Everything is different when we cross the border with Georgia. The surroundings are greener, with beautiful forests and rivers. In the shops we only find bottles with alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate and other sweets. In the small villages it is difficult to find decent food.. Many cars that have been discarded in Europe are here still driving around for years. We see many vans with Dutch or German advertising still remaining. But also many cars from the former Soviet Union, like the small Lada off-road vehicles or the super heavy Kamaz trucks. They drive without a bumper, without lights, with cracks in the windshield, it doesn’t matter. The old trucks have a hard time getting up the mountains. Often we are buried under big clouds of smoke, when they overtake us.
Four days in Georgia
The first night we sleep at Papuna in the village of Vale. We drink three types of alcohol, beer, home-brewed wine and cognac. With every sip we take, we bring out a toast for just about anything you can think of 😉. The next morning we leave a bit hungover and with two bottles of wine on the back of our bicycles. Two days we cycle through a beautiful green valley along a river, with not too many mountains. The highlight is the Aspindza valley, where we see an old monastery made in the mountainside. After that we cycle up a mountain pass to a plateau. When we arrive on the plateau, the surroundings are very different. A flat, green and grassy landscape, with many poor villages. The roads in the villages are often so bad that we are almost faster than cars. In the villages we look for something to eat or drink, but we can’t find anything. Eventually we reach the main road, where we find a shop with food. We quickly eat two chocolate bars, to regain strength and so that we can look for a suitable camping spot. Unfortunately, it starts pouring down with rain and we can not find a place anywhere. We trudge on for three more hours and just before the sun sets we decide to turn off in a small village. We see nobody walking outside and knock on the first door where we see a light. A woman opens up and turns out to be an English teacher. We are invited in, offered tea and she prepares dinner for us. We spend the whole evening chatting at the kitchen table. In the evening we thankfully roll out our mattresses in the dry barn.
Climbing mountains in Armenia
After taking some pictures together and a good breakfast we leave the next morning for the last kilometers to the border with Armenia. Armenia is very similar to neighboring Georgia. However, in Armenia the borders with the neighboring countries Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed, making it one of the most isolated countries in the world. A few kilometers after we have crossed the border, a blue truck appears in the distance, on the almost deserted road. We can try to hitchhike? It is raining and the surroundings are not very interesting. The truck comes to a standstill. Two men get out and they gesture that I should first have a look inside the trailer. But as enthusiastic as I am, I immediately climb into the trailer and pick up the bags and bicycles. When I look around, I see that I have put everything in a layer of shit and straw. Lynn can take place in the front and I’m sitting in the back of the truck, in shit and pouring rain… The truck is traveling at high speed over the very bad roads. I’m glad when the 50 km are over.
The north is less interesting and the weather has been bad for a few days. We decide to take the train from Gyumri to Yerevan. A ride of about 3 hours, for only € 1.50. In Yerevan we take a few days of rest, to clean our gear and to work on our blog. We also visit the genocide museum, which makes a big impression on us. During the First World War more than one million Armenian Christians died in the Ottoman-Turkish Empire. The Armenian genocide, also known as the forgotten genocide, is not recognized by Turkey. A reason why the boundaries are still closed. The Armenian genocide also seems to have been an inspiration for Hitler..
From Yerevan we cycle via the main road, the M2, to the exit that leads to the Tatev monastery. The first day we see the impressive mount Ararat in the background, known from the story of Noah’s Ark 😉. After that we cycle in three days, over several mountain passes, to the exit that leads to Tatev. At the Tatev monastery a gondola has been built, which saves us a mountain pass but also gives a very nice view over the green mountains. After the visit to Tatev we cycle via a dirt road to the last big city before the border with Iran, Kapan. In Kapan we stay with Karen and his grandmother. In Kapan there is still much to see from the former Soviet Union, and they also live in an old flat that was built during that era. In this city too, we see a lot of poverty. In Armenia we have mainly camped, but we are grateful to get a glimpse into the lives of the people in Armenia.
Off to Iran
After Kapan we cycle in two days, along a very quiet road to the border with Iran. Three high mountain passes, but very beautiful nature. The last twenty kilometers we cycle along the strictly secured border with Iran. The next day I put on a pair of long trousers, Lynn puts on her headscarf and covered clothes and we ride a bit nervous but very curious to the border with Iran 😊.