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“Chris, don’t leave today,” Murat, who spoke English pretty well, gave me a pitiful look as I was loading up the Caboose. He pointed up to the sky: “There will be rain!”

“Yes, maybe there will be rain,” I answered. “Or maybe there won’t.” This was well in line with my general attitude of knowing everything better than anybody else. Especially the weather. Especially in a foreign environment.

Do you have to be such a fucking idiot? the Caboose wanted to know.

Yes, I answered.

And so we left the comfort of the hotel and stepped out onto the road. It did indeed look like it was going to rain:

rainclouds over the road

Minutes later, it did:

happy

But, as you can see from the photo, I was happy. I don’t know why exactly, but I enjoyed being in the enclosed little space of my jacket, and I enjoyed listening to the rain beat down on my hat.

The road was quiet and nice, and sometimes it rained and sometimes it didn’t:

road

There was a pass at a river crossing, and the road went down into a valley:

road with clouds

A bunch of sheep looked at us in bewilderment:

sheep

I didn’t know what they were thinking, but there seemed to be a common understanding among them that I was weird, that the Caboose was weird, that we were weird. I figured they had their own language.

And then, after a bit of torture, we finally arrived on top of the other side:

looking down at the road

I sat down and ate a bag of potato chips that I had bought a few days earlier. A dog barked at us until he got tired of it and gave up. And I looked at the way to the town of Shamakhi and concluded that it was flat and easy:

road to Shamakhi

There were some herders around:

herder with herd

I talked to this gentleman for a while. He complained that most people in the area didn’t speak any Russian:

herder

He had learned his during the time in the army. It was always good to know more languages, he said. I agreed. Azerbaijan had surprised me in that, even though it had been part of the USSR just like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, people here spoke a lot less Russian than over there. Especially the young people. Especially in the countryside.

There was another riverbed:

empty riverbed

And then an old winery:

old winery

It lay in ruins:

ruins

Even the lightbulbs were gone:

lightbulb gone

When we arrived in Shamakhi, I was only mildly surprised to be greeted by what looked like it was aspiring to be a medieval English castle:

Shamakhi

We didn’t stay, though. Darkness was about to descend upon the land, and the road was about to go up again:

into Shamakhi

Once, on our way up to the center of Shamakhi, we passed a massive mosque that looked shiny and new:

mosque in Shamakhi

But we didn’t stay there, either.

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