We continue with our round in the High Caucasus, about which we reported in part 1 up to and including Mestia.
Only 46 km from Mestia is Ushguli, our next highlight. This is the place where the movie DEDE (which we mentioned in part 1) was filmed.
To get there, unfortunately, we have to leave the paved roads and make do with gravel roads. Our progress is slow. The road, the heat and the altitude were draining our strength, which is why we found a supposedly quiet place to sleep just before Ushguli. Supposedly because shortly after our arrival and just as we were busy cooking, a horde of youths stormed the meadow with a soccer ball in their hands. So much for the fact that whenever we are somewhere, a gathering of people suddenly appears out of nowhere 😄. Two teenagers challenged us to a game of soccer. Unfortunately, our food was simmering away and we were almost starving, so we had to decline. Maybe better that way, otherwise they would have lost hands down with us in the team 😂.
Awakened by cowbells, we were outside in the meadow ready to defend our tent in seconds. We took turns preparing breakfast and chasing the cows away. In fact, they were equally interested in our bicycles, the food and our tent.
We continued over hill and dale to Ushguli, when a minivan stopped right next to us. We were surprised when again Morgane, Jean-David and Mirabelle (the Swiss bicycle travelers with child) greeted us somewhat frustrated from inside the car. One of the axles of her bicycle trailer packed up a few meters before the top of the pass. They were forced to hitchhike back to Mestia – such a shame, it couldn’t have gone more stupidly.
In front of us we now saw Ushguli. Seen through our eyes, the village with its numerous abandoned and dilapidated towers, surrounded by the mountains, is much more pristine than Mestia.
After a traditional lunch, a lobiani, which is a bread filled with bean mousse 😋, we continued towards the Zagari Pass. At the beginning still under cheering applause of Russian tourists, later without a soul surrounded by incredible scenery. Using the app iOverlander, which allows you to find information such as water sources and wild campsites, we saw that 100 meters above the top of the pass there is a wild campsite next to a church.
The weather also played along, so we dared to pitch the tent in this exposed place and above the tree line at over 2,700 m.a.s.l.. As usual in the mountains, the weather changed contrary to the weather forecast and we heard the first rumble of thunder. Luckily for us, there was a building next to the church with an abandoned living container where we could set up camp for the night. Our all-rounder talent Beni “patched” the window without further ado, so it could not rain into our warm container.
The quality of sleep was not particularly high, despite safe accommodation. After the thunderstorm it became so unusually quiet that we enjoyed this in one way very much and in the other way strangely almost had the feeling we must hear some noise. So unusual for us and soo beautiful that we were able to experience this silence!
From the pass back down to Kutaisi we needed three days. The road was very challenging, towards the end of the 2’500 hm descent came again and again small treats, in the sense of asphalt sections. Unfortunately, these were always finished after a few meters at the beginning.
It seems that the Georgians want to make something impossible possible in terms of road technology. Construction work was always in progress along the entire route. They have in mind to asphalt the whole route, but this seems to us as almost impossible, since the subsoil consists exclusively of shale and boulders. Often you drive and hear next to you how the stones crumble down the slope 😱.
If the road is really completed, we don’t even want to imagine how many vehicles will drive along it. Tip to you, pack your bags and visit Georgia 😃. In a few years, it probably won’t come across as pristine.
On the last kilometers before Kutaissi we had our first flat tire after 4 months, 3’887 km and 35’040 hm.
In Kutaisi we went directly to the ticket counter at the train station, where we got our tickets incl. bicycle for the 5.5-hour train ride to Tbilisi for an unbelievably low price of CHF 7.50. At a “comfortable” 40°C, the train rumbled along leisurely. Fortunately, we had still filled all the water bottles,we sweated the 6 liters on the train ride easily in the fabric-covered seat 😂😋.
Despite the heat, the train ride was more pleasant than the cab ride we experienced on the way to Kutaissi.
We are now enjoying a few more days in Tbilisi. Afterwards we will visit the town of Stepanzminda in the north of Georgia (by bus) and plan a 2-day hike.
How it should go on for us after Georgia:
Since Iran, as well as many other countries towards the east, unfortunately still have their borders closed, we almost can’t decide what to do.
Our two options:
- Back to Europe through Turkey – winter would catch up with us sooner or later
- Continue to follow “our plan” and leave for Armenia – if Iran does not open its border, we can only go back to Georgia or take a plane if another country opens, such as Vietnam
No risk, no fun – we try to get further via Armenia 😃.
For even more insight into our everyday cycling life, check out our latest video: