During the 3 days in Batumi we felt that we just got even more tired but somehow we managed to leave. We realized that here in Georgia the cars and trucks smell worse than before. E.g there was a tunnel where we seriously were thinking whether we really should enter it or not. It was ascending and full of smoke but having no other option we crossed it and survived. After such tunnels we always eat some vitamins. We slept 1 night in tent then in Kobuleti we asked for a place to sleep and a man told that he has got free rooms and even internet so we spent 2 nights there. They were very kind, gave us food several times, let us wash our clothes in the washing mashine and when we were just about to hang the clothes to dry we noticed that the grandma already did it. We really could use the internet whenever we wanted although the guys were also using the computer. Once we went to the stony beach, it was quite empty and the wheather was a bit cloudy as well. It was Batumi feeling in a sense that we hardly could start from here as well.
The next bigger city was Poti which is a port town. Here we inquired about the possible ferry routes and prices to Ukraine. In the ticket office (Instra) the lady couldn’t give us a timetable, they only knew that the next ferry leaves the next day and costs 175$ per person. So there is no schedule for the ferries. There was a guy there who heard our conversation and told me another cheaper option, namely to board a cargo ship to Kerch because the captain can take 5 passangers on board. This option costs probably only 50$ in total.
You might be curious why we are interested in shipping to Ukraine because it is not on the way to the Himalayas. Well, after having that break in Batumi and Kobuleti we couldn’t get out of our mind to have some more rest, to have proper shower whenever we wanted, to speak the language of the country where we are, to eat good meals, to buy the food whatever we wanted etc. We also wanted to avoid Tehran with the heat and the smog. We had bad experience riding the bike in big cities (Istambul). The main reason is that this 2 months riding the bike was enough. So we wanted to see the Caucasus and then go home. Even with the new plan we will still ride the bike for several more weeks and km’s.
This guy told us to call him several days in advance so he can arrange our transportation to Kerch. Having his phone number we left to the Caucasus.
In Chaladidi we asked for a place to camp and we were invited to a house. We got some potatos with onion which was very tasty. Unfortunately there was no bathroom, only one tap in the garden. The whole village looked very poor and we learned that salary is so low that most of them don’t work just like our host, Irakli. His plan was to collect enough money to go to Austria after his brother who worked there although he didn’t know where exactly in Austria. We set up the tent in their garden. We didn’t know that we didn’t choose the best spot, we only realized that at 4 am when a rooster started to kukorékol about 1 m next to the tent… It was horrible, my ears still hurt if I just think about that noise. We also learned that it is not worth to ask for e-mail address. We wanted to send the pohtos but after asking for the address both times in Kobuleti and Chaladidi as well the guys left for several minutes in the house and when they showed up again they brought a paper with their names. We couldn’t explain that it is not an e-mail address. Communication is not so easy, my russian is not the best. What could have happen was that they thought we were asking for normal post address and so they wrote their names what we can write on the envelope. The reason of taking so long to write their own names was that they don’t use latin alphabet. They speak Georgian and Russian but both alphabets are different. We were suprised that Irakli called me 2 and 4 days later in the evening just to ask where we are.
Chaladidi also seemed to be an endless village, probably it was more but we didn’t know when one was ending and another starting. We couldn’t see any crossing, all the houses were next to the main road.
The next bigger city was Zugdidi where we ate khachapuri. It is a Georgian food, similar to a pizza but there is dough on the top and inside only cheese. Sometimes they put other stuff inside as well, like meat or beans. It is very tasty. Zsófi liked Zugdidi, she said it was cute. At the end of the city some guys offered to take us to Mestia with the local bus service, Marshrutka. Of course we denied the offer. They seemed a bit drunk and they also offered us some chacha, the local spirit. We already tried it in Chaladidi, it is really strong. Even though Irakli and his friend had about 5 or 6 shots in half an hour.
Just like in Turkey, here in Georgia we are a strange phenomenon, people are staring at us as we pass by and if we stop they immiadetly ask where we are from. In a village before Jvari we seemed interesting for some policemen, a policecar followed us for a very long time. Whenever we stopped they stopped as well, sometimes they passed us staring out of the car. Then not far they stopped, waited for us to pass them and followed us again. We couldn’t figure out why we seemed suspicious.
Not far from Jvari we found a perfect spot for our tent, there was a table and bench there, some trees that gives us shade and it was enough far from the road as well. We just needed water so we were looking for a tap. Then a guy came out of his garden to help us. After that the following conversation took place:
Felix – Is there any water here? (Voda jeszty?)
Guy – Yes, there is. (Da.)
Félix – And is there a shower? (I dus jeszty?)
Guy – Yes, there is. (Da.)
That’s how it happened that we could take a shower. Ok, it was a bit more complicated but the point is that nice and clean we went to set up the tent. Even though we had a shower we filled the Ortlieb bag with water. It was the first time we used it and we were really satisfied. It is a lot easier to was our hands or wash vegtables from the bag. It was my name day that day so we celebrated with some potato pasta (krumplis tészta).
Next day we said good bye to the flat roads and started to ascend to the Caucasus.
We passed by a dam and a 30 km long lake. We learned later from a guy where we had khachapuri that the dam was built in the 70’s and people lived where the lake is now but because of dam the houses were flooded so they had to move.
We crossed several tunnels on the road, they were quite scary. There was no light in the tunnels we could hardly see the road which was bumpy and some water was dripping from the ceiling. The good thing is that we didn’t meet any car when were in the tunnel. It happend only once that we almost had company in one tunnel but we rather waited for them to leave – because it was a goatherd, at least 100 goats in a tunnel could have some smell!!! That day we slept in a little wooden house next to a restaurant. We could also use the bathroom, although it need some repairing the point was the hot shower. Sleeping in a house was a good choise for the night because there was heavy rain in the evening. The bad choise was to have some khachapuri with meat. Or at least they called it meat, we rather felt as mócsing and it was so spicy hot that we had to cool our lips with some ice cream. We couldn’t eat the whole thing it was so bad. I was looking for the expressions in our little Russian dictionary like “This is not what I ordered” or “This is uneatable” but Zsófi dissuaded me to tell that to the cook when I brought back the remaining pieces.
In the morning it was the second time we waked up on some noise from an animal, this time it was a few pigs. Animals like pigs, goats, cows and chicken is not a rare phenomenon. The same day happened that we went through a tunnel where some cows were cooling in the shade. They look mad but when we get close to them they jump away. The road was not always easy, we met less ans less asphalt and sometimes there were constructions on the road because some rocks were falling down. For lunch we tried some soup, again instead of meat with something else but otherwise it was good. We ate it in a little wooden house with some plastic roof so if outside was 28 degrees then inside in the house about 38 degrees. Zsófi laughed a lot when I said I will ask if the sauna is also included in the price of the soup or will we be chagred extra for it. Again although she found funny she dissuaded me to ask it.
In the evening when looking for a place to camp we passed a wooden house where a guy worked. He showed us a nice place for our tent, he said it was his property. We wanted to make some pancakes for dinner, flour is heavy and pancakes are tasty but we had no milk. We don’t carry milk anymore with us because it goes wrong during the daily heat. We asked the guy if we can buy from him or maybe he knows where we can get. He was nice and told that we can buy in the nearby village and he will go there soon. We thought he needs something as well from the village so he can take me to a shop in the village and I can also come back with him. What really happened was that he lived in the village and took me to his home where we got fresh milk from one of his cows and he and his wife also packed us some jam and wine. I started to realize that he drives back to our camping place only because of me when her wife said that she will come as well to see Zsófi. I already asked in their house how much does all this cost but they answered something from which I thought it is a gift. Already at the camp place I asked again when the wife said it is 20 lari included everything, camping place as well! We felt bad because the guy didn’t say he will ask money for the camping place and 20 lari is quite a lot for half a litre of milk. Fortunately we could agree in 10 lari. The “shopping” took so long that at the end we didn’t make pancakes, only in the morning. The same evening we tested the shower function of the Ortlieb bag. It is also satisfying, both of us could comfortably take shower from 10 l bag and it is much better than pouring water from bottles to each other. There is only 1 tiny problem… it is cold but we are taugh guys!!!
Next day was very nice. From one part of the road we could even see the famous Ushba twin peaks (4710 m) which is the toughest mountaineering challenge in Georgia.
Because it was my big dream to see it I told Zsófi that we have to stand there for 10 minutes in silence but she didn’t take me seriously.
10 km before Mestia, in Latali, we wanted to have something to eat so we asked for a shop or restaurant. We learned that there was no shop but the lady said we can have dinner at their place and later also offered a room to sleep. All for free. The dinner was delicious! We had a different kind of pancake made of matsoni (instead of milk), which is the caucasian kefír in Georgian language. Although I didn’t expect it we could also take a shower, the bathroom was very nice. I have mixed feelings about the Georgian hospitality, some of them are nice but some of them want to take advantage of tourists.
Next day we cycled the remaining 10 km to Mestia but this is already another story…
More photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/felix.kovacs/BikeToAsiaGruzia#
Zsófi & Félix
Ps.: We got a response that you never know who writes the post. This time we wrote it together, although “I” refers to Félix.