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We entered in Georgia by the border post of Lagodekhi with Maika and Christoph riding their UAZ van. The office was a bit old but we were, again, well welcomed. Emilie, being the main pilot on the paperwork of sidecar, took care of the import. No checking by the agent and Emilie got a stamp on her passeport very quickly. In the meantime, I didn’t have any issue in the customs office for “passengers”.
A few kilometers further, we stopped by a portacabin to get a vehicle insurance. Each vehicle of the “Russian Gang” subscribed to a 15-day contract.
It was 2pm when we arrived in the city of Lagodekhi. We parked on the main square and asked a young lady to find a place to lunch. At the first adresse, we found a closed door. We climbed up a few stairs and found a kebab place. The regular customers were surprised to see us. We ordered the only dish left at this time of day: fried bread with cheese.
Lagodekhi is a city without touristic interest but it’s the point of departure for hiking up to the Azerbaijan border through its natural park.
When it was the time for finding a place to camp, we opted for the main entry of the park where a campsite was marked. Upon our arrival, the guide didn’t let us to pitch up the tent. He indicated a second entry, more isolated, and adapted for tents. Indeed, after a stony path, we found a nice clearing.
This night, we shared our table with a German retired couple. They have crossed Europe and Turkey and were heading to Mongolia. It was with a glass of Georgian wine, from a bottle not very tasty they received as a gift, that we spent the night together.
The area being famous for hiking, the following day we decided to hike up to the Ninoskhevi waterfalls. Breathtaking view with their height of 40 metres, we dived in before to return.
Back on the road, it was the end of the afternoon. We rode over a hundred of kilometres on nice mountainous roads between little villages. In one of them, we stopped to get bread. Marie took the opportunity to enter in the back shop to see the making of this traditional bread cooked in an unusual way.
The Georgian traditional bread, named Shoti, is prepared in a cylindrical oven made of terra cotta looking like a well. Once the dough prepared, it’s stuck on the inside wall until the unusual boat shape becomes crispy.
A few kilometres further, we started to look for a place to spend the night. While looking for a spot in a wild field with tall trees, a snake with a length of 1 metre and a diametre of 5cms was right in front of us.
We finally decided to camp a hundred of metres further, by a few grapevines.
During our breakfast, a farmer came. He was the owner of this land and was walking with his herd of cows. He said hi and offered us to share his treasure: an old bottle of alcool hidden at the bottom of a tree, in the soil. As it was early in the morning, we kindly declined and gave him a slice of bread with jam. It was hard to discuss with him as he was only speaking Georgian. We tried a few words in Russian, English and German. Maika finally understood he was alerting us for snakes, they were many of them in the area.
We reached the small village of Udabno in the morning. Upon our arrival, we got rooms in a small hostel. It was a modest house with 3 unoccupied rooms, owned by a retired couple.
The four of us went in the back of the UAZ van with Christoph riding and Maika giving the directions. Together, we headed to the monastery of David Gareja. Like kids, we stuck our faces to the windows to see the deserted landscapes. The road was in very bad conditions with many stones. Christoph proved his driving skills on this uneven road.
Isolated from everything, the monastery was right on a cliff at the Azerbaijan border. Some of the rooms have been built in the rock, like troglodyte houses. We climbed up the hill marking the border with Azerbaijan. The viewpoint over this deserted land was breathtaking. Soldiers from each country were together on this imaginary line. But this day, it seemed the border soldiers were preoccupied. A little group of soldiers were around a tourist who probably tried to cross the line.
On the way back to reach our hostel, we avoided a big turtle crossing the path. At the end of the day, we enjoyed a hearty meal prepared by the owner. In the background, the cows were lowing due to the storm.
For the next step, we arrived in Sagarejo. But before this, we made a detour to visit the wine area of Kakhetie and the vineyard of Antadze.
Our adventure led us to the quiet monastery of Ninotsmindis. Green and flowery, its main chapel has been destroyed and only ruins remained. The ramparts were still existing.
We rode the last 45 kilometres separating us from the Tbilissi capital to reach the hostel we booked for a few days. To reach it, we crossed the town-centre by one of the main roads. With the heat and the traffic, it was hard for our engines. Upon our arrival, we needed to push our sidecars in the courtyard as we were not able to start our engines.
We unpacked and met 3 bikers travelling: a Dutch guy driving a BMW, a Swiss lady riding a Royal Einfield and a French guy with a Husqvarna. We spent the evening with them and shared our bottles of wine bought during the afternoon at the vineyard.
The Georgian capital built on the riversides of Koura is located between the small and bigs mountains of Caucasia.
There are many parks and nice flowery courtyards at the bottom of buildings.
At the end of the morning, we started to visit Tbilissi. From our hotel, we went down to reach the Kura river. To visit the historical centre, we crossed the river on the Saarbuecken bridge and crossed the Dedaena park. There were many book sellers in this park, looking like the ones in Paris with their boxes along the Seine.
We found some books in French and German. We used the bridge crossing the avenue of Gansakhurdia to reach the marketing street and the nice little square of the Orbeliani garden. We went up the little streets to reach the Rustavelli avenue leading to the shopping mall. We enjoyed an ice cream before to go to the Liberty Square that we crossed by an underground path.
The city has been built to privilege cars. Therefore, there are main arteries around the city and underground passages crossing the city.
These passages were sometimes dark and sad, but sometimes they were full of life and colourful with shops, hairdressing salons or walls painted with street art.
We arrived in the little streets of the historical town centre to lunch. We enjoyed a Georgian pizza name Kachapuri. This dish is made of Shoti, the Georgian bread, stuffed with cheese (the recipe is different from a region to another one but cheese stays the main ingredient). The recipe we chose is coming from the Ajari area (South-West part of the country) and the main specificity is a fried egg on the top.
We did a free walking tour to continue discovering the historical town centre. We started by the medieval gate on the Pushkin avenue where there were only remains left. We loved the sinuous roads of this area and the picturesque atmosphere due to the age of the buildings. The wooden buildings, old and tired, started to incline while others building were being refurbished.
In these little streets, two buildings became famous. A first one due to its outside stairs (a feature of the Caucasian houses) remind the stairs of Poudlard. The second one has a beautiful courtyard with a U-shape and sophisticated woodworks painted in pale blue.
We continued our visit with the Clock Tower, emblematic monument of the city. It was ringing upon our arrival at 7pm, symbolised by the apparition of little characters representing key steps of the Georgian life. We crossed the Kura river by the bridge of peace symbolising the reconciliation with Russia after the war of 2005. From the Ride Park, we had a beautiful view over the Narikala fortress above the historical area. There was the big statue of Kartis Dedo representing the “Georgian Mother” holding a glass of wine in her left hand for friends and a sword in a her right hand for enemies. We finished our tour in the area of Abanot, famous for the baths as the water is coming from the Legvtakhevi waterfalls, rich in sulphur.
To finish the day, we went to La Fabric, a place which includes a cultural centre, a co-working space and artists in residence. The place was highly frequented this Friday evening for bars and street food. We didn’t resist to a delicious falafel burger.
At the end of the morning, the next day, we went back on the road to leave the capital to continue our trip towards West on the Georgian roads.