some go east
some go east mountain some go east mountain

Georgia, beautiful but not for us

Road to Mestia
posted on 6 Sep 2022 Tbilisi — 26 Aug 2022 Road to Mestia

Well, Georgia turned out a bit different than we had expected and it ended up being not a very positive experience. In the end, we did have a few nice days of cycling and went to some beautiful places, but overall we didn't enjoy our time so much.

As soon as we reached the Black Sea in Turkey things were already very different. The day before we had just climbed a mountain pass at 2 600 m and, in basically a day, we descended down to sea level and traded in dry warm days and cool nights for a constant hot humid climate.

On top of that, the roads became very busy with old, polluting cars and drivers seemed a bit crazier and annoyed by our presence. Cars drove very close to us and there was a constant honking when they passed us. The worst were the truck drivers who decided to honk right next to us, or the ones in the tunnels.

But the thing that really made our experience in Georgia less enjoyable was the people. Of course, we had just come from Turkey where the experience was magnificent, and it was hard to even get on that same level. We knew that. But even then, we just seemed to have a hard time finding people who were friendly with us. Everywhere we went, people just did not seem to care about us or even try to be helpful. People didn't respond when we said hi, or tried to guide us in the right direction when we asked for help.

It wasn't until we left Tbilisi that things changed again. But there, we were in an area of ethnic Azeris, who are themselves a Turkic people. Which showed in their ways. We even managed to communicate in Turkish!

To be honest, we of course did meet a few friendly people, and we were invited for tea once, and someone bought us a bread. But, the overall experience was not so good.

The mountains

One of the positive experiences we did have was our ride to Mestia and beyond. Just in time, we had changed our plan and had decided to cycle there, instead of to the mountains on the other side of Georgia. Mostly, because here we did not have to cycle the same road, in and out.

The climb to Mestia, a touristic mountain village, was long and quite beautiful. We got there in a few days and stayed for a few nights so we could hike a bit and go to the mountain film festival.

Mount Ushba on Russia’s border Mount Ushba on Russia’s border
Road to Mestia Road to Mestia
Hiking to a gletsjer Hiking to a gletsjer

What followed next was probably the most beautiful road on our trip, so far. After Mestia, we climbed our way to Ushguli, at 2 100 m. After which an 8 km steep gravel road took us to the stunning Zagaro pass.

Shkhara mountain from Ushguli Shkhara mountain from Ushguli
Svan towers of Ushguli Svan towers of Ushguli
Road to Ushguli Road to Ushguli

This time we were smarter and didn’t camp up there and started our descent right away. We ended up doing a long day of 80 km with almost 2 000 m elevation change. It was all very much worth it.

Stunning views after Zagaro Pass Stunning views after Zagaro Pass
Zagaro Pass Zagaro Pass
Almost there, on the Zagaro Pass Almost there, on the Zagaro Pass

Strong winds to Tbilisi

Back in the valley we had to battle very strong headwinds for four days to reach Tbilisi. We explored the city for a few days and met up with a few people we had seen before.

Sameba Cathedral Sameba Cathedral

Just when we were about to leave Tbilisi, we got sick unfortunately and had to stay a few days longer. When we eventually left, we had had a great day of riding and a nice experience with the Azeris between Tbilisi and the Armenian border.

We weren't feeling 100% yet, unfortunately and once we crossed into Armenia and hitchhiked to Yerevan. This turned out to be very easy, or we got very lucky! The first car stopped and took us all the way there.

So far, this is may well be the only country so far I can't really recommend people to travel to. At least not the way we did it. I think you’re better off going by local transport and stay in guesthouses. Of course, this was only our personal experience, and we've met many people who did have a good time. So, don't take this advice too seriously :).

Armenia is much more promising, in terms of friendliness, and we are finally feeling a lot better after another five days of rest. So now, we finally get on our bikes again and see what Armenia has to offer. Mountain passes for sure!

Ice cream with our driver in Armenia Ice cream with our driver in Armenia

Photos

Vendor of kvass Vendor of kvass
Hanging out with the locals Hanging out with the locals
Typical view of houses in green valleys Typical view of houses in green valleys
Camping in the valley Camping in the valley
Metekhi Church Metekhi Church
Road works using a Soviet-era Lada Road works using a Soviet-era Lada
State of the cars State of the cars
Even Teslas miss parts Even Teslas miss parts
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