A day at the Petroglyphs

Qobustan Travel Blog

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People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

Qobustan is a town located 60kms south of Baku and therefore it SHOULD be an easy day trip from the capital. We set off from home at 10.00, with the plan of using a combination of buses, metro and foot to reach Idman Sarayi in the south west of the city, where the buses down the coast left from. Aboard the first marshrutka, a helpful lady told us that there was no need to mess around so much and that there was a direct bus to Idman Sarayi, so we took her advice and boarded the number she told us to. Indeed this bus did go where we needed, but it followed a route that seemed to leave it gridlocked for the entirety of our journey.

It was 12.30 when we finally disembarked and my patience was seriously frayed.

Our previous driver had left us by the side of the road, telling us to wait for the number 105, but a few minutes later a man said that we were in the wrong place and that the 105 went from further up the road. Ever more agitated we boarded another bus for a quick 5 minute journey to where we had been told to go. This driver dropped us off and informed us to wait where he left us, so we did as we were advised. 20 minutes later and there was still no sign of a 105, and my annoyance was now accompanied by a fair share of worry, would we even get out of Baku before sunset?! Finally an empty 105 did come past, but it wouldn't stop and the driver waved for us to go up the street. Walking a few hundred metres we came to a gathering of minibuses and finally found where the 105 departed from.
Sods law dictated that the bus only had one seat left, so we were left for another half an hour waiting for the next one to fill up. Just before 13.30 we finally set off, bewildered that it had taken three and a half hours just to get out of the city!

An hour later we were dropped in Qobustan and left with the option of paying 10 Manats ($12.50) for a taxi or walking 5km to the petroglyph's. There wasn't really any discussion, and it only took an hour to walk in a pleasant sun that was accompanied by a sea breeze. We payed 3 Manats ($3.75) each to enter the Qobustan Petroglyph Reserve and the site historian kindly agreed to wave the camera fee, which would have been 2 Manats ($2.

Before viewing the petroglyphs we took the chance to look around a small museum that gave us a good introduction to the area. Housed inside the building were some moldings of cavemen and also photos of the petroglyphs. The pictures actually came in useful, as it gave us an idea of what we should be looking for and what we didn't want to miss. Lousy Planet had proved to be a fountain of unhelpful information (there's a turn up for the books!), stating that 'even spotting the petroglyph's can be pretty tough for the casual visitor'. This had left us pondering paying 6 Manats ($7.50) each for a guide, but thankfully the guy told us that all the petroglyph's were marked and easy to spot. I'm still baffled at how inaccurate the Lousy Planet can be with its information and I can only presume that they have never even visited most of the places.
That or they are idiots... either way its not promising!

Two things were particularly impressive whilst waking around the reserve: the first was obviously the petroglyph's, ancient Stone Age engravings that totalled 6000 in number and were located on 5 hillsides, although we only got to visit one. The second thing was the view from the top of the hill, looking down over Qobustan town and the Caspian Sea. The distant oil rigs that cause pollution and devastation to the region somehow also added a tinge of character to the scene, in a sorry kind of way.

Scenes depicted within the etchings included a reed boat sailing into the sunset, men hunting deer, horses, cows, boar, goats and other animals. Julia liked these petroglyphs more than any of the ones that we had previously visited in Central Asia and i would probably have to agree with her, although I didn't think there was a great deal to choose between them.

The reserve closed at 16.30, which coincided nicely with our timing, as we were just about to leave. Having stroked two beautiful cats for a couple of minutes, the site historian must have seen what decent people we were and kindly offered to take us to some nearby Roman graffiti. Julius Maximus, a centurion of the 12th Legion who served under Emperor Domitian had made the inscription on a rock, probably not knowing its future importance. As it turned out, this would be the furthest marking to the East of Rome that was ever made. Whatever happened to Julius nobody knows, but to have your graffiti admired two millenia later probably means that vandals around the world should continue meaninglessly scribbling their 'tags' with spray paint on as many walls as possible, as it may lead to some form of everlasting minuscule fame! Sadly, much of the inscription was covered, as it was undergoing restoration, but we did get to make out a couple of letters. The historian was also heading back to Baku and offered to take us with him, which was a really nice ending to the day.

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photo by: Biedjee