Laziness has well and truly kicked in, so I apologise for the lack of posts lately. I’ll see what I can do about catching up over the next week. Many of you have already noticed that my Instagram is quite ahead of the blog!
I’m writing this from a cafe in Bucharest. The weather is perfect and the setting quite relaxing. Watching the tourists, sometimes in large groups, and the locals stroll on by is a nice way to pass time. Given I’m having breakfast at 1:00pm I’ve refrained from drinking beer although the temptation is always there and beer is very cheap!
My return to Georgia seems like such a long time ago. The pace of the trip now really comes to the fore mainly due to the change of borders, languages, currencies and weather. It was the 15th September that saw me re-enter Georgia with a quick overnight stay in Akhaltsikhe. Having randomly chosen this town as a midway point, you can imagine my surprise when being told by my AirBnB host that there was not one, but two incredible tourist attractions here. She insisted I visit both so that afternoon I jumped on the bike and rode down to the Rabati Castle. (She also insisted I eat, and continued to serve me, so much food, especially potatoes!) It was a great place to spend an hour or two. Huge fortified city with not just a Church inside, but a Mosque as well. Several residential buildings, expansive and lush gardens and nice open squares completed the picture. It even had converted some internal edifice into a hotel which I thought was done very tastefully without taking away from the overall experience. Again and again, I found myself surprised by how much Georgia had on offer and how lucky I was to keep discovering it.
The next morning I rode back toward Armenia, as per my host’s instructions to visit Vardzia, the incredible city built inside a rock cliff hundreds of years ago! Oh my God. This place blew everything else away! Amazingly, I passed the German (and Greek) riders who I’d met a few days earlier on the way, so I tagged along with them as we crawled in and out of these incredible caverns in our moto boots. To think I was oh so close to not seeing this would probably have been my biggest regret on this trip. Serendipity seems to be the motto of the journey and I will certainly not forget it!
Incredibly I was in Akhaltsikhe no more than 24 hours, but so much unfolded in that short time. My next leg to Batumi on the coast was still in a state of uncertainty. Google was showing only a long way round due to the state of the direct road. My friends Anne and Anthony had decided not to risk it, but I enquired with a number of people and the general consensus was it was more than do-able on a bike like mine. Although my host was adamant it was dangerous. I think it was a case of confirmation bias on my part and the positive responses were all I needed to give it a nudge. The thought of doing a ridiculously long detour when some tiny adventure (and a direct route) was on offer seemed entirely unpalatable. Fortunately for me, the road was very do-able and very fun. It took me through some gorgeous old villages, winding dirt roads, high mountains and green valleys. In some places it was a bit rough, but that’s really what the bike’s for, so I could feel my spirit bursting with joy as I whizzed around this pristine and almost hidden land set back in time. Every now and then I’d see a tourist car and at one point I was admonished by an older local presumably for speed, but I was hardly giving it any. I imagine they probably just get tired of tourists and loud motorcycles destroying their sanctuary of serenity and solitude.
Arriving in Batumi, I was met with yet another climate and environment. The coastal humidity (albeit mild) was back and there was a very strong tourist scene with many restaurants and bars with outdoor eating areas. The atmosphere felt quite relaxed and you could tell this was a majot tourist destination for locals and some further afield. I took in a meal and went for a stroll to the docks in the evening. This would be my first view of the Black Sea. Further away I was told there were swimming beaches. But this would not be on my itinerary. The next morning I was keen to get away early(ish). I had a border to cross and the world’s most dangerous road to tackle in Turkey. My mind was well and truly excited and anxious by what was in store.