Tuesday 1st August - I'm on a boat, on a boat.
Finally the ferry had arrived! Hallelujah!!
Our prayers had been answered, we were one step closer to reaching Kazakhstan now that we could actually see the cargo ferry we'd be getting on. We waited around for a bit hoping they'd call us on soon, lunch time came and went so we had another nutritious meal of dried potato and noodles. Finally at 2pm the grass gave us a heads up and signalled for us to pack up. They pointed to the trucks and said after the last one had been loaded on the ferry we could follow. Yay! We saw that a large tuck located with horses was lined up o board the ferry. Huge hay bales were on top of the truck and the horses looked a little distressed. Quite sad that we discovered the horses were being transported to Kazakhstan for meat. Kazakhstan is a country that eats a tonne of horse meat. Sorry Phar Lap, but some countries better see you with rice than on a race track.
We threw all our stuff in the car and lined up with our fellow ralliers. Suddenly a bunch of guards rocked up with a German Shepherd sniffer dog. Things were getting a bit serious. Each car was going to be searched by the guards and their dog. Some of our fellow ralliers got a bit nervous at this and quickly went to throw certain items (that shall remain unnamed) in the bin. Our Italian friends were the first to go through, they were very thoroughly checked. The dog was climbing all through their car and jumping at the windows. The French family truck followed but barely even got checked. When it finally came to our turn the dog was having a good rest near a pillar and had knocked off his job for the day. The guard asked us to open the boot, had a quick glimpse at our bags then waved us on. We were out! Adios Azerbaijan!
We parked our car on the ferry, collected our bags and made our way up onto the deck. A bunch of ralliers were waiting in the foyer and informed us we needed to wait for a staff member to come and allocate us a cabin. A bloke came along and motioned for us to follow him. He took us to a four person cabin; Natalie and Haylee had specified the day before that they wanted a two person cabin. They told the bloke this and he took them to a cabin with a window that fortunately also had an ensuite. Don't get us wrong though, the description we just gave sounds nice but these cabins were still a piece of shite. We definitely weren't on a P&O. The cabins looked at least forty years old and hadn't had a good clean in probably just as long. The pillows and sheet had weird stains all over them. The boys cabin ended up being an inside one that had the temperature of Death Valley. You could barely even stand in there for five mins without sweat dripping off your face. They were most likely situated above the engine room; the boys quickly decided they wouldn't be sleeping in there at night. They'd take their chances sleeping outside on the deck. All the trickiest who had boarded with us seemed to get allocated double rooms with an ensuite. What's more they had been given rooms with windows. There's was some sort of pecking order going in here and us ralliers seemed to be at the bottom. Fortunately some of us did get double rooms with an ensuite. Our Swedish friends and the honeymoon team were lucky like Natalie and Haylee. A very short lady with red pants was running around the boat shouting orders. She seemed to be in charge. We later found on that she's a bit of a dragon lady and we were super lucky to not have asked her for a change from four person cabin to two person. She would have breathed fire and told us no. Red-pants-dragon-lady made many more appearances on our ferry ride to Kazakhstan. She was a character we learnt to avoid save getting yelled at in Russian.
All the ralliers went up on the top deck to farewell Azerbaijan. An old rusty boat was upstairs on the deck. No idea why it was there, it vertically couldn't be used for anything and the engine in it was super rusted. It proved to be a fun boat to jump in though and a bunch of us sat inside. We were effectively in a boat on a boat (Stepbrother 'boat' song anyone?). Finally the boat started to move and we waved goodbye to Alat. Everyone moods instantly picked up, after waiting so long at the port we were relieved to actually be heading somewhere. Onward and upward on the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan!
We chilled up on the top deck until an announcement came over the speaker. This was the first of the food announcements we'd constantly get on the boat. Actually, it was pretty much the only announcements we got. Definitely no bingo, trivia or yoga announcements on this boat. We ventured down to the dining room which after two days on the cargo ferry could only ever be known as the 'boiling room of death'. You basically went into the kitchen area, collected a tray then collected a soup bowl and chicken dish. Lastly a crew member handed you a bottle of coke and you went to find a table. There was barely enough tables in the small room to accomodate everyone. The temperature and humidity in the room was insane. On top of that though we were eating hot soup. We sat with Team Honeymoon who'd had a shower before dinner but admitted they'd definitely need another one immediately following. Everyone was trying to scoff down their food so as to get out of the boiling room of death. The food was actually quite alright. Paola and Haylee laughed as they'd both assumed meals on the boat would resemble the scene in Oliver Twist where the orphans are thrown a scoop of slop in a bowl and told to move on. The soup was a good flavour and the chicken tasty. The weird thing about all our meals on the boat was that you got a bottle of soft drink, however, when we'd ask instead for a bottle of water we were told no and given second soft drink. Following dinner we ran back onto the top deck to evaporate all the sweat. The French family had their two dogs on deck lapping up the ocean air. Funnily enough the dogs are allowed to stay in their cabin with them. We got to know the other teams a little better until everyone eventually retired to bed. A bunch of the guys who'd been allocated crazy hot inside rooms had started staking their spots at the bow of the boat to avoid the high winds. They rolled out their sleeping mats and placed their sleeping bags on top; a much better option than suffocating inside the cabin!