Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 119 Zarzma - Akhalcikhe

Today was much less exiting than extraordinary yesterday. I got up very early after a nearly cold night - I had 5°C in the tent, just as low as my sleeping bag can handle without problems. I spent the first hour screwing. The front carrier screw that broke yesterday was a bit too long - which was very fortunate as I had a chance to screw out the rest of it from the back using my leatherman. However it was not an easy task and it took me quite some time until I had that damn little thing out of the screwhole and I could reinstall the front carrier. My tent was still very wet but I did not see any chance that it would dry soon. I just packed it as it was and started my ride down the still bumpy and very muddy road. A non existing road on openstreetmap made me miss the famous monastery of Zarzma. Maybe I was not in the right condition for divinity anyways - stinky, dirty and muddy. After an hour or so the road suddenly turned from mud and stones to proper asphalt, aaaaaah, how nice. The rest of the ride was easy. In Akhalcikhe I found a hotel - everything soviet style: the huge hallway, the rundown rooms, the very strict lady at administration,...  The big room with balcony was perfect for drying my tent, my shoes, my clothes, my self.
After some rest I had a look at the impressive castle towering over the town. On the way up I met seasoned traveller Ivan from Australia who turned out to reside in the same hotel. In the castle a lot of construction was going on - really a lot, they seemed to reconstruct the whole structure. Georgia is clearly trying to get ready for tourism.
In the evening I met again with Ivan and decided to prolong my stay in Georgia and join him tomorrow on a trip to an underground city, a monastery and more.

Day 118 Khulo - Zarzma

Puh, what a day ! Many different stages if excitement, a big triumph and a troublesome end.
In sunshine I started the ascend to the 2000m pass not knowing if it would be possible to cross it. Yesterday some trucker had told me that it would already be closed due to snow, but I wanted to check myself. In the worst case I would have to cycle back all the way to Batumi - through an absolutely amazing landscape, not so bad either.At about 1000m some guys handed me 4 orange tasty fruits. I do not know the name of it - I have seen it before in the expensive exotic fruit section of German supermarkets but it was always out of focus for me. This fruits are very typical for this valley - I had seen many trees of it yesterday and today. The guys also gave me motivation by saying that there is snow on the pass but just a little. Thank you guys for fruits and motivation and thank you GDR education + Andrej Tarkovskijs 'Andrej Rubljev' for never letting me forget the Russian word for snow.
I decided to have one fruit every 250m which turned out to be one fruit about every hour. The road was muddy with many stones making the ride rather shaky. Soon I saw snow topped mountains and upon asking for the way people pointed directly at the snow, uiuiui. To make things even more exciting clouds started to gather. After 3 fruits I reached the snow zone and saw that it was not as bad as expected - though there was a lot of snow around the road was mostly free. Even when more snow began to fall it did not keep me from riding on. When I had nearly reached the top a bus coming from above stopped and the driver handed me some apples and pears and warned me of the many snow on the top. Fortunately he had just underestimated my ability to cope with the cold and soon later I reached the ghost town on the peak, yeah ! All houses were locked for the winter - it was just me and the clouds and the snow, very peaceful.
On the other side the snow soon stopped. The road was still very rough though, so I could not roll down very fast. But even when going slow it was very very shaky. I was in the middle of the forest and it was one hour before sunset when all the shaking was too much for my right front carrier - one of the screws broke, daaaaaaamn! I did not have time for a proper fix: I wanted to get out of the forest before the dark - I do not know if there were any beasts around but it certainly looked like a place where wolves and bears and ghosts and demons dwell. I tried a quick fix with zip ties but it did not work for long. Aaaaaargh! If you cannot fix something with zip ties or duct tape it must be something really bad! I eventually just hung my right front pannier on the handlebar. It did not particularly make the ride down the still very rough road any easier but it somehow made me get out of the forest just before it got completely dark. I only had time to find a camp spot near a river and after a short dinner all the days excitement and exhaustion let me fall asleep soon.

Day 117 Batumi - Khulo

Oh beautiful Georgia! Despite the rain I went up into the mountains.
Todays topic: water - cycling in the rain along a huge wild river crossed by ancient bridges and every now and then a beautiful waterfall.
My plan was to go up high enough to be above the rainclouds. It only worked out partly: when I got higher the rain stopped but there was still another layer of clouds above me. In the end of the day I was somewhere within this clouds. I wanted to stay in a hotel (too humid for tent), but it turned out that the only hotel was farer than I had planned for. Thus the sun started to set when I still had 10km (and an 300m ascend) to go and I arrived in Khulo (que great name) in the dark (+ in the cloud).
Nonetheless it was a great day - really really stunning landscape!
Tomorrow morning a 2000m pass waits for me. I was warned in Batumi that there might be snow already. Somewhere on the way hand&feet communication and my few russian words helped me finding out that there IS snow. Let's see if I can make it - the pass is only 20km from here so I will just give it a try.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 116 Hopa - Batumi

Going to Georgia: great idea!
Georgia is the place where:
- passport control staff (female, young, pretty) gives you the nicest possible welcome to the country
- the first supermarket you enter stocks German müsli and Czech beer
- the first bar you enter plays old The Cure records !
- the hostel water boiler has music in it
The only downside I have seen so far: as soon as Georgian enter a car (preferably big old Mercedes or BMW) they seem to develop a sudden urge to kill everyone around including themselves. Up to now it did not really affect me, but driving habits are definitely much crazier than in Turkey.
Border crossing was easy - everyone really nice, no hassle at all.
Batumi is very relaxed. Not much going on in low season now. Still, it is a very nice seaside town - even the foible for disneyland-style multicoloured  illumination does not do any real harm.