Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Other Side Of The World

At around noon local time time today when we crossed the border into Azerbaijan I found myself exactly at a 12-hours time differential from where I live back in beautiful Bellingham Washington.  By my calculations that puts me on the other side of the world.  Now when I as growing up whenever Bugs Bunny dug himself a hole deep enough to reach the other side of the world he always ended up in China.   I am just a little disappointed in having been mislead for so long and that he really should have poked his head out of his hole here in Azerbaijan.

Late start as it was there was only a short run up to the Georgia border from Trabzon Turkey with the hotel only a few minutes on the other side.  We had been warned of a series of speed traps on the coastal road we would be riding so the speeds were kept reasonable, although the increasingly heavier rain had a lot to do with that as well (cue the video cliche).

Some confusion at the Turkey border exit as there were issues with the data entry regarding all the bikes that had entered the country in the container.  I guess it was not an insurmountable problem as we were all soon in Georgia and headed to Batumi.  After checking in the rain let off enough for a short walking tour of the town.  This place is strange.  Every building has an abundance of decoration of every style and epoch.  Building size protuberances have been added just as facades.  Large modern ostentatiously designed edifices sit empty after a change in government changed priorities.

Mostly a transit day as we rode East across Georgia from the Black Sea to the capital Tblisi.  A stop around lunch time in Gori to walk through the Joseph Stalin museum.  The town of Gori is where Stalin was born and the shack he spent the first few years of his life is enshrined in the backyard of the museum as his personal train carriage.  It was a strange place to visit.

Riding into Tblisi was an experience in urban warfare that I'm sure is only practice for what is to come.  The GPS was barely any help as construction had shut down the direct routes to the hotel.  As there was some international government and business conference in town we had been relegated down to a 3-star hotel well away from the action and on street parking that extended onto the sidewalk in order to fit all the bikes and sidecar. 

Rest day in Tblisi.  Walking tour with our guide Inga through the old town and over to the sulphur baths.

Helge had made arrangements to purchase about $1000 worth of gifts and needed essentials for a local orphanage to which we all had contributed.  After the walking tour we hoped on the bus and drove out of town to the orphanage to deliver the goods.  We spent an enjoyable hour or so interacting with everyone who lived at the facility and learned that is just more than orphaned children who found refuge there.  After getting back into town, dinner was yet another continuous glutinous feast of Georgian food accompanied by some traditional music and dancing.  After dinner we had the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion with a former diplomat who had a lot of insight into the local geopolitical environment.

While a large chunk of the group riding down to Armenia for the day I headed off to the Davit Gareji monastery complex South East of Tblisi.  I decided to pass on the optional Armenian leg as I wanted a little more time in the city and to see what Georgia was like when it wasn't raining.  There were two access options up to the site; one a "maintained" road, the other a 4-wheel drive recommended.  I chose the former and can only imagine what the unmaintained route would have been like.  The road deteriorated almost from the start and I was standing up on the pegs for the last 20km, picking my way through pot holes the size of trucks and avoiding as best I could the mud puddles (well maybe just the biggest ones).  Getting to the parking lot it was a little tough to feel like a motorcycle riding hero when I found a couple of taxis, some transport vans and a large tour bus already parked there.  Oh well.  The ride was worth it as the views were great and the one monastery that was easily accessible was interesting to walk around.

Oh, and the Brian Project is well and truly under way.


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