Xinaliq Azerbaijan

Xinaliq, girl standing on a roof

August 9th 2014

Getting to Xinaliq

Today is Daniele’s birthday, who has reached the ripe old age of 32 years. We go to the Avtogazal (bus station) and take a bus to Quba, a city from which there should be some way to reach Kinaliq (or Xinaliq, or Kinalug, or Khinalug, your choice). The first bus is full so we wait for the second one, it is small, no air conditioning and no windows, not a godsend. In addition, the driver is a bit strange, we don’t understand why but he began to argue with one of the passengers.

The road crosses the void, desert to the left and desert to the right, the landscape, a little alien, is really nice. At one point, the driver leaves the main road and takes a very busy one, alternative… passengers are quite pissed!

Especially after realizing that the detour was made to load some people in a small town, even if there are no seats on the bus. Don’t know from where some stools came out and these people are placed in the middle lane of the bus. Can’t breathe anymore. We take four hours to get to Quba, two hundred kilometers.

Azerbaijan dinner road Xinaliq

Daniele’s Birthday Party

Hitchhiking from Quba to Xinaliq

When we finally arrive at the bus station the city looks a bit desolate. It’s about 18:30, we are told that there are no Martchoutkas (minibus) for Xinaliq, only taxi. We take a bus to get to the bazaar but there are only Lada taxi (private cars) and they want 40 euro. Consequently hitchhiking.

We cross the city on foot. It’s not really anything special as opposed to what we had heard. The hitchhiking starts quite good. First, we’re picked-up by a car for about ten kilometers, we arrive in a wooded area, very nice. Well, not just desert then, even in Azerbaijan there are trees. In the midst of this forest, there are tables scattered everywhere, areas equipped for picnics and restaurants.

The second car takes us a little further, but we are still 50 kilometers away from the ultimate goal. The third car is a beat-up Lada 4×4, we get on, we’re on a steep slope and the car almost can’t restart.
The driver is a guy about 35 years old who speaks in Russian, we understand that he’s going to meet some friends somewhere and we can pitch the tent there. We arrive at one of these places with gazebos and tables, where the friends are.

One of them is celebrating his birthday too, and so Daniele finds a surprise birthday party. We eat and drink for free and in good company. One of them brought a keyboard so we also have live music! We put the tent in the grove and tomorrow another day of hitchhiking to get to an altitude of 2400 meters.

traditional house Xinaliq Azerbaijan

traditional and modern houses in Xinaliq Village

August 10th 2014

still hitchhiking to Xinaliq

We wake up a quite stoned. A guy who walks the cows shakes the tent. Half asleep I think it is a bear. Ok, it’s time to go. We get a lift from a Martckroutka full of women going to take a jaunt.
They eat chips and toss bags from the window, but then admire the beautiful landscape. Around us, the mountains are starting to get more and more high and vertical.The all women’s van (except of course the driver) stops at a point “do shot a photo and the tour is over. From there we walk a bit, there are considerable ascents and the few passing jeeps are almost all full.

Near a fountain, we spot an old military jeep stopped to let the engine breathe. They go up to about twenty kilometers from Xinaliq and luckily the give us a lift. The back seats are not there. Only two benches, we grab bars to hold onto.The landscape gets really wonderful. We enter into a kind of canyon with vertical walls. And also the road grows vertical.

Behind us a Lada, old and stoic, at least five people on board and two huge speakers (for music) on the roof! We’re sure they’ll make it, Ladas can do everything. And with only 4 gears. The old military jeep leaves us and less than a minute later the umpteenth Lada 4×4, this time the new model, takes us on. On board, there are already 4 people but somehow we manage to get into. They go to Xinaliq!

Kinalug panorama mountain Azerbaijan

view from the top of the Xinaliq Village

We arrive in the town center where a large gazebo will hosts a wedding banquet. The market is closed, it’s Sunday, we hope in vain for someone to invite us to the banquet but nothing. After an hour or so there comes a gentleman to open the market, so we can buy some food.

Finally Xinaliq

The town is spread over all of our heads. The houses are in river stone and the roof is flat. No concrete or other materials, arrived just a few years ago, in 2006, when the road was completed, before that only horseback. We move towards the valley to find a spot for the tent and be able to wander around without weights.

At the end of the town starts a dirt road, the entrance to the Şahdağ National Park, but there is not a living soul. We put the tent in the meadow along the river and go back to the village. This time we climb among the narrow streets that lead to the top. The nice thing is that the roof of the house also serves as terraces for homes that are located upstairs.

It’s full of walls made of tiles of dried cow dung and straw. They serve as fuel to warm in the cold winter. The view from the top of the country is truly amazing. And it is amazing to think that for thousands of years the people of this village has been going well, just using what this remote piece of land, surrounded by impassable mountains, gave them. The river providing water and stones for the houses. Cows and sheep food, clothes and heating. Nothing to cultivate.

Since 2006, with the arrival of the road, a little bit (but very little) has changed. Some roofs of the new houses are made of steel. And then, of course, there are the cars. From the top of the village, we take a back-road, or rather a path on a bare mountain that leads to one of the many cemeteries.

They are very old, no archaeologist has dug here so nobody knows. Some tombstones are just stones planted in the ground, others have inscriptions in ancient Turkish or in other tongues. The oldest one might be Neolithic. Also, Xinaliq is part of the ancient Albanian tribes, so they also have their own language.

Back in town we meet two Italians arrived there with a rental car, and so tomorrow we have the lift back to Baku. The night is astounding, full moon coming out from back the village.

 

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