Let’s get to the point. Everything’s been going wrong. Problems are relative of course so when I say this, I don’t mean we’ve been in danger or anything. So in that sense, there is no problem.
Since Istanbul we’ve had a steady flow of unfortunate events. Here they are in chronological order:
-uzbekistan visa failure
– a toe injury prevented me from being able to walk properly for three weeks
-MSR XGK-EX stove’s pump ceased to work
-I develop a rash all over my body. Crazy itchy for 3 nights
-Terra Nova Voyager XL 2 tent pole snapped
-I get sick
-Carmen’s headset needs changing. Not to be confused with head
-UPS Turkey courier fails to deliver replacement terra nova tent pole despite keeping in their depot for 9 days 60k away
-Carmen gets sick
-neither of us have the energy to fulfil our required km-quota to meet visa deadlines. To our dismay, we cheat about 6 days of cycling with taxis. Georgia was a country we were looking forward to the most.
-just as Carmen recovers and we make a pact to avoid anymore hotels until Bishkek, I get sick. (and have to stay in expensive Azeri hotels)
And I’ve also had 4x punctures. Oh plus the valve unscrews itself with the pump after having spent ten minutes inflating it, resulting in having to repeat the pumping process using another pump.
We aren’t naive enough to think that the trip would be problemless, of course we expected minor injuries and technical failures. Not after sympathy here, my point is that it all happened at once and nothing has really been lining up.
Each one of the incidences eats into the schedule, possibly more than one might imagine. Arranging replacement parts is a headache as it requires to and froing to the companies involved, to and froing to find an address to deliver to. Each to and each fro is a quest for internet. All easy if you have internet access on demand of course.
We had to resort to a team of matrix operators to take control for us while we were offline. The team included a Russian translator (спасиба Катерина) a Turkish translator (teşekkür ederim Byulent) and parents (diolch i chi Mam a Graham) to enquire, reply, write, impersonate and telephone for us. It would easily have accumulated to about 5 days of lost cycling had we done it ourselves. God knows about the costs.
The other thing you may have noted about the list is the specific brand and product names I give. In the interest of balance amidst all the praise given about these products, it’s important these comments get picked up by other cyclists/campers/explorers researching their products from real life users, as I was doing a year ago. In fact while I’m at it;
Terra Nova disconnected themselves from caring too much despite us investing (£400 for tent) (+£30 replacement pole +£30 courier) and us believing in their product. Although it was great that the CEO did actually reply, lack of time to understand or care too much resulted in him softly blaming us for not being present to collect the eventually delivered package 100k away from our specified destination.
Whilst it’s important to be fair to Terra Nova by disclaiming that the pole breakage was possibly our own fault, next time I would find a smaller company that might care more about after-service, particularly from users like us who are out in the field, and not just camping a few days. The Thorn cycles of tents perhaps.
It’s been hard for me to enjoy the last ten days of actual cycling as I drifted in and out of sickness whilst inhaling Georgia’s co2 emissions. Georgia was the last country we wanted to whizz through and we ended up having to do just that. We didn’t take in near as much of its stunning scenery and people and wine as we wanted to. It broke my heart to get a taxi 178k through what turned out to be a beautiful mountain pass. Plenty of perfect camping spots that were located on top of the world. In retrospect we’d easily have traded east Turkey’s coastal eyesores with more time in Georgia.
Until Turkey everything had been going relatively well but we really are waiting for the tide from the black sea of luck to swap direction.
It’s not all bad of course. Not at all. What we did see of Georgia of course was stunning. The actual cycling itself was difficult under our circumstances and became problematic but every single day still offered great moments. More of the usual stories of family hospitality, friendliness and warmth. To the reader these may be indistinguishable from all other such experiences we have written of, but they are always unique to us.
I will leave you with a generous load of photos to tell that story, which hopefully will do more than offset this post’s negative air and allow you to see how we can still remain happy, despite the circumstances.
Carmen, pre-sickness as we finally leave Turkey and enter glorious Georgia
Joe mid-sickness (exaggerated expression) as we finally leave Turkey and enter glorious Georgia
Over the bridge to our first Georgian wild camping spot
Stopping at a local mechanic for some grease to fix Carmen’s dodgy steering
The owner of this spot we found up a mountain pass insisted we sleep at his away from the cold. As we packed up he began walking to his house with his cows and we never saw him again…
…but luckily we got invited into nearby aunty Davina McCall’s family house! (Her face was a spitting image in real life).
This was a rare experience as the family’s men were all shy, in complete contrast to any other hosts where men always dominated and ruled the conversations.
Descending from 2200m
a wide way leading from one place to another, especially one with a specially prepared surface which vehicles can use.
“a country road”
synonyms: highway, thoroughfare, roadway
Not sure where this guy’s pannier bags are
Vardzia cave monastry. Carmen’s sick day. The frightful nauseating 2hr minibus ride was worth it
This would be perfect were the girl standing on the edge Carmen
Our second wild camping spot. Spoiled for choice in Georgia
Hitching 15k. As we began telling him where we would like to go, it turned out that he had pulled over to fix his overheating radiator, not to pick us up. He gave us a lift anyway. With pumping loud pop music that he would change every 5s. We got an instrumental version of gangnam style twice
Unlike the good price we had secured to take us 178k, the bikes seemed far from secure
He counterbalanced them against one another and simply tied thin nylon chord around the bikes to the rack. Then he rally-drove at 120kmh up sharp windy pot holed switchbacks to the 2400m ascent and then down again. The g-force was sensational and my worries of our beloved bikes’ security disappeared quickly as I shifted my focus onto our own lives. The whole time loud pop music being played so we would never have heard if the bikes were coming loose. Fortunately I was able to monitor the bikes intermittently whenever the sun cast a shadow of them on the road by my window. Also, his car also broke down.
Stopping off at one of the numerous bakery hatches for an impromptu lesson. This bread is so satisfying. We had just been dropped off by a sweet old taxi driver whose car, strangely didn’t break down but he did get pulled over and fined by the police
Nato who stopped us on route and suggested we visit her guesthouse in Sighnaghi, the quaint hauntingly misty town on top of a mount. I want to live in that town because I fell in love with it. Too dark and misty to take any photos
Descending from Sighnaghi
Always good to run into others. These awesome Belgians have two months to make it back home. We met them just before the Azeri border, they’ve been flying to various continents to cycle for a year and rely exclusively on costless sleeping – that is hospitality and wild spots. Hmmmm
Erm… What does Georgia know about Azerbaijan that we don’t ?