Tusheti still in our legs, we set off for our last big adventure in Georgia, the Vashlovani National Park.
On the way there, the nicely spruced up village of Sighnaghi is located on a hill overlooking the wine region of Kakheti. Due to the picturesque scenery and romantic ambiance, Sighnaghi is considered the city of love. Civil weddings can be held at the town hall around the clock, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. For a very brief moment, we considered doing the same 😁. Don’t worry, of course we want you there!
To enter the national park you need a permit, as it borders with Azerbaijan. The permit can be purchased in the village Dedoplistskaro for little money (5 Lari per person per day with bicycle). Since it can take a day for the certificate to be issued, we arranged to meet Lisa & Dario at the accommodation “Teo’s Cottage” and with the help of the owner everything was set in motion. With a huge anticipation to drive the park as a foursome and waiting for the permit, we explored the nearby “Eagle Gorge”, a limestone rock gorge.
Since there are no shopping facilities or water sources in the entire park, we headed out for our bulk purchase. It was called food and drink for 4 days + 1 reserve day to buy 😅.
We were in for a great adventure. When we first saw the approximate Komoot route, we thought nothing bad about the daily 40 km – we were proven wrong. In fact, the route took us through dried up river and stream courses, dusty, sandy and, when it rained, muddy natural roads. So we bumped leisurely through the beautiful landscapes and fell in the evening in each case dead tired into the tent.
On such an adventure trip, a friendship (and, of course, a relationship) is severely tested. Every day we experienced very intense ups and downs with Dario & Lisa, whom we didn’t even know until Georgia. All the more we are grateful and happy about how great it worked out for the four of us. We helped each other out of the mud, motivated each other and enjoyed the good conversations and cooking together in the evening get-together.
The scenic highlights that met our eyes were unbelievable. Several times a day, the scenery changed from steppe-like expanses, to sandy desert tracks, to drives through deep canyons. The animal kingdom also featured turtles, goitered gazelles, eagles, vultures, foxes, hares and hard-working ants.
The national park provides habitat for 25 species of reptiles, well over 100 species of native birds, and a total of 46 species of mammals. In 2004 even a Caucasian Leopard could be captured with a camera trap.
Contrary to our expectations, we realized that it was possible to find water after all. So, on the 2nd day we met the border river Alasani, which forms the border with Azerbaijan, where we could at least fill up water for cooking and showering.
Good we had included a reserve day in the planning, because on the 3rd day rain was announced for the afternoon. Thus, this day ended shortly after noon and we snuggled into our tents just in time. So we left the tents only briefly for dinner and then waited inside until the next morning.
Relaxed we started the next day, the motto was “the later we leave, the drier the road”, because this has turned into a muddy area overnight. Probably still a bit too early we started in the late morning. Already after 2 km our wheels blocked by the mud clogged mudguards. With Beni’s bicycle it catapulted by the mud even the belt from the pinion and the belt twisted very unfavorably, which we got to feel later. In any case, we decided to take an early lunch break.
We quickly realized that it was not our day. First the locked wheels and the jumped out belt, then Beni’s belt broke completely on a steep climb. The fact is that a belt must never be twisted or folded, so that the carbon fiber of the belt is not damaged. Fortunately, we had one with us as a reserve, but still a pity for the otherwise still impeccable “old” belt. As if this were not enough, we overlooked a thorny branch at the tent site that evening. So it came that Beni wondered in the middle of the night why Nicole was staring at her mattress pressed flat in the vestibule 😅. At least we were able to locate the branch/offender, we had to postpone patching until the day so we could use soapy water to elicit the hole.
On the 5th and last day we fought our way back to civilization with a lot of headwind. We were already looking forward to the delicious food at “Teo’s Cottage”, the wine, the beer and water that didn’t taste stale 😋.
We will tell you about our return trip to Tbilisi, the return flight and the arrival back in Europe in the next blog 😃.
For even more insight into our everyday cycling life, check out our latest video: