Being in the country visa-free and waiting for our post to arrive means we don’t have much of a schedule to follow in Georgia. We’re pretty much making it up as we go along and today we’ve decided to explore the North-Western corner of the country.
We passed through a little market square and took the opportunity to grab a few apples that we weren’t allowed to pay for. Which was nice. While we were away the bikes had made some friends. A crowd of about a dozen locals were standing at a respectful distance, pointing and nodding sagely to each other. As soon as we arrived the respectful distance disappeared, particularly around Maria, as everyone was eager to open the throttle and prod the various levers. She wasn’t thrilled.
We were back on the road again and heading north on a relatively uninhabited stretch, but now it was lunchtime and we started looking out for a nice cafe somewhere. We spotted a few guys sitting in the shade of some trees with what looked like a little shop behind them, so we pulled over to see what we could find. There wasn’t much, but we grabbed a beer anyway and sat down for a breather. Within minutes a smashed local had staggered over and sat down next to us for a chat. He was a master of mime, but after a good ten minutes we were still none the wiser and his friend came over to drag him away. He wasn’t to be deterred though and even when his friend necked his beer in an attempt to goad, he decided it was far more important that he finish miming the story that in his mind held us enraptured.
Eventually once his friends’d had enough of laughing at us, we were invited over to sit with them for lunch via a strange gesture of flicking the thumb and forefinger at the side if the neck. We happily accepted, and soon discovered that the neck flick is the national sign for a vodka drinking session. Too late to back out now though. At least there were crisps to line the stomach. Our fervent protests that we might crash or get arrested made our shots smaller and less frequent, but not much of either.
As faces got redder and hugs longer, we made our excuses and climbed unsteadily onto the bikes.I put the sat nav on so I at least wouldn’t have to navigate, but riding was still a chore, especially since we were passing through little villages, when all I really wanted to do was put the throttle lock on and concentrate on metabolizing the alcohol.
The road we were following was getting gradually more potholed, and was throwing up some weird obstacles for your standard semi-buzzed rider. Following a black jeep, I ducked under a half raised barrier and slalomed round some concrete blockades before a shout from a roadside hut just behind alerted me that maybe I should be paying more attention to my surroundings. No point in stopping now though. I noticed that the registration of the car in front wasn’t Georgian. So I guess we’re crossing a border? Not into Russia surely, they’d never have let me get away with slaloming that roadblock. But there was definitely a barrier ahead of me, and that was definitely a soldier demanding I stop. All this dutch courage should help. I figured I’d just hand over (copies of) my passport and v5 and hope for the best. No dice, but luckily the soldier was a nice guy and was just wondering how we’d found ourselves here. I ventured I’d be better equipped to answer if he told me where ‘here’ was. Turns out Russia is nicking little sections of Georgia somewhat on the sly, and we’d come up against one. Nothing for it but to turn round. I hear the mountains to the north east are nice this time of year. Maybe lay off the vodka-fuelled riding for now though, eh?