Land of Fire and Wind
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
334Trip End Ongoing
The fire worshippers chose this location for the natural gas seeping from the earth, which they kept lit in the center of the temple. Sanskrit and Punjabi inscriptions stand as testament to the Indians, who traveled here for spirituality and for trade along this part of the Silk Road. They worshipped Jwalaji, the sensual tantric goddess of fire.
Suraxani was one of many toxic towns surrounding Baku, the capital, with black sludge behind shantytowns interspersed with oil wells. This area was also once a major chemical processing center for the erstwhile Soviet Union. After communism's fall, the rust began and the toxic waste and its effects became apparent to the world.
But the upside of the oil is that Azerbaijan, a secular Turkish Muslim state, is experiencing a boom, with a pipeline--a New Silk Road--from here through Georgia to the Black Sea, where the oil is shipped to Europe and America. Baku shines with prosperity and the people are smiling and happy.
Everywhere I was greeted with friendliness, whether at the shaurma stand, the internet cafe "I love Americans!" or the streets.
The Caspian Sea moderated the climate in Azerbaijan, but at the same time sent winds whipping through the streets.
Exploring the fire of Azerbaijan further, I visited Gobustan, with its small mud volcanoes burping methane into the windy air
In Baku, I changed my travel style, shipping my tent, sleeping bag, stove, and cook gear back home via the Azeri post. From here, I will travel light, better for navigating the marshrutkas and more, with the camping gear not needed anymore as I continue to head west.