Caucasian Challenge

Back in the Caucasus!

The flight from Budapest to Yerevan (though Prague) should have been been boring but they spiced up with some delays. They said there were some weather issues while at least a dozen people watched the plane through the glass of the terminal and the van parked next to it with huge ’Bomb check’ signs on the sides. Finally we took off and also landed in one piece.

After landing around 5AM and getting through the money changing – visa buying – passport control processes I got to the hostel around 6 meaning not much sleep for that night.

Giving up the sleep project I went to one of my favourite Yerevan restaurants, ’Kavkaz’ to have my favourite dishes and of course the first Kilikia beer! Once in Yerevan everyone should try that place. A huge dinner with beers for 10 dollars in a downtown restaurant? Sounds good, huh?

Later on I met Gevorg, the manager of Envoy, Yerevan’s best hostel as I remembered he offered me help some time back with both the charity project and dealing with cars teams intend to leave in Armenia.

By 5 PM I felt like I can’t move anymore so I gave another (successful) try for the sleep and in the evening I met another friend, Levon and his wife+kid for a drink… Levon was the guy who organized us a Kalashnikov shooting in Karabakh back in 2008. He’ll try to do the same this year as well, hope things haven’t changed much.

Today I was up pretty early and went to the car rental agency to pick up my work-mate for 2 weeks, a Suzuki Grand Vitara… actually the same car I got last year! When the guy marked the scratches and dents on a sheet he told me these might happen while driving in forests, etc… ’Uh-huh’ I said and remembered last year’s mapping trip in Northern Georgia with the same car, losing the sump guard but kept silent.

The weather was absolutely lovely, 24 degrees Celsius, a nice drive to the border of Georgia. After finishing the paperwork (5 minutes on Armenian plates) and leaving the border post I saw a guy and a girl hitchhiking and I thought I’ll be a good guy today and give them a lift… then a surprise hit: the man was Gio, the funny Georgian guy who opened Tbilisi Hostel last year and we spent some great time together (drinking loads of chacha). Now apart from managing the hostel he’s importing bananas from India and growing his hair to be a rasta man. The funniest Georgian I’ve ever met. The hostel was (and will be) our alternative accommodation in Tbilisi.

Dropping them somewhere near downtown I drove all the way to Kutaisi (and I was trying to stay alive amongst those idiots who probably bought their driving license on the flee market) and drove directly to the guesthouse we usually stay with CC. The old lady, the owner of the Beka hotel recognized me and after some help (’lots of strange foreigners with funny cars, remember?’) he remembered the CC crowd too. I’m trying to do reservations for August 24 but apparentely business is booming in Kutaisi: she said she got reservations for August in December last year…. and I remember she was almost crying being so happy when 4 years ago we showed up just 2 weeks after the Georgian-Russian war when there were basically no tourists in Georgia at all.
Anyhow, I asked her to prepare me a small dinner and I got the following: two fried sausages, some excellent chicken stew, fried potatoes, 3 different salads, cheese, etc. One thing is sure, you can’t stay hungry staying at their place.

Tomorrow is another great ride and lots of work with the challenges through the beautiful Borjomi-Kharagauli national park and the whole length of Adjaria to the coastal town of Batumi.

I’ll also post some photos later…

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