Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#907 Gobustan, Azerbaijan

About an hour south of Baku, off a rugged, simple highway, on a nondescript hill are a series of fabulous natural phenomenon: mud volcanoes. In an area famous for being the first place of oil, Azerbaijan many minerals and gases close to the earth's surface, and one would think that this one is important enough for the government to regulate and monitor, but it remains un-signposted with no road access, found only by 4WDs who've received vague tips to turn after the stone house, before the big rock, and between the small rise of a nearby settlement.

The mud volcanoes are cold, and spout frequently, with others bubbling away at a regular pace. You can put your hand (or body parts) into the mud, but there's nowhere remotely close enough to wash off!

Further north are a treasure that the Azerbaijan government do value enough to regulate: Petroglyphs. Amazing rock drawings including a series of women in dresses, an unusual boat that has been likened to ancient Mediterranean cultures (suggesting a water passage connecting it and the Caspian sea that no longer exists), many animals and other people and shapes. They are up on a hill among many rocks and boulders and there is a small, poorly maintained museum.
 The last stretch when heading back into Baku has to be one of the ugliest oil rig areas in the world, where nodding donkeys, rigs and pools of oil vy for the ugliest item in a panorama of ugly items.

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