall). There was a basket of bread on the way out and a bottled drink.
We weren't even half way through the meal, when the staff came out twirling his arms in a hurry up motion, yelling at everyone in the room. So Justin ate as fast as he could while I twirled my spoon in the soup and we left. Justin and I went back to the room, put on Above & Beyond Acoustic album and napped. I woke up, munched on toffee popcorn our gracious host in the UK packed for us, and while Justin continued to nap, I went exploring.
Found the lobby where a bunch of Russians/Ukrainians/Kazakhs were playing cards and already into the vodka. One guy with rotten teeth and 2 eyes not unlike a French Bulldog looked straight at me (I think) and asked if I wanted to play strip poker. Just like that, no intro or anything. He was relentless the entire ferry ride and never gave up, gotta give him that? I found my Iranian trucker friend from the port. The next 2-3 hours, we were in a head to head, best of 5, intense backgammon competition where people gathered to watch and everyone seemed to have an input on the play. It was a close 5-4, definitely some intense games!
Our friends started to come around so we drank some tea (when in doubt on this side of the world, drink tea. Like, at least 10 cups a day), played some cards, chatted, and hit the bow of the ship. The fresh air was awesome and I was disappointed to find out there were no dolphins or whales: the Caspian Sea is just a dirty oil-filled glorified lake. But I never gave up on hoping!
We came back where we gathered with the Russians and they all seemed to have an opinion on our routes so they sat us down and started walking us through all the roads and places to go or to avoid in Kazakhstan. We were called in for dinner and had to take a break.
Dinner was all in the same style as lunch, it was even the same soup. But the side plate, although tiny, was delicious. Potatoes and chicken - very full of flavours! There was also salted cabbage and pickles on the table. But unless you were there first, it was all gone by the time we rotated seats.
After dinner we found ourselves squeezing far too many people into a lifeboat and hanging out until midnight. Good times were had, 4 guys peed off the side at the same time - only justin was smart enough to make sure to be upwind, the rest were all definitely peeing on each other and the boat reeked after. We called it a night and went to bed (well some, others slept in the lifeboat).
We were awoken at 8am saying we were close to the port, to pack up, and go get breakfast. Breakfast was a tray with a single plate on it: 2 hard boiled eggs, a single portioned plastic container of butter, and one of jam (although that depends on who you ask. It was strawberry jam on the cover, but was mostly clear with specks of red, and super runny...), and yesterday's basket of bread.
I scored a tomato because one of the truckers came by and just handed it to me without a word as he continued on.
All in all, can't complain. We now got 4 meals (technically), and we made it across in 24 hours. It was a fun a ride, and it really just comes down to who you're with. With good company, anything is bearable.
The shitshow of the next border crossing definitely deserves its own post though.