After spending 17 days in Turkey, we were ready for something new! Georgia was one of the countries that we were both looking forward too! Expecting a lot of nature and nice cycling roads we entered the border at the black coast in Hopa. Again, same as when we crossed into Turkey, the trucks were lined up for at least 10 km’s waiting for their turn to go through customs. Once past the border the smooth asphalt we got used to became worn down and bumpy but we continued to follow the road along the coast.
After 33 km we arrived in Batumi, known as the casino city. It soon became obvious with some palace like buildings and billboards promising gambling paradise inside them. The coastal boulevard was very nice with a smooth cycling path between palm trees, overlooking the colourful large-pebble beach. Apart from the strangely beautiful architecture the centre of Batumi wasn’t so special with mostly noisy traffic and deprecated buildings. Luckily Sara had managed to book a nice and cosy Airbnb apartment close to the boulevard where we spent two nights before heading out to Georgia’s mountainous mainland.
We were very determined to not follow the main road any longer. After 2000 km of mostly main road through Europe we were sick of trucks and cars passing us at 100km/hrs. We wanted some solitude, nature and silence! So we chose to cycle via the southern Caucasus route. What we didn’t realize though was that winter wasn’t finished. Only when we had gotten near the Goderdzi pass we were warned by other cyclists that it was still blocked by snow. However we were too stubborn and curious so we continued!
In the end it was the best decision we took. The next week we went very slowly. Nine days of non-stop cycling, only 410 km, but still one of the most memorable weeks of the trip. The views were scenic, the camp spots amazing and the cycling experience was magic, fog and snow covering the mountains. Clearly Georgia was testing our limits! If you want beautiful scenery you have to work hard! Lots of climbing. Difficult road conditions, challenging weather and limited access to food. But Mother Nature gives you something spectacular and MAGIC in return!
So how did it go on the Goderdzi pass? This pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.027 m above the sea level located in the Ajara Autonomous Republic, in southern Georgia. The gravel road (called Batumi-Akhaltsikhe road) to the summit is scenic, but very rough and listed on dangerous roads.com.
In the beginning we thought, this is still reasonable, but slowly the road was getting worse, to a level we haven’t experienced yet. To our surprise we were still able to cycle on the very rocky surface and we were enjoying it. The big factor here was that the more we were climbing the more beautiful the scenery became. Slowly we were reaching the snow level and everything got covered by a nice snow carpet. Just 5 km before the real climb, a car stopped to check if we were ok. They told us that there was a ski resort (closing that day – 1st of April) just a few km’s further up the road were we could find a place to sleep. An hour later we arrived at the little ski resort, we got a big bungalow for 6 persons to ourselves, a fire place (which wasn’t lit so the place was freezing) and we made some pasta bolognaise (with the last food we had). It was clear we weren’t able to climb up to the pass, given the meters of snow, so we started to ask around if somebody could help us. The ski resort was still under construction and they offered us a free ride with a snow cleaner the morning after. It was good for business they said J.
It even became better when a friendly guy offered us a ride up to the pass with a snow scooter to watch the sunset. The scooter was pushing us up the very steep hill. We will never forget the moment when the scooter turned 180 degrees and we suddenly got an overview of the whole mountain range! This was a goose bump moment! The best day so far!
The next stop after the Goderdzi pass was an afternoon rest and camp at lake Paravani. It’s a volcanic lake located in Javakheti Plateau between Abul-Samsari and Javakheti ranges. We had an idyllic image in our head with the perfect camp spot and a lovely afternoon. Never have to high expectationsJ. Arriving at the lake, it was difficult to find a spot, the wind was too strong and temperatures were dropping below 0. Instead of pitching our tent with a lake view, we had to find shelter from the cold wind under the trees, made a camp fire, ate the last bread we had and went to bed at 6 pm to stay warm. The morning after however was so incredible beautiful that it was worth camping at -6 degrees!
The last cycling day we were determined to reach Tbilisi. We still had 102 km to cycle and 1000 m of elevation (1/4th of the whole distance). And we made it! The road was stunning! It was a continuous up and down, with steep climbs and nice views. We arrived late in Tbilisi, exhausted, but extremely satisfied. Time to treat ourselves for a nice cocktail and a great dinner. We planned to stay the weekend in Tbilisi, as a friend from the Netherlands was coming for a visit. At the end we stayed the whole week. I guess we needed some rest after a rough cycling week. We had a real holiday, visiting the nice old town, eating delicious Manti (kind of dumplings), tasting local wine, having a beer with some other cyclers sharing stories, daily drinking a perfect made cappuccino and our first sushi on this trip! Fully charged for the next country! Azerbaijan or Armenia? Read the next blogpost to find out what we have decided.
Tip: Don’t miss the delicious freshly made bread ‘Shoti’! You will find little bakeries in every village. Shoti is a type of Georgian bread that has an oblong, crescent-like shape.
Learning point: Never trust your first impression! At first, arriving in Batumi, we were a bit disappointed. We learned in the meantime that we have to give a new country some time to get to know it, get used to the new culture and behaviours of the people! This country is in our top 3, based on our experiences we had! Our 19 days in Georgia is something we will not easy forget!