Azerbaijan is a former soviet republic located in a disagreeable spot just south of Russia and just north of Iran. It is known for nothing except oil, and the smell of that oil is inescapable, even inside the cabin of an arthritic helicopter desperately trying to gain altitude for a trip across the Caspian Sea.

The helicopter, a rusting Soviet Mi-8, seems unable to move forward, which is problematic, because we are already hovering 25 feet above the ground. Our destination, an offshore pumping complex known as Oily Rocks, sits 15 miles away. Azerbaijan Airlines inherited the helicopter from Aeroflot but did not, apparently, inherit spare parts.
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