Due to bad weather (up to 100 l/m2 rain per day) we stayed in Batumi longer than originally planned. Soon we felt comfortable at our hostel. We spent some lazy days inside, went for walks through the city and to the seaside which we could see form our window. On the day we left it was nice and sunny again and there was no sign anymore of the grey and wetness of the past few days. Some of our first impressions of Georgia were the sometimes completely unpredictable and chaotic traffic (like a car driving backwards through a long tunnel on a fast road), in which every vehicle that somehow (still) can drive is taking part (sometimes pieces are missing or stuck with tape or tied to the car). Compared to Turkey, zebra crossings and green traffic lights work better again (that means that cars actually stop sometimes).
After leaving the city behind us we admired the beautiful landscape and were impressed by the roadsigns written in a fairytale-like alphabet (which seems to be way more difficult than the Cyrillic alphabet). As long as we were still close to the Black Sea the weather was winterly but mild and with the sun sometimes comfortably warm. Camping worked out fine, a lot of our things were wet every morning though. One morning we were woken up by raindrops falling on the tent. As the weather was supposed to get worse during the day, we stroke the tent quickly before sunrise and hit the road. There we met a woman who was acommpanied by a cow and a just newborn calf. We were unlucky that with these weather conditions we were on one of the muddiest roads on our whole trip – it was impassable for cars. We covered the following ten kilometers with a legendary speed of about 4 km/h and were relieved to finally reach an asphalt road. As the rain never really stopped we took shelter under the roof of a house to fix the brakes of the bikes as they had stopped working due to being wet or to worn out brake pads. As we were quite cold and wet we decided to look for an accomodation for the night in the next town (Samtredia) where we could dry all our things and ourselves. A lady working at the first accomodstion we reached was already annoyed about some mud on the mat outside the door, so we figured she and we wouldn’t feel too comfortable when we brought our muddy bags inside. The lady at the second accomodation made us feel welcome and helped to bring all the bags and even the bikes inside! She offered us to use the washing machine – the whole time we used sign language to communicate. In our room we unpacked all our things and spread them in the room to dry. The next morning we took care of our bikes (fixing the second pair of brakes and cleaning them) and continued cycling through the villages.
Along that road one village was next to the other, therefore it was difficult to find a spot for camping. Often there was no other option than staying close to houses. One evening we met Padri who walked by the spot we wanted to camp. Only using sign language (and Georgian) he explained that he lived just across the road and invited us over. We met his wife Manana, sat near the warm oven, got a tour of their huge greenhouses where they grow lettuce, rucola and spinach. Later we helped to peel some spring onions (some women of the neighbourhood joined for that). We got delicious food and Manana heated up some water on the oven that we could use for washing us. In the night we stayed in a huge and comfortable bed. Grateful for the friendliness and hospitality we continued our trip after a nice breakfast the next morning.
That day our road led us up to 920 m above sealevel (the highest point between Batumi and Tbilisi). Going up we saw more and more snow that covered the mountains around us. Just after the sunset we reached the top where a tunnel longer than 2 km expected us. For cyclists it were very bad conditions as it was full of exhaust fumes and was badly ventilated. After that we chose the first best option to spend the night. Finally, we put up the tent in a park behind some houses in the snow. That night was the coldest night we’d had on our trip so far. Just with some trouble we got the camping stove working and the next morning the water in our bottles was frozen. Our next destination was Gori (the birth place of Stalin) where we stayed in a guesthouse and took a break. Then there was one more night in the tent before we passed a beautiful landscape and reached Tbilisi. On our way we saw the Georgian Kappadokya (Uplistikhe) and a number of churches.
Already weeks ago we had been in contact with hostels in Tbilisi where we would work about 15-20 hours per week and therefore could stay for free. We want to take a winterbreak from cycling. The length of the break will depend on the weather, our plans for traveling on (we will therefore research different options), and of course how much we like it in Tbilisi and the hostels. Lauras hostel is in a building which is more than 200 years old. Some nice and quite entertaining characters live there (including a very own hostel-DJ). The hostel which Noemi had an agreement with had forgotten about that, so she stayed the first few days in Lauras hostel. A friend of the owner of Lauras hostel also had a hostel in which she could work. The hostels have a 10 minutes walking distance from each other and are situated in the very center of Tbilisi (Shota Rustaveli Avenue). A few days after our arrival it was already christmas! Due to the lack of a private room and lots of things going on at the hostels we decided to spend christmas at a small airbnb-apartment just around the corner. It even had an oven so we could bake some christmas biscuits and prepare a nice dinner. We had candles and under our improvised christmas tree there were even some presents 🙂 People in Georgia do celebrate christmas (and in the center are lots of christmas lights) but they celebrate on 7th January where Jack Frost brings presents. The 24th December is no public holiday and as on all the other days the shops were open until late and the streets full of people. On 25th we had to go back to the hostels for work. Luckily its mostly quiet there as it is off season.
We are looking forward to spending some time here, exploring the city and to be at one place some time longer again. We are quite curious ourselves how our travel will go on after the break. Even if we don’t cycle now we will still keep you updated about how the winterbreak and our time in Georgia is going.
Our first morning in the countryside of Georgia.
The view from our camp site.
We avoided the Georgian traffic as much as possible.
The mountain view before the rain started.
Setting off in the rain.
Fixing the brakes with very cold fingers.
On the next day the sun was shining again.
Preparing green onions from the garden for the market.
Fresh food from Padris and Mananas garden.
Our first night in the snow.
The village road.
And then after rolling for a long time through the mud the road ended here and continued on the other side.
Our camping spot next to the river.
Eventually we found a bridge so we could cross the stream.
Cleaning our bikes from all the mud.
Moving beds in Lauras Hostel in Tbilisi.
Breakfast on Christmas Day.
Noemi is baking her famous hazelnut christmas cookies.
Christmas lights on Freedom Square.
Our Christmas dinner.
The flower replaced the Christmas tree this year.
Streets of Tbilisi.
View on Kartlis Deda
The natural sulphur baths of Tbilisi.