Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Georgia part 1 - from Batumi to Tbilissi

 2015 february 13th, we crossed the Turkish-Georgian border under a hard rain. The bicycles with their wet and dirty owners were a bit the "black sheeps" among those dry and clean pedestrians to the customers service.
The lady at the border asked me "where are you from?" which is a bit confusing to me: I just handed her my French passport, we are at the Turkish border.... so I said "Paris" to which she replied "but you look like a Chinese". Normally, it would upset me but I was so surprised that I just laughed out loud " No, not Chinese but I am also Vietnamese".

The landscape changed quickly, we could see that we were not anymore in Turkey.

We arrived to Batumi around 17h but, what a surprise, we just lost 2 hours: it was 19h already, which was great because we still had light, it meant we could cycle later than in Turkey :-)
We stayed here two nights with Teimuraz and his lovely family. And Erekle, his friend, helped us out a lot too with his perfect english. We bought a sim card with 2h calls, 100SMS and 2Mo of internet for 10 GEL (a bit more then 4E), so cheap!!!

Feb 15th, we left Batumi under a wonderful sun. The road was quite good but as we were warned before: Georgian drive like crazy. And they have plenty of those big brand new Mercedes or BMW or Toyota..... We wondered where they all came from!!!!! As Teimuraz told us " if you lost your bikes somewhere in Europe, you may find them back here in Georgia......"

Around 5PM, we wanted to stop: the place we wanted was guarded but after 2mn on the phone, the man just showed around in a big gesture "anywhere you like". So we had a wonderful campfire by the Black Sea, for the last time.

The next day, when we wanted to camp in a abandoned train station, an old man came and invited us home. He lived alone in a small dirty wine-smelly house, he showed us the bed where we would sleep: it was impossible to know when the sheets were changed for the last time. Well, but that was not the point.
The point was that when I tried to help him to clean the house, he, probably happy to have someone to do the job for him, became suddenly capricious and exigeant. He got upset when I left 2 maize seeds on the ground, and when he grabbed my arm to show me more dirty places to clean, it was simply too much. I turned red tomato, ran out to the yard yelling something like I am not his housewife then we left!!! We politely thanked him while pushing our bikes out, he stayed there dully waving at us, probably having no clue why suddenly we changed our mind!!!!

Feb 17, we celebrated TET - the Vietnamese traditional New Year in Kutaisi with a so-called Vietnamese dinner. Kutaisi, some thousands years ago, had seen Jason and his Argonauts coming for the Golden Fleece. Some fleeces are still kept somewhere in the Georgian mountainous areas: sheepskin was used to filter gold from mountain streams.

What we like about Georgia is that you can buy almost everything by unit: cigarette, toilet paper roll and even sanitary napkin.... We also like those little box where you can pay almost everything, with your credit cards of course: your bills, your fines, taxes and even your bets :-) :-)

One night, after the lovely dinner by the campfire in the middle of nowhere, we had the bad surprise to see a police car coming. Two men got out of the car, one fiercely with his kalashnikov. The communication was difficult because none of them spoke english and one very little Russian. Later, came an another car with a woman who spoke russian, which was not easy neither because mine is far from fluent!!! After 10 mn of questioning like who we were, where we were from, which way we took.... there came the sentence " Is there anything we can help?" and the ritual "Photo? Facebook?" ouf!!!

Another night, another story: we had some Georgian coming over with panduri (their traditional instrument) and homemade wine. From this surprise party :-) we had the sound track for our movie

After the rain, comes the sun, and then after the sun: the rain and the snow!!!! We had 3 days of relatively bad weather.

Feb 20th, we camped at mid-uphill way, at about 500m of altitude, by the river. It was a mission almost impossible to bring the bikes to the campsite because the way down the river was too stiff and the river crossing quite dangerous. Karina and I would have preferred the easy solution and camped by the road, certainly noisy, certainly not easy to set a fire, but at least we could have avoided all the struggling. But maybe it would be among the things we would remember the most in 10 years :-)

Feb 22th, we finally reached Tbilissi. The weather was with us: sun and nice wind. Even the road was with us: in perfect condition and flat :-)
Here we stay with Taylor, an American student in Medicine. Such a cool guy who let us "squat" his small flat as long as we needed. And we needed a lot of time waiting for our Iranian visa (first for the reference number to arrive, then some roundtrips to the Embassy because of some papers....). We took advantage of this time to rest too. It was a pleasure to oversleep everyday :-). Taylor was on holiday so we just enjoyed the lazy time together :-)

Monday March 2d. Finally, we got all the papers ready. The Embassy is open at 10 AM, at 9:30, we were already at the door!!!
The man at the Consulat Service was much nicer than the one the other day. He collected all our papers and said "Give me 100 euros per person". WHAT???? The normal procedure is to go to TBC bank, at 15mn walking distance and deposit 50 euros!!!! We protested by the man stayed firm. We knew that he would put the other 100 euros in his pocket but we were so shocked that we didn't know how to react, moreover, he had the power to not deliver us this precious Iranian visa!!!

11:15AM, Tim called me (we told them the story so that they could be prepared and find some strategy against the evil guy) to say that they kept protesting politely, telling there should be a mistake somewhere.... finally the guy took another look at their documents and said "Oh, you are asking for the TOURISM visa and not a WORKING visa. So it's true, it's 50 euros to deposit at the bank" (Yeah that's it!!!!). So we ran back to the Embassy! The man was surprise to see us and felt uncomfortable, especially at that moment, some of his colleagues were just near by, talking, laughing. He waited a while for them to leave and gave us back to money without any trouble, of course with the same excuse "Oh, I thought you asked for a Working visa" !!!!!!!

We went out of the Embassy, quite proud but also felt more experienced of dealing with corrupted Consulat fellows. We may encounter more of them on our visa pilgrim over Asia :-)

To be continued!!! Please pray for our visa, we are going to collect it tomorrow morning but I don't feel sure because "the Consul is sick" today. Hum hum


  1. Hi guys! I didn't have time to read all of your adventures but I loved the video production ;) It 's great to see you are enjoying time pedaling like crazy, and even in the snow. I wish you the best for the rest of the journey. Keep on rolling sweet potatoes x x x x