Well it started out like that but ended up being a day of fines. Despite there not being a cloud in the sky Georgian Customs managed to rain on our parade by fining us NZ$500 per bike for “overstaying”. Spread over the 10 months we’d left our bikes parked up in Tbilisi since the end of our 2018 riding season, that works out at $12 pw parking rights. Not so bad and pretty much expected when we abandoned the machines for the NZ summer.
But the day of fines took a turn for the worse when the Azerbaijan police pulled us over. We had read lots about how corrupt this lot are from others’ blogs – apparently 50% of Azeris pay a bribe to them in a six month period (Transparency International) and out of 10 the country scores just 2 for its corruption, the police being the main offender. We’d heard stories of tourists collecting thousands of dollars of fines during their visit. So with that in mind we began our visit on best behaviour, driving well within the 60/90 urban/country speed limits – even in spite of the locals whizzing past us more often than not.
But it wasn’t good enough. We were stopped for passing on a solid white median line – even though we didn’t cross it, that excuse didn’t wash. The cops showed us a page on their Ipad stating the fines for such an offence were to be in the range of NZ$500-$700, telling us we would have to visit a bank to pay. We protested, stern silence from them in response, finally broken by the question, “How much do you think you should pay?”.
So we knew we were now on the corruption skewer so instantly I had to make a judgement as to what was enough to get rid of the them but not be so low as to incentivise them to haul us to the police station where I’d read the “fines” then are compounded with a “hassle” levy. “$100” was the call, “it’s all we have left in locals”, Joanne chimed in.
More silence – this time on both sides. The stare down had begun.
Next came a recital of the speeding rules (irrelevant to the alleged offence), which was a tacit approval of our offer. Joanne produced the cash and they were off. Our first encounter with the famed Azeri police was over.
Tomorrow I’m going to try a $50 bid and see where their tolerance expires.