Wandering #1 Part A: Masazir, the Graveyard and the Salt Workers

Masazir Travel Blog

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Chris, ever the intrepid explorer

For weeks I had heard of the Masazir’s famous salty lake.  Usually it came from other Peace Corps volunteers living close to the lake in places like Saray and Masazir.  “Wow, walking down to the lake was so fun,” they would say.  I would ask “when are you going again, I would love to see it?” They were going to let me know, but, like most good intentions, it never saw the light of day.

Then I was talking to my host family here in Azerbaijan and they told me of the men who go out every day and shovel salt from the bottom of the very shallow lake into horse drawn carts.  So interesting was their story of these men that in that very same evening I started planning a trip over to Masazir.

The next morning I met Chris in Ceyranbatan, right outside of my house.

Amanda, self-appointed bread snob
We quickly had some tea then we got on the Marshrutka to Baku.  Chris had contacted Amanda, who lives in Masazir not too far from the lake, beforehand and recruited her for the trip as well.

If anybody is interested, to get to Masazir from Ceyranbatan or even from Sumgayit, you have to get on a Marshrutka going towards Baku (which costs 50 qepik), then get off at the Masazir city sign (which you can’t see if you are going towards Baku, you will just have to ask to get off at that point) and hike or take another Marshrutka back up another road.  The Marshrutka going back up towards Masazir is 20 qepik.

We decided not to take the second Marshrutka, but instead walked the kilometer up the hill.

Masazir, welcome
  Not knowing where to go (the journey is just as fun as the destination, right?), we took a right at some point along that road and found ourselves on top of a big hill looking down at the salty lake (which was still far away).  In this part of town we found a graveyard, which to any intrepid wanderer is like striking gold.  Graveyards, especially outside of the United States, are very interesting to wander around and to look at.  I took some pictures and wandered a bit.  There, we met a man who took us to an older part of the graveyard which only had small standing stones to mark the graves.

It was eerie in a pet cemetery sort of way.

After that, he also showed us what he called an ancient monument and explained to us, as best I could figure out, that the people would take plates and break them on the monument to ward off ghosts.

Monolithic graves
  To prove his point he showed a pile of broken plates at the base of the monument.

Soon he took us from the graveyard to the local mosque, which drew a sizeable amount of attention from the children.  They followed us around asking me to take their picture and then asking me how much I was selling the prints for.  Note that most photographers in this country take pictures as a street profession, so to these children they thought that anybody with a camera must have a way to instantly develop and sell their photos.  Why else would they have a camera?

After explaining for the 10th time in this country so far that I am taking pictures for my own self and that there was no way that I could get a picture to them, Chris and I found out that we were lost in the middle of a very confusing block of land.

  We could find our way out and back up the hill, but people kept on telling us that we could get to the lake from here too.  To make things worse, Amanda was at the lake waiting for us.

About 5 small twisty tan brown colored corridors later, Chris and I finally found a road which descended down to the lake.  20 minutes later we found Amanda down at the shore of a salty, pink lake.

First, we needed to find those salt workers.  We saw large piles of salt down the lake a ways so we headed there.  The first group of people had been working all day, so they were no longer in the lake.  After posing for some pictures with them (and subsequently explaining that I can’t actually make a photo and there is no way that I could get the pictures to them unless they had email, unfortunately), we moved farther up the lake.

  We found about three other groups of people working in this part of the lake.  They had their trucks parked about 20 feet out into the lake and were out there shoveling salt from the bottom of the lake into the back of the trucks.

I took a few shots, and then we moved on.  By this point I had thought that maybe it had been years since the workers actually used a horse and a cart to harvest the salt and that they had modernized the process by involving a truck instead of a horse and that pictures of men shoveling salt into trucks was the best I was going to get.  Notice how I just used foreshadowing to introduce the next part of the story.

At this point our goals had been met.  I had seen the lake and I had photographed the salt workers.

People shoveling salt into horse drawn carts!!! Yes!!!
  We saw that close to us was a grassy hill and we started towards it.  As everybody knows, it is only natural to want to climb a grassy hill.  On the way we saw the next bend in the lake.  It revealed to us that my host family was right, that there really were horse drawn carts in the middle of the lake and salt workers around them shoveling salt.

We waved, we took pictures, we marveled at the pink lake, and then we walked up the grassy hill with all of our goals achieved.  The top of this hill was very pleasant.  You could see all of Masazir and all of another city on the other side of the lake (which we thought might have been Saray, another bit of foreshadowing).  We spent some time up there, enjoying the breeze.  That was when we noticed the huge mosque in the distant city and decided that we needed to check it out.

We walked through some almond orchards, saw a flower, plant and tree store and entered into Novxani.

ted332 says:
nice blog! :)
Posted on: Aug 27, 2009
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Chris, ever the intrepid explorer
Chris, ever the intrepid explorer
Amanda, self-appointed bread snob
Amanda, self-appointed bread snob
Masazir, welcome
Masazir, welcome
Monolithic graves
Monolithic graves
People shoveling salt into horse d…
People shoveling salt into horse …
Creepy standing rock marked graves
Creepy standing rock marked graves
More of the same
More of the same
Black and white...not sure if it w…
Black and white...not sure if it …
Pensive...no?
Pensive...no?
Masazir
photo by: cbstevens