From Tbilisi to Yerevan: About support on two motorized wheels, finally getting a map, sleeping in the most comfortable bed and a lot of food
Saturday 7th of July 2012
On our way we met two groups of bikers. One of them was a Dutch couple that had already done a bike tour through Europe and Asia some years ago, the other group came from Poland. Madeline and Arjen from Holland decided to visit Iran with motorbikes.
When we met they were just on their way back and of course we heard nothing but good news about the friendly Iranian people. We shared some laughs and e-mails and most important we exchanged maps. They gave us their map of Armenia and we gave them our map of Georgia, I was the happiest person in the world. Finally I had the map that was promised me so long ago!
The Armenian Embassy in Georgia told me I would get one at the border. At the border they sent me to the next store, then to the following one and so on. I had already given up my hopes to get one before Yerevan. Now for the other group I will talk about them later.
That night we camped in a hotel / restaurant’s garden with private security. It was awesome! We were coming down a small canyon when Roberto spotted this restaurant and asked me to ask the lady for a chance to stay. Without hesitation she said yes.
The place was like a camping site. We had access to a clean and friendly bathroom, light and green area for our tent. We could even use the tables and benches to rest. That night we drank a couple of beers before going to sleep, the next day we left as soon as the employees came back and opened us the door. Yes that meant that, in that night we had the whole place for ourselves. It was like having a really big house for one night. We were very tired, and so we slept soon after the last employee left the building.
At 10:30 am the employees came back and so, after expressing our eternal gratitude once again we left the building heading for the mountains. A climb was waiting for us, and what a climb would that be. We spent most of that day trying to climb the hills. 1,880 Meters above sea level was the day’s maximum. As usually the sun shone hard and the sweat ran fast. The roads were in acceptable condition and the cars were very respectful. But still it was hard.
After one of those hills that never seemed to end we stopped at a resting spot to freshen up with water from the dwell. A family was enjoying the picnic area and it took very little time for them to approach us and offer us food and drink. Anna, one of the women that spoke to us was visiting her family in Armenia. Usually she lived in Los Angeles. Roberto told her that he had family there and they soon became friends. We ended up with two big chunks of pork meat in bread and a bag full of cherries and fruits. A big hill was waiting for us ahead. We then cycled for about 30 minutes more and the rain started to show up. Just as in Georgia it is easy to tell whether or not it is going to rain soon. The usual afternoon shower took longer than in Georgia but was more freshening. We even searched for our jackets against the cold. We were lucky, we found again refuge in an old abandoned house.
Curiously a family that wanted to picnic there had the same idea. After the storm Alit, a short and black haired man with a bone crushing handshake, started to fire the grill. They set the eating space on the ground and … well you probably know what happened then. They invited us over, we ate with them, took pictures and even drank a beer with their nice company.
After eating again for the second time in two hours we kept on going. We pedaled very hard. After the whole day of going up we were completely tired and we did not want to keep on going more. So we sought refuge in the town of Margahovit. As soon as we entered the street a shepherd by the name of Artur looked at us. While Roberto looked for the picture book I looked in his face. He looked tired and grumpy, his eyes appeared as if they recognize every little proof of fear, just like a wolf. He scared me a little in the first moment. Roberto found the book and started asking if they had space to pitch the tent. Artur looked at us and his scary eyes showed vitality. He smiled and showed all his teeth. What a different picture of a man! Now he did not scare me anymore at all. Then he disappeared for a short moment behind the wall to come back opening us the door. Artur made a gesture with his hand showing all his property. He then welcomed us into his home. No questions asked.
At Artur’s and Anuschka’s place
His house was big and beautiful. A mixture of spontaneity and taste, most of the furniture seemed to be made by himself or bought several years ago. The carpets that decorated the house were designed and made by his wife and her mother. The kitchen had a nice wallpaper and a very comfy sofa. We waited there, while Artur’s wife Anuschka was warming some food for us. We ended up eating self made yogurt and cheese from the own cow’s milk, self baked bread and marmalade from her trees in her garden. Although we wanted to stay awake in order to spent more time with them, we just couldn’t. When I wanted to get the tent and search in the darkness for a place to pitch it, Anuschka took me by the hand and led us to our own private room, a nicely decorated queen size bedroom. I slept so cozy and comfortable that night. Anuschka and Artur slept in one of the empty rooms their children were living in when they were little. When we woke up, everybody was awake, Artur was milking the cows and drinking tee outside his house. Anuschka served breakfast and showed us around her home, a really big area with two artificial lakes full of fishes for her water needs. We saw her chicken, gooses and cows, the vegetable fields and the trees with plums and apricots. It seemed like they were pretty much self sufficient. Roberto later told me: “In my mind I think that they are the true contributors of a healthy world, and they received no prizes or mentions in newspapers or universities.”
That is how it is, architects receive thousands of dollars for awards on sustainable projects and here we have Anuschka and Artur in Margahovit who have been doing this all their lives without anybody knowing it, the world is funny. Another time we had to say goodbye to people we might never see again, but that will remain in our memory forever.
Cheered too soon
We have already found our camping rhythm back so we were awake early and on the bikes little later. The day started out with a downhill, thirty minutes rolling on a good road to the next city, Dilijan, then another thirty minutes of rolling within the city. All our hard pedaled meters of altitude! We cycled them down again within an hour.
From Dilijan to Sevan we were expecting 15 km of torture.
It was the way up to 2170 Meters above the Sea level and we have just been rolling down on 1230 Meters. We actually solved it pretty good. It took us around 4 hours to get to the top. We made a pause in front of the redemptive tunnel and drank a lot of cool and fresh spring water. Wow, we felt like heroes up there and celebrated our success, What we did not know was: we celebrated three kilometers too early.
Tunnel-Support on two wheels
Just when we were about to enter, a man in a motorbike from Poland approached us. He said, “You know what? It is rather dangerous there. I will escort you. Pedal fast and I will drive slowly behind you and it should all be ok.” So we did. We entered the tunnel and got caught by the darkness. Most of the tunnels we drove through had no light at all but these few lamps did not help a lot either. We could not see the end of the tunnel, the only thing that we saw was that it was going straight uphill.
We raised our speed and heartbeats to the limit. Still the cars behind us were blowing their horns, they wanted to overtake but waited until there was no traffic from the front. It was very scary but somehow we managed to get our strength back, just enough to make one last effort. We cycled as fast as we could and I just wanted to throw the bike on the floor and myself next to it. When it was finished we were so ever grateful for the motorcyclist. Of course we ended up exchanging e-mails and promised to visit Poland sometime. He was travelling along with two friends around the Black Sea and made an extra way for Armenia. “Thank God for that”, we both thought, “he saved us”.
Rolling down into the city
We celebrated the real success some kilometers further (downhill) with a bright red soda that contained more sugar and colors than water. Wow, what a day. Now it was all downhill to the Sevan Lake where we ate some of the famous white fish waiting for the daily shower to finish. On the lake’s side we enjoyed the first flat kilometers since we entered the country. What a great feeling!
We followed the street to Yerevan that now changed into a big highway with a shoulder only for us. The wild blew softly from our back and pushed us up the few little hills. But mostly we cycled downhill. When it was getting dark we decided to sleep next to a restaurant on the road, again it was an easy task to do.
The next day we practically rolled down for 30 Kilometers and arrived safely and sound to yet another capital city: Yerevan.