Batumi (Georgia), 04.05.2013
Lots of episodes today, we have a story for tree huggers, for puppy lovers, for adventure boys and cynics. Let’s go one by one. We woke up at 0700 with a spectacular view out of the tent on the lake we discovered the night before. To start the day properly, we went for a “swim” in the lake. If water wouldn’t freeze at minus degrees we’d say it felt like minus twenty. So it must have been right above zero, and therefore the swim lasted like 15 seconds. But once we got out it became quite hot right away. We also had our first outdoor shower with the “camping douche” we bought in Cannes. And we shared our morning coffee with the camping site owner of Iskele Cafe, a very friendly man we barely got to know since his English was basic and our Turkish non existent.
It became time to go, so we packed and had breakfast. Surrounded by the family of shepherd dogs, we had to stay alert constantly to not get robbed of something edible. We couldn’t resist in the end though, so we fed them some bread of the day before that we didn’t eat. What a circus, with the puppies fighting over every piece of it!
Before we left, there was one more good action to do. Early in the morning we had seen a tree in the lake, with green leaves and full roots. I dragged it out of the lake and told the camping site owner about it. He brought his tools, and together we saved the tree, cut it back, dug a hole and planted it on the site where our tent had been the night before. Sweaty but happy we took some pictures and then left finally.
It was almost 11:00 and we wanted to see some places we had to skip the night before to get to the camping site before night fall. So we drove like 20km back and left the main road for a dirt track to see a castle high above the river. We found it, but it was like 100m over the road and we thought there might be a car access further down the road. Lazy car tourist dreams! There was no access, you had to climb up the rock to get there. By the time we understood this we had driven over 15 mins on dirt road. We decided to turn around and go see the other places. Here I committed the error of driving too fast on the dirt track. And shortly before the main road we hit a rock on the track: pfffffff. We lost our first tyre on the trip. In just 25 mins we unloaded the car, got the exchange wheel out, changed wheels and checked the tyre pressure with the compressor we have on board. In 45 mins we were on the road again. I challenge everyone reading this to be faster! 😉
Since it was late already we skipped castles and churches and headed towards the border with Georgia. At the waterfalls after Tortum Lake we stopped quickly, there was a celebration going on and the site was full of picnic folks with white caps, so we left after some quick pics.
On km 90 of the day we ran into the construction works for a huge dam that is being built in this valley. The road was closed for 1:10h. After waiting half an hour on a dusty road with 32 degrees sunshine we drove back to the last town and had some lunch, cag kebab and tomatoes and ayran. Then we drove back, just in time for the road to open again. There were 20-30 vehicles waiting, and when the road opened hell broke lose, a race for the pole position and many over takings after the start took off. And al this on a non tarred, dust mountain road. There was so much dust in the air we couldn’t see the car 10m in front of us several times. We drove down the construction site for over an hour, our car now looks more like mr. Wit likes it (aka dusty, dirty, off road). The area of the dams we passed (1 natural, 1 man made and finished and 1 still under construction) was very sad. Nature dies when man starts these kind of projects. Green valleys turn grey, rocks replace meadows and forests, villages disappear, it’s all dust, tar and concrete. Driving in this areas is quite stressful and boring. At the end of the day we’re exhausted and in need of a massage or two.
So it was a relief to see the Black Sea finally again. And few km afterwards we left Turkey and entered Georgia. The border crossing took us 1h, mostly waiting in line. We left Turkey with a very positive impression of the country. We’re coveting our thought still, and might publish a post on them.
Georgia welcomed us with few controls and questions at the border. And the moment you cross the border the country feels different, more like Europe, familiar. Driving into Batumi we encountered a mix of charming old Russian town (similar to Kars), soviet shithole, and new post-communist boom and (hopefully not) bust. While Turkey builds roads and infrastructure, Batumi builds US sized luxury hotels. We arrived at our hotel sweaty, dusty and exhausted. After a long shower we went to explore our first Georgian city. For 1h we tried to find a local restaurant in the city center. No chance, we found a socialist sized place on the sea with no customers, an Italian restaurant on a terrace of a just built building complex, some dirty local kebab shacks, and several turkish restaurants. We stopped at 5 ATMs to get GEL notes, only the last one had them. USD are equally distributed. We ended up in a modern restaurant, the only decent one open – Bavarian cuisine and beer, and Bayern vs Dortmund on the screen. We drove over 8.000km to this place to eat German??? Something’s wrong. Tomorrow we’ll check again…
Trip data (Day/Total)
– Km driven: 266/8.260
– Hrs driving: approx 8h/-
– Diesel l/100km: 8,1/9,9