When you have a tailwind, make the most of it. We cycled, blown by the wind, and made some kilometres. We also cycled through the teeming rain, punctuated by stops squelching into a café to warm up, and a short visit at the stormy Black Sea coast.

Black Sea coast

Black Sea coast

That was kind of it, really. We are seeing signs for Yerevan and Baku. Kind of cool. No more photo opportunities as it was too wet and bloody cold.


In Turkey we were invited to endless cups of tea. Today, in Georgia, we were invited to endless glasses of vodka. Flagged down from the road, the elderly gentlemen kissed us both on the lips, and invited us in for some vodka and sausage. He kissed us multiple times on the lips, made sure the vodka glasses were always full, and insisted we eat his sausage. Wonderful Georgian hospitality.

Drinks with a friend

Drinks with a friend

We woke up and looked out the window to see flurries of snow blowing around. Further investigations revealed the pass ahead was closed – not just for silly cyclists but for everyone. The forecast was for a lovely day followed by snow, snow and snow. There was no denying it – it was time for plan B. Back down the valley to the Black Sea.

The same valley was beautiful: blossoming trees bathed in glorious sunlight, with the newly whitened mountains as a backdrop. James and I took lots of photos, and made lots of videos, before the pub-crawl started.

Mountains

Mountains

Flowers and mountains

Flowers and mountains

Flowers

Flowers

Roof and mountains

Roof and mountains

We were brought to the back room by the elderly gentleman and seated. He waved to the barman who pulled out a vast glass keg of clear liquid that he funnelled into a smaller glass bottle. A plate of sausage materialised as well as bread. Motivated by my three words of Russian, the man proceeded to lecture us in Russian, encouraging us to drink. Like in the fairy tails, the glasses never emptied. The bright daylight streamed in through the small window, making it feel like an inappropriate hour to be hitting the booze. The drinks were punctuated with lip-kisses, which I failed every time to capture on video.

I sipped at my first and only glass. James did the drinking for the two of us, making sure that we were not insulting by rejecting this fine Georgian hospitality. I reminded James that we still had 70km to cycle. He seemed to be captivated by the offering of vodka, lip-kisses and sausage. Finally we bade our host farewell, and cycled a further 40km down the mountain before being invited for our next round of vodka.

Next round of vodka

Next round of vodka

When the weather is good and the road not too long and challenging, we take time to stop and ‘smell the flowers’. Life is all about taking time and smelling the flowers, and this world bike trip for me is about enjoying life while I can – now. This smelling the flowers, letting things happen and going with the flow, is a wonderful part of tour cycling. Every day is different, and what happens is never something you could have predicted the evening before. Tomorrow constant rain is forecast. Maybe we will smell some wet flowers. I wonder what they will be like.


‘By bicycle to Khulo? Not possible.’
‘Why not?’ (Things are often not possible, and you need to delve deeper to find if this is truly the case.)
‘Mountains.’
Ah. OK. She’ll be right.
That was lower down the valley. We are now in Khulo at 850m and heavy snow is forecast for tonight. Maybe the 2025m pass tomorrow will be closed. Hard to imagine after the warm climb up into the beautiful Caucasus mountains.

The valley to Khulo

The valley to Khulo

I found the culprit. A thin metal splinter had lodged itself into my tyre and was causing the flat tyres. I removed it this morning, and will hopefully be puncture-free for some time. (I am now tied with James – we both have had 3 flat tyres.)

Today we followed a river valley into the mountains. The flat road leaving Batumi felt like … India. Tree lined, potholed roads. Shops covered with exotic, curly, wiggly script. A warm headwind gave it all a summer, dusty feel. Trucks coughed black fumes and tooted madly as they ran us into potholes.
And then the road wound its way higher into the mountains, passing rustic little villages, and then climbed to 850m to the village of Khulo.

Village on the way to Khulo

Village on the way to Khulo

Village on the way to Khulo

Village on the way to Khulo

Museum

Museum

Waterfall on the way to Khulo

Waterfall on the way to Khulo

Mirror

Mirror

Bridge

Bridge

Road just before Khulo

Road just before Khulo

Shop at Khulo

Shop at Khulo


Over the border to Georgia, and across into another world. This place feels so familiar and so exotic at the same time. Eucalyptus trees like in the Australian countryside. Prominent churches and signs of Christianity at every turn. A crazy mix of buildings from the run-down to the sleek. A city layer of casinos and ‘love hotels’. And the food…. Yuuuum.

Batumi

Batumi

Today was always going to be a relaxing, slow day. Cruising along the last Turkey kilometres with an unfamiliar tailwind, we passed waterfalls, sheep, and the standard bottles of urine discarded on the side of the road by truck drivers on a tight schedule.

Waterfall

Waterfall

Sheep

Sheep

Left-overs from truck drivers

Left-overs from truck drivers

Then hello Georgia with its cute script, exotic currency, and modern architecture.

Just made it in Georgia

Just made it in Georgia

Georgian money

Georgian money

Georgian architecture

Georgian architecture

Georgia

Georgia

And then into the city of Batumi. James and I went on a photo-taking bonanza. It was so exciting wandering randomly through the streets.

The hostel in Batumi

The hostel in Batumi

Batumi Georgia

Batumi Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Batumi, Georgia

Oh. And I got my third flat tyre of the trip. I still need to fix it tomorrow morning. The ride into Batumi was done with repeated tyre inflations.

Day 96. 95km. Rize – Hopa

Posted: May 12, 2015 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

The road to Batumi in Georgia was bathed in sun, but Georgia was not our destiny today. The headwind and flat tyre saw to that. And our little side trips off the freeway to listen to the birds (rather than the trucks) meant that we were still able to experience the Turkey-wide power failure this evening.

Mosque

Mosque

We saw mosques, fish restaurants

Fish restaurant

Fish restaurant

boulevards with snowy peaks in the distance

Snowy mountains

Snowy mountains

and women phoning.

Woman phoning

Woman phoning

I had flat tyre number 2

Flat tyre number 2

Flat tyre number 2

before we pushed on into the headwind with the setting sun at our back to our final destination of Hopa.


Today the skies were grey and the rain was penetrating. The çorba women were laughing ‘çok guzel, I love you’, and the dog was friendly. The truck drivers were giving knowing winks – going to Batumi? The Georgian seaport has quite a reputation – all along the Black Sea coast. We are going there tomorrow.

Me on the way to Rize

Me on the way to Rize

Our breakfast was wonderful with our two super-friendly cooks. We were all laughing at each other’s foreign language skills. They were imitating our ‘çok guzel’, and giving us cause for amusement with repetitions of ‘I love you!’.

Çok guzel, I love you

Çok guzel, I love you

‘You are going to Batumi?’ Grin (after the photo was taken).

One of our 'warm up with tea' stops

One of our ‘warm up with tea’ stops

The mind remains blank cycling through the cold rain. The kilometres pass like the trucks. I was woken out of my cocoon of thoughts by my new best friend – Fido the dog.

The bones thaw and the mind returns. Black Sea fish, and a warm sub-table heater.

Legs thawing

Legs thawing


We’ve done it again, but more extreme today. Its 15:00, 80km to go, and a 30km/h dash isn’t happening with a fierce headwind. I stop on the side of the road, trucks whizzing by. I feel weak, hot and frustrated. ‘We can make it,’ says James. I look at him with big sorry dog eyes. Down with a chocolate bar, pump up the music (for the first time on this trip), and the world changes. On, into the evening and night on another adrenaline rush. We’re not doing this tomorrow.

A hidden beach

A hidden beach

Today was a good day. We woke in our hazelnut orchard farmhouse looking down over Giresun in the bright sunlight.

Giresun from our hazelnut orchard farm

Giresun from our hazelnut orchard farm

A lovely breakfast with our host’s family, and then a royal escort by the Giresun cycle gang, being showed all the secret insider cycling tips along the road to Trabzon.

The hidden beach

The hidden beach

The mountains are getting bigger

The mountains are getting bigger

James passed 8000km on this trip, and I passed 7000km – both just a few hundred metres from our lunch stop – the last insider tip of the day.

7000km

7000km

7000km

7000km

An tea factory tour, followed by a buffet lunch. It was an amazing spread, and James and I (and the whole crew) were ravenous.

Tea before the mains

Tea before the mains

Plates 1 and 2 for James and me

Plates 1 and 2 for James and me

Plates 3 for James and me

Plates 3 for James and me

Plate 4 - James and me shared

Plate 4 – James and me shared

Thanks to the whole Giresun team for a great day cycling in the warm sun!!

The Giresun team

The Giresun team

And, arriving in the dark in Akçaabat, we were swept up by another great, warm welcoming committee. Yeşim we had met in Karabük when we stayed with Kaan – her boyfriend. This time she had a whole crew, lead by the english speaking Ahmet, to take us to eat famous Akçaabat köfte. Thanks!!!!!

The Akçaabat welcoming committee

The Akçaabat welcoming committee