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Old 03-20-2012, 04:26 PM   #36
randel OP
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Mattighofen
Oddometer: 317
Another day, 6th from the start.

We woke up early and discovered now where we are. As sun started to shine, Georgia is just few km's away and we were still alive, everything seemed much more beautiful now :)

All packed, we were ready to hit the border. Moment of truth - will they let us cross this border? Road to border crossing was perfect

We reached russian border control and for our surprise, first guard was so polite that we feel like in the wrong place. He explained everything, now you go to this window and show your documents, then you can drive on to there and so on. We showed our passports, they were surprised about the distance we covered (3000km's? on bikes? really? only 4 days?), but nobody didn't look like they will send us back. Good
We reached customs quite fast, and another surprise. When they discovered that we are not russians, but from Estonia and need to fulfill additional papers, they sent us to a very polite old man. He described his job as " I'm already retired but I'm helping those youngsters out",
He talked english and german with us until we could finally explain him that we can speak russian too and actually don't need help to fulfill those already familiar forms. Until now it has been unbelievable experience for us. We expected anything but that kind of friendliness from this border.
It was too good to be true, though. We had our papers ready, but unfortunately there's only one officer who can enter our papers to computer and for our misfortune he just had started cleaning his room. Taking one paper after another (same forms we had ready), he looked at those papers with unhappy face and threw them on the bin Oh really, why they demand to fulfill those stupid forms when they enter them to computer and threw old papers away anyway? Another great mystery of Russia. Finally sorting action was over but now cleaning commando attacked this room to wash the floor. Why they couldn't do it before they opened gates? Another hour to wait. And that officer walked around and complained, that he can't do anything, floor is still wet. Yes, nobody can argue with 100+kg cleaning lady in Russia
Two hours after reaching border we could finally hand over our documents and watched special "one-finger-data-entering-process" for next 20 minutes. After customs we had to show our luggage to border control, but it went uneventfully and we were allowed to leave Russia. Now we only had to pass that final checkpoint and hand over small (5x10cm maybe) stamped paper we got from first checkpoint. If you loose that, you will probably arrested for some months

We couldn't believe - we crossed russian border and were allowed to enter Georgia. Woohoo!
We had to drive few km's on no-man's land before entering georgian border control on the other side of mountains.

And then we saw georgian border control.

We had read so many great stories about georgians hospitality that it seemed like a gate to a holy land
Formalities on georgian border went reasonably fast after russian side experience, unfortunately there were many russian tourist acquiring for visas. Most time-consuming place was paying for visas and while we wanted to change some local money (don't count on credit cards!) we had to wait on long queue, watching how three men handled one customer at a time - one bringing georgian money, another fulfilling papers and third counting rubles. Anyway, another hour later we were on Georgia! We made it!
Road went from good to bad to worse. After few kilometers we stopped to discuss our plans. We had only general plans for Georgia and decided to go and look whatever we will find interesting.

Meanwhile two truck drivers came to us to ask for some petrol - they had a flat and needed petrol to reinflate tyre. We found last few grams of petrol from our stove but luckily they succeeded. We didn't know yet we will meet them again one week later...

We continued south and reached Stepantsminda. High above the village is located Gergeti Trinity Church. Ride up the hill through Stepantsminda village and forest was interesting. Many tourist walking, many using small 4WD minibuses (most of them RHD, imported from Japan).


Gergeti Trinity Church

View from the church

Kazbegi mountain (5045m) was covered with clouds

We continued on Georgian Military Highway and reached cross pass at 2395 meters. Road conditions were better described as non-existent. Most of the asphalt was washed away and replaced with gravel and big holes. I really don't know how all those trucks, buses and cars drive there.
Cross pass

After that we found this. We didn't know what this is or why it's there but it looked interesting.

KTM, best bike for this trip (well, BMW owners may not agree with me)

We passed silent Gudauri, one of the two most famous sky resorts in Georgia. It was already afternoon and we feel that lunch could be good idea. We stopped at one roadside bar and two men immediately invited us to join them.

We ordered some meat, talked with our new friends about our trip, about Georgia, politics, roads, women, police and so on. They were two truck-drivers, working on the road rebuilding. Every day they wake up 2am to start driving to Tbilisi for asphalt and then back to mountains where they must unload at 8. They manage to make one round trip a day, 300km. Their trucks were right hand drive too - a little bit unfamiliar at first, but very handy to use every inch of the road - as they told us, they can look right down to confirm they have that last inch of ground under the wheels
Somehow beers appeared on our table and not much later a bottle of vodka too. We could (almost) deny from vodka as we still wanted to ride further today despite our friends inviting us to join them in their hotel. Older man is Niko, I have forgot another name. They invited us to visit them in Georgia next year. And of course they didn't let us pay for our lunch. If this is not great hospitality, I don't know what is

Finally we managed to leave, refueled our bikes, bought some local beers and turned to small mountain road to head to Tusheti tomorrow. Not much later we found a small road, parked our bikes, put up tent and celebrated our arrival to Georgia.

Easy 150km today, it's great to be here
Beyond clouds 2011
Beyond arctic circle 2010
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