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Old 01-31-2010, 11:34 PM   #16
Watercat
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What a ride ! ! !

. . . . . accompanied by dancing girls even. Brilliant !

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Old 02-01-2010, 02:41 AM   #17
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Brilliant!

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Old 02-01-2010, 02:46 AM   #18
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This is going to be one of the best we've ever experienced.

Thanks for the opportunity to view a part of the world we seldom see.
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Old 02-01-2010, 02:58 AM   #19
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I didn't check who thy thread was by and just started to read, until I cam across a picture of somebody who looked like Bob - he even had the same helmet.

Excellent! As you told us some of the funny bits of this trip in laos, I'm really looking forward to reading this RR!

Thanks for taking the time!
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Old 02-03-2010, 05:37 PM   #20
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By the time we cleared all the bikes and the bus through the border, it was getting late in the afternoon. The road and riding conditions deteriorated markedly once in Georgia -- bathtub-sized potholes, a lot of livestock on the road. The road from the border into Tbilisi is mostly a long, sweeping, sometimes pitched descent along the flank of a steep mountainside to the valley below, where Tbilisi is bisected by the Kura River.

I ended up out front with Vagif in my sidecar and was running fast. Following close on my heels was the support vehicle towing the trailer carrying the disabled Dnieper bike. (It had burst into flames earlier in the day, leading sidecar passenger Mark, who found himself in the midst of the fire, to bail out while it was still moving -- he was fortunately spared injury).

Then -- I came flying around a corner to find a jagged crack where the road dropped away in front of me. Beyond the ragged edge, the ground had settled -- so the pavement had dropped about a half-foot on the left lane, and one or two feet in the right lane -- my lane. I went completely airborne. The pavement where I landed was canted or slanted so the bike toughed down first, then the side car. It was the inherent stability of the sidecar rig that saved me -- on a two-wheeled bike I would have gone down for sure and maybe over the cliff edge that dropped away to my right.

After getting the bike under control, I pulled over and turned around to see the support vehicle fly off the ledge too, getting airborne and then slamming down hard -- first the SUV, then the trailer. This was to destroy the trailer although that wasn't clear at the time. The Azeris driving the SUV got out and ran back up the road to flag down the oncoming bikes and warn them to slow down.

After that we regrouped and proceeded more sedately into Tbilisi, as it grew dark and we dodged some crazy traffic a lot of cars driving with no lights.

We stayed at the 5-star Sheraton Metechi Palace -- Tom had gotten them to put us all up as an in-kind contribution.

The next day was a free day and the riders went their separate ways to explore the city. Tom asked me to kind of chaperon some of the dancing girls and musicians, some of whom had never been out of Baku before.

In the morning we visited a ruined fortress high above the Kura River with commanding views of the city.














This house was missing its living room wall -- the room and furniture exposed like in a a doll house:



Close-up of the house without a wall:



I put the girls in a taxi, then went to explore Tbilisi on my own for a while. I'll spare you the tourist snapshots, except for the balcony with hanging rug (below).






You might wonder how the guitar player cut his nose -- say you were already drunk and had finished a bottle and couldn't wait to screw the cap off a fresh bottle of vodka, so you smashed it off instead, then shoved the cut glass edge in the general direction of you mouth but missed and hit your nose...

Here we are eating xinxale, which are soup dumplings -- you bite into the dumpling and then sip out the soup inside of it.



Back on the bikes the next day. By the way, they burned a lot of oil:



Departed the following morning on dirt roads along the proposed BTC, heading for the ski resort town of Bakuriani. The roads would be impassible to the bus, so the bus (with all our gear and luggage) took the main, paved roads and would rendezvous with us there that evening -- anyway, that was the plan.

A beautiful day on dirt roads in beautiful countryside:





Wild blackberries:



Carl and his fiancee Natasha:



This hay truck was one of the few vehicles we saw all day:



We detoured along the way to a small village where, strangely, the people spoke Greek. There are a lot of these small, exotic minority communities in the mountains of Georgia. Jason and the Argonauts came as Greeks to Georgia in ancient times, seeking the golden fleece -- which was not a mythological treasure but a real thing -- sheepskins placed in streams to capture alluvial gold flakes.



Yola, a photojournalist who rode in Vince's sidecar, in the bell tower of the Greek village church. amazingly, she did this trip while still recuperating from a near fatal gunshot wound incurred while covering a conflict in a Middle Eastern country.




Craig relaxing:



Gassing up outside Tsalke:



Vince must have liberated the ice bucket from the Sheraton. (Keeping things cold was soon to be the least of our problems):

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Old 02-04-2010, 12:20 AM   #21
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OK, this must be the first adventure ride complete with dancing girls? Awesome!
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Old 02-04-2010, 12:29 AM   #22
Tarka
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This is an incredible Ride Report.

Pure Uralling adventure at it`s best with fabulous photographs.

Thank you so much for continuing to share it with us.

I`m eagerly awaiting the next instalment.
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:02 AM   #23
Northern Rob
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Brilliant! Thanks for sharing this.
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Old 02-06-2010, 04:58 PM   #24
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As I said, we were nearing the end of a day's ride from Tbiliisi to Tsalke. I can't say it better than Ian did in a report he sent some years ago to friends and fellow Oil Odyssey veterans:

"Within 20 minutes of leaving Tblisi the sidecars were plunging down dirt tracks, plumes of dust rising from each wheel, covering riders, passengers and bikes alike with a thick covering of grime. This was more like it! The group naturally split into 2 sub-groups. A leading group who were determined to extract every last drop of performance from the bikes in a wild enduro cum Paris Dakar style race and those who wanted to travel at a more measured pace. What a wicked, wicked morning ! Mile after mile of vestigial tarmac and pure dirt roads were covered with the steering damper on its loosest setting to enable the inherent instability of the outfit to be used to swerve between and around a constant stream of potholes."

But the bikes were taking a beating that led to as series of small delays that added up. Matt's bike shorted out after he rode it through deep puddle; Ian's bike too kept losing electrics until he secured the errant battery with bungee cords; two of the bikes lost their mufflers (but following riders picked up these hot potatoes and stowed them in sidecars). And two of the bikes had constant plug fouling and missing.

We stopped for a late lunch of fried potatoes and cheese and cold beer in Tsalke and, dusk setting in, we began to ascend on a rugged track into the Javakheti Mountains west of Tsalke.

This was shortly before I had to ask my sidecar passenger, Mike, to get out and walk -- the bikes didn't have the power to carry passengers as it got steeper, the road studded with melon-sized rocks:







Tom:





What Tom is looking at is a breakdown of Ian's bike -- we were stopping and starting as bikes ahead of us stalled out or got stuck -- it could often be difficult to get going again on the steep pitch. When Ian stopped for the bike in front of him, then tried to get going again, there was an audible snap and as he put it "an ominous clacking from the shaft and rear bevel drive."



We had to push other bikes out of the way to position the support vehicle and trailer.



We got Ian's and Ann's bike loaded into the trailer and they joined the procession walking up the mountain:



Now it was getting dark, the temperature was plummeting and there was not a shred of natural cover. It was increasingly clear that we were nowhere our intended destination of Bakuriani. The problem was, all our overnight gear -- tents, sleeping bags, warm clothjing -- was on the Magic Bus which had taken the paved, northern route to Bakuriani. It began to look as if we were facing a bivouac situation. Matt and I began to fill our sidecars with dried brush and wood, as we would need a fire and were headed above the treeline.

Tom was vague about how far it was to Bakuriani. He had taken this route once before by SUV on a scouting trip, but all he could say was that it was over the pass. The decision was made to press on as Bakuriani could only be over the next ridgeline.
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Old 02-06-2010, 05:44 PM   #25
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Laugh Great report!

WOW what a great adventure!!! this is over the top! Thanks for the report!!! keep it coming please!
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Old 02-06-2010, 08:37 PM   #26
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As we forged on the track began to level off to a gentle incline, those walking hopped back into sidecars and we picked up the pace for an hour or so. But we were now in pitch darkness and as the evening pressed on any traces of a track petered out as we emerged onto a broad grassy saddle between two mountains, laced with streams.

To quote again from Ian:

"Where were we? Thomas's normal confidence was strangely absent. Had we wandered into Armenia? Were the shepherds that were approaching us with guns and dogs friendly or not? Opinion was sharply divided. In the end we all came to the conclusion that there was no way we could continue over a mountain with no idea of where we were going."

Yes, there were men approaching us warily on horseback, leading large, mastiff-like dogs.

Turns out they were a nomadic Turkic people with whom our Azeri speakers could communicate, who were camped in tents on this high pasture. We had stumbled into them by pure dumb luck.

In the best tradition of Muslim hospitality, they quickly chained their dogs, slaughtered a sheep to feed us; gave us felt blankets to get warm; and were able to spare us one of their tents.:

I don't mean to offend anyone -- there was blood in the grass. That was the reality:







I kept wearing my helmet to keep warm:



Kazim wears one of the felted capes they loaned us:



They lit a tractor tire on fire and that warmed us up:



The gas canister on the bomb bike came in handy for roasting pieces of lamb and warming hands and pieces of bread:





Alexis samples a roasted lamb's testicle:





We stayed up as long as the tire burned, to maybe 2:00 a.m., drinking whatever vodka and raki we had, passing around flasks and bottles. There was room in the one tent for a few of us, so we circled the bikes in a laager and the rest of us laid down inside the circle. Our hosts gave us as many sheepskins and felted blankets as they could spare. They released their dogs to guard the sheep against wolves and told us, 'Do not leave the circle -- the dogs will attack.' It was bitterly cold -- maybe in the teens, Fahrenheit. We were at about 13,000 feet altitude. Too cold to actually sleep but a beautiful star-spangled sky. Mike took off his fleece jacket and cut both sleeves off, have me one sleeve to wear as a hat and pulled down over my face, he wore the other one the same way.

Suqsuda screwed with this post 02-06-2010 at 08:45 PM
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:28 PM   #27
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incredible report!

keep it coming.
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:25 PM   #28
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:53 PM   #29
windburn
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A terriffic report

It is likely that I will never ride this route in my lifetime but with The ADVrider community you have taken me along.
It's a great report.
Thank you
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Old 02-07-2010, 02:34 AM   #30
FarKurnell
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I dream of journeys like this! Excellent report..
But I'd pass on the roasted lamb's testicle!
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