The Race to Georgia

Back in Payamli from our little trip, we went straight to the village shop to ask for the parcel. And it was there!!!!! I did a little sing and a dance around the shop and we spent the evening fitting the cooling fan and getting the bikes ready to go. The indicator relay I’d been given didn’t end up working. Oh well, will have to keep looking for one then. And Aidan gave the battery screws on Pippa a good tighten, just in case and the girls were ready to go.

On Friday morning we got up real early, let the chickens out, and loaded up the bikes.Some villagers rode past on their donkeys and scooters and wished us good luck with big waves and smiles. Levent came out to say good bye and then we were off. Freeeeeeeedommm! 🙂wpid-img_4727.jpg

We stopped at the local post office to send some stuff home. They’d refused to send my parcels earlier as they weren’t in real envelopes and the machines wouldn’t be able to read the address.  The postie lady had recognized me from last time and made the previous customer wait to translate. Did I speak any French? This time they insisted to check for bombs. So I had to tear the parcel open again, only for it to be re-wrapped. It all got posted in the end though 🙂

Then it was ride, ride, ride! The landscape was pretty cool, and changed quite a bit over the miles. But we had no time to explore, and stuck to the big ugly straight road.

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As always, the cool stuff happens, when you leave the beaten track. We’d stopped at a small shop before. Unable to find beer, we bought a big box of Turkish delight. A small farm road led through a village with caves carved into the hillside.wpid-img_4728.jpg

We got stuck behind a tractor with a whole family on it, more tractors with more families passing here, there and everywhere. Must be the local family saloon! Eventually we did manage to sneak off down a gravel road, over a muddy stubble field. The road we’d aimed for was more muddy than we fancied riding into, so we stayed put and made camp, a thunderstorm brewing in the background.

A farmer and his young sons stopped their tractor to come over and ask lots of questions about the bikes. Unable to understand each other much, we sat down for a ciggie and broke out the Turkish delight. A quick check west…. yeah. the sun had probably gone down behind the grey clouds, so Ramadan fasting is over for the night. Dad tucked in hungrily and told his sons to do the same. The boys actually spoke a tiny bit of school english, but were too shy to use it. They even whispered when speaking Turkish, just in case… At some point a neighbor rocked up on a donkey: more questions and a huge smile. Then they all went home, but not before giving us huge handfuls of greengages they’d picked. Shame, we couldn’t say no, but they are soooo sour!

The farmer had warned us that we were at a shepherding crossroads, and sure enough, the sheep with their millions of sheep kept us awake quite some time. I needed a pee, but didn’t want to be spotted by the shepherds. I crept out of the tent on tiptoes, heading for the trees. And saw a dark shadow, just too far to make out what it was. So I snuck off behind the tent for a pee practically on our doorstep. Oh well, the rain would was it away! The next day it became clear the mysterious shadow was just a bush. Whoops! We packed up, carefully disposing of the greengages in a bush so they wouldn’t be found. The guy on the donkey rode past again, waving and shouting Good Morning! Then the beautiful ride through the villages, back to the big ugly road.

At least today there were some nice sweeping bends and beautifully sandy and dry landscape. And some yum Turkish soup for lunch refueled us.

That evening we were exhausted! The big mileage days were taking their toll. But not knowing if there would be any more bike problems, we best keep it up to reach Georgia in time. On our second attempt, we found a beautiful little spot hidden from the road by bushes, with a fantastic view of the grassy dried up river ravine used for grazing cows. We cooked dinner and sat enjoying the scenery, turning in just as a light rain started. A guy herding his cows had watched us for a while, but he didn’t come over.

 

The next day was another boring long straight road ride. We left the red and yellow sandy hills behind and reached the damp Black Sea coast with its lush green mountains. Finding camp was difficult here, as every flat bit of land along the coast is taken. The mountains come close to the coast and their sides are steep and covered in hazelnut trees. We rode up a steep road, that soon turned from tarmac to gravel. It connected the houses dotted amongst the nut trees, wherever there was enough space to build one. It went on and on, without even the tiniest flat spot to fit a tent or take the bikes of the road. Eventually we gave up and turned around.

A guy, who’d waved when we went past earlier, came running to stop us for a chat. Among the usual where from and where to questions, he yelled to his wife to bring us some freshly picked hazelnuts. When he asked what the hell we were doing lost up this mountain, we decided to chance it and tell him we needed a place to put our tent. We’d been warned wildcamping is illegal in Turkey and locals would call the police.But this guy did the opposite. He called the local Mughta (each village elects one of those, and he’s sort of the leader/person to go to with any issue as far as I understand) It was arranged, that we were to put the tent of the unfinished house next door. It belonged to an architect who was away in Istanbul and had an amazing view!

Our saviour hung around to chat for a bit, telling us he sold his hazelnuts to Ulker (the giant Turkish chocolate factory). Eventually he went off to fetch his goats out of the trees at the top of the hill, insisting we come over for chai after sundown. Unsure whether we’d understood him right, we crawled into the tent. But after the family had eaten their Ramadan dinner, he was back with a torch, to fetch us. We were sat down in the living room, in front of the TV and being shown the proud graduation pictures of the two daughters, while one of them brewed chai and the mother cooked us a giant sumptuous borek. Sweets and melon were piled in front of us and we were told to eat more and more and drink one chai after the next until we stuffed to bursting point. It dawned on us we’d be fed till we escaped, a great chat, a few photos, having exchanged facebook details with the daughter, we timed so our chai glasses were empty at the same time, and made our excuses before they had a chance to refill them. What a nice, humble family! Needless to say I didn’t sleep much that night, kept awake by all the tea.

We rode the next 200 miles along the costal road to Hopa pretty quickly and allowed ourselves a leisurely lunch in a fish restaurant. Then up a winding mountain road into the damp cloudy mountains to look for camp. We finally spotted a muddy road through some sort of bush plantation and squiggeled the bikes up there, sliding around in the mud. They had some cool little cable cars, I’m guessing to bring the harvest down the hill. I’d love to jump on one, if it wasn’t for the long walk back up. So we just opened a beer and enjoyed the sunset.

After a coffee by the roadside, coming back down from the mountain, the last 10 miles were done in no time. There was a huge hustle and bustle, especially on the Georgian side and we were through in no time. I’m not even completely sure where Turkey ended and where Georgia began. The border guards clearly don’t see many British bikes come through, as they needed help finding all the bikes details on the papers. The usual jokes and banter about my surname Schumacher, including a request I pull off through the barrier doing a wheelie and we were in. Off to Batumi, where we could finally, for the first time in months, enjoy a beer in a bar 🙂

One response to “The Race to Georgia

  1. Pingback: Stealthcamping in Turkey | motosloth·

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