<!–:de–>Georgien<!–:–><!–:en–>Georgia<!–:–><!–:fr–>Géorgie (résumé)<!–:–><!–:es–>Georgia (resumen)<!–:–>

Written by Sebastian on August 12th, 2011. Posted in Allgemein

Martin: We arrive at the Turkish border expecting the outward voyage will be the same like coming into Turkey. Far away 🙂

The atmosphere at the border is super chaotic, people are running hectically around and cars and trucks seem to park wherever they wish to. It takes us almost half an hour to figure out how the system works (of course again with the help of Turkish fellas, who showed mercy with us :-)): when you get to the border, stop your vehicle wherever you find space, then run to the pass control counter. The chances are good that loads of people are already standing in front of it pushing each other around to be the next to get the passport stamped. So use your elbows  gently and work yourself through the crowd. After you repeated the same procedure with the vehicle registration counter you´re done. Sometimes you might have to wait because one of the counter officers decides to go for tea break – without replacement of course 🙂

The Georgian border is the complete opposite of the Turkish: it is clean and organized. „Welcome“ is the first word I hear at the pass control and for the first time I hand over my brand new second passport with the visas for Iran, Pakistan and India. He looks at it, then asks:“where is your Turkish visa?“ -„Ehm, in the other passport“-“You have another passport?!“-“Yes, because of the visas“- visibly confused he says “Aha“ and I show him the Turkish visa in the other passport. No questions asked 🙂 After registering the bikes we are free to go. They don´t bother with insurance btw., so whether your bike is insured or not is your problem 🙂

Although we are one hour late, Raimund is still waiting for us at the border. Raimund is an Austrian working in Batumi and responsible for the construction of a new water purification plant. He read about our trip in the newspaper and invited us via our blog to come to Batumi and stay at his place, which – of course – we couldn´t turn down 🙂 We follow him behind his pick up, from the border to the city we pass one night club after the other, downtown we park the bikes in the garage of his office and head to his place. Even though his appartment building is mobile casino from the outside design-wise one of the leftovers from the communist era and one has to put a coin into a box to use the elevator, the flat is beautiful and modern. We take a quick shower and head to one of the parks for dinner and some beers. Raimund turns out to be an incredibly funny guy and right away we feel very well. He´s driving also KTM and had driven already more than 300.000km, which is quite a lot especially if you compare it to my great experience of 13.000km 🙂 It´s really nice to meet someone with whom we don´t have to communicate with hands and feet but it hardcore Eastern Austrian Slang 🙂

We are amazed about the first impressions of Batumi. From what we have heard from Turkish people we met, many male Turks go there to amuse themselves as it is only 15km from the Turkish border. What they mean with „amuse“ I leave up to you 🙂 So we expected some run down border town with strange people hustling around, prostitutes standing at every corner,… 🙂 Again, far away.

The landscape (mountains, forest, sea) is the same as in Turkey but the atmosphere is way different. We are in the South of Georgia in a more or less autonomous region called Abkhasia. It is being invested big time, everything around the old town seems new, there are many construction sites, the major international hotel chains will soon be present and old communist buildings close to the old town are being demolished to built new ones. There are casinos, boulevards along the coast and it´s right away clear whom Batumi wants to attract: rich people to come for vacation and/or to gamble. I´m pretty sure that this town will be one of the tourist hot spots in the near future. And this is where Raimund comes in. To be ready for mass tourism the local government decided to renew the canal system and build a new water purification plant.


Water purifications plants for dummies

Next day in the morning Raimund takes us to the water purification construction site, and to the pleasure of Sebastian, not before preparing a tasty breakfast (cereals with apple and an orange juice). He explains us patiently how it works – a complete virgin territory for the both of us. If there should ever be the demand for a „water purification plant for dummies“ book, he´d be the one who should write it. I´ll spare you with details, but basically the waste water runs through different stages where it´s treated with different bacterias and when finished, it´s more or less clean 🙂 Leftovers, if the waste water doesn´t come from industries, can be used as dung.

The afternoon we spend in the old town with it´s very nice french style houses. In the early evening we meet Raimund again and go for dinner with some of his colleagues. Raimund told us that Georgians get drunk as hell on a regular basis and that they have a quite interesting drinking tradition. As one of his colleagues is Georgian, I can´t hold myself back to ask him how it works.. maybe sometimes it´s better to keep your mouth shut 🙂

What they do is the following: people meet and choose a Tamada, a toasting master, and you can only drink if he gives a toast – which turns out to happen quite often. So we end up drinking numerous rounds of Chacha (a Georgian hard liquor) and quarter of a liter glasses of white wine (to down of course) accompanied by beer. While Sebastian is wise enough to hold himself back, I follow my dad´s rule of „when in Rome do as the Romans do“, which leads to not remembering half of the evening 🙂

Next day I wake up with a terrible hangover and not even coffee, coke and red bull manage to revive me. Instead of leaving in the morning we end up saying goodybe to Raimund in the late afternoon. Following Raimunds advice to follow a mountain road over a 1.200m mountain pass to get to the border of Armenia we set off, after thanking him for his great hospitality and agreeing, that if he manages, he will drive a stage in South America with us. So we hope it works out!


Right through the Small Caucasus

The road takes us first through beautiful valleys and small villages of the Small Caucasus, great to drive (even with hangover :-)). Endless curves and the only thing to watch out are cows standing on the road. Suddenly the paved road ends and we start driving on a quite easy to drive dirt roads. It´s getting late and we wonder where to sleep that night. So we stop in a small village, where we are right away welcomed by young and old villagers and I´m surprised that the communication with me talking Czech and them Russian works quite well. We chat a bit and buy some food and water in case we have to camp somewhere and continue our trip. The road takes us up and the scenery is very similar to the Austrian Alps. On the way we meet two nice Slovenian bikers who drove in just a couple of weeks to Iran (and back). I don´t have to mention, that once again, the sun starts to set… 🙂


Back to the roots

As we finally arrive at the mountain pass we see an indication: lake 6km. It´s already getting dark and thinking „what the hack are 6km?“ we decide to take the road and plan to camp at the lake. Well, so we thought…

The road quickly changes from easy dirt road to I don´t know what. More like something that can only be driven by tractors and tanks… and our Adventures of course 🙂 The „road“ is full of sections with deep mud, big gravel and stones. The landscape and the views are spectacular, we are above the clouds that are covering the valleys below us. We pass a small hutted mountain pasture, where we ask an old man whether this suicidal road is the right one. He confirmes and at the same time invites us to stay over in his wooden hut. Driven by insanity we decline, but after Sebas´ bike kisses the ground 3 minutes later and it starts getting really dark we start to reassess the offer 🙂 There´s no need to go back to ask, as just a couple of minutes later we are surrounded by kids, another man and the old man, who kindly repeats his offer. This time we gladly accept 🙂

We park the bikes in front of his hut and right away we know: these situations are the reasons why we travel. The simple wooden hut has two floors, there is no electricity and no water. There is one dwell for the whole village. We stay with the old guy and his wife in the upper floor, the cows in the ground floor and you can smell and hear them breath upstairs. As the hut is built on the flank of the mountain, there is a spectacular view over the region. In the first room of the upper floor are two beds, where we sleep, in the second a very old steel oven, three beds and a small table. C´est ca.

With dimmed oil lamps we sit around the oven, chat in Czech/Russian and are invited for a delicious home made dinner: soup with mozarella kind of cheese, sour cream, ayran and salad. He tells me that they are tartars and grow up speaking three languages: Tartar, Georgian and Russian and that they stay in the mountains for about 6 months, the other 6 months they live in a village down in the valley. They are incredibly kind and we are enjoying their company and the atmosphere in the hut. I think living like this hasn´t changed for the last hundreds of years. When I told him we wanted to camp at the lake he laughed and told us that it wasn´t a good idea anyways, as many wolfes are striving around at night. This is enough for a city kid like me to scare the shit out of me and I´m glad that we ended up here with these nice people 🙂

Next morning we enjoy the view, get homemade sheep cheese for breakfast and make some pictures before we thank them for everything and say goodbye to head for Bavra, the border town in Armenia. This stay has been definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far, hospitality at it´s best and completely unexpected.

It goes down the mountain pass, after some time we reach a paved road again and after another 4-5 hours we reach the very small Georgian border. Again it takes just 5 minutes and we are done. As usual we haven´t informed ourselves whether we need anything to enter Armenia. After a short ride in no man´s land we reach the Armenian border. Are they gonna let us in? Stay tuned for more!