Ezerum to Tbilisi

so luckily the hair is back to its normal dirty self, and it didnt take long just a day on the bike and it was pretty much able to stand vertically…. and the universe is in balance again.

not the easyest camping stop

not the easyest camping stop

Me and Kieth left Ezerum in the morning and started the day cycling into a head wind but slightly down hill. we had met a guy, Roger, the previous night who had cycled from plymouth and was heading to Iran, he gave us a tip on a beautiful road towards Georgia. so on his advice we followed his route. the road turned out to be stunning. we were dropping the whole time and eventually we entered a large gorge and the road meandered through paralleling the river. After around 110k we had both had enough, although it was down hill we had the head wind all the way and by the end we were pretty drained. we camp on a small headland which jutted out into the lake created by the river we had been following. we set up camp and ate and sat watching the lake and an onimous looking storm moving our way. as it got closer and closer, suddenly the wind picked up and was blowing a gale. then the rain was torrential. we jumped in our tents partially to stay dry and partially to put some weight in them so they didnt blow away. then the sky ripped open and Allah him self was throwing down his wroth at the infidels for not complying with Ramadan. the lightning was incredible, forks of 10 strikes, lighting the sky and the sound was incredible. but as ferocious as it was it went quickly and left me and keith to sleep soundly.

stunning valley

stunning valley

in the morning we cycled on and followed the gorge alittle longer down to 550m where we took a road going more North Easterly which followed another river this time going up stream, which took us up to 1250m. after the accent we decided to pitch camp. we found a nice meadow slightly sheltered from the road, and learning from or mistake of the previous evening we ate straight away ready for another storm. which wasnt in vain, as just before it got dark the wind and rain came and forced us to another early night.

stopping to fix a puncture

stopping to fix a puncture

the next morning we woke up to rain for the first time in months, not bad considering, ate quickly under a tree and started cycling to get warm. the road was probably the best so far, no traffic, and through absolutely stunning scenery. the landscape was changing rapidly from arid mountains to lush wet alpine mountains and rising in altitude the whole way. the rain continued which just added to the feeling of finally leaving the arid turkish landscape behind us. we passed through some pretty interesting villages along the way, there was one cluster of stone houses with tarpaulin roofs that some gypsy migrants had moved in to. they were single rooms and probably the most basic living conditions we have seen on the journey so far. At the top i finally decided to don my water proofs and luckily just after a car dove through a puddle and sent a wave of water my way, thanks for the good water proofs mum and marg. i found kieth waiting for me at the top after he got a tow up (and missed the best road) and we decided we both deserved some food and a tea. we had noticed a change in the people and atmosphere the closer we got to Georgia and thankfully they didnt seem to bothered about Ramadan anymore, so there was no problem filling our stomachs. we  left the town and found ourselfs on a mini steppe (high altitude grassland plain) and enjoyed the long straight and most importantly flat stretch of road which took us all the way to the next town.

attracting a crowd

attracting a crowd

we stopped there a got supplies and again noticed the liberal atmosphere, girls without head scarfs and blatant eating and drinking on the streets. we cycled out both feeling good about entering a more liberal area. i suddenly felt a bit sick a light headed, and had to cycle slowly, i realised i hadnt eaten anything since brunch and felt alittle foolish, but after a packet of biscuits i was right as rain. luckily the road leaving the town was shocking, gravel and really narrow which took my mind of possibly fainting. i caught up with kieth who was very unsympathetic and wondered where i had been. ha ha next thing he turns to me and says hes not feeling to well now either, i gave him a few biscuits, but these old timers just dont have a speedy digestion like us youth, so we had to stop while he ate more and digested. after a while he was able rouse his old bones and get back on the bike, and over the next hill we found a spot to camp, under the ruins of a castle. the place was really cool, the houses were really small and had turfed roofs. it was apt that i was reading lord of the rings at the time because it felt like the shire (hobbit land).

swapping maps

swapping maps

the next morning we woke to a fog and chilly temperatures. the sun broke through nicely and allowed us to dry our tents before we made a move. leaving our camp we met two cyclists coming towards us, a Catalonian couple who had cycled from china and were heading back home. we swapped information and they warned us of the 15k climb we were about to face. we also swapped our turkish map for a central asia map which will be invaluable. we said our goodbyes and then started the accent. which was long, it took us up to our highest so far 2540 m. at the top it was pretty cold as the sweat from the climb starts to chill. the climb was worth ever second as the road coming down the other side was a cyclist wet dream. about 20k of  meandering, fast, asphalt layed by the supple hands of Allah, and godly it felt. after the drop we had a small accent about 5k to the border, because of the humidity the climb took us through rising clouds, that, and the terraced mountain side made me feel like i was in China already.

Georgia 031

At the border kieth went first as we were anticipating a delay, his passport with the turkish visa had been stolen so he was an illegal alien. luckily he was carrying the newspaper article which ratified his legal status, it was so funny the immigration offical didnt really understand the problem which was exacerbated by the officials confusion over kieth stating that he was Scottish but carrying a GB passport which the official though was just for England. After a few minutes of banging his head again a brick wall kieth was eventually taken to his supperia. which left me waiting around and to bear witness to a most disturbing kanine sexual act. a guy with some big nasty looking dog was trying to allow his dog to satisfy his male urges (whilst keeping a tight grip on the lead and casually smoking a cigarette) on an unwilling bitch,who cowered to the ground and tried her best not to expose any orifice that the randy dog could satisfy himself in. sorry to be so graphic but it was quite a grotesque sight to witness and it feels right i should share the burden.

highest pass so far

highest pass so far

awesome road

awesome road

we crossed the border and were on a dirt track, not giving us the best impression of the transport network in Georgia. after about 10k we eventually hit asphalt again which took us to the first town, where we decided to wet the head of the country and toast our departure from Ramadan with an out of date beer. from there we cycled another 20k to the next biggest town. we decided it would be a shame to miss out staying the night in our first Georgian town so we found a cheapish hotel, showered and went to explore. we ended up in a small underground bar, and after experimenting with the local beer we decided to call it a night, before we paid kieth wanted to take a photo of the bar. breaking out his camera attracted some attention and the patroness wanted a photo. after straightening her hair in the mirror she posed for a picture. somehow during the course of posing the topic of guns came up at which point every single man in the bar, searched around his waist, undid his holster and present the woman with there guns, she was offered about five. which she took and then stood in various different positions with the host of gun available. from there we were invited to join there table and neither of our shot glasses were empty of vodka for very long. all getting slightly more intoxicated the music was turned up, the woman sitting next to me took abit of a shine to me, and asked me to dance, turkish style. i can’t dance and certainly cant dance turkish style, i said this but had little choice. i told her i couldnt dance and she said i didnt need to and she would just dance around me so  standing awkwardly she started spinning and twisting. at which point the men around the table started to become slightly jealous and a large guy jumped up and stood in my way and tried to dance with her. this put an end to the fun as we all sat down after and the atmosphere in the place had suddenly changed. thinking better of being around a lot of gun wielding, drunk, jealous men me and kieth decided the time was right to make our excuses and retire for the evening. entering a new country should always begin like this.

guns guns guns

guns guns guns

drunk and jealous

drunk and jealous

in the morning we slept in and feeling very hungover i woke to find kieth perched on the end of his bed in the ready to run to the toilet and be sick position, these old timers just cant handle their drink. we gingerly packed our bags and ate something before we hit the road. which was a stunner, mostly flat through valleys of stunning forested mountains, which we were both pleasantly surprised at after the opening section of road into Georgia. connecting the two sides of the river we were following, were small suspension bridges, kieth said he wanted some adventure and we should cycle across one. not especially keen for adventure but willing to follow i did the same, there were planks missing and broken ones half repaired, we got to the other side and agreed there wasnt much point in the crossing (i think kieth thought it was a good excuse for a rest) so we cycled back. close to the end of the bridge my front wheel slipped between two planks and my bike suddenly lurched down and forward stopping at my pannier racks luckily. cursing kieth and his stupid idea for some adventure i pulled my bike out of the crack and walked it off the bridge. before the rain started we decided to camp and found a nice spot in woods next to the river.

georgian mountains

georgian mountains

stupid bridge

stupid bridge

in the morning we woke up to rain, so donning my water proofs and putting on my back light we left for Gori (Stalins birth place). it was probably the most scary ride of my life, the Georgian drivers are crazy. there are two main roads in Georgia one coming from the south and one from the west and they converge to one road just after the spot were we camped. the condition of the road doesnt get any better or wider but has to deal with twice the traffic. the drivers seem to deal with the lack of dual carriage way by just being as reckless as possible, i think the theory of it being that if everyone is as crazy as each other somehow it just seems to work. it doesnt work for me and after getting blown off the road by two lorries i had had enough. thankfully we were practically at Gori so i didnt have long to endure. At Gori we found the famous and last remaining statue of Stalin, kieth went into the museum and me being the eager culture vulture sat out side watching the bikes and reading my book. Apparently its less of a museum and more of an idolisation of Stalin and there is little reference to him being an evil dictator who killed thousands of his own country men and left all oposition in fear of being sent to the Gulags. we left the town and the main road behind us, hoping to luck out and find a paved road which went to Tbilisi, which turned out to be a great decision. we camped in a small gorge that night and managed to put up our tents just as the heavens opened.

in the morning it was the last push to Tbilisi. we didnt have anything for breky so i stopped in the first shop i saw and bought a chocolate bar. the owner pulled out his shot glass, a bad sign, and started saying vodka. trying to play the dumb tourist i tried to pretend i didnt understand, but he was having none of it, and presented me and kieth with a large glass. kieth went first, smartly, knowing that he could have a small sip and leave the bulk of the drink to me, a rooky mistake on my part. i dont know how anybody can think that what two cyclist want at 8 in the morning is a shot of vodka. no matter what i did i had that bloody taste in my mouth all day. after a little while we made it to the outskirts of Tbilisi and joined a 4 laned road which would take us to the centre. again the drivers amazed me in the complete lack of attention for cyclist and recklessness. the road in was worse than Istanbul, less hectic but so much faster. after a while we decided the pavement was the best option, more chance of cycling into an uncovered man hole but less chance of being run over by a mafi esq Mercedes with blacked out windows.

we made it into the city alive, found a place to stay and went for an explore. its a great city, it seems to have some much character, sure the majority of the building are derelict and half fallen down by western standards, but atleast it doesnt have a sterile felling like so many capital cities in europe. me and kieth have spent a few days walking around and getting our bearings. and this morning just as we were about to leave a get a morning coffee, chris and sara arrived, they unpacked and showered and we were about to leave when Matt showed up. so today we have been sharing stories of the road from the previous week and a bit, and this evening im sure we will go and drink beer and toast to each others company again.

thanks for all the messages, its great to know you are all ready and sharing the adventure with us, untill the next installment (which Matt is well overdue to write) ciao

love jack

great driving

great driving

last of the arid mountains

last of the arid mountains

gorge

gorge

great road

great road

Top of the gorge

Top of the gorge

stunning road

stunning road

hit 5000 miles

hit 5000 miles

8 Comments »

  1. mum and marg said,

    A little bit too much contact with people who have guns Jack! Not good for my stress levels
    hope the journey to Baku is good at least it will give you a chance to recover from the vodka
    lots of love to you both
    mum and margxxx

  2. Peter Nasmyth said,

    Let me know how you found the road to Sheiki – or rather post it up here – I’m curioius, haven’t been down it for a couple of years.
    Don’t get too waylayed by the wine harvest in Kakheti.

    V nice to meet you in Prospero’s. Sorry you couldn’t stay longer. Come again!

    Peter

  3. James said,

    Congratulations on hitting 5000miles dear jack ! and fantastic views ! yes guns ..vodka.. jealous men … my heart was beating fast and I have to say I am a bit worried but glad you are safe and made the right decision . I tried to sms you and believe you don’t have mobile service there … I left a message on your face book just now . i really think you need to re plan your entering point to china. keep me informed .
    lots and lots of love to both of you !
    James xxx

  4. David Piper said,

    Hi Jack

    Your mum told me about your epic adventure and I’ve been reading through your journey very jealously. Having ridden halfway round the world myself (although not all in one go!) I can share your highs and lows.
    Keep having an amazing time, ride safely and best of luck
    David

  5. han said,

    glad your hair is back to the way you like it, i guess having it washed once is better than not at all!!!
    Once again your pics are amazing, not sure i would of been brave enough to cross the “stupid bridge” glad you didnt lose your bike though! guns do seem to be playing a big part in your blogs, think i would of run out the door the minute i saw one not sure about hanging around to take pictures!!!
    5000miles is a very long way i cant actually believe that you have been gone long enough to get that far, glad you are still enjoying yourselfs, we all miss you loads.
    Cant wait for the next blog its always a great read, miss you loads and take care on those crazy roads.
    lots of love
    Hannah Jamie and Charlie XxX

  6. Tim said,

    Gald to see you get punctures aswell.
    I saw a progaramme on gerogia, and they stopped at a little shire at the side of the road where somone had died in a crash. And there was a bottle of vodka, and shot glasses so you could drink a toast to the dead person.
    So keep an eye out for one of them.
    glad to see your doing well, get matt to do an update on what hes been up to.
    x

  7. polly said,

    well i just replied and it naffed me off cause my email address wasnt there and now i cant remember what i wrote! ARGH i will try!
    i wouldnt have set a toe on one of those bridges never mind my whole body, cant believe a plank broke, scary, imagine if you had lost your bike (which i am sure you have!)
    just asked nathan what he though of ya hitting the 5000 mile mark and he said “is that all, i am not impressed!” after i tried to explain how far it actually was he said “friggin heck!” impressed at last! not my language honest!
    anyway mate looking forward to the next read and will be missing ya in cornwall when we go down in a few weeks.
    take care bro xx

  8. Terrie said,

    Hi Jack

    I will see your Mum tomorrow at Brook and check to see how her recovery is going after the gun stuff. You know pulse check and heart rate….
    Offer her any counselling she may need. Joke!
    Any way Georgia looks stunning Jack and though not envious of the hard ride to get there am envious of your amazing experience.
    Keep enjoying.
    Terrie


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