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The road to Georgia was kind of boring, but with a lot of enthusiasm and charged batteries. We left Bucharest pretty late, at 4:00 P.M. and we arrived in Turkey at 1:00 A.M. where we camped somewhere next to Marmara. We only stopped for gas, eat our homemade sandwiches in a gas station in Bulgaria and that was about it. It was tiring, freezing cold – in June – cold at night. We, the girls, kept warm with the help of ‘cousin’ in our short pit stops (cousin = palinka from Sibiu, a Romanian traditional alcoholic beverage similar to vodka). The road didn’t really thrill us, because it was not the kind of route to make you feel warm and fuzzy with adrenaline and joy, but it was the way to get to our destination. On top of that, the GPS had been set to follow the cheapest route… which to tell you frankly I don’t know how cheap it was, but for sure it was looong and cold during the night…
Bottom line: first day 564 km, time 10h11’. Road highlights: enthusiasm – running away from home, cold, boredom, cold!
On the second day we went through Turkey on Istanbul’s beltway, which, with all the possible traffic jams, was just like a beautiful dance on two wheels for the boys (a stormy tango or a painfully striking flamenco – something like that). The traffic was fascinatingly pleasant and our brave boys made the best of it.
We caught some rain on the way, twice, but not enough to inconvenience us. After 11 and a half hours and 852 km we arrived in Samsun, a fairly big and beautiful Turkish city, which would be our home until the beginning of Ramadan (the Islamic holy month of fasting, prayer and celebration).We should have camped in Samsun, but as we didn’t manage to find the camping entrance (and no, we were not drunk), we had to resort to making an on-the-spot reservation. We found Otel Necmi (https://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/otel-necmi.en-gb.html ), which we recommend full-heartedly because the hosts (father and son) were so hospitable that they even shared their living-room with us to watch the Romania – France soccer game (Romania lost then, but that’s another story) and drink beer or wine (they were fasting, so we did the drinking part).
For the record: most of the Turkish shops were either closed or did not sell alcoholic beverages; the boys were in luck because we, the girls, went out wandering through the city and found a shop (not a Turkish one!) from where we bought some beers.
Road highlights: the pleasure of riding through Istanbul, the perfect asphalt, new beautiful people, places and religions!
Day Three: Samsun – Batumi 401 km, 7h 19’
On the third day we entered a whole new world. As we were approaching the border with Georgia we could tell that we were about to step into an entirely different land, from which we didn’t really know what to expect, but… we felt it would be ‘something else’. Riding from Turkey, where the roads were spotless, Georgia took us by surprise with the broken roads and the crowds of people who did street commerce with all kinds of products (mainly cigarettes and alcohol), within 50m of the checkpoints. It was just like a scene taken from an old movie released at the beginning of colour cinematography, with a huge crowd of people that did not have to scare you necessarily, but rather entice you… towards discovery.
We had a reservation for two nights in Batumi, an accommodation booked from home long before the trip, at a price which led us to believe that we won’t have to worry much about our budget for Georgia. Batumi is a city situated at 30km from the border with Turkey, on the seashore of the Black Sea, the equivalent of the Romanian Vama Veche. We were convinced that we will like it, and we were right!
Our accommodation was located on Cable Car Street, but we had no idea about the street number, so we went back and forth and back and forth between the seashore and the cable car looking for our place of shelter. Everyone was directing us towards the top of the cable car (because, apparently this is what we were asking them), all until once up at the cable car we discovered that our accommodation was nowhere near it. We tried talking over the telephone with our host, but didn’t really succeed in finding out where exactly we had to get because the man only knew Georgian and some Russian. One of the guys who was riding with us called a friend of his and started a Russian – Romanian – Georgian mega-conference, at the end of which we found out that somewhere nearby there was a restaurant and that it might be a good meeting point for us and the host. As we arrived at the restaurant and got off our motorcycles, we were instantly drawn by the Georgian music. The impact was sensational, the music was fabulous, some people were dancing (I have no idea if it was a wedding or a private party) and we felt just like a bunch of astronauts who landed on a nudist beach. So we went inside and delighted our eyes, ears and… souls. It was right then and there that we realised that ‘being gracious’ has nothing to do with your gendre or weight.
As our host came to pick us up, we left together in a feel good mood, with our eyes laughing all the way deep into our soul. The accommodation was a big old villa, with 2,5m high doors, located on top of a hill from which you had the greatest view of the city. And it was all ours!
Batumi was convincing!
We spent two sunny days feeling the vibe of the city: we walked around exploring streets and coffee shops, we saw the city from way up… from the cable car, we took some hot sun on the beach and on the pier, we tasted over and over again the Georgian wine – which is recommendable by far, we saw beautiful places and a lot of poor ones as well, we felt the kindness and warmth of the people and we experienced a traffic which combined chaos with hell. And when I say hell… I mean hell! The pedestrians were terrified to cross the street at the zebra crossing, and if they dared do so, they would end up in an obstacle race having to avoid the cars; the cars did not hesitate for a second to keep on going, to find shortcuts and to bent the traffic rules… and the usual traffic was extremely intense, because you never knew who would be the one who would cede first… And there were a lot of cars…
Road highlights (+one day and one night without our ‘horse’): Batumi – first contact with Georgia – a beautiful city of extremes, warm, jolly and honest people, adorably chaotic traffic and terribly broken asphalt. What surprised us the most about Georgia also pleased us so we couldn’t wait to go further.
Day Five: Batumi – Mestia 289 km, 6h
Leaving Batumi was everything our boys wanted, because before even getting to Mestia, they knew that they would see ‘Heaven on Earth’, a land out of reach with a lot of off-road and strong sensations… Ushguli :)
We got lost on the way, some of us had an unbearable enterocolitis (fruit fallen straight from the Georgian trees do not go well with wine just so you know), we ended up being escorted by the police at one point, we even met a lot of living creatures on the road, saw mind-blowing landscapes and enjoyed the beautiful weather… a promising beginning.
The Caucasus greeted us straight from the very beginning with a fall (a pretty weird one I might add) in a curve after which we were alright, but with an overdose of adrenaline :). Both of us got up quickly from the fall, we checked each other to make sure we’re not hurt and then checked the bike to see if it’s still functional… It mattered less that the top-case and side-cases were scattered all over the road, that our clothes landed very close to the precipice (some even fell in it), that the big cloud of dust scared everyone on the road or that we had to use webbings so that we could continue riding. The important thing was that we were alright and the bike was functional. Physically I didn’t feel much, it was like my body didn’t seem to acknowledge the fall and mentally I couldn’t wrap my head around what had just happened and why. After we managed to get everything back on the bike we continued our journey.
The discomfort and uncertainty of what had happened… why had it happened, were laying somewhere in the back of my husband’s mind, masked by his encouraging smiles.
The landscapes turned from beautiful to even more beautiful, the road was promising a lot of things, the altitude was rising, and we could see the snow on the mountain tops. Mestia was waiting for us! We stopped for a couple of hours to get something to eat, we admired the nature around us from the base of the mountain, we managed to talk about the fall (that was a victory in itself, to be able to talk openly about something so unpleasant and that you couldn’t really explain or understand), we left a Romanian bill on the table as a souvenir (on each table there was a glass top under which people from different countries had left all sorts of national bills), we also left a written message and we were so looking forward to going in the heavenly Ushguli :)