23 May 2008

CYCLING GEORGIA - Batumi to Tbilisi

13th May Batumi - Samtredia - 110km

Everything appears different from Turkey. The food, the people and even the scenery. Misty snow capped mountains in the distance, very wooded ravines with waterfalls and old ruins, gives it a bit of an medieval feel. The day was fairly easy as we cycled past many traditional homes on large plots for subsistence farming. The only thing that spoils the scenery is the old disused factories form the old Soviet 5 year plans. Many of the villages are also rather dilapidated and appear very poor. The people are so reserved that they even appear unfriendly. They stare at as in amazement and the children appear rather scared of us. We stayed in a room above a petrol station, with no hot water and torn bedding (we slept in our sleeping bags).

14th May - Samtredia - Zestaponi - 81km

So beautiful, rivers, forests, small villages, even although some are rather abandoned and quite depressing. We found some camping next to a river in a very idyllic spot. We were still struggling to get used to the unsmiling people, so different from Turkey. The language is also rather difficult to master and appears very much like Russian. We could hardly manage the basic words like hello, good buy, and thank you.

15th May - Zestaponi - Agara - 85km

We left rather late at 10.45, as it was such a sunny morning and such a beautiful spot. Stopped at various road side stalls to buy cherries, neatly platted on a stick. A truly beautiful ride along the river and through the mountains, over a pass and down the other side. We stopped in Agara for a Khachapuri, the local staple. A friendly man next door invited us to camp under the varandah of a disused bar, as he thought it was going to rain. No sooner had we pitched the tent and it started pouring down - what a good thing we accepted his offer. At least we could cook and sit around outside the tent, as it poured the whole night.

16th May - Agara - Tbilisi - 116km

The sky was still overcast as we packed up, but no rain. We cycled to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin, and had a look around. There are still an amazing amount of statues of the man left including a large one in the town center. Every day we seem to get a bit of rain, but at least its not cold. In such a lush green place one can expect a lot of rain.

We arrived in Tbilisi and found that there are hardly any cheap hotels in town. So we took a rather expensive room, but with breakfast included it is normally a loss to the hotel!!

This time we first phoned the Azerbaijan embassy to find out if one can get a visa at the border. The answer was defiantly not so we had to apply at the embassy and wait 3 days for it to be processed. In the meantime we moved to cheaper accommodation nearer the centre of Tbilisi - an interesting place which is popular amongst backpackers called Nasi's Home Stay.

22 May - Tbilisi

We packed up and cycled to the embassy where we, as usual, had to wait in a long queue. Once inside the building they informed us that we must pay for the visa at a bank where we'd just come from, and the visa would only be ready later that afternoon. (Oh the pleasure of getting visas!!!).

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