November 19-20, 2016: When Chris and our friend Medjid’s days off coincide on a Sunday, it’s time for a road trip into the mountains of Azerbaijan. Lucky for me, this happened on both weekends during my trip to Baku. These are our exploits on the first weekend.
Lahic is a traditional village in the Caucasus mountains that the guys had been to on several occasions and one that I’ve wanted to see, if only for the crazy drive in.
We left Baku on Saturday lunchtime after Chris finished his early shift at work. Our first stop was the nearby Yanar Dag, or fire mountain. At this inauspicious hill, natural gas seeps out of the rocks and has been continuously lit for centuries making for an unique natural phenomena. Even on a blustery, cold afternoon, we were well toasted.
Our next stop was Ivanovka, a traditional Russian farming village known for wine making. We spent the evening hanging out at one of the town’s only restaurants with a few of the guys Chris and Medjid had met on a previous visit and also met Tom, a Brit working as an editor for a magazine in Baku.
Up bright and early the next day, we stopped at the busy bazaar (market) in the nearby town of Ismailli to buy some fresh goodies before heading to Lahic. The road in is spectacular, with brief views of the peaks amidst the mist. Apparently this road used to be much more harrowing, but although much of it is now paved, the narrowest stretch with sheer cliffs above and below is not. A fantastic drive.
We intended to have a late breakfast in Lahic but learned to our dismay upon arrival that everything was closed due to a Muslim holiday. So that meant backtracking a few kilometres to Royal Kafe where we had fresh mountain eggs and the usual assortment of breads, cheeses, greens and tea. Once our bellies were satisfied we headed back to explore Lahic in more detail with another awe-inspiring drive along the narrow roads, but not before making plans with the cafe owner to return for lunch featuring local mountain pig grilled over a wood fire.
Back in Lahic now in late morning, a few shops had opened and a few other tourists had made their way into town. On a cold, overcast late fall day, it was by no means crowded.
The town is in various states of repair, with crumbling old stone buildings sitting next to others that have been restored and some new builds. My mission was to buy colourful hand-knitted slipper socs. Chris’ was to buy some traditional sheepskin hats for some of the guys at work. Our best find was a shaggy mountain goat hat. Of course, we had to buy it for the hat collection, although I doubt it will see much use on MOKEN.
With our mission complete, we returned to Royal Kafe for the tender, succulent grilled pork. I suspect this was actually wild boar. Well satisfied, it was time for the return drive to Baku. A very successful trip into the mountains.
Stay tuned for our final trip into the Caucasus…