After a few days’ offroading it was nice to be back on smooth roads. The sun was shining, I had heavy metal blaring in my ears, and miles of twisties ahead of me. We were heading for Kutaisi; a pleasantly sizeable looking sprawl on the map. As it turns out it’s Georgia’s second biggest city and after our recent adventures we were both in need of a dose of metropolis.
We hunkered down in a bar for a while making use of the free wifi to catch up with the world and do some research into the strange noise Maria’ bike had been making; a sort of chattering when climbing hills which my bike had today started imitating. Maria was fairly sure it was worn clutch plates but since there was no clutch slip I wasn’t convinced. As we looked further into it, it seemed most likely the problem was piston slap, which wasnt ideal, since that would involve some expensive replacement parts. We ordered a compression tester from Ebay so that we could make sure, and put that problem on the back burner.
By now Maria was starving so we headed out to find something to eat. While she was adamant she’d eat anywhere, she was being typically indecisive so after turning away from half a dozen restaurants, she decided I should choose a place. I looked across the road and saw a flickering neon sign pointing downstairs to a basement cafe showing faded pictures of khinkali and shashlik. It looked like a bit of a dive. Perfect. We settled in and got ourselves some beers and a feast of salad, khatchapuri, khinkali, and shashlik. The little place was quite full. Two polish backpackers took up the far corner, and at the tables in the middle were three or four locals armed with a guitar and a half-dozen bottles of vodka. I think it’s time we introduce ourselves…
It turned out the four guys we’d met represented most of the heavy metal contingent in the city, and I was soon talking music with Beca, while Maria had some kind of heated debate with Irakli, and we passed the hours laughing and pounding vodka together, still mindful of the fact that the bikes would have to be moved eventually. Before long, it was “suggested” by the owner that we go elsewhere, and an impromptu party was planned at Beca’s house. Booze was procured, a taxi was called, and we rode the three or four miles to a scruffy apartment block on the outskirts of town. Definitely my kind of place. We piled into the house, turned the music up, and started drinking. The rest of the night is a bit of a blur, but I definitely remember a gremlin joining the party at some point, and Maria dancing around my peripheral vision in leather trousers that supposedly belong to Mick Jagger and nu-rocks. What have we gotten ourselves into?
We woke up the next morning in Beca’s bed and shuffled out of the room to find our host nursing a hangover on the couch. No time to waste then, a taxi was called and we headed back into the centre of town for a hair-of-the-dog. We found ourselves in a beer bar decorated in faux wood with swinging doors enclosing private cubicles and a wooden cart hung from the ceiling. It seemed to be a local for these guys, and figure in the corner with a slayer t-shirt and half-finished pint beckoned us over. When you get to the pub that early there’s only one direction the day can go, and matters were helped along when Irakli – on his way to a meeting with the mayor – stopped in to say hello and ended up downing half a bottle of vodka for courage. Maria and myself stuck to the beer for now; we had plans to take Seven’s engine apart later that day, and it’s the kind of job that’s a lot easier if you’re not seeing double.
We got back to the house, I bought a few more beers for the job, just to prevent the hangover from kicking back in, and we started work on the bike. The plan was to check the valve clearances, in the hope that we could find the source of the noise, but no luck. As we worked, we could hear heavy metal drifting down the stairs, and it wasn’t long before the party started up again. At this rate we might never leave Kutiasi!
We put the bike back together, packed everything up and headed back upstairs. It was only then Maria noticed her helmet was missing. A thorough search of the house and around the bikes confirmed it was definitely gone. Beca asked around and was told by a few neighbours who’d been sitting outside that they’d seen someone take it into the building. A door to door search revealed nothing, so it was clear whoever had it intended to keep it. This was particularly annoying, since there are only about half a dozen bikers in the whole city, so the helmet had no resale value, and the cost of replacing it would be enormous. Beca was super distressed, since he’d made it clear that we should see his place as our home, and that everything would be safe. Obviously it wasn’t his fault though, and once we’d exhausted our search there was nothing to do but start partying again and put the problem off till tomorrow.
The following day started in a similar fashion. I woke up with a hangover and very vague memories of the night. I wandered into the sitting room and found Beca on the couch nursing a hangover, too. Thankfully this time we couldn’t start the day with a trip to the pub, as Beca had to work, so we got settled in with the internet, trying to find a replacement helmet. There was absolutely no chance of finding a Shoei anywhere in the country; motorbike suppliers are woefully rare here, as is any form of biker culture. We ordered a cheap helmet in Tbilisi and luckily a friend of our new friends would be driving over the following day, so could bring it to us. That would tide Maria over till she could get a good quality helmet delivered somehow.
As we were busily surfing the web, the door to the second bedroom creaked open, and a tiny woman – who must have been in her eighties – shuffled in to say hello. As it turns out, we’d been sharing the house with Beca’s long-suffering grandmother, who insists she doesn’t mind the 130 decibel music in the morning and considered it her job to make us comfortable. Whenever we took our eye off her she’d wander outside to buy us an ice-cream, or rummage through the kitchen for the best looking morsels of food or bottles of wine to present to us (usually things we’d bought ourselves, but it’s the thought that counts).
By the time we’d sorted that out Beca’d had enough of work and had come back early to pick us up, then it was back to the basement cafe where we’d met them for another party. This time the entire place was filled with the rest of the city’s metalheads, and we took over the place. As standard, we ended up back at Beca’s place for party number three and to share pictures.
Once Maria’s stopgap helmet arrived we decided it was time to head off; we needed to give our bikes some excercise and our livers some rest. As it was a Sunday, it was decided we’d all meet at a local riverside picnic area for a swim and one last party before we said our goodbyes. Maria and I took the opportunity of a few free hours to ride out to some local caves, before rendezvousing and making our way out of Kutaisi to meet everyone. The spot was busy; it being a warm sunday afternoon, but we found a quiet clearing to make a fire and roast some sausages. We’d ridden the bikes across a stream and into the clearing, so they seemed safe enough, and we decided it would be a good place to make camp for the night. Then, since we didn’t need to do any more riding that day, we downed a few u-boats (a beer with a shot of vodka submerged in it), jumped into the water and started enjoying our last night in Kutaisi….for now.