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Old 10-14-2013, 12:38 AM   #1
qvasic OP
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Ukraine to Georgia

I have been planning this trip almost a year, haven't ridden anything this far yet, so I was a little bit nervous about it.

At first I wanted to go with somebody on a light dual sport bike like mine (Suzuki DR250 Djebel), but as time went on all such guys I knew turned the offer down because of technical, scheduling or other reasons. So I decided to get myself ready to go on my own, if anything.

About three weeks to go, I had a conversation with my friend Roman, during which I mentioned that I was preparing for the trip. He got excited about it and asked if he could hop on. He rides Honda CB400, which is neither light nor dual sport, which is why I never considered him as a fellow traveler and didn’t tell him about it before. But then I thought: “Well, what the heck? Two heads are better than one.”

And that was it, we set off on August 28. (Roman on the left and blurry me.)



First two days there wasn’t much interesting, mostly highways.



My speedometer cord torn on the first day, so rest of the journey I had to track speed on my GPS unit. On the second day we decided to divert from main highway in order to get closer look on mount Elbrus. Somehow we missed the spot, but anyway we were happy because overall landscape was beautiful, unlike the one that surrounded highway.



Besides landscape we did note pretty erratic driving habits of local people. Also Roman got pointed at with a gun from an overtaking car. Probably that was just a bad joke, but we thought it had something to do with words “North Caucasus”. Next time we will think twice before going off the highway in those places.

On third day we finally passed Vladikavkaz and got to what is called Georgian Military Road across the Caucasus mountains, which took us to Tbilisi in the evening. Things around us was getting more and more of an epic proportions, I have never seen anything like it.







Gergeti Trinity Church, just above town of Stepantsminda.









The pass. Altitude just a little bit less than 2400 meters, one of the highest places I ever been. Also our carbureted bikes were struggling with lower air pressure.



Not far from the pass there is beautiful memorial which was erected in 1983 to celebrate bicentenary of joining Georgia to Russian Empire (back then).













(Actually, some pictures were taken on our way back, but I decided to put them here in order to condense the story. To be continued.)
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:39 AM   #2
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. That is some spectacular scenery. Keep it comming.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:51 AM   #3
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Impressive photograph of the Gergeti Trinity church with your Djebel in front of the massive mountains, I love it! It seems you enjoyed a relatively cloudless day up there.
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Old 10-14-2013, 02:18 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by macarron View Post
Impressive photograph of the Gergeti Trinity church with your Djebel in front of the massive mountains, I love it! It seems you enjoyed a relatively cloudless day up there.
Thanks!
Actually it was less clouded until we got up there. And it was getting worse. You may note that the church is highlighted - it was last ray of light, kind of a blessing. :) Seconds later it was gone.
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Old 10-15-2013, 12:34 AM   #5
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Next day we spent in Tbilisi walking around and going to museums and stuff.









But it turned out that sightseeing in a big city is not our thing. I mean, Tbilisi is a beautiful city, but we came here not for this. Thus we departed the day after this, heading to the town of Telavi. Nothing special about this day, just couple of pictures. Some ancient castle, birthplace of some guy who later founded Tbilisi, if I remember right.







Some church. All georgian churches look like this. Something of medieval simplicity in it. Just looking at this picture made me recall movie “The Name of the Rose” starring Sean Connery.



We spent the night in Telavi, very nice quiet town. In the morning we looked out of our window and saw this… also it was showering…



Um… anyway we had to go. The problem compounded when we decided to visit some landmark, the only thing we knew about it was its coordinates. Obviously, road was unrideable for Roma and I had to leave him behind in order to get there. Nothing special, just some ruins in the fog. Roma didn’t miss anything important.



After that we proceeded together towards town of Kvareli. Some ruined church.



Gremi castle - former capital of Kakheti (eastern part of Georgia).







Enjoying splendid supper at a guesthouse in Kvareli.





On the next day we visited small museum focused on the times when Georgia was part of Tsarist Russia.







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Old 10-15-2013, 01:05 AM   #6
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Qvasic I don't know if its you our Roman that took those photo's but they are some of the best I,ve seen, its a beautiful part of the world and I envy you guys a lot, keep the reports coming.
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:03 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mountaincadre View Post
Qvasic I don't know if its you our Roman that took those photo's but they are some of the best I,ve seen, its a beautiful part of the world and I envy you guys a lot, keep the reports coming.
Thanks a lot! I took all the photos here.
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:20 AM   #8
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Great! Go on
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:34 AM   #9
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Great trip, great pics. Gimme more....

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Old 10-15-2013, 02:29 PM   #10
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Great story :-)
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Old 10-15-2013, 11:20 PM   #11
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After Kvareli we headed to Lagodekhi, place where some of my really distant relatives live. I didn’t even know that I had relatives in Georgia until I told my dad about my plan to go there.

“How come?’ - I asked him

“This is an old story,” - he told me. “You great-great-granddad Grigori, he had a brother Mikhail. During 1930s, time of collectivisation and great famines, Mikhail decided that he had enough and fled Soviet Ukraine to Georgia with his whole family. That didn’t help him for long because Georgia joined Soviet Union later. After that Mikhail fought in World War II, was wounded under Stalingrad, got discharged. He didn’t get home only by couple kilometers - died on the side of a road because of his wound...”

But his family endured the war and after it connection with relatives in Ukraine was restored. They traveled to each other, that was easy because there was no borders inside Soviet Union. My dad traveled to Lagodekhi couple of times on bicycle, first time all the way from Ukraine to Georgia and back! (About 1500 km or nearly 1000 miles one way.) Following times they flew to Tbilisi with their bikes.

My father is on the bottom left, with his brother, uncle Dmitry, to the right. Lagodekhi, 1974.




Uncle Dmitry on the right with Zoya and Nikolay with their daughters. Zoya is the granddaughter of Mikhail, whose story I told before. Lagodekhi, 1984.




Relatives this distant is too far to care about, you may note. And you would be right. Unless they are not only some distant relatives, but also friends. Or at least friends of your parents. We got very warm welcome. Zoya and Nikolay with their granddaughter, and me.




Their cat immediately brought us something to eat. :)




Our bikes in the stable.




Zoya and Nikolay live simple rural life, earning mostly from what they grow on their small piece of land.




Some simple tool to work the land…




...wait a second… isn’t that valve cover from Willys Jeep engine?! Probably from those USSR received as part of Lend-Lease program during World War II.




Lagodekhi is situated in the Alazani river valley, which is famous for its grape and wine. Nikolay also grows several hectares of grape. September is very nervous time here because harvesting time gets closer and closer. During last month before harvest grape especially need water, but every rain can bring hail which can destroy whole harvest in a matter of minutes. Last month was especially dry, so everybody was worried.

But on the next morning we all woke up under accompaniment of the light rain, to much relief of everybody.








Later, Nikolay’s friend Zuriko guided me to up local mountain river to a waterfall.






Lagodekhi waterfall. Previously it was higher, but during recent rainfalls it collapsed. During a rainfall mountain rivers can swell so much, so they can move huge rocks, uproot large trees and cause major floods in the downstream settlements.



On the next day I visited another waterfall in the area, this time much higher. It took me two hours of scrambling up the river.





Gurgeniani waterfall, probably 20 to 30 m high, I am not sure. Largest waterfall I’ve seen.



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Old 10-16-2013, 11:36 PM   #12
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After bidding farewell with Zoya and Nikolay we headed to Vashlovani National Park. First we visited national park administration in order to get information. Administration is located in town of Dedoplisqaro. There we learned that roads there are mostly unpaved, which precluded Roma from participating. Instead Roma decided to ride across whole country to Batumi city on the Black Sea coast. Thus we separated and I rode to a ranger station immediately next to the national park.

I woke up early, left most of my luggage at the station. I packed only some tools, spare tubes, med kit, water and some snacks. And my camera of course. :-)













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Old 10-17-2013, 12:57 AM   #13
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Enjoying your trip and pics.
Keep posting
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Old 10-18-2013, 08:45 AM   #14
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After riding incredible Vashlovani I got all my luggage from the ranger station and set off in the direction of Batumi, where Roma went a day before. Eventually we met on the following day in Borjomi, halfway between Vashlovani and Batumi. Borjomi is a resort town, widely known for its mineral water. It was famous even in the times of Imperial Russia.

There we shared our experiences we had apart from each other. While I was ecstatic about Vashlovani, Roma had the opposite opinion about Batumi: he had to rent a room for almost $100 (while typical price for Georgia is about $20), later he had food poisoning after eating some cheesecake for supper and spent half of the night in the restroom. He felt better by the time we met up, but he obviously wasn’t happy about it.

We also had some rest in Borjomi, did some basic maintenance on our bikes (cleaning chain, changing oil, etc.) Then we departed together in the direction of the famous cave monastery in Vardzia. We got there by the evening so we found a hotel (the only one in the area) and went on a tour to monastery only in the morning.










When we were walking through those tunnels we noted very strong echo and hummed Imperial March for a little bit. :-)

At that point we decided that this will the beginning of the end of our journey, and headed back to Tbilisi.




On our way there we were caught in a steady rain and spent two hours on a mountain road with hundreds of turns. With no reliable reference point in space like sun, we started to lose our sense of space. At some point I almost believed that next endless turn will break the laws of nature and become a spiral. But eventually we safely reached Tbilisi greeted by evening rush hour traffic.

On the next day we left Tbilisi and rode Georgian Military Road, this time in the opposite direction. We got to Stepansminda and decided to stay there for the night, because morning is the best time for crossing the border between Georgia and Russia.

View on Stepansminda from Gergeti Church.




Also we met another moto-tourist at the guesthouse in Stepansminda. His name was Arnie, from Germany. While he is in his sixties, he did round the world trip and rode Americas from Alaska to Patagonia, which is absolutely awesome for a man of his age, I think.

We shared contact info, but our piece of paper got wet and shredded during a rain several days later. So if anybody here is familiar with Arnie from Germany who rides white Honda Transalp, please let me know.




Next morning we woke up at 5am, it was very cold, our bikes were steaming. We bade farewell with Arnie and he left in the direction of Tbilisi, then back through Turkey home. And we went home through Russia. This time we decided to go via Crimean peninsula, getting there by ferry.




We were hanging out for three days at Koktebel Jazz Festival In Crimea. Last day headliner was acid jazz quartet Red Snapper from Great Britain. Their performance was heavily delayed, eventually they came on stage at 3 am. They finished their act at 5 am, just short of sunrise, their performance was epic.







After that, there was only 500 kilometers to Dnipropetrovsk, our hometown.

---

And a short journey summary.

Traveling is awesome.
Traveling by motorbike - is EPICLY AWESOME.
This was one the best two weeks I had in my whole life.

Also I think I gonna need a new bike. I mean DR250 is light, which makes him perfect off road, but his power is not enough for highway. Right now I am considering DR650, but I don’t like his 17” rear wheel. Also, there is XR650L, but I don’t like his shorter servicing intervals more then I don’t like DR650’s wheels. :)

Thanks to all of you who read my crude English prose or at least looked at the pictures. :)

qvasic screwed with this post 10-19-2013 at 01:00 AM
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:17 PM   #15
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Excellent report, thanks for sharing your ride&emotions. Great pictures too. Keep enjoying, you seem to be quite good at it.
Cheers from NW Spain.
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