Georgia is beautiful and despite what some blogs say has some excellent roads and very friendly people. We enjoyed one of the best downhills ever dropping down from Tsalka to the Algeti river. Losing 600 metres over 13km on smooth roads with amazing scenery. We also had the un-nerving experience of cycling down through a thunderstorm as we dropped down from 2000 metres. What started with a bit of cloud from above, turned into torrential rain with thunder and lightening as we dropped down through it.
We came in from Posof on the Turkish border into Akhaltitze and followed the valley up to Ninotsminda and then past lake Paravani and onto Tbilisi. The scenery along the valley from Akhaltitze was breathtaking. We met Den who was heading into Armenia and then on to Iran and eventually Australia. We cycled together for a couple of days and we were sorry to say goodbye when we headed off to Tbilisi.
Another amazing downhill on good roads brought us into Tbilisi. A beautiful city with some lovely old buildings (some ravaged) and plenty of interesting new ones as well. We spent a couple of days enjoying the sights and eating very well. All for very little money, for a capital city it is very good value. We discovered some excellent Georgian wines.
One of the main difficulties cycling through Georgia was staying sober. Everywhere you stopped people were keen to get you to try their wine or spirits. We stayed in a guest house in Signaghi with Nato and Lado who owned a vinyard and were keen to show off their wine and spirits. We were soon joined by their friends ad neighbours who were happy to move on to beers as the wine and spirits began to run low. How do they manage to get up in the mornings?
From Tbilisi we headed east towards Lagodekhi and the border with Azerbaijan. Once again the roads were good. We were having a rest when a car stopped and Lado got out offering to drive us the 100km to his guest house in Signaghi. We were heading towards Signaghi and took up his offer for the accomodation but not the lift. The next day we bumped into the whole family on the road again this time about 30km away from Signaghi. They offered to take our panniers to ease our load. We were already suffering with the heat in the high 30s and were only too happy to accept particularily as the last 8 kms were all uphill.
Signaghi is a beautiful small town perched on a hill overlooking the plain and a wine growing area.
From Signaghi it was a short 50km ride to Lagodekhi and the border. We set off early to avoid the heat and got to Lagodekhi very quickly. We decided to go up to the Lagodekhi nature reserve where a friendly ranger offered to look after our bikes whilst we went for a hike along one of the trails to a waterfall. This proved a bit more strenuous than planned, having to cross rivers by paddling and scramble up steep banks. We camped in the reserve which was home to wolves, bears, lynx and coyotes.
The following day it was a short ride to the border with a quick stop to buy our last Georgian bread. You can smell the bakeries before you come upon them. They sell the bread through a small window, which is often hard to spot.
We spent just under 2 weeks in Georgia but would have loved to have stayed longer. We needed to keep heading east before the summer came. Georgia is a great place to visit. It is getting back on it’s feet after the war with Russia and they have invested heavily in developing their tourism. All it needs are more people to visit. It is a great place to cycle tour, you just need to be able to hold your alcohol!