|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
|07-22-2014, 05:25 AM||#5|
Joined: Oct 2012
I meant to finish this earlier, but, as always, time is not plenty so...blabla...maybe I'd better just admit I am lazy
Neighbours were calm and friendly
Scenery looked quite amazing:
Roads were in great condition:
So we hid the bike:
And went for a nice trek:
Scenery was once again stunning:
It's September, yet many flowers are still in full blossom:
At the end of climba-able (for us, at least) path:
So there we had a late lunch and proceeded back down for a good night's sleep. Next day was another ride/trek day, this time to Chalaadi glacier. Again, super-nice weather, few people around, flowers and rivers all around the valley. Feels like paradise on Earth, we could stay here forever!
Even Georgian border patrol joined us for a part of this route:
Base of glacier - scale of things was overwhelming:
We look bigger in the photo than we were in reality :) :
And I decided to climb a bit more...
And to leave a small ephemeral trace behind:
One more view to the glacier and we descend again:
And careful not to scare these little guys too much:
Back from ... mowing the lawn ?!?
Water level has risen since morning because of snow melt...oh well...Time to get some wet feet:
Then dry off the socks:
Then irrigate the dusty throats with proper liquids:
And have a look at the lovely ladies passing by:
Enjoy the balcony view again:
And have a great diner with the Svan family:
PS: I am trying to finish this one, as on Thursday next week we are leaving for Pamir! Don't want to leave this one unfinished before beginning the Pamir trip
|07-24-2014, 10:14 AM||#8|
Joined: Oct 2012
The diner we had on the (suposedly) last evening in Mestia was the best. The house lady even made Khinkhali for us (aparently they are not so easy to make) and the man in the house shared some of his home made booze with us. Of course we also shared some of ours, and aparently they liked it! We exchange many infos and ideas about the situation in our countrie, situation with neighbouring powers...but better not get into such discussions here.
At the end left them apostcard showing a shepherd and his herd near Sibiu with Fagaras mountains in the background...seemed to me like a good idea to show them we (and our countries) are not so different, after all :-)
After such a copious diner, in the morning we woke up to this...again HUGE portions of...wel...everything. Hard to eat so much, but we knew road to Ushghuli was not going to be easy, so we gave our best :-D
And next time we'll get this one, too:
But anyway, off we go:
Here I had to go solo again...Lore did not want to get wet feet on the bike, so she got wet feet while trying to jump across from rock to rock...
At least she took a decent picture
As we ascend the mountain, the views over the Georgian villages are amazing:
Funny, but here all pigs look just like the wild boars from back home. Probably taste like them too....Yummy:
And some more yummy things...I always loved hzelnuts...used to crack the shells with my teeth as a kid. Can still do it now, but the dentist advised me against...
Some abandoned old house...Paintings on the wall look quite amazing still:
And some more solo:
And more old towers:
Nooo...wait....you shall not pass through my bathtub...
Oh well, since you were so nice to stop by and say hi...of ya go:
And here we are:
We are greeted by this nice fella:
And everybody asks if we want 'guesthouse' - aparently the only English they know. Living conditions in the village seem to be pretty harsh, it is quite remote and hard to access for a long part of the year, so I can imagine that every penny they can make from tourism has high value here.
As much as we'd like to support them (beside the support they get from the government for not abandoning their villages and keeping the traditions and lifestyle - good thing BTW!) the environment here is just too too beautiful to not camp here...Plus we miss the confort of the tent...So after some negotiation we left our unneded luggages at the guesthouse,
parked the bike
BTW, I was never even a bit worried about the bike getting stolen, the SVs are now so dirt cheap on the market anyway... Seems like a shame to me, the are really great bikes with the right mods (and for some purposes, even without...)
And proceded on foot (later we found out that the WAS A GOOD ROAD on which we could have RIDDEN to our trek destination, but the junction was somewhere at the other end of the village and we did not see it ; could have avoided some good km of walking that way...):
Spot the pig?
And here's the road I've been telling you about...too late (or too lazy, maybe?) to turn back now:
I asure you though, the view was just as great on foot!
Storm is coming? Maybe just some angry cows....
See those little lines up on the hill? That where they have 'mown the lawn' (manually, that is):
Maybe no storm today
Spot the traditional 4x4?
And back to camp site, with views:
And after one night with fear of bears (at 'bout 2 o'clock, one tall and skinny female dog came looking for food into our tent, and the first idea that crossed through my mind when I've seen her dark colored snout inside the tent was OH SH$& OMFFFG BEAR!). But after I gave her some food she guarded our tent for the whole night and as soon as cows came close in the morning started barking. Not exactly my dream of being woken up, but I guess it was good to know we had on faithful companion. Sad to leave her behind, but I guess that is the moto traveller way...next time I'l get a 4x4 to have space for a dog. Or I'll walk so the dog can walk with me...we'll see...
Good morning Shkhara...nice to see you without clouds:
First time I ever saw a yellow one. Back home we can find only blue and white ones...honestly!
Me fooling around...yes, dried cow poop DOES burn. Be afraid, be very afraid!
And here we are with our friendly companion:
Who apparently is drawing LOTS of attention as we walk back through the village:
But there is something that draws our attention, too:
And this guy to swap lice with me, apparently:
And here comes the chickening out part: we wanted to cross to Lentekhi via Zagari pass, but at some point we said 'poor SV...and our poor butts...maybe we better go back'..so we descended back to Mestia.
0 falls, 0 damage (just 'a little' bend in the exhast pipe), just some dust, mud and water...
We stayed at the same familiy, they were happy and surprised to see us back so soon. And interestingly enough, they have put the postacrd from us on display on a top shelf. We were really happy we left something (even if very little) with meaning behind us.
And here's the last view of the big mountains...bye bye Svaneti, we are really sad to go. I think Lore was even crying a little bit inside her helmet as the mountains slowly disappeared bit by bit after every road's turn...I could not hear her (we have no intercom and we are NOT getting one!) but I could feel it. And I think on the inside I was crying a bit myself, too. This was something quite special for us and it was really sad it had to end, we could've gotten used to it ...
And if I am to think some time ahead...oh well...prophetic (and you will soon see WHY)...
But enough for today...
|07-30-2014, 05:23 AM||#9|
Joined: Oct 2012
Now we are in Dussledorf, Germany. We're off to Bishkek tomorrow. Sorry, but I can only finish this when I get back.
Here's the link to our spot tracker:
|08-11-2014, 03:22 AM||#10|
Joined: Sep 2007
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Beautiful landscape there in the mountains !
Bravo Radule, astept impresii la intoarcere
Bob / Cristian
|08-28-2014, 10:28 AM||#11|
Joined: Oct 2012
As we have returned, it's time to finish this report, before I start the new one!
Romanian speaking people will find the name of the village quite funny:
However, this guy was not at all funny:
Kids are still happy to see us, however:
Ancient cave town of Uplistsikhe:
And one of it's inhabitants:
Fortress by the big lake, on the way to Stepantsminda:
Trinity church near Stepantsminda:
And the only other Romanians we have met during this trip:
And with a small round of Khinkhali in Tbilisi, we conclude this Georgian round and we head to Armenia.
First tens of kms are depressing....just gloomy sky and abandoned buildings everwhere...
But Yerevan...is a totally different story:
Could this be the famous radio?
Khor Virap monastery - small and neat - a symbol of Christianity, just as mount Ararat...
We are not so lucky with the mountain:
We see the little brother, however:
But any day is better after a good beer (or two...or more than just two):
Every engine feels better after an oil change (well, not mine, I found only crappy oil in Yerevan - had to spill it out once I got to something better, my clutch was sticky as hell):
Then off to perfect roads back to Georgia:
With a little rest at a cosy place:
We couldn't really feel it, but we have been climbing for quite some time. Now it's seriously cold outside and the clouds are so low, we feel we might touch them if we just stretch our hands a little:
And the sight of this castle and valley made me take the fateful decission of going to Vardzia...
...where we ended up doing this:
Next day was really hard...I only drank water and stayed in bed...
So only after that did we proceed further, towards Turkey and home:
(Possibly) the highest pass:
Turkish roads - perfect as usual:
Just like the Turkish food:
Maybe not the restrooms...
But otherwise, OK.
So here's where all the mamazing products in cartoons come from...
Imagine being drunk and trying to find your house here:
There were some minor issues that had to be fixed on the road:
Money collection in Bursa...I added 1 LEU. Seems it was the first one!
Then we just tried to relax by the sea for a few days at the end of the trip. The bad weather did not let us, however..
Even sad dog is sad because of weather:
At least for running it's OK:
And that's kind of all about it...we returned home safely and started planning new adventures, like the one in Central Asia, that we just returned from.
See you again soon!
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