|02-05-2014, 02:46 AM||#1|
Joined: Oct 2012
Can an SV ride the Caucasus?
Since 2012 - when this ride actually took place - I've been looking for the time and motivation for writing this down somewhere. Lots of things have changed during this time- we had to sell/leave many things behind and move to another city in another country because of business reasons; basically we had to start from scratch. Now we are looking forward to a better forecast and good chance to return home...quite possibly the long way round. But more about that, later!
Seems I just found the motivation for writing, after reading @b0b66 's Tuva ride report. Strange connection, since we actually did not go that far, but anyway, it happend, so here goes nothing...
(some kind of) PS: I am not a big/great photographer. I did not take pictures of everything. Sometimes out of repsect for the persons (who sometimes do not want or like to pe photographed), sometimes out of sheer laziness...oh well, I hope you understand and do not blame me too much.
The idea was simple: take a rather normal summer holiday, take a rather normal bike, prepare a bit, and see how far you can go. Simple, eh?
Oh, yeah, don't forget to get a haircut, too:
GF Lore needs to be dressed properly, too:
In case anyone is wondering, the bike has some mods too. No point in listing them here, I guess, but if anyone is interested I can list them.
Other than this, we got our passports, valid green card, visas for Armenia (might come in handy later), and off we were.
After a slow start we arrived, late in the evening, in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. There we met with a really nice CS girl, Veneta. She and her sister were very nice to us and took us out to a local rock pub. After some beers we were ready to sleep like logs. Great, because tomorrow was going to be a sucky day with battling strong winds, storm and rain through the mountains of Bulgaria.
Actually the weather was so shitty, I realise we did not even stop to take pictures. I guess I was too worried I could drown my camera and not be able to take pics later on....oh well :(
At least towards the border with Turkey we get to see some better weather.
We cross the border and make our way towards Istanbul, where we plunge directly in the crazy traffic. Cars are going bumper to bumper at speeds of 120-140kmh. There is no other choice but to keep up. I still remember the oh-so-true words of our great host, Selman: you only fall of your bike ONCE in Istanbul.
Selman (who is a well educated guy BTW, he's a doctor, and son of a doctor) was nice enough to host us for a couple of days, give us directions and tell us all sorts of interesting stories. And even if he isn't really a drinker, he was nice enough to take a little of our homebrew http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C8%9Auic%C4%83 .
And yeah, we decided it was better to see Istanbul by boat/ on foot.
And it was not bad actually...we also found out they like our cars:
And seen where we crossed the strait by bike one day before:
Of course we did not miss the popular landmarks, like Sf. Sofia:
But after a few days...it's time to go again. Although, if we had the chance, even after a month in Istanbul we would probably still not be bored by it. It's HUGE and it's fantastic - not like any city we've seen before.
And since we did not have that much time available as we'd liked to have, we are taking a boring road towards East. However, we meet all sorts of nice people on the way:
Tea is free everywhere. Tastes good also, and gives us good energy for the ride. This guy actuall offered to host us for the night, but since it was still around noon - we had to turn him down :(
Interesting enough - even though it's still summer and the sun is shining, the whole day was a bit on the cold side. However, compared to the continuous rain/storm from Bulgaria, it seems as dry as the desert.
As our shadow on the road became longer and longer we decided to look for a place to stay. Setting the tent on the side of the road in an area where there might be scorpions around did not seem a good idea to Lore. Sleeping in a roadside hotel did not seem a good idea to me. So we entered a small-ish town (20-30K population) and started asking around. Again, very friendly people. So after negociating a good price at a small 'Otel', Ali, the guy from the hotel, actuall helped us with everything: exchanging money, finding food, fruits, etc. Lucky, becuase otherwise it would not have been that easy: next day was going to be Victory day - so most of the shops were closed. I also checked the numbers - and (a bit) surprizing, we did not get ripped off! Here's Ali:
And here's some preparations for Victory day:
(sorry for bad pics here, they were done 'on the go')
During this Victory day it seemed that actually the cops and army were on full alert. We got stopped 2 times by the cops, once by some kind of military and passed through 2 military filters without being stopped. Apparently two stops were just for the guys to look at our bike. Whe asked if I had done something wrong, they just said 'Problem yok!' , started laughing and asking thinks like how fast can we go. Well, not bad guys, but we lost quite some time...
Third stop however was clearly because of speeding. The guy was trying to explain to me that I was going about 78kmh too fast. In the clearest Romanian available I explained to him that I do not understand. he made a few calls, tried to explain some stuf...but I have just been patient.
In the end it paid off, as I got my papers back and did not have to pay anything. I thanked him in Turkish (at least that much I have learned) and we were on our way again.
The road is still boring, but at least the landscape is changing:
And, as we get back to the sea, so is the weather:
However, the smell from the many tea plantations and factories by the sea, just after the fresh rain, is overwhelming. Too bad photos can't transmit that information...
We may also be thinking of taking a bath...but it's too damn cold. Others are also just taking a stroll by the sea, nobody is actaully getting into the water :(
This evening, because of heavy rain, there are no more ocasions for finding good and cheap accomodation. We just stop on the roadside and have to cough serious money for some shitty room...but anyway, we fall asleep with the thought that by the next evening, we'll be in Georgia, so nothing else matters...
|02-21-2014, 06:37 AM||#3|
Joined: Oct 2012
So on we go...
Today we enter Georgia, of course with heavy rain as usual. It seems to help the vegetation growth, though.
At the border crossing we are greeted by a .. couple of kilometers long waiting line. But we are Romanians and we are bikers, so we don't wait in line
Things went 'almost' smooth and we are finally allowed to enter Georgia. The road is clearly different, and so are the people and the cars. There are some rather peculiar vehicles on the road, too. The have 4 legs, a swirving tail and are pooping all over the place:
(This one was just getting ready to 'drop the bomb' )
After almost passing out becuase of the exhaust gasses of the state-of-the art cars we couldn't pass with the loaded bike on the narrow winding road, we finally reached the small coast city of Kobuleti. We did not stop at Batumi, as we did not feel attracted to the place...not sure why?
Here is the beach in Kobuleti. Fancy a bath?
This time we did not resist (or, shall I said, grew a pair?) and actually went in the water. Once the rain started to pour outside (again!) the sea water felt quite warm, all of the sudden. Oh, the irony...
Some street art in Kobuleti (it's actually 'almost' 3D):
We also found an internet cafe, and if it wasn't for this nice guy, who knows what helmet I would have worn later on ?
Ah, yeah, the fruits in the bag were simply delicious. Just like the real homegrown ones in our home country, the ones that are becoming harder and harder to come by. It seems this kind of stuff would not bring enough profits to the merchands, so they just import or produce cheap and crappy stuff. But maybe this is actually progress and we fail to see it ?!
We figured we need again a place to stay, so we ask the taxi drivers waiting at some kind of an 'ad-hoc' station. One of them takes me in his old Golf to see a place, while Lore is patiently waiting by the bike. Just as I closed the door, this guy drives off with tires screeching and until I realised, it hit me: the car reeked of alcohol! Strong one! Now I kinda understand why I have seen so many people driving like in Georgia. After 1 minute or so of accelerating and braking hard, honking the horn, cursing , etc. the driver relaxes a bit and pulls a bottle out of the car's glove box and says: "Drink! Cha-cha! Natural!" It's some colourless liquid in a half liter plastic bottle...very much like my homebrew tuica. A little stronger though and smells a lot like methanol or some kind of 'technical' alcohol. Oh what the hell, I've had worst drinks in my time, why not give it a try ? Hmmm...but this crap ain't actually so bad...so until we reached the destination, I think I was already singing some unknown song together with the taxi driver. After paying for the trip, I asked to keep the bottle. I think I still have some drops left over on the bottom (yes, I did bring it back home with me!).
And yea, we did find accomodation too and also found the best Khachapuri (some cheese pastry) of the whole trip. Not too shabby for our first rainy day on Gergian soil!
|02-21-2014, 06:59 AM||#4|
Joined: Oct 2012
We stayed at a nice Gergian family who charged us almost no money for the room and breakfast (later we will see that accomodation in Gergia is not actually that cheap). I am not sure where the father was, but the girl was quite friendly and spoke English. The mother was also friendly and cooked really good food, but she spoke only Russian. And apparently, of the whole family, the little Adjaran warrior was the only one not hding from the camera:
I admire this kind of atitude, displaying youtr country's tradition with pride. Sadly, in many countries and for many people, such values have been lost or overcome by more 'modern' 'values'. Pitty...
Actually I felt kinda sorry we had to go, but this is just how life on the road is, one can not stay for too long, especially if on limited time. Fortunately the weather is getting better this day and we find one of the most beautiful roads:
I agree it's nothing challenging - but it's simply beautiful!
As we head deeper into the countryside and inner land, we start encountering the local traffic agents:
Which just reminds me of my first 'me vs. pedestrian' encounter in Georgia...so there's this marked road crossing (zebra) and there's this guy crossing on it. I see him, and obviously I brea in order to let him cross. Behind me seems there's a f'kin disaster: tires screeching, horbs blaring, people shouting...then some nervous throttling and the cars start passing me by honking their horns, some on the left, some on the right. And I am stuck in the middle of the phreakin road with the pedestrian stuck in front of me and cars speeding all around us. Finally I manage to swerve around the pedestrian and make my way...geez!
And one more with pedestrians...I see the cops in the mirrors. I see the pedestrianon the crossing. I break, the cops just pass me and also the pedestrian, almost overruning him...tax money well spent, eh?
And here's a whole phreakin' patrol:
Too bad that, as you can see, the weather seems pissed at us (again!).
And some more scenic road bit:
And finally the first tower. I am guessing this one marks that we enetered the Svaneti region.
We are getting really close...and come to think about it, it wasn't even that hard... If we had more time I guess we could've taken the little SV to the end of the world and back again Oh well...can't have it all, can ya?
Just as I was speeding out of a nice curve:
And some more wonderful creatures:
Trying to remote control the rain away, maybe?
And there's me trying to increase the chain slack a bit, as I was starting to hear more and more strange noises..
And a quick break afterwards, by the lake:
Come to think about it...it's September and there are still a lot of flowers around:
Looks a bit (actually, more than a bit) like Valea Jiului in Romania:
And the kids are really excited to see us everywhere:
We also met Andrey from Volgograd, who was riding on his Honda. We said we would meet again in Mestia, however we couldn't manage to find him... He answered my emails afterwards though, so I am guessing he is doing fine!
More gloomy skies... Or is it getting better? Well at least we did not get rained on today!
But the scenery below the clouds is simply breathtaking. I know my pictures aren't very good, but trust me, even with properly done photos, it will still be nearly impossible to give a sense of the HUGE scale of things...Simply amazing!
And there's the first glacier, Ushba:
And here we are...Mestia. Named by some 'the most romantic place on Earth' ...
The road in Mestia was simply to wet and to steep for our street bike (yes, I know it's lame, next time I'll take a KTM with knobbies, I promise!), so we could not climb to the guesthouse we initially wanted to go to. But nonetheless, we found a nice family somewhere in the middle area of the village that was happy to host us. Even better, because we were their only guests and we got full attention.
Here they are:
The father is a Marshrutka [(crazy) minibus] driver. He seemed to like my bike very much, especially after I told him it can go with 'a little more' than 200kmh. The women generally stay at home and take care of the kids and daily chores. Only the young Nini and her husband Dato (he was not there when I took the picture) spoke English and lived in the city (Zugdidi) most of the time.
One other great thing about this house and famili (beside conditions, hospitality, and last but not least delicious food) was the view from the porch:
But I should not get ahead of myself :-)
So the rest will come...a bit later.
ADVRadu screwed with this post 02-21-2014 at 07:34 AM
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