Finially, Georgia! The first ‘new country’ on this trip for me. We say good bye to the Turks and are smoothly waved in to Georgia, still feeling warmed by the welcome we got in Turkey. this warmth disappears quickly though, in the first village a young guy makes a kick like move towards us, a few meters beyond a kid throws pebbles at us. Everything feels harsh and less then friendly, welcome back to Christian territory, this is behaviour that was unthinkable in Turkey.
We ride on, as quickly as we dare, which is slow because the roads are filled with potholes. I’ve never seen roads this bad before. Some of the holes are so deep that I’m not sure what country they lead to. The ride like an intense dance with the road, never a moment where you can take the focus of the road right in front of you. In the villages it gets worst, a lot, I didn’t know that would be possible. The up side is you hardly have time to look at the drab uninviting villages. We’re glad we’ve planned to go straight on to Armenia. We get to the border without ever letting our feet touch Georgian soil. I’m willing to assume other parts of Georgia must be beautiful and the people friendly, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever return to find out.
The Georgian-Armenian crossing is in the middle of a plateau, well over 2000m above sea level. The road leading there is actually quite impressive, if you dare to take your eyes of the road. Snowfields stretching in all directions. A few minutes before the border I spot what looks like an arctic fox!
Getting out of Georgia is about is easy as getting in was, the Armenian neighbours have a different approach though. Welcome to Armenia! Please, fill out a form at one window, then get it stamped at another, return to the first window to have them make a copy, take the copy to the ‘bank’ office (size of a large pantry at best) and pay (something with import charges, who knows), return with the proof of payment and collect your documents, have them stamped at another window, and hey presto! You’re in! Well.. until they stop you to do a random search of your vehicle… But then the final gate opens and you are in! But before you continue, take a seat in the stinky little office of the insurance salesman, you’ll need insurance of course.
The whole process took well over three hours and by the time we left the border it was late in the evening and very dark. Now we regret the detour in Turkey we started this long day with. The Armenian roads are only marginally better than the Georgian ones, the ride to our hotel in Gyumri was a nerve-racking and exhausting experience. We rode side by side, to get the most out of our underwhelming headlights. I can still hear Pepijn saying at home ‘Nah, we don’t need to upgrade the lights; we’ll never ride at night’…