The Lada Legend: Besh Barmagh and Sumqayit – Part One
Five fingers. Not an answer to the question “How many fingers am I holding up?” but rather a rock formation north of Baku. Why is it named as such? From a specific angle, it looks like there are five rocks jutting up that form a “hand.” Historically, the formation is a religious site. People make their way up the hill to kiss a stone, give alms to beggars, and take in the stunning vistas.
The Lada brain trust wasn’t as interesting in kissing stones as it was taking the Colonel up the steep dirt road. Five hundred metres up, in fact. It was also Dorje’s last major trip, so we had to do something interesting.
Sunday morning. We were all excited to get on the road. I made my way downstairs to the parking lot only to find that the back right tire was completely flat. So flat that when we took the tire off, it was no longer circular…permanently. Great. Time to get into Lada problem solving mode—something we have done a lot of over the last five months.
First problem: no jack. Second problem: our spare is in worse shape than the flat tire. We briefly considered trying to lift the car, but then figured we might actually cause more damage that way. Our saviour arrived in a 1976 Lada 1300. His name was Sergo. A Georgian, he came to Azerbaijan in 1976 on a business trip with the military. Thirty-four years later he is still in Azerbaijan. When I explained what I did for a living, he asked if we needed any diesel generator work done at our company.
I made sure to compliment his car (it was a fine piece of Soviet machinery after all) and allude to the fact that we had a flat tire and needed a jack. Needless to say, Sergo is a man prepared. We jacked up the Colonel, took off the tire, and then took off on foot in search of someone that could remove the tire and someone that could sell us a new tire.
A group of foreigners walking around with a Lada wheel is something you can definitely add to the list of “things that turn heads in Azerbaijan.” One group of guys asked us what on earth we were doing carrying a tire around. Our answer provided much amusement, but they ended up pointing us in the direction of a tire store.
Thirty minutes later, we had the wheel with the new tire back on the Colonel. Time to hit the road.