Day 59-61 (Batumi – Akhaltsikhe)

We are not able to update as frequently as before so this is a long post about three days:

Day 59 (Batumi – Keda)

We stayed in Batumi not only one but two days longer than planned and the reason was that we needed more time to take care of our bikes and to do administrative issues such as preparing visa applications for Uzbekistan and China. I have read blogs from other cyclists telling about these preparations taking a lot of time and I then had problems understanding why – now I do understand why….

The evening before we left a Polish cyclist arrived. He is on his way to Sydney and will take just the same route as we so we had a long conversation with him regarding routes, visa applications etc. He will wait a few days in Batumi for his brother who is hitch hiking there, but I think we will see Bartek again since he seem to ride quicker than we do.

Saying farwell to the Black Sea

When we finally left the gueshouse it was already 2 PM but since we only planned to ride 40 km to the village of Keda it didn’t really matter. We are waiting for an important e-mail and need to pay for our letter of invitation to Uzbekistan so we needed to find internet somewhere. The receptionist at our hostel said there are guesthouses at Keda so we planned to go stay at one of them and do all our internet business there.

Batumi isn’t big but we got lost on our way out. After asking a couple of people we finally found the road that leads up to the mountains. Georgia, and especially its hinterland, is cash country and to be on the safe side we stopped to get some more local currency at an ATM before leaving the last suburb.

Keda sits at 200 meters altitude and the road there was very good. It was never steep and there was not much traffic, but best of all was the surroundings that were wonderful. The road was in a valley with a little river in its midst and on both sides were farms growing wine. The steep hills on booth sides were covered with a lush forest with lots of oak trees and since there were so little traffic we could hear birds singing and bells from the cattle all the time.

There are several old bridges in the valley, all signposted as “historical bridge”

Keda is straight to the east from Batumi and since we started late we had the sun in our backs and the during the late afternoon the sunshine made the valley look even more beautiful.

Right before Keda we stopped at a gas station. When we asked the staff where the guesthouses were they told us there weren’t any in Keda. That was bad news since we needed to find internet and for a while we considered to do the Turkish trick, i.e. to camp at the gas station but we decided to go on into the village center.

Keda was a small village, but big enough to have a roundabout in its center. We stopped there and I asked a police officer where the hotel was. He pointed at a pink house 50 meters away and we went there to ask at the restaurant on first floor. I tried to use my poor russian to ask if this was a hotel and the lady working there said ”no”….

The roundabout in Keda. It doubles as the village’s gathering spot…

The only reason we wanted to stay at a guesthouse was to get to an internet connection but since there seemed to be no hotel or guesthouse in town we decided to camp and went to a grocery store next to the roundabout to buy some supplies. A rule of thumb is to always doublecheck any information and the lady in the store also she pointed at the pink house. When I told her we had been there but got a negative answer, she sent someone over to ask again. The runner soon came back and told us it was closed for some reason I never understood.

The whole town seemed to be engaged in our struggle to find a guesthouse and when we had already given up a man came walking and told us we could stay at a private homestay for 10 GEL each (40 SEK, 4.5 €). Since we only needed to check our e-mail and make a payment we asked if the homestay had an internet connection and he said yes.


We walked to the homestay with the guy and he introduced us to the family and then left. An older man showed us to our room and where the bathroom was. He then said that we needed to pay 2 GEL each for showering. I didn’t feel a shower was necessary and I thought it was a bit expensive so we tried to negotiate and got it down to 1 GEL each.

Cooking at the balcony

When we had settled in our room we asked how to connect to internet. The man then turned on the large TV….. Not really our definition of internet. When two 10 year old girls (probably grand daughters arrived) they also said there was no internet and the computer they were playing games on was also not connected.

So much fuss for nothing. But at least is was a cheap place to stay at and the view from the balcony was outstanding. We didn’t know if dinner was included so we fried the few eggs we had together with some salami at the balcony. Dogs are usually the biggest problem for cyclists, but cats can be a nuisance too. One cat bit off our computer cable and now the one in this house was feasting on our expensive salami that I left on a table in the room for a minute while cooking at the balcony.

Day 60 (Keda – camp at 1360 meters altitude)
Our breakfast consisted of coffe prepared at the balcony, youghurt and some sandwhiches with salami. The cat only ate a little part of it and we cut off a large chunk between where it had eaten before having what remained ourselves.

Saying good bye to our hosts

The family’s house was at about 220 meters altitude and the mountain pass some 75 km east is 2025 meters above the sea level. Our plan was to ride as high as possible during the day. We knew the road up to the last village would be good but from there everyone we talked to said it would be in bad connection.

The lower part of the valley is frequently visited by tourists.

The ride between Keda and Khulo was wonderful. In the beginning it was not steep at all – only slowly going upward. The scenery was breathtaking and we stopped many times to take photos and vide clips. The road was now no longer in the middle of the valley but on the side of the steep mountain surrounding it.

Soviet relics are present everywhere.

Somewhere between the two villages was a little chapel that had been restored and that nowadays is often used for weddings.

The renovated chapel

The large crucifix inside showed that our saviour had a very well developed 6-pack.

Schwarzenegger would be jelous of that 6-pack

We don’t have a proper road map – we only use a simple one from the tourist information that we got second hand from someone at the hostel in Batumi. On our map Khulo is the last village before the pass and we decided to stay there to have lunch. Just as usual when we stop at the centre of a small village we were soon surrounded by curious men. One of them spoke very good German and he invited us to his restaurant.

Lunch at the wrestler’s restaurant

After taking our order he sat down to talk to us and we got the reason why he spoke so good German. He used to be a professional Greco-Roman wrestler and had competed for Stuttgart for 6 years in the Bundesliga.

The wonderful valley

When we left Khulo the road immediately got a lot worse. It was unsealed, full of potholes, fist size rocks and sometimes it was crossed by small creeks. It was still as beautiful as before and the cycling was very fun. We like to ride on this kind of roads and slowly climb towards higher altitudes.

View from where we cooked our dinner.

What was the last village on our map was not the last village in reality. It seemed to be one very long village with houses along that road where ever it was flat enough to build one. This meant it was hard for us to find a spot to pitch our tent but we finally found a good spot. In order to not draw any attention we hid our bikes and luggage behind some trees and took our food and cooking gear and climbed up a hill where we could enjoy the sunset in the valley while cooking and eating our dinner.

Good night…

Day 61 Camp at 1360 meters – Akhaltshike
When we woke up there was already some traffic on the little road below us. Children walked to school in the village further down and people leading their cattle out to the nearby fields. They all waved and smiled and used sign language to ask if we were going up our down.

Good morning…

When we started to roll it took us another 5-6 km of slowly climbing the poor road until we left the last settlements behind us. We were now at about 1700 meters altitude and the road got a little bit better.

Water is important….

Filling our water bottles at a tap outside someone’s house.

But sometimes it easier to find beer and vodka in places like this little stall…

One for the road….

Close to the pass we saw big constructions of a skiresort going on. Skilifts were already built and now they were building hotels and a better road. We wondered if it wouldn’t have been smarter to start by building a good road so that all material and equipment could be brought up much easier.

Skilifts ready before the road to bring up the tourists

An old russian truck loaded with cows standing tight to each other overtook us slowly. 10 minutes later we overtook it when the driver had parked and were pooring water on the overheated engine. It then overtook us slowly again only to not long after see us overtake it again when the engine once again had gone too hot. This happened a few times and we felt we were racing to the top of the pass with this old truck and felt pity for the cows. It can’t be easy to stand up when the truck bumps into all those potholes.

The russian truck…

The pass was above the tree line and as we got closer we found lots of snow that hadn’t yet melted.

Hopefully our last encounter with snow on this trip.

At the top of the pass there were lots of activity going on. A group of men invited me to come and have vodka with them and I declined as politely as I could. There was also a little magazin (shop in russian) where we bought some eggs to make a lunch omelette. While we sat eating there 2-3 old drunk men kept coming to us and we think they asked for money. We are happy to make a contribution but not when it is obvious that the money quickly will be used to buy more vodka.

The sign showing the highest spot of this road

During more than a month in Turkey we only once saw someone who was obviously the local alcoholic and here in Georgia we a few everytime we stop in a village. Turkey is a secular society and people can drink if the wish to but maybe the religion has created a tradition of drinking less. If so, it is a good tradition because I think the number of people constantly unsober can’t be good for society.

A cute little boy who stood watching us throwing snowballs at each other just below the pass

Interior of the shop at the pass.

It was now time to roll down the 20-25 km to the next larger village. The road was only slightly better on the other side and only for some parts. Normally riding down is easy but although we didn’t have to pedal it was hard work of constantly applying the breaks while balancing down the rocky road. After a while I started to get blisters in the fold between my thumb and index finger due to all the breaking.

A cow having a sniff at my front pannier

Eventhough we like riding on poor roads we always it is always a nice feeling to get back to a smooth paved road again. The good road started at an altitude of about 1400 meters and from there we cycled the remaining 35 km to Akhaltshike in about 1.5 hours. Quite a different speed than we had got used to the last couple of days.

Wej on the way down from the pass

Statistics for Cycling day 59 

Distance:               52.7  km
Traveling time        4.39  hours
Cycling time           3.03  hours
Average speed      17.3  km/h
Top speed             32.4  km/h
Altitude gained       321  m
Altitude lost            124  m

Statistics for cycling day 60

Distance:               62.4  km
Traveling time        5.9.40  hours
Cycling time           5.51  hours
Average speed       10.7 km/h
Top speed             38.5  km/h
Altitude gained     1533  m
Altitude lost            386  m

Statistics for Cycling day 61  

Distance:               62.7  km
Traveling time        9.26  hours
Cycling time           5.51  hours
Average speed      10.7  km/h
Top speed             58.7  km/h
Altitude gained       913  m
Altitude lost          1314  m

Toothpaste quiz

Do you remember our toothpaste quiz?

On April 10 in Bukarest we opened a new toothpaste tube and raised the question where we would be when it gets empty. The closest guess will get a postcard from that place.

Here are the guesses:

Iain                    Samsun
Heiko                 Batumi
John                  Tbilisi
Elisabeth            Baku
Danne                Middle of Caspian Sea
Mum we             Aqtau
Kalle                   Beyneau
Micke                 Turtkul
Ryszard             Samarkand
Nutth                 Osh
Michael&Jodie   Lake Vakhsh
Cousin Marie     New Dehli or 15 June
Bootsabong       Uzbekistan or 77days which is on July 14.
Jesper&Emma  17 August
Hednoi              Thaiman….

On a map it will look like this. The guesses that are dates can’t be put on the map.

This is how our toothpaste tube looks right now and we are about 150 km from Georgias capital Tbilisi.

Iain and Heiko are already out of the game – should we let them have a second chance?

We ourselves are guessing too, but not where we will run out of toothpaste but who will be the winner and if there will be any postcard to buy at that place….

Day 62, Borjomi and Vardzia

It only took us two and a halft days to ride over the mountain pass and maybe it was a bit early for a rest day but we decided to stay one extra day in Akhaltsikhe to prepare our visa applications for the central asian states. Beside doing all administrative tasks we went out for a walk in the town and found the city library.

The exterior of the library

Wej couldn’t resist the temptation of visiting a Georgian library so we went in to have a look. It looked nice and there were quite a few visitors there.

Visitors reading newspapers

Although being in a brand new library many of the books looked very old and worn and Wej said that that kind of books would have been replaced long ago in her library. The lack of resources is probably the reason for this but maybe some of the budget for the library building should have been allocated to the library’s content instead.

Old and well used book

I would like to borrow a book about bicycle repair. Is this the right shelf??? 

Bicycle section?

The library has a staff of 8 people and we met a couple of them at a counter. One of them spoke very good English and Wej interviewed her about the library.

Visiting collegues in a foreign country

Many people ask as what kind of tools and spare parts we carry. My answer is only the things that are most necessary or hardest to find in remote places. We will always be able to find shops like this where we could get an extra tire or pedal if needed. Shops like this don’t sell high quality parts but we could probably get hold of stuff that will at least take us to the next shop selling parts with higher quality.

Store selling anything from toys and kitchen utensils to simple bicycle parts.

The following day we were going to cycle the 50 km from Akhaltsikhe to Bojormi. The road is of good quality, slightly downhill and going through a beautiful area so it was a quick ride.

View from the road between Akhatsikhe and Bojormi

Bojormi is an small town known for its mineral water and it has been a tourist attraction for almost a century. At the main street we ran into Leo who is the owner of one of the homestays recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook. We followed Leo home and got a small little room in an apartment that had been turned into a guesthouse.

The following morning Leo’s mother cooked breakfast for us and we are lucky to be cycling since nobody who isn’t doing a lot of physical work during the days could eat that huge amount of food. Fried potatoes, huge pancakes, salad, fried eggplants, fried eggs, lots of bread, tea, coffee and some cake as dessert. That is the kind of breakfast a touring cyclist likes…. 

Breakfast at Leo’s…

As mentioned Borjomi is famous for its mineral water and in the city there is a park with wells where people can fill up their bottles for free. Empty bottles are conveniently sold almost everywhere.
When we went to the park I had to try the well with warm mineral water and I must say I didn’t really like the taste. It was too salty…..

Not too impressed of the taste of warm mineral water

Leo had recommended us to pay a visit to a local swimming pool with hot mineral water. It was a 3 km long walk along a trail into the forest behind the park. The pool was very simple and there were some other people there too. The water was not super hot and the pool was not well kept and being outside there were lots of leaves and algea in the water. The place was quiet and I enjoyed sitting in the shadow of a tree reading the only book I carry with me.

Community outdoor pool with warm mineral water

Wej fell and hurt her knee when passing a creek on the mountain a few days ago and since the pain hasn’t gone away completely we decided to stay one more day in Bojormi. We can’t enter Azerbadjan before June 6 which is the first day of our visa validity so by staying here for extra days we only cut our time in Tbilisi shorter.

We needed something to do during our extra day off the bikes and Leo offered to drive us to the ancient rock city of Vardzia some 120 km south east of Bojormi. We got company on the tour by Chuck who works with organic farming in Canada and who is in Georgia to hold seminars and training with local organic farmers. Chuck is also a touring cyclist and has done many tours in north america and we had plenty of topics to discuss.

Wej and Chuck at Vardzia

Leo knows his part of the country very well and we stopped at many places along the way and he told the stories behind them.

Vardzia is located in a narrow valley that has seen invading mongol, persian and turk armies pass by and the local people built the rock city to hide in during times of unrest. The place ias absolutely amazing and there are hundreds of rooms and chambers carved into the rock and even a working monastery with residing monks.

A part of the rock city at Vardzia

Inside one of the caves

Unfortunately it started to rain when we went up to the caves so we cut our visit short. Leo then insisted that we should go to the nearby pool with hot mineral water. This pool was also a very simple concrete pool but it was inside and a there was nothing around it. We were alone there and quickly changed into our swimsuits and slowly slowly went into the water that was extremely warm. We soaked in the water for a while and then started the long drive back to Bojormi.

The pool with very hot mineral water. Super nice 

Statistics Cycling day 62  

Distance:               50.8  km
Traveling time        4.28  hours
Cycling time           2.55  hours
Average speed      17.4  km/h
Top speed             52.6  km/h
Altitude gained       282  m
Altitude lost            474  m

Visa struggle

I have mentioned in previous posts that central asia is the world’s epicenter of bureacrazy regarding visas. These countries used to be part of the Soviet union, but while the Soviet union is long gone, its bureacratic legacy remains unchanged. I think the ”stan-countries” actually are happy to recieve visitors who spend their money in their countries, but that they at the same time have difficulties to shrug off the Soviet bureacratic tradition. Visas are expensive and applications are processed slowly. Where and when the application will be quickest, simplest and cheapest is the given topic of conversation among travelers going into the area.

If the central asian states want us to come, but can’t get rid of their soviet heritage, China is very much the opposite. China doesn’t care about foreign money and is not too happy having western visitors in its troubled western regions. China also prefer travelers to apply for visa in their home country which causes problems to us since the visa’s validity would have run out by the time we arrive to the chinese border.

Applying for chinese visas in central asia has become much more difficult the last few years and all travelers have different ways to get the precious chinese visas. Our solution was to apply for an extra passport and leave it at home. When it was time to apply we had to present bookings for flights and hotels and in order not to create any suspicions we made it look like we were going to the normal tourist destinations in the eastern part of the country.

Our chinese visas were granted a few days ago and this was a great relief to us. My mother has now sent the passports with DHL courier service to Baku where we will continue by applying for visas to Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. The Uzbek visa is a bit of a hassle though since it will be valid only for 30 days set in the visa and not for 30 days during a for example two month period.

The ferry across the Caspian Sea remains very unreliable and we expect to have to wait for a week until we can board it. When we have landed on Kazakh soil we will have 8 days of ride through the dessert before reaching the border of Uzbekistan. Since Uzbekistan is 2000 km long we want to enter on day one of our visas validity and all this will require a very careful analysis before we set the date we would like to enter the country.

Day 63 Borjomi, Tbilisi and cheating

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Leo’s Mum didn’t disappoint us today either. The breakfast was excellent just like the previous two days and today we were going to cycle so we really needed all that energy.
It takes time to eat a big breakfast and then pack everything and load it to the bikes and we didn’t manage to leave until it was 11 AM.

Huge breakfast for a hungry cyclist.

I take care of most of the mechanical issues and navigation while Wej is in charge of the economy. Since we had stayed at Leo’s guesthouse longer than planned instead of camping Wej decided we needed more cash before leaving town.

Wej getting some cash at the ATM

The cycling went just fine and soon we found another touring cyclist who sat resting in the shade of a tree. He presented himself as Marko and he told us he had started in his hometown in Slovenia 40 days ago and was going east for 6 months. He was tired and needed to rest so we exchanged e-mail addresses and said we would try to meet once in Tbilisi.

The house in which Leo has created a guesthouse of his family’s apartment

Borjomi is a small provincial town and the road to it has not much traffic but after the Bojormi road joined the big main road leading from east to west through Georgia, the traffic immediately got a lot more intensive. We had to go back to our routine of Wej riding behind always looking in her mirror and blowing her whistle to warn me about incoming trucks. The road had a shoulder to ride on, but it wasn’t sealed so we often found ourselves riding on the uneven gravel beside. It wasn’t fun and it was difficult.

After a while Wej started to complain that her knee had started to hurt again. She had hit her knee when falling whilst crossing a creek on the mountain a couple of days ago. We had taken several rest days to let it cure, but now the feeling of uncomfort had returned. To have knees that don’t hurt is very important when cycling and we decided to stop as soon as possible and do the rest of the ride to Tbilisi tomorrow.

All of a sudden the bad road ended and was turned into a new 4-lane motorway with a wide shoulder to ride on and beside it some 7-8 km outside Gori we found a huge and very nice looking gas station with an adjacent restaurant and shop. We rode in, parked our bikes and found the best looking gas stations this far on the tour.

The best gas station so far 🙂

In the shop and restaurant section there was free wifi so we decided to have dinner there and discuss what to do next. As we sat there we felt very comfortable and wanted to stay on so we got back to our bikes and rolled over to the gas station part and were soon surrendered by the attendants. After a while of funny chat and jokes we played the trick we learned in Turkey which is asking if there is any camping site in town. The answer was immediately no, but one of the attendants pointed to the lawn between the gas station and the restaurant. Once again our resting place for the night would be at a gas station.

SOCAR is an abbreviation for State Oil Copany of Azerbaijan Republic

We parked the bikes and took our bag with the computer and went back to the restaurant to google on knee injuries. After a good nights sleep at the gas station we went back to have breakfast in the restaurant. Wej’s knee still ached and we didn’t know what to do so I wrote an e-mail describing the situation to friends back home who are doctor and physiotherapists. They soon replied that it possibly was some internal bleeding in the knee and that the best thing was to rest.

Interior of the restaurant at SOCAR.

After spending the entire morning googling and writing e-mails it was time for lunch. Since we were already at a restaurant we didn’t need to go far. As we sat there eating, we saw another touring cyclist approaching the restaurant. He parked his bike and went in to order lunch and we moved over to his table to have a chat. The guy introduced himself as Simon from New Zealand and told us he was on an extended tour with his son, who had taken the train to Tbilisi.

Food at the SOCAR restaurant. It looked a lot like some thai food.

Most other cyclist we meet are a lot younger than us, but Simon is a few years older and told us he had taken a sabbatical year from work life to go cycling across the Euroasian continent – something that sounds very much like our own situation.

Simon had to rush to meet his son so we exchanged e-mail addresses and said we would try to meet in Tbilisi. As we saw Simon leave we had still not made any decision what to do.

In the morning we saw Marko riding by, by lunch Simon came and left and we still hadn’t started to move. We had now traveled 4630 km from Sweden by our own muscle power but now we seemed to get stuck at a gas station just outside Stalin’s hometown. We still had 70 km to go on the nice highway to Tbilisi but Wej’s aching knee effectively put a stop to it and there was nothing else to do than limp into town and catch a train into Tbilisi.

The knee that stops us from riding…

The purpose of this trip has always been to explore what is between Thailand and Sweden and who the people living there are, but the longer we have cycled, at least I have got more and more attracted to the concept of the unbroken wheel track all the way to Bangkok. This seemed to be ruined now and while we have stayed in the guesthouse in Tbilisi the thought of getting on a train and go back to Gori to ride the 70 km here has struck me. But then again, we do this trip together and it wouldn’t feel good in the end if I have cycled from Göteborg to Bangkok while Wej only has cycled that distance minus the 70 km between Tbilisi and Gori.

Waiting for the train at Gori railway station

We both like Georgia and filling the gap between Gori and Tbilisi is a very good reason to come back another time…. 

Soon we will start our first cheat on this journey

In Tbilisi we checked in at the hostel which we knew Thom was staying at. Thom is one of the british cyclists we rode with for a few days in Turkey and it was a happy re-union when we knocked on the door to the hostel.

Georgia is a wine producing country and in our hostel wine and coffee is for free. Thom and the two of us spent the evening drinking wine and sharing experiences and ideas in the hostel’s little lounge area.

The following day we joined Thom and Nick to the Kazakh embassy to pick up their passports. Then the hunt for a decent bike shop started and we all ended up at Tbilisi’s Velodrome which definately has seen better days, but behind it there were some bike shops were skilled mechanics worked. On the floor in one of the shops we found an old and well used steel frame with the logo of ”USSR Race Team”. A retro bike built on that frame would definately be one of the coolest bikes ever to cruise the streets of western Europe.

Tbilisi’s velodrom is old and in desperate need of repair.

The next evening we called in all the cyclist we knew were in town and went to have a couple of beers at a bar. Since we are all going the same way and are having the same troubles getting visas and ferry ticket to cross the Caspian, the topics for the discussions were obvious.

Fancy painted wall in the bathroom at the pub.

Statistics for Cycling day 63  

Distance:               68.2  km
Traveling time        6.31  hours
Cycling time           3.31  hours
Average speed      17.4  km/h
Top speed             19.4  km/h
Altitude gained       286  m
Altitude lost            330  m

Stuck in Tbilisi

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We have had the idea of cycling from Göteborg to Bangkok for at least three years and during these years we have read blogs and books about cross continental cycle touring. The ideas went from dreams to something highly plausible about two years ago and the decision to go was made about one year ago.

The last year we have carefully planned everything from choice of route to what equipment to bring. The route has been changed a few times and we have exchanged a lot of our old equipment in order to make our luggage lighter and less bulky. We knew what lay ahead of us and nobody could say that we did not know what we were heading into.

We have flown across the euro-asian continent so many times that we have lost count and with a minimum of hassle and effort you will board an aircraft in Copenhagen in the night and arrive in Bangkok the following morning. This smoothness is all gone when traveling overland and everyone who has ever tried has run into the visa hassles of central asia.

All this was known to us and we made our best to make a good plan for visa applications. We knew we would have to wait for the visa process somewhere so we tried to make it coincide with longer stops in cities we wanted to visit anyway. 

What we didn’t plan was to make mistakes…… 

When applying for a Uzbek visa a letter of invitation (LOI) is needed and travel agents recognized by the Uzbek government can issue such documents. Already in April we contacted one company and they carefully informed us what we needed to do in order for them to be able to issue a LOI. When the LOI never came I checked our e-mail correspondance I found out we hadn’t sent in all required documents. We had forgotten to mail them the letter proving our employment and the clock hadn’t started to tick yet, but it does as of today….

Getting a LOI takes 10 working days and we can’t apply for the Uzbek visa until we have received the LOI which probably will be on Friday June 21. The Uzbek visa will then be ready around June 28. 

We still haven’t applied for our visas for Kazakhstan, but we will do that in Baku. Rumours say it is a straight forward process that takes 4 days since there is no requirement of letter of invitation. Our initial plan was to arrive in Baku today and start the visa process for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It will take around 7-9 working days to get both visas and then we would try to get on the unreliable ferry connection across the Caspian Sea.

I got very upset when I understood that my negligence to provide all required documents will delay us with one week, but this mistake also provided us with an opportunity for Wej to let her knee rest properly. If everything would have been according to plan there would be a risk that we had pressed forward too early.

We planned 10 days (Monday-Wednesday) for the visa process and then budgeted 7 days to get onto the ferry. Now we will have to spend the 7 days waiting for the ferry to wait for the LOI instead and to make up for the time lost we will try to find a flight that will take us across the Caspian Sea.

It is very frustrating to have to wait for nothing, but we are in good company of a lot of other travelers and cyclist who are stuck in the same situation. 

So there is not much to tell more than that we are stuck in Tbilisi….

Meanwhile, please enjoy some photos of Tbilisi.

We checked in at the hostel where the british cyclist we rode with in Turkey was staying. They left for Baku two days after we arrived and we waved good bye to them in front of the hostel

We paid 20 GEL per night for the two of us (80 SEK, 9 €) for this little room in a not so well managed guesthouse.

After 5 nights at the first guesthouse we decided to upgrade for a better one

Tbilisi has plenty old beautiful buildings
Wooden balcony

Beautifully carved wooden details on this balcony

Check the wonderful iron railings on this balcony

Mtkvari / Kura river flows through Tbilisi towards Baku and the Caspian Sea

Yellow buses at a major bus stop

Quality time at a cafe 🙂 Beer and e-book reading on the ipad.

Quick status report

We are now in Azerbaijan at a gas station with internet connection in Gabala city some 220 km from Baku where we estimate to arrive on Monday afternoon.
Wej’s knee works fine, the heat is intense and the scenery is stunning.
More news will be posted in a few days.

Day 64-66 Exit Georgia

Georgia isn’t a very big country and when we arrived in the country on May 20 we only planned to stay for about two weeks before continuing to Azerbaijan. Then two things happened that would slow us down. First Wej fell and hurt her knee and then we discovered we had made a mistake when providing information to the travel agency that would make the letter of invitation to Uzbekistan. All this made us have to wait and all the waiting have been frustrating.

We have been in good company though and met plenty of other cyclists from many countries. I knew of 12 other cyclist being in town at about the same time. It felt like Tbilisi was the gathering point for the cycle caravan going to traverse the silk road.

Wej and I were in no rush since there was a delay with the letter of invitation to Uzbekistan and we postponed our departure from Tbilisi one day at the time since her knee wouldn’t stop aching. When we finally left Tbilisi last Tuesday (11 June) our aim was to make a soft start and only ride for a few hours. It was raining the day before we left and when we finally got into our saddles the sky seemed to promise rain sooner rather than later.

Road sign outside Tbilisi showing directions to exotic cities.

At the outskirts of Tbilisi we caught up with another cyclist. It was a man in his late 50:s who had lots of plastic bags hanging from his bike. We exchanged a few words as we rode past him, but when we later stopped he caught up with us and came over to talk to us. He didn’t know any english but spoke german, italian, russian and spanish. He tolds us he was on his way to Sighnagi which happened to be our target too. 

The vagabond on his bike

The road out of Tbilisi was slowly taking us uphill and we cycled very slowly and stopped often so Wej could do stretching and massage her knee. It all went quite well but after about one hour her knee started to ache again. This made us seriously concerned and we decided to take a break to rest somewhere. At about the same time the colour of the sky changed from grey to black and we knew heavy rain was on its way and turned into a gas station to rest and wait for the rain.

Wating for the rain to stop

After spending about one hour at the gas station we decided to continue and try to find somewhere to camp, but only 5-600 meters after the gas station we found a little hotel. Our plan was to camp but the aching knee had put us in low spirits and we decided to stay there. The owner thought his hotel was a nice one and bragged about the night club, but we were not so convinced that it was a good hotel since the bathroom stank and had almost no water pressure. 

We could clearly hear the loud music from the night club during the late hours, but when we walked past we could see there were no guests there…. 

The unplanned night at the hotel made us want to save some money which we did by cooking dinner in the room.

The next morning Wej complained that the pain in her knee hadn’t gone away and this worried both of us seriously. She did stretching, massaged the knee and did what she could to relieve the pain. We spent several hours in the morning discussing what to do and we ended up in a common decision to return to Tbilisi and have a doctor look at the knee. 

This decision was not easy to make and I think we both were anxious about the consequences this would have for the rest of our journey. It was already noon when we finally got the bikes loaded and when we were about to cross the road and roll back to Tbilisi Wej said that we could try to bike a couple of kilometers first before we turned around. There was a long but not so steep uphill immediately after the hotel and when we had climbed it Wej said that she didn’t feel anything in her knee and we decided to continue a little more.

It appeared that the pain was gone and that she only from time to time could feel a little sting in the knee. We rode extra slowly and often stopped to rest and this strategy seemed to work. Wej’s knee was back in business again 

The vagabond’s bicycle the second day we met him. The load was a lot bigger.

In the late afternoon Johannes – a german cyclist we had met in Tbilisi – caught up with us. We rode the rest of the day together and all of a sudden we once again caught up with the vagabond collecting empty bottels along the road. The vagabond told us there were cherry trees a couple of hundred meters ahead and we all stopped there to eat cherries picked straight from the tree. 

We decided to stop early and pitched our tent beside Johannes in an orchard with unknown fruit trees.

Our tent among the fruit trees

The following morning my rear wheel was flat. I think I had parked on something sharp. Normally this shouldn’t cause the tyre to get flat, but maybe my tyres were in worse condition than I thought when we set out on this tour. It makes me a bit concerned since it is hard to find high quality tyres in these countries.

Statistics for Cycling day 64  

Distance:               20.9  km
Traveling time        3.53  hours
Cycling time           1.38  hours
Average speed      12.8  km/h
Top speed             24.5  km/h
Altitude gained       216  m
Altitude lost              45  m

Statistics for Cycling day 65  

Distance:               60.9  km
Traveling time        7.23  hours
Cycling time           3.58  hours
Average speed      15.3  km/h
Top speed             44.6  km/h
Altitude gained       571  m
Altitude lost            643  m

Statistics for Cycling day 66 a  (Georgian side)  

Distance:               81.4  km
Traveling time        9.39  hours
Cycling time           5.02  hours
Average speed      16.2  km/h
Top speed             52.9  km/h
Altitude gained       680  m
Altitude lost            789  m