Six weeks I’m here, and I still don’t really know what to think of this country. After having spent more than nine months in a Muslim country, crossing the border was like entering another world. Sylvain, with whim I’ve spent last winter in Istanbul, was waiting for me in the capital, so I decided to go more or less straight there. The main road Batumi – Tbilisi is not the most safest one for cycling, but in a way it’s very entertaining. Grazing cows on the railroad, disturbed by an approaching, rusty train. Panicked they jump blindly on the road, where a bunch of overloaded Ladas, randomly scattered – paint on the road only has a decorative purpose – has to get the best out of their brakes, to avoid an interspecies massacre. Miraculously, these situations always seem to end well. I guess it’s experience.
I’d heard many good things about the Georgian hospitality. It’s true, people are very welcoming here. There is only one problem. Invitations, even if it’s nine o’clock in the morning, always, no exceptions, include alcohol. In Turkey I’d picked up the habit to accept every invitations, but if you’d like to survive the day here, that’s not a wise thing to do. In the beginning I’ve made the mistake several times, with resulting hilarity, including a football match, nearly having a set of car indicators on my bike – the fact that I had to carry a car battery made me back out – etc … . What they don’t do so easily is inviting you in their homes. Even after an irresponsible amount of chacha – a local strong drink, made of grape residue, left after making wine, and which is often replaced by pure alcohol – they just walk off, leaving you there with your bicycle, desperately looking for a place to camp. Luckily, in that state of mind, any piece of land looks like a 5 star camping ground.
Arriving in Tbilisi, it didn’t take me more than 20 minutes to find Sylvain. No phones involved. He’d already spent some months in Georgia, because he got banned for 5 years from Turkey, after having overstayed his visa without knowing. Autumn is coming, and we will go south together. He applied for his Iranian visa, which takes some weeks here. To escape the city, we cycled to Kazbegi, and the Vasholvani National Park. I’m glad we did so, because I hadn’t seen any real beauty of this country yet.
About two weeks ago we arrived in the capital again, and every day they say the visa hasn’t arrived yet. It’s been over a month now. Except for some sporadic laps in the old velodrome, the bike hasn’t seen a lot daylight lately. Neither have I. Out of boredom, I even went to the casino a few times, to look for sponsors. The hostel isn’t a bad deal though. Free wine, diner, and laundry, for 5 euros a day. That’s just one red chip…