Georgian river running

An already leisurely departure from Batumi was further delayed firstly by meeting a friendly South African cycle tourist who was bird watching his way from Europe to Cambodia. After sharing route tips and discussing the Georgian raptor migration the sun had drifted past the yard arm so I decided to have a hearty lunch before setting off.

Eventually I rolled out of the hostels door, went all of five feet before pausing to add some little extra air to my front tyre. This provided all the opening Georgian hospitality required. A head popped out of a shop doorway and beckoned me in. Slightly dubious I followed slowly and found a butchers where he and his coworker were sitting down to a hearty meal of sausages and chilli to which I was clearly invited. Fit to burst already I simply couldn't bring myself to look this gift pig in the eye and so forced down some excellent fare before being offered (and accepting) some rather fine cognac.

Despite his minuscule amount of English and my absolute lack of Georgian we talked freely using bits of French, German and universal hand gestures and I think discussed at some length the unfairness of Georgia letting everyone visit easily while Georgian's finding it impossible to holiday in Europe and elsewhere. I could only agree and was heartily embarrassed once again by the UK governments visa policies.

Thus It was mid afternoon by the time I wobbled out on my bicycle (more due to overeating than the cognac) and set about a pleasant roll along the sea front cycle route before, eschewing the flatter main route north east towards Tibilsi, I struck due east towards the inviting mountains on what had turned into a delightful sunny day.

Looking up the Chorokhi valley's broad and verdant lower course 


So having escaped the glorious clutches of Cappadocia - cheated by catching a bus to Trabzon - I entered a new country, Georgia after a month in Turkey.

A nation in love with tea (Chi) as much as the Brits, where backgammon (Tavla) is taken almost as seriously as being a good host; Turkey had been more than good to me but it was refreshing to cross another border and find a new and very distinctive land spread before me.

The most noticable change was the weather which had been chilling even in Anatolia and had now taken on a definitley autumnal feel as I cycled along the black sea coast accompanied by blustery squalls. The subtropical lushness of Alara was a marked contrast to the continental aridity from which I had emerged. Suddenly thick green vegetation punctuated by waterfalls proliferated.

I crossed the border under dreary skies which occassionally summoned the will to drizzle.