July 28, 2008 GMT
GEORGIA- July08

We finally left Cyprus, the ferry to the mainland being 12 hours late leaving at 12 midnight with every seat full and no sleeping cabins available. With very rough seas the toilet reservoirs overflowed which caused even more people to throw up everywhere. Great fun. Cost was 108 euros for ferry plus 29 euros harbour tax.
Upon arriving at 8am we encountered a 2.5 hour queue to get through customs and immigration and a 8 hour ride to Cappadochia ahead of us. Luckily the scenery and roads were fantastic, which helped keep us awake to make our destination.
Goreme in Cappadochia was a return visit for us from 1999 as we loved it so much the first time. A 2000 year old community of caves dug into the cliffs and hills made from compressed volcanic ash, giving you the feeling of visiting a Flinstone village.
Here seemed to be a meeting place for bike travellers including Mike and Dan doing a RTW on their BMW R100GSs and Sami, the HU member for the area and John, on a R1200GS.
Departing 3 days later for Nemrut Dagi we follow wonderful winding mountain and valley roads til Belinda discovers a shortcut which looks great on the map, but none of the locals seem to be using it. One local said that you cant get there on this road, but what do the locals know anyway and besides, its right here on the GPS.
After 4 hours of boulders and 3 ridge crossings we arrive on the mountain of Unesco site Nemrut Dagi using its Back Door entrance. At least this road allowed us to drive the bike right to the top to catch a Super Sunset and not make the long climb that the other tourists did.
Departing our old but only available hotel where we were the only guests , we set off next morning for Merdin on the Syrian Border.
We found no tourists in this ancient castle town overlooking the Mesopotamian plains of Syria. Publicity of PKK rebellions of the past have taken many beautiful spots off of the tourist routes.
We circumnavigate Lake Van at 2000 meters enroute to Dogubayazit which is at the base of Mt Ararat and the resting spot for Noahs Ark. We will be back here again in Sept. on our way to Iran as it is only 35 kms to the border.
Kars is enroute to the Georgian border, but we did stop to visit the breathtaking ancient fortified city of Ani (another Unesco site).
The Pofos border crossing is at a picturesque pass with little traffic, but the Turks still took 3 hours becasuse of a mistake made at the previous crossing. The Georgian side tooks only 20 minutes, but cost 36Euros each and free for the bike.
Fuel here is only 0.89euro as in Turkey it is 1.85euros per liter.
The road leaving the border was so bad that we turned back to ask if it was the right road. Luckily that only lasted for 10kms and became a small but wonderful curvy ashphalt road following this fast flowing river down to the mountain town of Borjormi.
Next day we headed up 30kms to Bakuriani, a small ski resort town where we found a 4 star hotel with full board for 30 US each (thats 3 buffet meals a day). It was a bit rainy so we just had to stay for 2 nights.
On the way to Tbilisi the capital we had to visit Gori, the birthplace of Stalin and where his museum exists. His popularity has definately wained. Iraqli, the HU member there greeted us and showed us around this ancient town of castles and heroic statues , divided by a windy river with high banks.
Next morning "found us lost" in rush hour traffic trying to exit the city for the Mountain town of Signaghi. Out of nowhere comes a CBR1000 with the driver asking if we need help and we say YES. He is George, a dentist on the way to work, but said to follow him to our road. We finally parted after much car weaving with a handshake and a smile.
Sighnaghi , a carasmetic fortified town, was extensively renovated by the Government as Georgias Tourist Gem and really was impressive.
Belinda finds this great shortcut on the way to our next town of Kazbegi on the Russian border so we(?) thought we would give it a go. You guessed it, another battering. Nice scenery though.
Bad roads over, we crossed through the highest ski resort of Georgia on fantastic surpentine ashphalt roads up to 3100 meters with many dark tunnels to pass through on our way to Kazbegi.
The Russian border drew us close, even though we had no visa and it was a bit further down on our itinery. It was all downhill to our nighting again in Tbilisi where we arched off toward the Armenian border town of Sadakhlo. Once again we "found ourselves lost" in taffic and low and behold comes this CBR1000. Its George coming to our rescue yet again. Follow me. On parting he has now invited us to his house upon our return to Tbilisi, but sadly it was not on our route back to Turkey. Next time through.
Armenia border crossing was quick with $50us each and free for Miss Adventure. The small roads to Dilijan were great and interesting and a quaint B&B awaited our tired bottoms.
Temps around the Med and the Middle East were sweltering while we getting 19 to 20c and sunny skies, probably because we were consistantly over 1000 meters.
Lake Sevan is Armenias holiday area, as it is a landlocked country with only one lake, but even though the president has a summer home there, we only spent one night.
Our southern turn around point for Armenia is a mountain town of Goris, near the Iran border, similar to Cappadochia with a bygone village of cavedwellers etched into the cliff.
Good roads lead us on to the Capital Yerevan again at the base of Mt Ararat, but on the Armenian side. Typically a congested city, but with a grand Central Square surrounded by monumentally grand buildings of a wealthy bygone era.
The Georgian crossing at Bavra cost a redused 20us for a 3 day tansit visa, but that is about our time frame, so off we head for Akhaltsikhe on the road parralleling the Turk border. All the spelling of these towns seem to be picked at random from Alphabet Soup, but wait, most road signs use the Russian alphabet.
Next day our hotelier (in very broken English) said that it should take 6 hours to do the 150kms to Batumi on the Black Sea coast and 60kms of that is good ashphalt. That cant be right.
In my 40 years of riding and over 400,000kms I can pick a line where the bike can go, but today I just had to point her in the general right direction and hope she came out OK at the other end.
Leaving the coastal resort town of Batumi next day for the border, we fill our fuel tank to save almost 1 euro per liter on the Turkish side. Quick crossing on Georgia side , but slow crossing for Turkey and our visa still seems to be active as there is no cost for bike or ourselves.
Leaving the border we clock 12 kms of trucks waiting to cross into Georgia.
In summary, Armenian and Georgian people are warm, friendly and very inviting with no hints from the bad rumours we heard. The countryside is mountainous and lush with some great enduro type rides. A week later war broke out between Georgia and Russia, that was too close!

Posted by Patrick Peck at July 28, 2008 03:24 PM GMT
 



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