Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Exploring Azerbaijan: Candy Cane Mountains and Altiaghaj National Parl

The girls were up for another day of exploring after Besh Barmag so we loaded up the car again and headed in the same direction, but slightly further to the Candy Cane Mountains.

We found a parking lot for an abandoned building, crossed the highway, picked a peak, and started climbing. The girls climbed pretty high and spent their time exploring for conical fossils and some sea shells. The mountains were really unique to see and fun to explore!

We still had some time left and gas in the tank so we headed further along the road to the Altiaghach National Park. It was a pretty drive and we went basically to the end of the road in a small village before turning back around. We found a pull off on the road and got out to stretch our legs and head up a trail we'd seen from the car.

It was cool and nice amongst the trees and the girls had fun playing with dirt, sticks, and finding frogs. Madi even got to hold her first one! I wish we'd had more time to keep exploring up and see how far the trail went, but alas - we will have to save it for another day!



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Exploring Azerbaijan: Beş Barmaq (Five Finger Mountain)

This weekend we decided to explore more of Azerbaijan. We have seen Beş Barmaq (Five Finger Mountain) from the highway a handful of times when we've driven out of town, including to Shahdag and camping the previous weekend. We decided we wanted to visit ourselves and started the hour-ish journey to arrive mid-morning. 

There was a flat area with tables and picnic setups and the start of the stairs up. However most of those stairs were just through the field to arrive at the base of the mountain so we skipped them by driving further up to the mosque to begin closer at the base so the girls could walk it all. 

We had heard mixed things about the condition of the stairs and the girls' ability to walk it so we decided to hope for the best, take our time, and worst case scenario use the ergo and hiking backpacks we'd brought with us. (We didn't want to use them from the beginning because the girls love exploring and walking plus they are heavy.) 

I'm happy to say that they did amazing walking on the stairs and were able to do them all holding the rails or our hands almost the entire time. There were only a handful of places where we picked them up or carried them. The walk took around 45 minutes total, including time to stop and pet the cats, eat a snack, and take some pictures. 

Notes for visitors: If you are in Azerbaijan and go here, then bring coins to give the older ladies on the stairs and gentlemen at the top for the "blessing" [although we opted to skip after we saw everyone drinking from a communal cup of water]. The old ladies will want to bless you as you walk up by rubbing a stone on your back. Also be prepared to be scolded by locals for allowing your toddlers to walk rather than carry them and they will try and "help" by grabbing them and moving them. Madi and Olivia loved that as you can imagine. ðŸ˜

We noticed horses with saddles back down by the start of the stairs and decided to inquire about the girls riding before we left. They were thrilled to go on a couple laps around the open space on a "horsie". 

We headed back to Baku thankful for the fun experience and proud of our girls for doing so well hiking and being great listeners on the stairs when we'd ask them to do something. And this is definitely my favorite picture from the trip - I love everything about it! 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Exploring Azerbaijan: Camping and Beaching

We had a long four-day weekend this past week and since we'd just gotten over jet lag (and were late in realizing it was a four-day weekend) staying somewhere in the country was the best option. Unfortunately all of the hotels were sold out because everyone else had the same idea! We own all the gear to go camping and decided to put it to good use over the weekend.

We hadn't been camping before with the girls and were able to find a campground that also had cabins and included breakfast. We decided to go ahead and rent one to have the fridge and toilet and also use the bedrooms worst case scenario depending how everyone did in the tent. We made the three hour drive up Friday afternoon and had plenty of time to setup before night fall.

When we pulled into Long Forest, Madi asked "Where is the playground?" We laughed gently and told her everywhere was the playground! Over the weekend the girls has so much fun playing with rocks and sticks. We spent hours exploring the area with the owners dog following us and enjoyed picking blackberries as a snack and being given apples by a local passing by.

Introducing the girls to banana boats and smores. Yum! ðŸ˜‹

The girls did great with the outdoors part, but questionable when it came to the actual tent part...they didn't want to stay in sleeping bags and weren't quite sure how to handle the freedom of not having a crib. We woke up multiple times to toddlers wandering the tent and attempting to locate the zippers to escape. ðŸ˜³

However, overall it was a wonderful time and we are excited to try camping again with the girls. But this time with cots. ðŸ˜‚

We packed up and headed back to Baku Sunday night to shower and get a proper night's sleep!

Monday was still a holiday and we met our friends Tricia and Jason in Old City for the traditional Azeri breakfast, which is a favorite and Tricia's husband Jason hadn't gotten a chance to try yet.

Afterwards we headed to Dalga Aquapark. The girls had fun splashing and going down the slides before lunch and then playing on the beach and getting ice cream after lunch. It was a perfect way to end the long weekend and spend time with friends!


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