Day 49 & 50 – Kars to Batumi

Day 49 started with a really nice breakfast and even some fried eggs, which is a treat compared to the stale bread and jam usually available at the crappy hotels. Then getting Donkey geared up with an audience, and some people wanting photos next to him. The plan was to ride from Kars down to the coast and find somewhere nice to have a day off, maybe two. The route looked a bit fun, back through the mountains and meant I could complete the last stretch of the D010, the completionist in me was happy with that.

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Kars Castle, only noticed it when it lit up and night so had no time to see it

It turned out to be an amazing days riding, I barely stopped all day because the great roads just kept coming. I started off heading toward the lake to the North East and joined the very end of the D010 around the it. It was a beautiful place, rolling hills all the way around with great roads. It felt a lot like bumbling through the peak district with little towns and stunning views, but a very different place. I got stopped for a few minutes with a herd of sheep crossing the road for a picnic by the lake.

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Not the traffic jam I was expecting

Then it was back on to plains, but a wrong turn meant I ended up on a gravel track through a bunch of tiny farming towns. It felt like the whole town stopped to stare as I rolled through. The roads were really fun though, about 10 miles but it took about 30 minutes. The road started winding up the mountain, even though I was already at 1700m. Some stunning views at the top made me stop for a little bit to take them in, looking over the mountain range that separated the high plains from the coastline. It looked like a background to a game or movie scene, where you can see it’s so obviously fake and 2D, except it wasn’t because I rode through them later on.

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Those are obviously fake

Winding down the other side of the mountain to a much lower altitude and much warmer weather, to a little town where I got “randomly” stopped by a police checkpoint. They actually checked all the paperwork too which is a first but were mostly interested in Donkey and what the hell I was doing there. Then the road turned into a deep canyon with steep rock either side and a fast flowing river following the road. It made for pretty hairy riding with Turkish drivers veering over the road but it was great fun. The river widened into a big lake and the road climbed up along side it, by the time I reached the top the lake was huge with steep mountains either side, it was pretty breathtaking.

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There’s a city built in this 3 way valley, just in front of the dam

Turns out they’d built a hydroelectric dam up ahead so the roads had all been rebuilt higher up the mountain to let the water rise, which made for spectacular views coming in to town too. Finally the roads got a little dull for a while so I could take a breath, following the wider river slowly toward the coast on a new road that had been straightened out with lots of tunnels and bridges, they’re impressive but it makes for boring riding. Then the final bout was the last descent to the coast which started with an amazing view down from the mountain into Hopa, then a load of switchback roads through the forest. It was immediately hotter and more humid on the coast, I much preferred the higher altitudes.

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Back to the sea!

I’d seen a “guesthouse” on the map and was keen to get back to a hostel with some other travellers, maybe have a day or two off. It’d be a good change to wait for 2 friends to catch up to me so we could ride together too. It took me a while to find the guesthouse and was up a very tight steep gravel track in the mountain. It turned out to be basically a wooden building with some bedrooms, no other guests, no kitchen and no internet. For some people that would be bliss, not me, I kind of wanted the exact opposite. So I headed back to the coast and found a hotel, there were only 2 in town but they were fine and cheap enough.

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The one thing the hostel did have was an amazing view

I set off looking for some dinner and walk around, the town felt very different from any other in Turkey so far. Maybe it just because there were more young people but the attitudes and people changed so much. I found a little donner place and sat down, within 2 minutes two Turkish guys came over to chat wanting to know what a solo English guy was doing wandering around their town. They were really nice guys and spoke pretty good English which made a nice change. The seemed kind of aggressive at first and my guard went up ready to GTFO, but they were just so keen. We had a good chat about the trip, Turkey and travelling alone, a completely different experience to the rest of Turkey that I’d seen.

Day 50 started in proper tourist mode. I rode the wrong way along the coast to go and see Zil Castle, a really well preserved medieval castle up in the mountains. I had a good wander round for free since there was nobody on the gate. I was keen to get going though since I wanted to head to Georgia today. I was ready for a day off and some comforts and I was struggling to find them in the towns nearby. Batumi had a couple of nice looking hostels so I was heading there.

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I hate back tracking on myself but it was the only way from the castle to the border, about an hour later I was faced with another complicated border. There seemed to be a queue of cars for a mile at the border so I started filtering by and pulled in to a little gap to try and get the attention of one of the guards. Sometimes they’ll call me forward either because there’s a separate motorcycle gate or because they’re curious and will just process me first. Nothing came of it though so I filtered up some more until I could see the queue was mostly held up by car searches, so I rolled up to the guard and nodded to go through and he just waved me on. Score. An hour or so of queuing skipped. A slow crawl but easy process through the rest of the Exit for Turkey, repeatedly correcting the registration number and pointing out the VIN number. Then the Entry to Georgia couldn’t have been more simple, 5 minutes with my passport and V5C, and she was happy to give me a stamp and welcome me to the country!

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Not a bad border crossing, has it’s own beach

A short ride on good roads took me to the city centre and after some circling I found the hostel I was after. They helped me get Donkey in the gate and showed me around the place, it looked perfect for a few days stay. Secure parking, comfy seating, kitchen, plenty of room in the dorms, reasonable internet. Sold. I set off to look for some food and ended up on the beach, because obviously. There was a restaurant on the pier so I went through to check out the view, take a photo and laugh at the prices. Turns out they were priced pretty well so I settled in with the laptop and a pint and waited for my food. Next thing I know there’s a Scottish voice floating over, my ears pricked up and it was a guy one table down ordering a pint. I caught his attention then laughed at his expression when he heard me speaking English. He came over and we had a good long chat about travelling and Georgia. He was taking a very long holiday now he was retired and city hoping around Europe. That’s totally the opposite of how I like to travel and it seemed to be getting to him too. He was enjoying the freedom though, that was easy enough to see.

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Nice spot for a celebratory “Day 50” beer

I’ll be sticking around here for a couple of days to wait for 2 friends to catch up to me on their bikes. One of them 1 day away, the other 2 days away.

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