4 in a van, 10,400 kilometres spent on the road, 7 countries visited - that was the 14-days road trip to Azerbaijan by European Mountain Biker Richard Gasperotti aka Gaspi and his Zam documentary project crew. The Zam crew consisted of cameraman Marty Smolik, photographer Adam Marsal and production manager Lukas Jusko. Together with Gaspi, they departed in the middle of May 2017 for a 4000km long journey from Prague, Czech Republic to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
“Before we set off, many people asked why Azerbaijan? The beautiful mountains and the unspoilt wilderness with variety of trails for mountain biking is the key consideration for us to explore. The idea of producing Zam is to introduce mountain biking to unknown MTB community and the rest of the world. We were looking for a place that no one would expect and definitely not a place that has been visited by thousands of bikers, and Azerbaijan has everything that we were looking for,” Gaspi explained.
In spite of serious planning, we left Prague without comprehensive knowledge about where we were going and what were we going to do there, even though it was clear that there was a 4000 km journey ahead of us to reach the country's capital city, Baku.
In order to save as much time as possible, we travelled through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia with breaks only for grabbing some food and refuelling. This way we made it to the Azerbaijan’s border in only three days.
Gaspi had a rare opportunity to race with the wild horses at the bottom of a valley.
In order to save as much time as possible, we travelled through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia with breaks only for grabbing some food and refuelling. This way we made it to the Azerbaijan’s border in only three days. The following morning we woke up to catch sight of the wonderful mountainous scenery undulating far on the north. The sun shone high over the clouds, the tall grass rustled, cows and goats grazed on the meadows and birds of prey circling in the sky. “Guys, just wait to see the real mountains,” an older man standing at the bus stop promised us. Boy, was he right.
As soon as the clouds dissolved, giant peaks emerged, rising from the mist as frost giants from the lake. They were covered with snow and looked too much like an illusion to be true. The view lasted just for a few seconds and then the clouds swallowed the mountains once again but we knew this was the place we were looking for.
Azerbaijan is a beautiful country with an amazingly diverse landscapes where the Caspian Sea beaches meet rocky deserts, hilly steppes and sky-scraping mountains. The dusty desert areas turned out to be very demanding and it took a time to make bikes ready for every day's ride.
The modern Baku is in a vast contradiction to what you can experience in the remote mountainous area of Caucasus, where people live in houses made of cobblestones similar to the way inhabitants used to live several hundred years ago.
Khinalug is the highest, most remote and isolated village in Azerbaijan and among the highest in the Caucasus. It is located just north of Quba in the middle of the Greater Caucasus mountains that divide Russia and the South Caucasus. The weather changes dramatically during summer and winter. The village has a population of about 2,000 people
We’d bet it was the first time when the local boys have an opportunity to see someone riding on a fullsuspension bike in Khinalug. In the village, the houses, made of cobblestone and stretching up the hill, resemble multi-storied buildings.
After two weeks of travel, we travelled over 12,000 kilometres in one van, spent ten days on a bike, made unexpected new friends and, among many other activities, we emptied five bottles of Jägermeister and three packs of Red Bull. We also got in touch with the local government, which makes us hope that mountain biking will be met with all the available support and develop into one of the most popular sports in the country. Big thanks to everyone who has helped us in fulfilling our dream!