We were almost good to leave and were enjoying the snow and the mountains for some more time, when we heard that Lauras grandmother was in hospital. Her condition wasn’t getting better and the doctors where unsure what it was. So Laura sponaneously decided to travel to Germany. She booked the flight and left Gudauri with a maeshrutka (to Tbilisi) just some hours later.
This ride with the marshsutka was one of the worst I had ever experienced. I felt very sick and there were a number of situations in traffic where it felt close to an accident. In Tbilisi I had to organise some things – print the flight ticket, running some errands and storing some luggage at Noemi’s hostel. I was in touch with my family, friends at home and also contacted Can, Petek and Huseyin in Turkey to organise the transfer of our sleeping bags. On top of that, there was lots of work in my hostel.
My flight from Tbilisi to Istanbul was in the middle of the night. It felt very strange to be on the way back home and it goes so fast by plane! From my window I could see the coast of the Black Sea. I was even able to spot the small peninsula near Fatsa where the police had picked us up some months ago while campung. I’ve been on airlplanes a lot, but I don’t like it much. I had to think of my travel from Los Angeles to Chicago by (greyhound)bus, which took 4 days. Compared to that flying is better. But cycling is the best, as you are free to take breaks whenever you want and you are constantly moving. Before the landing I could see the sunset above the clouds. I arrived in Istanbul just in time for some Turkish breakfast with Huseyin. He was so kind to pick up our sleeping bags that Can and Petek had sent from Ankara to Istanbul and he had come to the airport to meet Laura and hand them over. Thanks a lot for all your help!!! At our first attempt when we tried to post them the bags apparently got stuck at the German customs and were sent back to Ankara. At thw second attempt when Petek travelled to Germany, she wasn’t allowed to take them on the plane as they were already in a parcel. So it finally went well!
When I arrived in Hamburg, I was collected by my friend Lenja who had taken a day off and borrowed a car. We drove directly to the hospital and due to almost no sleep I felt like sleep walking. When we arrived at the hospital my grandmother was already feeling much better and we could even take her home. It was such a nice surprise for both of us as she didn’t know I was coming and I was positively surprised that she was so much better. That night I stayed at her house.
The rest of my time in Germany I met up with lots of great people and went to some doctors because of my knee. All of them had a different opinion which was quite confusing. My flight back to Georgia was from Berlin. I stayed with Noemi’s family the days before the flight. I also went to Dominik who works as an orthopedist to ask him about his opinion. He said, cycling would be good for my knee.
I flew back to Kutaisi in Georgia. I spent a night there before I headed to Tbilisi. Spring had arrived and everything was nice and green and the nature was just beautiful. I spent two nights in Tbilisi before I headed back to Noemi in Gudauri.
After Lauras sudden departure I stayed for some more days in Gudauri. The resort was getting emptier and emptier and you could feel that the season was slowly coming to an end. On one of those days there happened a ski lift accident on one of the lifts (some of you might have seen videos of it). I didn’t directly experience it. I was just about to get my board when I heard about it.
A few days later I decided to do the first cycling tour on my own to Armenia. Back in Tbilisi I packed my things and left the day after. It feels so free, to just load your bike and head out. Down in the city (compared to the mountains) it was already quite warm and spring had arrived – there was lots of green, warm sun and singing birds. To be on the road on my own was adventurous and exciting. All in all I think it is more exhausting, as you are responsible for all decisions and being safe on your own. I freedomcamped for the first time on my own. On the next day I crossed the border to Armenia. I didn’t know much about the country except that it was full of mountains (which was true!). The landscape was green and often you could see rocks, lots of cows, sheep and horses. I was told by a number of Armenians that my name is actually an old Armenian name. In total I spent about a week in Armenia and experienced lots of hospitality. In my first evening I was invited by a welcoming and friendly family. If I had wanted to, I could have stayed a whole year with them they said. I learned a few words Armenian from them and had the chance to practice some Russian. Just Lilya, the 13-year-old daughter spoke English and translated for us.
On another day I was asked by people if I needed a lift. And actually I had been hoping for that kind of opportunity as that day I’d been cycling uphill for many kilometers already (and the end was not close). In the end I even rode with them until Yerevan and was invited to stay the night with the family of the driver. And on the evening where I was taking the night train back to Tbilisi, I got invited for tea and pastry at a house. I didn’t go to the supermarket a single time in Armenia (even if i usually enjoy that a lot!) and my bags got heavier and heavier because everywhere where I stayed I was provided with lots of food. I travelled back carrying two glasses of jam, half of a home-made cheese, eggs, one litre of compot, two kilo.of apples, pastry, dried fruits (I always said it was not necessary and also to heavy for carrying on the bike). Getting back with the night train was a little adventure on its own. In every compartment were 6 beds and they were all connected by a long hallway (no doors). The train was not full, luckily. In the middle of the night were two stops for the border controls. The border police came inside and one even wanted to have a look in all my bags. When I arrived in Tbilisi it was a peaceful and quiet morning atmosphere. Later I wanted to post some cards back home (which didn’t work out because I forgot it was Sunday), but on my way back I coincidentally ran into Vitia who was spending the day with his sister Alisa, her husband and a friend. I ended up joining them in the cafe, and later walking through the beautiful old town of Tbilisi. That was a beautiful spring day. A few days later I went back to Gudauri!! I tried not to get lost and keep up with everybody when I was boarding with Vitia and his team (Bogdani, Julia and Sascha; and their friends Jana and Sascha who all work as snowboard/ski instructors). One day we had an amazing powder day and some great freerides.
Laura came back just before Easter. Together with Vitia we had a nice Easter breakfast and even a tiny Easter-egg hunt (Laura had brought some from Germany, as we couldn’t find Easter chocolate in Georgia). The people there celebrate Easter a week later (according to the orthodox calendar). In the days before, you could see the people buying loads of eggs which will be coloured in red. The evenings in Gudauri we often spent with Vitia, Julia, Bogdani, Jana and the Saschas. Now, we had still stayed until the end of the season even if we hadn’t expected this earlier. The atmosphere in the skiresort was changing, the slopes were getting emptier, more and more people left and in the hostel we were some of the very last people to leave in the end.
Together with people from Noemis hostel in Tbilisi we went on a day trip to David Gareja, a monastery, caves and some beautiful rocks at the Azerbaijani border.
Together the two of us traveled to the nice family in Noyemberyan in Armenia who had stayed in touch with Noemi since the first visit. We had some nice days, helped out in the garden and went to another monastery. Very impressive that they make their own cheese and yoghurt (Matsoni) from the milk of their cows. Again we experienced great hospitality.
We also learned about the history of Armenia. In the country live about 3 million people (and more than 10 million Armenians live abroad). The country seems to be more influenced by the Soviet time and it is more dependent on Russia as an ally than Georgia. The relations with the neighbouring countries Turkey and Azerbaijan are difficult (it is not possible to cross those borders and there is barely any communication between the countries). In 1915 there was a genocide of Armenians living in an area of what today is Turkey. With Azerbaijan there are border conflicts and still today regular shootings (also when we where in Noyemberian).
Laura had a quite special biryhday that year. Half of it she spent in Armenia, the second half in Georgia. At midnight we had a spontaneous small party with the family in Noyemberyan. In Tbilisi we had good food and ice cream sitting on the balcony of Lauras hostel. Later we watched some lightnings from a Thunderstorm
Some days later we traveled with the train from Tbilisi to Batumi. Laura will travel back to Germany. She will take the ferry across the Black Sea from Batumi to Odessa (Ukraine). Then she will cycle/hitchhike or travel by bus or train through Poland back to Germany. She will work and see what needs to be done for her knee.
Noemi will fly from Tbilisi to New Zealand. There she wants to work and cycle.
After more than 10 months and 6000 km on the bike, lots of impressions and great encounters, our journey will be finished earlier than expected.
The decision to travel seperately was not easy and saying good bye was sad.
But who knows, maybe one day we will continue our journey from Tbilisi on.
On this website we will keep you updated about our travels. Laura will write about her journey back to Germany and Noemi about arriving and traveling in New Zealand.