When Roads become Rivers

After slowly curing the hangover and going back over the medieval arch bridge, we continued our way up through the scenic landscape.
In this area, close to Turkey, churches were mixed up with mosques.
The picturesque town of Khulo. After this town, the road became really bad.
The first peak at the snow mountains of Goderdzi, we would have to cross to continue our way to Tbilisi.
In contrast to the dusty mountain trails we were struggling up, the water was flowing freely in this area. Due to the snow melting everywhere up in the mountains, every few kilometers we came across a creek or a waterfall, of which we always took advantage to cool ourselves down in the first heatwaves of this spring.
Perfect vehicle to navigate the roads and trails in this area.
We’re coming closer to the snow…
And closer…

Around 6PM the sky started to darken up. It seemed to rain soon, but we still had some way to go, and didn’t really know when to expect to see the next village, or if it would have a market. We didn’t really have any food left. The trail was going steep up and the condition was horrible. Even pushing the bikes became really hard, and we almost fell a few times, due to slipping on the gravel. We passed a little shed and Hsiang-Hsin suggested to wait there for the rain, but since it was not raining yet and we still had some way to go, i thought it’s better to continue. After another few hundred meters the rain started.

And how it started… It was raining heavy within a few seconds. There was another little shed, 100m up the hill, but getting there was tricky. We had to struggle up the hill and when we finally reached it, it was locked. We managed to stand under the edge of the roof and stay comparably dry, while our bikes and luggage got soaked.
After around half an hour, the rain still didn’t really stop, but got less, so we decided to continue if we don’t want to stay there over night. After a little while we passed a cement factory and three big dogs were rushing out and barking at us. We were angrily barking back, because we were not really in the mood for annoying dogs following us up the hill, while we hardly manage to keep our bikes straight. A man came out of the container there to calm down the dogs and seemed very surprised when he saw us.

He immediately made gestures to invite us in. It was tempting, but we also didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have food left and we asked him about any nearby markets. What he said didn’t sound very promising, and even if we continued we probably would have had to camp somewhere without dinner. So we came inside, and felt relieved immediately. The little room he had in the container, with a bed, a TV and an oven, was super warm. So we took of our wet clothes and placed them around the heater, as good as it was possible with the limited space. He even served us some dinner! This saved us and when he told us that his boss would arrive soon and we should better hide in the back room, we were already ready to sleep. We slept tight and snuggly, woken up only by the shouting of the truck drivers arricing once in a while to pick up cement (i guess?).

Selfie by Hsiang-Hsin

The next morning we woke up rested and there was a lot of fog. The worker warned us with sign language of wild wolfs, and that we should wait until the fog lifted a bit. After his relay workers arrived and we shot a few selfies, we left for the final 5km up the hill. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, since it was raining a lot the night before, the dusty and slippery road turned into a muddy and slippery road. In addition, the snow we saw from afar before, now was at our left and right, piled up at the sides of the road.

The ascent was as steep as before (look at the picture, 10%!) and we were really struggling our way up the hill. Usually at that point we would have hitchhiked, but somehow there was only one car every twenty minutes and unfotunately none of them looked like they could transport two cyclists and their gear.

Somebody changed the skis to a bicycle.
Excited about this funny move, i extended my arm and shot a picture 😉 (Hsiang-Hsins panorama function…)

Luckily, in the end, one car passed us and had some space for us!

The pickup was already transporting two bobs, but that didn’t stop us and we just loaded them on top of them.
On the following few kilometers up to the top, the snow became higher and higher and we were driving through a canyon of snow. The canyon was not very wide either, resulting in complicated encounters, when cars were coming from the other side…
(Pictures by Hsiang-Hsin, my camera was on my bike in the back ;))
Just after the peak, the driver stopped. He reached his goal. In this little house a filmcrew from China was shooting a tv series and he delivered the sleighs for them, to move around snow in the set.

Just when we loaded off our bikes, it started to rain heavy again. The people from the filmcrew told us to come inside the house and wait for the rain to get smaller. They made a fire and we got to chat a bit about what they are doing. From the actual chinese crew there was only the director and the others were local helpers, preparing the set for the shooting later. There was also a translator from Russia, who just graduated from Chinese Studies and who was flewn in from there to translate between the Chinese and the Georgians, while she doesn’t speak a word of Georgian. But because Georgians generally speak Russian, it seemed to work, although she said she felt a bit awkward. Anyway, after a while the rain became a bit less and we continued our way, now going downhill.

After all, it was going downhill now. The condition of the road was bad as before though (and they told us it won’t change for the next 20km), and in addition there was more and more water on the road.
Big pits like this were frequent and we were just a little faster than uphill before. (Pic by H-H)
And then we met this passage. A powerful stream was coming down from the mountain and flowing right into the road, merging with it and turning it into a dangerous river. (Pic by H-H)

For around thirty meters the road was literally a river, sometimes kneedeep water flowing where there was the trail before. We started to throw rocks inside the stream and started to build some kind of path. But because of the length we could just go a few meters before we had to start use the rocks of our path to continue the path on the other side. But then we could not go back to get our bikes. It was a mess. We somehow managed to bring one bike to around half of the passage without falling into the water, when we really didn’t know how to continue. One of my feet already dipped into the water and was completely wet, so we started to consider just taking off our shoes (Although the water was ice cold and the stones slippery and wobbly) when the bus of the film crew suddenly raced past us. We waved to them and they waved back, but continued down the hill. We already thought they didn’t sense our desperate situation, when they stopped the Van.

We started to build a kind of path out of rocks. But the water somehow have to go somewhere, so either it made the stream bigger than before, or the water was flooding over the “path”.

They shouted something to us and we shouted something back, but it was hard to understand each other over 30 meter distance. So they turned around and stopped next to us. They told us they could take us to the next town, but we have to come around the car, because the entrance is on the other side. Unfortunately the water was knee-deep here and going through the water just to be saved from the water, kind of missed the point. Also, my bike was still at the beginning of the river. So we suggested they wait for us at the beginning and we would load the bikes in over there. They did, and we were slowly turning around, trying to not slip on the slick stones that we used to build our path. Also, because we used some stones to continue our path before, the path was not complete anymore and Hsiang-Hsin got her shoes wet aswell now. But we somehow managed, and loaded the bikes in the van like a kidnapping scene in an action movie.

Like a kidnapping scene in an action movie. The outfit and sunglasses completing the look. (Pic by H-H)

The crew was obviously in a hurry. We just loaded the bikes in the back of the otherwise empty van. We just attached them with one expander to the wall, but there was a lot of space for them to move around. The guy was also driving like there was a bomb in his car that would explode if he brakes, and the condition of the road was still terrible. So for the next 20 kilometers, we were sitting in this shaking box without seats, trying to keep our bikes from falling on us and not hitting our head in yet another sudden movement. But somehow we managed and we arrived in one piece in the city, where the film crew dropped us.

Just when we got out of the car, and thought we finally were over it all, it started to pour down in currents. We were saying a quick goodbye and rushed to some roof, but we were already super wet. While waiting under the roof, we saw a mystic figure passing by: On our way, several people told us about a german man, walking from Germany to Pakistan by foot. He seemed to be slightly ahead of us, when we were in Turkey, but it seemed our ways finally crossed in Georgia: There was this guy, walking determined past us in rainproof outdoor clothing and a little cart he was pulling behind him with some straps attached to his body. He didn’t look impressed by the heavy rain, and he wasn’t paying any attention to the two cyclists at the side of the road either. So we missed our chance to talk to him. Maybe see you in Pakistan 😉

Our first meal in a restaurant in Georgia. It was delicious and very affordable.

After the rain stopped we set out to find food and had our first meal in a Restaurant in Georgia. Before we were kind of intimidated by the language barrier, but there they had a pictured menu and prices on it. We settled for a kind of Gulash Soup, a freshly baked flat bread, stuffed with cheese, called Khachapourri, georgian dumplings and an assortment of pickles. It was so great to have some warm food after all these adventures and when we left the town the sky looked like nothing happened. We spend the night camping out of the city, making a fire and spreading our things all out to dry them.

Just to get them all soaked wet even more the next day, but that’s a different story…

Just like nothing happened… The last sunbeams of the day shining on trains outside of Akhaltsikhe.
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