Completely at odds with my usual time keeping, I managed to finish off the 50 days summary video on Day 51. I’m quite please with how it all came out, all the clips are things I can distinctly remember, and watching it brings the entire days memories back for each one, some of them look very generic “winding road” but they’re all unique to me.
I held off on lunch to make myself actually get the damn video done so I immediately went for a wander around town once it was done and published. I wandered all the way to the other end of town, searching for food on the way, and spotted two nice BMW GSs (the popular and expensive “adventure travel” motorcycle) with Polish plates. Across the street was two guys in Under Armour gear eating pastries from a bag, think I’ve found the riders…
Turns out they’d ridden from southern Poland to Georgia in 3 days, that makes for about 700 miles per day. They’d even managed to include a crash and a fix in that time! For some perspective: a 300 mile day is long for me now. I leave late, I take breaks, I detour, I value dinner, a pint and sleep. 700 miles a day is insane. They were great guys and happy to chat while they waited for their insurance to be processed; they’d been hearing “it will be 1 minute” for the last 3 hours.
I carried on walking around town heading roughly back toward the hostel and saw the traffic had stopped on a 6 lane road, not that uncommon. Turns out it was a couple of 80ish year old women and a few much younger people marching slowly up the road holding signs, being followed by 5 or 6 TV cameras along with reporters. I’ve no idea what they were protesting since it was in Georgian but it got heated pretty fast. Some arguing was going on, I assume to move the people out of the way of the road. I thought “I probably shouldn’t be here” the idiot tourist standing around would be a nice target, I’m tall and stand out already, and if anything kicks off the last thing I want is ending up in some sort of “containment” zone being questioned by Georgian police, which were beginning to show up fast. The crowd was over 50 people now, all shouting, shoving. I kept my distance but was way too curious to leave. It all came to nothing anyway, the police broke it up fairly well and apart from 1 woman screaming running around the road with police dejectedly walking after her, it was back to normal. I’m probably on Georgian TV somewhere since the cameras were facing me and I stick out the crowd enough.
I got back to the hostel and started doing some maintenance on the bike. Turns out I’d neglected the air filter a little too much. It was utterly caked in bugs. Wasps, flies, locust sized things, all just jammed in there. 10 minutes of beating the living hell out of the filter and most of the bits were out. I didn’t bring the K&N oil I’m supposed to clean it with to make it “sticky” again, but petrol works just as well to get the dust out. I’m cleaning it regularly enough not to need it anyway.
Matt arrived just as I was finishing up and we got chatting about the bikes for about an hour, as is normal with bikers. It was weird him just arriving. We first got in touch over a year ago on Horizons Unlimited swapping information about getting a visa and a guide for crossing Iran. We both went our separate ways after that, me delaying my trip and him heading a different direction since Iran wasn’t going to happen. We kept in touch every couple of months, and somehow we both ended up in Eastern Turkey about 1 days ride away. Weird how things work out. We got on really well, too well in fact. We ended up getting kicked out of a local pub at 3am because they were literally closing the doors to go home. We just chatted all night about the trips, riding, jobs and all manner of drunken crap, including talking to some very drunk locals.
Day 52 started pretty groggily after the long night. I don’t think either of us moved from bed until lunch time. By then it was absolutely pouring down, so my plan to get some oil and other bits for the bike was off. We stayed in basically the whole day, just doing our own thing. I ended up making friends with a Russian woman, she was super friendly super excitable, she spoke no English but wanted to know what I was up to, tapping away on a laptop. Once I told her about the trip she became obsessed with knowing more, she knew what an Ent was and wanted to go to NZ to see Lord of the Rings sets so she nearly lost it when I showed her the Facebook page. We started looking up all the places, I showed her the photos so far, then she started showing me where she was from and what her and her brother and friends were up to in Georgia, climbing this largest mountains. I’ll stick to the bike.
Come the evening Oki finally arrived. She’d been riding all day in the torrential rain that me and Matt had been happily sitting out under cover. She was utterly soaked, but still happy, a trip can do that, a miserable day is still a happy one some times. I first met Oki when we signed up to the same group to cross through China in August, we chatted on Facebook and met in Austria back on Day 18, and our paths happened to cross again in Georgia. Oki attempted to get dry and we headed out for some food, trying to find a Georgian place. We thought the place was karaoke at first but we realised they must have been professionals, just singing very loudly to the entire restaurant. We had way too much food, not much beer (me and Matt still weren’t exactly sparkling) and planned out the next day, the destination and the route. There was some debate about which route to take, slow through the mountains, or faster on the main roads (not highways). I’m glad we chose the faster route, we rode much slower in a group than we would have done alone and we would have fallen a bit short.
Getting ready to go on Day 53 took a lot longer than usual, with more people there’s just more faffing, packing, waiting and organising. We didn’t plan to leave too early so we didn’t rush anyway. Matt is easily the fastest of us, he basically travels with a rucksack 90% of the time, with spares, extras and comforts stored on the bike when he needs them. So he packed his rucksack and read his book while me and Oki faffed. I still managed to leave my towel on the back of the chair though. Idiot.
We loaded the bikes up and squeezed them back out onto the street from behind the hostel and we were ready to go. I was a little nervous, I’ve never actually ridden with another biker at all in my 2 years riding, now there was 3 of us, and I was leading. We wound out of town through the traffic, being careful not to loose each other. None of us had internet or working phone SIM cards so there was no easy way of finding each other again if we got split up, we’d just have to make our own way there. Outside the city, leading was a doddle, though we rode very much slower than we’d planned too. It’s much more difficult to overtake with a convoy of you and we were all used to a faster pace because of the ease of overtaking and filtering.
After about an hours riding we fancied stopping for lunch so we headed into a town centre searching for anything. A police car was suddenly behind us, lights flashing, so we all pulled right to let him by and he came between us and pulled us up. Uh oh. Either this is a “on the spot fine” for a made up thing, or we did something bad and didn’t notice. Turned out, he was just really curious what 3 very loaded and odd looking bikes were doing in town. After a quick chat we tried to ask if he knew anywhere for lunch, but either he didn’t understand, or he wanted us gone, because he offered to lead us there and basically took us to the edge of town and waved goodbye. OK then. We carried on up the road and spotted a bakery so we stopped. It was a proper bakery too, an old man, some shelves and a top loading domed kiln (I can’t find the proper name). We bought some bread dirt cheap and sat on the steps outside with a pot of tomatoes, bread and Nutella. It was an odd lunch but it got us going again.
We tried to stop a couple of hours later for a coffee and a break, but couldn’t find anything in the town we were in. We found a few little shops though so we stopped and had an ice cream and chatted. When we set off again we only got 100m down the road before Matt came speeding up beside me and shouted to stop. My chain guard had fallen off and was dragging along behind me. It’s only a bit of plastic that covers the chain from crap and stops chain oil flinging everywhere but you don’t want anything flapping around your chain and rear tyre. We turned around and went straight back to the shops. Luckily one of them was a hardware shop so it took all of 2 minutes to find a nut and bolt that fit. The guy who worked there helped me out and wouldn’t even take any money for it. Quickest solution to a problem so far on the trip I think.
While I was fixing my chain guard Oki had disappeared somewhere looking for some coffee. Me and Matt were chatting and trying out her bike while she wasn’t there and she reappeared again. She’d found somewhere we could have coffee, so we left the bikes and walked over. It was literally just the women who worked at this shoe shop had made us some coffees in the back of the shop. It was so odd. We tried to chat with them but weren’t getting any further than being able to just about refuse their attempts to get us drunk with some spirits. We were pretty sure they’d be sipping all afternoon by their fits of giggles. It had all the points of a good break, we saw something different, it didn’t go anything like expected, it distracted us from thinking about riding, and we came away with something. Turns out Oki is very good at talking to people, starting conversations and getting to know them. I’ve gotten a million times better on the trip, being able to just talk to anyone, but Oki can basically just become good friends with someone in 5 minutes, regardless of language. It certainly opened some doors, shoe shop doors.
Another couple of hours riding through tiny villages and up a steady mountain road and we hit the town we were aiming for. We had a hotel in mind and we needed some food so we rolled through town keeping an eye out for somewhere to eat. We pulled up to check the map and some locals walked past, giving us and the bikes the now standard “wtf!” look, especially at Oki, being a girl on a bike, and Matt’s bike being covered in drawings. We asked them if they knew a good restaurant and if we were even going the right way, when they struggled to give us directions (it’s difficult with no shared language to do any more than point) Matt jokingly suggested he could jump on the back of his bike and show them. So he did. He guided Matt to the place and we followed along. Turns out the restaurant he’d recommended was also the hotel we wanted to stay at. Score. What a guy, just jumped on the back of a foreigners bike to lead them through town.
There was another bike in the drive when we arrived, a lovely BMW Sport Tourer that reminded me of my old beloved CBF1000 that I rode to Italy on. It turned out to belong to a legend of a guy who came down to great us with a big smile at seeing some other bikers. He was 79 years old and German, just out for a quick tour to Georgia, as you do before you’re 80 obviously. Although he may have been losing his mind a bit since we couldn’t get a straight answer out of him for how long he’d been riding to get here. We theorized that he’d lost his mind on the road and forgot when he left or where he was going so he just kept riding. That’s how I want to lose my mind. He sat with us for a long time in the evening chatting away, his English was great and he had some amazing stories, plus some homemade wine in a coke bottle he’d got from someone on the road. Don’t take alcohol from strangers kids, unless it’s in a coke bottle and delicious.
The hotel owner was a big, loud guy, very happy to have some guests but not very happy with all the work that that brought. He did greet us with some forced ChaCha though, a homemade whiskey type spirit made from the remnants of wine grapes, I love it. We had 2 shots each. It is damn strong stuff (they guess around 60%) and we hadn’t eaten for about 6 hours so within 10 minutes of arriving we were basically drunk. It didn’t get any better from there, more ChaCha, home made wine from the German guy and beers in between meant it was 3am when we finally got to bed after some nearly-naked wrestling (the friendly kind) with a Russian guy, who’s 4 kids were all asleep right next door. I don’t remember how it all happened and I don’t think I want to, it was an amazing night and a day long hangover afterwards.