Right after the Georgian border, the road is only two lanes, no service lane, many potholes and free ranging cows and pigs must always be expected. The more pompous Batumi appears. It is a very western-oriented port city right on the Black Sea. There is again access to the sea and we drive on a beautiful bicycle strip along the beach.
Just outside the city we meet Alexander a Russian cycler. He tells us that he has been traveling happily for a year without any money. His bike is heavily loaded. In comparison, our two bicycles are lightweight.
The rain has stopped and we are happy about the nice weather and being able to free camp again and this on a beautiful elevation with a great view over the Black Sea.
From Batumi it is mostly flat on a rather busy road to Poti. We stop at a street tavern and eat a grilled pork skewer. In Poti we change the chains once again. This is also the first time we see how Georgian bread is made. These are flat-shaped breads, which are attached to the wall of a large clay pot and baked this way. From Poti we continue to Zugdidi. There we find the first MC Donald since a long time. We are happy to have internet to check the weather forecast. It looks good for the next four days. Thus, we cycle confidently with our provision laden bicycles to the snowy mountains.
The valley Zugdidi-Mestia is very lonely. Now and then you cycle through small settlements, which also have dogs again and again. One dog is so aggressive that he snaps into Andi’s back pocket. A car can protect us from the dog in which he intervenes with his car. Uff, all went well again. As soon as the sun goes down, it gets extremely cold. Luckily we find a sleeping place with firewood. Our first campfire warms us. In vain we try again and again to increase our supplies. It is to despair, because in the shabby shops there are no vegetables, only Russian or German can food, sausages, pasta, lots of sweets and of course tons of alcohol in large 2.5 liter bottles! Also the second evening we are glad to have a warming fire. At night it gets very cold, as we are already on an altitude of 1300 meters. In the morning it even has hoarfrost. Again and again we are overtaken by tourist buses. Mestia is a popular tourist destination as it is a good starting point for hikes and access to Ushguli (the highest village in Europe).
In Mestia we buy warm bed socks. It’s a secondhand shop and an old woman helps us digging for the right socks.
We set of to Ushguli and cross a first nice pass. On the descent the road gets bad. Construction workers are concreting the road so the road condition will improve, at least here. Then the road becomes bumpy and sometimes very muddy. Suddenly a dog comes running towards Andi. Andi throttles the pace and fends off the dog. At that moment, a second, bigger dog with a broken chain around his neck attacks Andi from the front and grab him in the calf. Andi falls over and can still fend off another snap with the other leg. As fast as the dog came, he is gone again. An approaching minibus has watched the scene and urges us to go to the hospital. He also offers a ride back to Mestia. We disinfect the wound, thankfully load our bikes into the minibus and drive back to Mestia. In Mestia Andi is treated in a small, old hospital room and provided with a rabies vaccination.
This dog we do not want to pass again and so we take a taxi to Ushguli the next morning. Even by car, the ride is very long, bumpy and muddy. After almost two hours we arrive in Ushguli. We spend the night in an old, dilapidated guesthouse. It has only one stove at the entrance, which is heated only in the morning. Already at night it starts to rain and also the next day it is cloudy and rainy. We have no desire to cycle over the upcoming pass of 2600 asl in this weather. That’s why we decide to stay another night in Ushguli. In the morning our hostemother cooks breakfast for us. She is also treating Andi’s leg. When it rains there is no electricity in Ushguli. In a hostel we hear a running generator, where we find wifi and electricity. The weather will not look good for the next few days and it will even snow. However next morning we decide to leave and cycle over the pass, because Andi has to get the second rabies vaccination.
Unfortunately, the good weather window lasts only a short time and it starts snowing. The road is getting really bad. Fortunately, we are experienced mountain bikers and have waterproof bags and rain clothes. So our clothes do not get dirty when we have to cycle through big, dirty puddles of water. Although the ride to the next village is mostly downhill, we have an incredibly long time. The road is very bad and muddy. As we get closer to the settlements, we arm ourselves against the dogs with a stick. After 6 hours, already in the dark, we arrive frozen and wet in Lentechi. Luckily we find a great guesthouse, where we get a delicious dinner.
The next morning the hostel owner even accompanies us to the hospital and translates with her good English. In Mestia Andi had to pay 100 GEL (39.-CHF) for the treatment and the vaccine. The hostel owner and also the hospital stuff find that extremely expensive. And so it happens that the second vaccine costs only 14 GEL (5.- CHF). Also this day is rainy so we stay another night in Lentechi.
We are very happy that the road from Lentechi to Kutaisi is in good condition. In Kutaisi we stay for three days, as it rains nonstop again. The streets have become to real streams. The market of Kutaisi is quite big and we are happy about the fresh vegetables and the tasty fruits. In a very low-cost guesthouse we feel at home and we even bake a plum cake.
Finally the sun shows again and we make our way towards Tbilisi. We drive on a two-lane highway with a wide safety lane. We enjoy the good and safe road. Here also the dogs stay mostly far away. On this route there are many trucks and thus it has a lot of roadhouses. After two days we arrive in Tbilisi. It is a big city with a very nice old town. Here in Tbilisi we have to pick up the Iran visa and bring Andi’s bike back on track. Andi’s rear brake has lost oil. In addition, the bike makes weird clicks. Micha, the mechanic, is very committed and seeks creative solutions with the spare parts available. On Saturday we do a sightseeing tour through the old town. Everywhere freshly pressed orange and pomegranate juice is offered.
Since this August 2017, the Iran visa can be applied online. We have already requested this in Ushguli. Nevertheless, it is still a huge bureaucracy until we finally hold the visa in our hands. After 10 days our E-Visa was accepted. Thus we were able to visit the Iranian embassy in Tbilisi on Monday. The office is only open from 10:00 to 13:00. After a long wait, we are assigned with additional points to be completed: The amount of 50 euros must be paid into the TBC Bank, then a copy of the health insurance and a passport photo is needed. Until we have organized these further requests, the consulate has already closed again. Therefore, we have to stay another night in Tbilisi. The next morning we finally get the visa and make our way towards Armenia.
The last ride towards Armenia is very scenic. As dawn breaks, we ask a stonemason for water. He lives alone in his caravan next to the main road. He offers to camp on his property. The place is too close to the road for us, therefore we reject the offer with thanks. As we finally found our place, this stonemason arrives in his car and brings us a few wood billets😀 The next day we enjoy by great autumn weather, a picnic in the open air without freezing. We are confident and look forward to the new country Armenia.
Conclusion: Apart from the many aggressives dogs, Georgia is a beautiful country. We like the fact that the cows, pigs and chickens can walk around freely. The Georgians like to drive very fast. Many cars experience a second or even third life here, many have faded, German advertising inscriptions. In addition, many have no bumper and the steering wheel is sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right handside. People are more reserved than the Turks, but they are always helpful. They also smoke a lot, even the taxi drivers and you are alway exposed to passive smoking. Only a few people speak English. The Georgians are very sociable and like to drink alcohol. We are often offered chacha (Georgian liquor) or beer, which we always refused. They are proud of their Khachapuri which is available in different varieties throughout the country: pita bread with cheese with or without egg. Although we have read that the Georgian cuisine is varied, we have experienced it as rather one-sided. Khachapuri is always served and at any time even for breakfast. Then there’s the same thing with beans (Lobiani) or meat (Kubdari).