So there we were, parched on the pavement in Gobustan, Azerbaijan. Fresh from gurgling volcanic mud holes and ancient cave scratchings, we looked forward to catching a marshrutka (minibus) that was due any minute back to the big city, Baku. Fifteen minutes, no marshrutka. Thirty minutes, no marshrutka. Heat exhaustion setting in. Drink some water.
Another soul waiting for our marshrutka confirmed in something between Azerbaijani, broken Russian and charades that our ride would indeed come. Scorched misery loves company. Things were looking up.
Two marshrutkas marked Baku pass. Filled to the rim, they don’t stop. Not a good sign that we’d make our 7-course shashlik meal with Yahya that night.
Then, a towering tourist bus appears in the distance, the letters B-A-K-U come into focus. Is this our chariot?
Our fellow rider motions that this is not the right bus, but we flag it down anyway. He has a chat with the driver and his aide and we are quickly ushered on board.
Turns out that we boarded an Iranian tourist bus bound for Baku. The door slams shut behind us and our friend has been left in the dust. Just two bewildered Americans and a bus load of tired Iranians.
We pause for a brief moment, and the chants begin “Death to America! Death to America.” Navigating our fear, we find two seats together near the front, but not before we notice American flags burning in the back.
In truth, a few eyebrows were raised and curious looks passed, but the travel weary group drifted in and out of a well air-conditioned sleep to catch a few scenes from the latest film on the overhead video screen.
The bus driver and his co-pilot got a good laugh…and we got a ride that we desperately needed. Not a bad deal – 1 hour of air conditioned comfort for 1 manat (1.20 USD).