5 – 9 October 2016
This section covers 450k through Georgia. I had heard many good things about both the people and nature, but the fragile wheel and late season made me bike right through in 4 days – though not as short as I had originally planned as that road (according to other bikers) was horrible and unsuitable for biking. So from Bavra in Armenia, I rode main road U11 northwest to Akhaltsikhe, U8 northeast to Kashuri and then U1 to Zestafoni. Coming from 2,400m to sea level, it was rolling downhill all the way (except one 300m climb) – most of the way along rivers sometimes though narrow gorges and sometimes through open countryside but always with stunning views not least because of the multi-coloured tree leaves. Riding in the sun, it was warm (and sometimes even hot) but in the shade of the mountains, it was quite cold especially on the steep and fast downhill sections.
From Zestafoni, it was a flat ride west to Samtredia and Poti where I turned south along the Black Sea for Batumi and the Turkish border. I mostly rode on main roads, but I also biked long stretches on highways (allowed by the police when I asked them). Less fantastic than the previous days but still nice through open and mostly farmed landscapes. I was especially happy that the Black Sea coast was far less built-up, than I had feared with only a few town/villages until Batumi. At sea level it I had some hot days though the strong western head/side wind helped cool me down.
Even in the fairly remote areas I biked, it was built-up/cultivated, so camping was not as easy as I had imagined, but I still ended up some fantastic places by rivers, creeks and the Black Sea. In the mountains, it was still fairly cold during the nights, but it was worse camping in the high humidity by the Black Sea.
My bike problems continued though the rim-protection I made in Armenia (from my broken Australian puncture-free tube) kept it at a manageable level with average1-2 problems per day. And as I finally got 4 tubes and some extra patches/glue in Batumi, I felt confident making it to Istanbul unless I got new big problems. A recent problem had grown as my handlebar now wiggled about 5mm up and down in the sides. I thought it was bend or broken in the middle, but later I realised it was the handlebar stem that was loose (and couldn’t be tightened) - not strange from close to 80,000k, many on rough roads making me hold on tight. I was mostly concerned it would break on a fast downhill which would have disastrous consequences, but since I couldn’t fix it, I tried not to think about it. Another disconcerting feeling on the steep downhills was my rear wheel being very wobbly – the 3-4 bumps of 5-8mm on the wheel made my tires very bumpy. The tires were hardly worn, so it seemed like a big waste, but I had to make the most of my equipment focusing on getting to Istanbul where I could get a new rear wheel and a lot of other new parts.
Riding straight through the country, I didn't have much interaction with the people, but those I met were all friendly. And most of the times I was fixing my bike by the roadside, one or more people stopped to inquire if I was okay. A pleasant change and the best local experience since Southeast Asia.