Batumi, Georgia to Tblisi, Georgia
31 July & 1 August 2014
Trabzon, Turkey to Tbilisi, Georgia
The relatively short drive out from Trabzon to the Georgian Border was spectacular with the sun setting over the Black Sea to our left. What was meant to be a quick stop for a swim at one of the pebbly beaches turned into an invitation for a hearty meal with a large Turkish Family with no fewer than 13 children (although the actual relationships are not 100% clear with no Turkish spoken by any of us and only German spoken by one of theirs and one of our own). They insisted we sit down and share their meal and enjoy the sunset! Such awesome hospitality and people are genuinely happy to share!
A big thanks goes out to Frasier from Team Brainbox (web url here) who posted instructions on how to efficiently manage the border crossing, we made it through the chaos fairly quickly. By chance more teams were around such as our crazy Romanian/Moldovan friends and a Danish team called Lotte Tarp. The Georgians were fascinated by the Rally cars and insisted on having their picture taken with the cars!
With all teams convoying to a camping place near Batumi, we are surprised how modern the city and country is. There are great new buildings and tons of people celebrating in the streets – the campsite was about 35 km out of Batumi along the Black Sea coast and appeared to be a 35 km party strip.
Arriving at the camping place, we used the partying crowd as an example and started another unofficial Mongol Rally party – which continued the next morning with exchanging costumes, hats and more singing. Everyone would have loved to stay, but we have still had quite a few kilometers to go. So with all teams good to go, a quick last swim in the Black sea and we were off to Tblisi.
Our old GPS navigator was now retired due to the lack of maps for Georgia, Azerbajian and the Stans. This meant that we were back on the road navigating old school which works fine. The heat was now getting more intense, (37 degrees and the inside heating on full to keep the car cool!) and to keep things interesting, the peculiar driving style of the Georgians. The Georgians drive like a bat out of hell and it is not clear yet if they have the plan to kill themselves, or us or everyone on the road. Maybe there are just adrenalin junkies. Fact is, they over take whenever they want and do not care if a truck is facing them. The oncoming traffic typically backs down at the last minute and everyone carries on quite happily. JP was on driving duty and was white-knuckled and haggered by the end of it. Surprisingly we did not see any accidents and managed to arrive in Tbilisi safe and sound. We were passed by the same car 8 times, however, he would pass and immediately slow down forcing us to re-pass. It was a game that we weren’t too clear on the rules…
Tbilisi itself (except the traffic and driving) is amazing. The whole city is well maintained, both the old and new buildings are illuminated at night and everything is very lively. After another great dinner and a sip of Georgian wine and beer we called it a day. Short nights and hours of driving are starting to take there toll! We opted for taxis thinking that driving at night may be too hazardous. It didn’t matter, our taxi driver drove at 100-120 km/hr in downtown traffic and would accelerate into vehicles, brake hard so that the tires would screech and then flash lights. JP was in the front seat and was silent for the duration of the ordeal whilst the girls could only laugh about it in the backseat, particularly as there were no seat belts.
Top marks to Jessica who managed to organize a hotel with very comfortable rooms and great shower, and her passport with all her outstanding visas had finally arrived! We were now free to head off to Azerbaijan!