(Bernie) Today we set out for our first proper day in Georgia. Batumi was fun and like seaside resorts everywhere with a pleasant seaside promenade, silly towers, candy floss (yes I did see it), lots of kids playing. We didn’t partake of the other side of Batumi with its numerous casinos, which probably accounts for the number of flashy cars beings driven around. Away from the sea, it was a pleasant bustling city and not nearly as tacky as the guidebook had led us to believe.
So after a lazy morning sorting ourselves out we set off about 11.30; and found ourselves straight into the intense heat of the day. The cycle out of the city was mad with cars, lorries, buses, minibuses coming from every direction. We had not had traffic like this since leaving Istanbul but it was certainly no worse than cycling in London. A cyclist needs 15 eyes to see in every direction, but we somehow managed safely with two.
The road up the coast was also very busy. It is just an ordinary size English “B” road but has all the traffic coming up from the border and on to Tblisi. To our right were high mountains so there was no other place for a road to be. So we learnt to live again with lorries and buses whistling past our ears. The road was green and lush, which also meant it was very hot and humid. Mount Mtirala, rising above us, is the wettest place in Europe as the water soaked clouds coming in from the Black Sea deposit over 4m of rain a year on its slopes. There was still snow on the upper slopes, and as we battled through the heat we could have done with some of it.
Most of the road was flattish but we had two sharp climbs that had us wilting and wringing wet with sweat. It was over 45 degrees on the road and in the mid 30’s in the shade, but it is the humidity that is really sapping. What a change from the high mountains when I was moaning about being too cold
About 30km up the coast we came to the seaside resort of Kobuleti. We cooled off in a cafe with a cold drink and had a picnic under trees in the park. We left the main road and took a road that from the map purported to be through a nature reserve but in fact it was ribbon development all the way along but at least had some shady trees.
Most of the road was flattish but we had two sharp climbs that had us wilting and wringing wet with sweat. It was over 45 degrees on the road and in the mid 30’s in the shade, but it is the humidity that is really sapping. What a change from the high mountains when I was moaning about being too cold!
Then, turning off this road, we suddenly felt in Georgia proper as we took a pleasant if minor road inland and passed through a series of villages. Cows and goats roamed free along the road. Cars seemed to be expert at swerving round the cows with hardly a drop in speed as the beasts ambled unconcerned across the road.
By now it was about 4.30 and was still very hot, even if not quite as stinging as earlier. Although we had done a short day we felt exhausted and started after a while to look for somewhere to camp. There was lots of flat ground but no water that was obvious as we neared the industrial town of Ozurgeti. We thought we would have to find a hotel in town, if one existed.
A bridge then crossed a descent looking river with areas of flat ground where kids were playing which looked ideal for camping. So we back tracked to find our way down to the river. The little road we took came to a dead without any sign of the river, so we turned round and tried to ask some men sitting in their garden “river” and “camp” in our best google translate Geogian.
This was met with completely blank looks but they called up the road to a young man (whose name was David!) who came over and could speak pretty good English. We explained that we wanted to camp by the river but he was very concerned about foxes and snakes (albeit non-toxic ones). Debate went on amongst the men and David asked if we wanted a ‘home hotel’. I had read about home-stays being very common in Georgia and this seemed an ideal solution.
We were walked up the road to a large house where one of the men walked in and clearly persuaded the elderly lady there to let us stay in one of her rooms. David clearly felt the initial price was too much so he settled on 20 lari for 2 – about £7! He gave us his number and said we could ring any time at any hour if needed help with translation. He really was incredibly kind and helpful.
The house is large and rather decaying with a feel of the 1950’s but the lady (whose name we do not know) allowed us to cook in the kitchen, with me looking completely blank every time she said anything. But we seemed to get on well enough and she was pleased to have her picture taken. It was still hot and humid just sitting and eating but now we are finally cooling off in the large hallway with a cool stone floor – it all feels a far cry from the glitz of Batumi but we are very glad to be here – having fallen on our feet once again due to the kindness of strangers.