Cycling to Tbilisi: Off the main road

Rainbow

Oh how we love the daily refreshing evening shower

About a giant strawberry-basket, the long awaited tunnel, seeking for shadow in the burning sun and why we should better learn Russian soon.

Monday, 18th of June 2012

Georgian summer is hot, really hot. Good thing: Roberto can wash his shirt in the river and it dries in less than half an hour. Bad thing: We are forced to get up early and cycling in the sun can be quite hard.

Though we only carry 2 Liters of water each we have to stop several times to fill up the bottles. Fortunately there are plenty of taps to use.

Georgian summer

Georgian summer

Cycling to Tbilisi

I was a bit frightened of the mountains we had to climb up, though it was said to be 50 km of straight uphill. Fortunately that was not true. We cycled some hills for about 30 kilometers and enjoyed the view on the river and some villages and only the last 10 kilometers were tough.

“Welcome to Georgia”

The road was fine and the traffic not to bad either. We just went on from our breakfast break when a car stopped in front of us. A small man with a big smile opened the door and came running towards us. We stopped. The man smiled even more. “Welcome to Georgia!” he said and handed me a huge basket of strawberries. I was completely taken aback, took the basket and grinned stupidly. “Thank you” I answered, too baffled to think about anything else to say. Roberto asked for the man’s name and where he comes from, but he was in a big hurry and after we took a picture together he waved, repeated his warm welcome and ran back to the car. So there we stood. The bikes were full and the basket enormous. I considered eating all the strawberries right away but it was just too much. Apart we have already had some for breakfast. So I squeezed them into my front basket.

He just made me very very happy. Strawberries are some of my very favorites

He just made me very very happy. Strawberries are some of my very favorites

That was exactly the motivation I had been looking for. Whenever I was fed up with the steep uphill I just grabbed a few strawberries and felt better immediately. We went up and up on about 1000 meters, then we saw the salvation: the tunnel. “We just cross that one and then we can go all downhill!”

Down into the evening shower

Down into the evening shower

Fortunately the road was in a very good condition so we enjoyed a relaxing downhill with some wind in the face. When the daily afternoon-rain was about to start we looked out for a shelter and found it in a bread stand, where we made friends with the owner immediately. We shared some of our strawberries with her and her friends and family from the neighbor stand and I think an old lady had a little crush on Roberto. She kept smiling at him and petted his shoulder.

Roberto and his new fanclub

Roberto and his new fanclub

This night we camped in a farmer’s field. All the children and teenagers were very curious on us and when the tent was up they invited Roberto for a football match. He forgot about his tired legs and played in the rain until the sun set. For dinner we had – what else could it be? – Yoghurt with strawberries. Same for breakfast by the way.

72.2 Celsius

72.2 Celsius

Discovering a castle off the track

The following day was the hottest of them all. In the sun the temperature rose up to 47°C and in the shadow on 32°C. We decided to leave the busy main road and discover one of the smaller sideways.

Nothing but green green fields, flowers and the big sky

Nothing but green green fields, flowers and the big sky

It took us half a day to cycle just a few kilometers but it was definitely worth the effort. To both sides of the road there was nothing but flowers, fields, the Caucasus to our left and the Little Caucasus to our right. The road was alright, partly covered with pavement, partly not.

No place I'd rather be

No place I’d rather be

Off the track we discovered an old castle on the hill. We walked the bikes up to find out that the “castle” was a nunnery and the church was full of pictures. Roberto loved them, I can’t tell because with shorts and shirt I could not enter.

It looks like an old castle that has not seen visitors for quite a while ...

It looks like an old castle that has not seen visitors for quite a while …

Police control

Somehow the road led us back to the main road which changed into a freeway. We had our own shoulder to cycle on! We had just stopped to drink water when a police car comes closer. The car stopped and an officer came out. My mind started running.

In the countryside

In the countryside

What will they do to us? Well, theoretically there was never a sign telling that cycling was not allowed on the freeway. Will they ask for a bribe? Will they force us to get back a smaller road? Is there a smaller road leading to Tbilisi?

I forgot about all my preoccupations when I saw the officer’s smile. “Where are you from?” he asked. “And where do you go?” We told him about our travel. His smile got even bigger. “Is there anything you need?” We both shook our heads. “We just filled our water bottles up and we were well prepared.

The officer was curious and we spent some time chatting, us on the shoulder, them on the right lane. I felt bad for having had such bad preconceptions. He is a policeman, but that does not make him automatically a bad person.

“Why don’t you speak Russian?”

Goose traffic

Goose traffic

In the two hours on the freeway we cycled more kilometers that during the rest of the day on the small streets. There was not a lot to see, not many reasons to stop and a lot of space for cyclists. One hour before sunset we started looking for a place to camp. In a village we ran into Nino and her mother.

Ninos mother got upset when she found out that we did not speak any Russian. “All these years they taught me Russian at school and now I finally get to meet some tourists and they do not speak it!”, she complained with a smile. Her daughters Nino and Anna did know a little English and suggested us to camp on the village’s soccer field. They walked with us through the entire village and presented us to everybody they met on the way. I think there are not too many tourists on the way and they were proud to be our guides.

For the following day we had less than 60 kilometers to go for the capital Tbilisi.

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  1. Héctor says:

    Did you know beforehand that the sideway was going to take you back to the main road or it was pure luck? Was the road shown on the maps? Sometimes I wonder what would I do when I’m in the middle of nowhere that I’m familiar with. That is what I call adventure.

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      We knew that the road was parallel to the main street, it was in the map, but there were several other even smaller roads (not in the map) and in the village’s crossroads we just chose the one that looked biggest and most frequent used. That did not always work out and was the reason why we ended up by the Monastery. Getting lost in such a nice place – that is luck! Actually we did not even plan to get back to the main road so quickly, we wanted to stay on the smaller ones until Gori, but people kept sending us all to the same direction – back to the main road – and so we ended up there again.
      It is a little adventure, yes, but every now and then we meet some people who we can ask for the way, so it is not so hard.

  2. Just discovered your lovely blog. We are in Batumi right now and staying an extra night because we had too much wine with new friends. Love reading your experiences of Georgia and Armenia, thanks for the nice writing 🙂

    • Hi Vera,
      thanks a lot for writing! Oh yes, we had a great time in Batumi and can absolutely understand that you decided to add an extra night! 🙂 Are you on bikes too? This is a great time for Georgia and Armenia, lot’s of fruit in season! Is it cherry time yet? I remember how we ate kilos of cherries off the street stands! Cheers from Mexico,
      Annika

  3. Yes, we just cycled the Svaneti loop via Mestia, Ushguli and Lentekhi. Currently relaxing in Tbilisi before cycling onwards to Armenia. We are indeed enjoying all the fruit, and the chacha 😉
    Enjoy Mexico! Happy travels!!

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