We may have spent only a few hours getting there, but they were some of the most difficult of our lives! The first test began with the border guards who thoroughly checked all our papers and wanted to know where we were going and why. After all, we were way up in the Caucasus Mountains, not far from the border with Russia. While the guards followed procedure, we tried to make up for the enforced break by enjoying the beautiful landscapes and clean, fresh air. Permission to cross the valley granted, we set off again. Then came our next test. We had to ford a river but it was flowing far too fast. So we spent another hour getting round it. Where were we headed? Muchuq – one of Azerbaijan’s most spectacular waterfalls.
Photos by ELDAR FARZALIYEV
Just a few words about Muchuq. It’s in Qabala District near the mountain village of Laza (don’t be confused but there are two Lazas in Azerbaijan – one in Qabala District and one across the mountains in Qusar District). Vehicles cannot get to Muchuq, not even jeeps or tractors. The only way to reach the waterfall is on horseback or donkey. However, we had no four-legged transport, so we left our car in Laza and took to Shanks’s pony. We walked for over three hours up the rocky valley of the Demiraparan River. The river’s name means “Carrying Iron” and its waters really are dark and murky, unlike the crystal clear mountain streams that feed it.
We hadn’t gone half way before we were ready to curse our shoes. They had thin soles so we could feel the jab of every sharp rock and stone. And though we took frequent breaks, they didn’t ease our tired legs. But we were not going to give up…
We were here
On the way to Muchuq a huge rock rises from the mountainside, offering shade for a welcome rest. From a distance the rock looked like a strangely variegated hill. As we got closer, we saw it was standing in a meadow, surrounded by blooming wild flowers. The rock was a mass of graffiti, probably from marks made by the shepherds and rare travellers who come this way. We decided to leave our inscription as well, “Visions of Azerbaijan”.
The most terrifying moment of our adventure was an encounter with sheepdogs. Caucasian sheepdogs are some of the largest and fiercest sheepdogs I have ever come across. It all happened in a flash, just as we were climbing up a slope from the rocky riverbed. We had seen a flock of sheep and two shepherds across the valley, but thought nothing of it. Suddenly, we realised that a pack of sheepdogs was heading straight for us. There was nowhere to run, so we stood our ground, making no sudden movements. Five barking dogs surrounded us, ready to attack. We all held hands, feeling like hostages awaiting our final moments. The dogs seemed so vicious. Those enormous jaws would have been the last thing we ever saw, if the two shepherds hadn’t realised in time what was happening. They gave the sign for the dogs not to attack, but as the shepherds came running, the barking dogs kept us in their circle. At last the shepherds reached us and called off the dogs. The hounds ran away at once. We felt we had been born again, given another chance at life. What an adrenaline rush…
Muchuq at last
Another amazing adrenaline rush was ahead of us. As we reached the bottom of the hill, where Muchuq begins, an incredible view opened up. In that moment we forgot everything – our aching feet and tired bodies, even our sheepdog scare. As we climbed, Muchuq became stronger and larger. However much we tried, we couldn’t approach the heart of the waterfall, the flow was too powerful and the rocks too slippery. We were so happy, though soaked through. This was our baptism after being born again. We were in the heart of nature…
About the author: Jeyran Bayramova is a freelance journalist and former staff writer at Visions.