Georgia part II
The higher we go in to the mountains, the more beautiful nature seems to get. It’s hard work, but definitely worth all our trouble. Not only nature, the day to day life is also different when you’re high up. It’s hard living, because you have to manage with what you’ve got. And a ride to the grocery store is a real undertaking, which requires a 4x4 and a 4 hour ride. Most products are produced by the family’s own animals, and absolutely nothing goes to waste. We love it.
After a few hard days on the bicycle, we took two much needed days off. One for resting, laundry, maintenance, writing and editing and the other for a big hike. There is so much stuff to do around bicycle touring. Of course everything gets really dirty, and at times it can be hard to clean properly. Bolts on the bikes had come loose from trembling on bad roads. The maintenance and all the chores make it almost like a full time job.
Hiking to the Abudelauri lakes
At night we prepared to leave early the next day, and packed our backpacks for a hike to the Abudelauri lakes. The lakes are situated in far north of the eastern part of Caucasus Mountains at an altitude of 2812m at the foot of the Chaukhi Massif. Many hikers pass only two lakes (the blue and the green) on the trek from Juta to Roshka. We decided we wanted to camp at the last white lake.
The white lake is at the foot of a glacier, and since it’s so hard to get there we were the only ones. The only company we had was an eagle that kept calling from the surrounding peaks. Being so far away from the habited world, almost felt a bit eery. We knew there were wolves and bears in this area and we could hear stones crashing down from the glacier.
A bunch of stones falling down in the middle of the night scared the heck out of us. Robin looked out the tent, and shouted out ‘WOW, look at this!’. All clouds had disappeared and the sky was clearer than ever. We could even see the Milky Way. It was beautiful, but also very cold. So Sabina only stuck her head out of the tent, to stare up to the sky. Robin tried to take some pictures of the night sky, but it was very difficult with focussing and lacking a tripod.
We woke up early the next morning to hike back to the guesthouse in Roshka. A car (which turned out not being the 4x4 we expected!) would drive us and the bicycles to Telavi. It was the same road back and we were not feeling it, having to do that again. The hike and the previous days on the bikes had exhausted us. We were in much need of some pampering.
Meeting Spokeandworld in Telavi
Towards Telavi the landscape changed rapidly. The Caucasus made room for lush green vineyards and fruit plantations. Watermelons and peaches were sold by the road, and Sabina was happy to see that these roads were also becoming flatter.
In Telavi we met up with Kat and Lewis from Spokeandworld. They started their journey in Thailand in February, and cycle to Lewis’ relatives in Ibiza. We had been following them for a while and it was really nice to hang out and bombard them with all of our questions. They gave us a bunch of tips, like the iOverlander app, for finding camp sites and invited us to a WhatsApp group with people cycling the Silk road. Super useful!
Meeting with Kat and Lewis also cleared the air between the two of us. Over the last couple of days, being so exhausted and impressed by everything, things had been a little tense at times. Sabina was more quiet than usually, which worried Robin. Meeting friends and having such a lovely time was just what we needed. We can’t thank Kat and Lewis enough.
Georgian wines in Kakheti
Telavi is situated in Kakheti, Georgia’s premier wine region. Georgian wine is known for its gorgeous amber color. In Kakheti you can enjoy wine tastings for a very fair price at hundreds of vineyards. We payed a visit to the Shumi winery, and tasted three amazing wines made from Georgian grapes. But drinking wine and cycling don’t go well together. Those glasses made the last kilometers a giant struggle.
We were absolutely beat, once again. It was over 40 degrees celsius, and we were on a main road. Finding a camp spot would be impossible, and there were only sketchy road side hotels. We decided to cycle in to a side street away from the main road. It was only going uphill, and it didn’t look like there was going to be a suitable patch of grass to pitch our tent.
Part of the family
All sweaty and looking like a hot mess, Sabina decided it was time to ask for help. She walked up a porch where she could hear people talking. It was an entire family, pealing a big pile of hazelnuts. They immediately invited us in and offered us to stay for dinner and spend the night before they even knew our names. Ekka, the daughter in the family and her boyfriend spoke English and translated everything. They told us about her family, their business and their home. It was the weekend, so her brother who works near Tbilisi and his friend were also home.
We felt very much at home in their warm and loving family. They fired up the barbecue and grilled big shaslicks, served their family wine and treated us to a traditional feast. It is truly unbelievable how hospitable and welcoming the Georgians are. It gave us so much energy.
Praise and croissants
Kat and Lewis told us they really liked Sighnagi, and looking at pictures we were also looking forward to the little town on top of a hill (it’s still Georgia, so mountains). It had brutal sections with climbs from 10-14%. But those made the view at the top extra rewarding. A lovely Belgian couple we met at the viewing point, made it even better by praising us and feeding us the best little cinnamon croissants ever.
Not a day goes by, without people telling us we are doing something amazing. This is extremely motivating every single time. Telling someone they are strong and admirable, gives an enormous boost. We should tell it to each other all the time, if you ask me.
Smooth hairpin turns and a stunning view
Sighnaghi was a beautiful little town, with cobble stones and old buildings. We can see why it attracts a lot of people. For us however, it was the descend on the other side of the mountain that made our day. Not having to paddle for a few kilometers, gorgeous smooth hairpin turns and a stunning view. Simply amazing.
Bring your water bottle
Our destination today was Lagodekhi national park. We spotted a camp site on the iOverlander map near a hiking trail to a water fall. The camp site was by the ranger station at the start of the hike. When we finally arrived after a long sneaky climb, it was like we had cycled onto the ground of a music festival. There were loads of people barbecuing, making music and drinking and shouting. The place was littered, and there was a big group of stray dogs, waiting for slim pickings.
At night, when most people had left, the dogs where howling and fighting. A group of young people was still playing loud music. To make matters worse it started raining like crazy, having us run to the bikes to properly close the bags.
Not really knowing what to expect after last nights mayhem, we decided to chance it and go on the hike anyway. We are very happy we did, because it was truly a gem. The river made the temperature much more comfortable and the green forrest provided some welcoming shade. The trail was challenging, but very well marked which made it easy to follow. We had forgotten our water bottle at the beginning of the trail, which caused a short moment of stress. But we decided to drink straight from the stream, just not too much.
Waterfalls and friends
It wasn’t for too long when a Dutch couple, Daan and Evelien (who had also run out of water, wasn’t just us!), caught up on us, with a cute dog that had been following them the whole trail. We walked together and shared travel stories. It’s a shame we never got to meet up after the hike, but they were traveling in the opposite direction as us. We exchanged numbers and shared some tips from time to time.
After a short climb we had reached the destination of the hike, a 14 meter high waterfall. Stoked we had finally reached it, we changed into our swimwear and jumped into the ice cold water. After a while we were joined by Dachi and Matthijs. Dachi is from Tbilisi and his boyfriend Matthijs from The Netherlands. They immediately invited us for dinner and to spend the night at Dachi’s family’s vacation house in Lagodekhi.
It was only 10 kilometers from our camping spot, so after the hike we packed up our tent and cycled to the house. Along the way we were joined by Jonas. A 20 year old cyclist from Germany. He joined us and Dachi and Matthijs were so generous, they also let him stay the night.
Dachi was very humble about the house, and warned us it wasn’t very comfortable. For us it was an amazing experience, for it was like we walked into a museum of the Soviet era. He had his grandmothers Soviet passport and old family portraits on the walls. He appointed us a huge bed, and there was a warm shower and electricity so what more could we ask for.
Our last night in Georgia
After washing up, we went to a bizarre Soviet-like restaurant with local traditional food. Dachi also showed us how to properly eat khinkali (Georgian dumplings). On our final day in Georgia, it was about time we learnt! Apparently you have to turn the dumpling upside down, whilst holding it on the top. Then you bite a small hole in it. From this hole, you drink the broth. Now you can eat the rest of the dumpling, except for the top part. This is only dough and not meant to be eaten.
We also learned some sign language, since Matthijs is deaf. This however never stopped him from leading an amazing life. He has traveled to an astonishing number of countries, 54 to be exact. Dachi translated everything, which was also remarkable, since he had only started to learn sign six months ago. But maybe the best part of staying with Dachi and Matthijs, was seeing how much in love they are. This sparked a renewed appreciation in us for our relationship, for how special our it is and how lucky we are that we can share this together.
It was our last night in Georgia, and a perfect one we will cherish and remember. Georgia’s majestic nature might have tried to break us, but the people we met glued up all the cracks and left us stronger than ever. We are ready for the next country, Azerbaijan here we come.
You can find all our pictures of Georgia in the gallery.
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
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Bedankt Frank en Nathalie, blij dat jullie er van genieten!