On August 3, I, along with three other female cyclists and one male driver, set off from Yerevan. Final destination: Batumi, Georgia. We had allocated one month for this bike tour which transcends borders, languages, and you could say gender, but we managed to do the trip in a little over two weeks. We cycled every day (some more than others) and took breaks when we needed to. The most we cycled in a single day was about 100 km (that was only one day, mind you). And might I add, in Georgia. In Armenia, it was impossible to bike that much in a single day since most of the trek was uphill.
I found the roads in Georgia to be in better condition than in Armenia and more importantly, there were less steep inclines (“padiom” in Russian... I picked up a few words of Russian while travelling in Georgia :) I was the only non-Armenia-born traveller in our group (and non-Russian-speaker) so most of the time I found myself dependent on others when communicating with folks in Georgia. Though some people speak English, I found Russian to be the more widely spoken language between Armenians and Georgians.
Day 1 – we arrived in Lake Sevan. The hardest trek of the entire trip!
Day 2 – we arrived in Dilijan. The easiest part of the entire trip! All downhill (so much fun!) and we only rode for about an hour or so from Sevan till we arrived in Dilijan. A friend of our group met us there and secured a place for us in a lovely B&B. Only the second day and already we get to take a shower and sleep in luxury :)
Day 3 – camped in a peach orchard just past Noyemberyan. I lied: this was the hardest part of the entire trip! So difficult was the mountain to get to Noyemberyan that we hitched a ride most of the way. A lovely man who lives in Noyemberyan picked us up in his dump truck. We threw the bikes in the back and we sat in front. If it wasn’t for the ride, we wouldn’t have been able to make it to Noyemberyan this day.
Day 4 – Tbilisi! So many frustrating moments till we got here. But we made it! I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never been to Tbilisi and I guess I must’ve missed being in a city because I fell in love from the first moment (or maybe it was because I was so tired from cycling and so happy to reach our destination that day :)
Day 5, 6, and 7. In a rented apartment in Tbilisi. We put our bikes aside for three days and just walked and explored the city.
Day 8 – met Anita from the funding agency that sponsored our trip. She treated us to breakfast at the Marriott hotel in Tbilisi before we set off for Gori. Are we sure we’re on a bike tour? I have to admit, we were a bit spoiled... That night we camped by a hotel/restaurant just outside Gori.
Day 9 – camped at a campsite near Surami. Ate fresh bread/”puri” (made in a sort of tonir) from the women running the campsite, as well as another type of sweet bread. Delicious!
Day 10 – Rode in the rain (only day of the entire trip it rained!) till we arrived in Kutaisi. The ride was mostly downhill (woo hoo!) but it was wet and dirty and we were happy to accept Tsomak’s suggestion to stay in another B&B. After we showered and got into some clean clothes, we left (by foot!) for the centre of town to find out what folks in Kutaisi do on a Wednesday night. Turns out, not much :) It was a beautiful town and we were even able to find Kutaisi’s Northern Avenue (like Yerevan’s “Huysisayin Pokhota”).... seems we’re never really far from home :)
Also notable: A fellow cyclist joining us for the 10-20 km remaining till we reached Kutaisi. He was Georgian and a professional cyclist living in Kutaisi and was simply training.
Day 11 – we were so happy to arrive at the Black Sea finally that we overlooked a minor detail: Poti is more of a sea port and not really a beach resort. After appearing lost and confused to the local police, we were directed to camp at Kolkheti National Park. From the translation I received, it seems the police didn’t know what to do with four female cyclists looking to pitch their tents in their town, so we were escorted to the national park because it’s safer (the gates close at night). They were concerned about our safety! The next day, when we rode toward Kobuleti, we discovered many lovely areas to camp along the shore! tsk, tsk...
Day 12 and 13 – camping in Kobuleti. Unfortunately for us, our two days in Kobuleti were Friday and Saturday nights and the place we camped was surrounded by night clubs and bars, all of which blasted their own brand of music till the late hours of the night... Other than that minor inconvenience, Kobuleti was lovely and just what we wanted: lazy days at the beach...
Day 14 and 15 – camping just outside Batumi.
We met other (not professional) cyclists in Batumi who helped us find a place to pitch our tents along the coast of the Black Sea then meet with us later to show us their town. We saw the newly constructed boardwalk in Batumi, rode the largest ferris wheel I’ve seen so far, and ate the tastiest pizza I’ve had so far (and yes, it had mayonnaise). We also were invited to hang out with a group of local Georgians who meet regularly and gather mussels and crabs (which they shared with us... a lot of work I must say for not very much food :) from “their spot” in this tucked away area of the Black Sea coast.
Also, on the first day, when looking for a spot to camp, our newfound friends directed us to the Botanic Gardens where were denied access to the Botanic Gardens with our bikes (due to some official who was “protecting the environment” by saying that the bikes were not eco-friendly items to bring inside the gated gardens!). Our friends came with us and argued with the official in Georgian. Afterwards, they translated into Russian for our group and then someone translated into Armenian for me :) At the end of this two weeks I have to say I was feeling the lack of English and actually missing communicating in a language of which I am 100% familiar and comfortable in. All this to say though that the trip was memorable in many ways and I’m glad I went (though I wouldn’t do it again – ha!).
Day 16 – we sent our bikes by train back to Yerevan and we set off by car for the return trip... what happened on the way back is a whole other story...