Writers block, hence the delay in this blog entry and the subsequent one.
Dusk is falling as I follow two men in spirited discussion as I head back from dinner in Akhaltsikhe. The failing light brings a different kind of perspective of the town to me that is so different to the harsh light of day. Shopfronts across the road, now backlit, reveal their purpose, that I did not divine when I passed previously in bright sunlight, bakeries, hardware stores all come into focus. I notice people sitting outside their homes passing greetings to groups of men, women and children that wander along the streets heading out for the evening. Dusk is a time of day for me which I really enjoy as the world changes from work to leisure mode for many.
You may have noticed that when I started this narrative, I refer to myself, singular: Anne is sick today, we think some food poisoning which has delayed our ride to the border by a day. We started in Yerevan in Armenia with our destination Akhaltsikhe, a small town that is the perfect jumping off point to enter Turkey. The border crossing is quick and uneventful, the road between the two border posts has been resurfaced, unusual at most border crossings where neither side seems to take responsibility for the gap in the middle. On the Georgian side a new impressive Immigration and Customs building is under construction. We contrast this work with the state of the road or should I say potholes on the Georgian side to the first village. It is offset by beautiful scenery – we are at 2000 metres or 6,600 feet.
At Akhalkalaki we follow the Paravani River on the E691 to Akhaltsikhe which turns out to be one of the most enjoyable and beautiful roads we have ridden for a while. Stopping for lunch alongside the river is very pleasant, Storm not restarting is not. With my great mechanical skills, not, I think we have a battery problem, we will continue on until Turkey and get the problem diagnosed there.
Rabati Castle which dominates the western skyline was originally constructed in the 13th Century. In August 2012 it reopened after a restoration which incorporated a hotel and restaurants in the design. I think it is always a challenge when restoring a building to balance authenticity with viability. Would this restoration have happened without the commercial benefits? We enjoyed the spectacular views and being able to visit all parts of the castle, except sadly the museum which may have shed some light on the restored vs the original. I have to say on balance I approve of the work they have done. While the dinner we had there was delicious, this is where Anne picked up gastro we think.
We stayed at the “Guest House Akhaltsikhe”, where we met the family whose grandfather owned the guest house. They kindly drove us to the castle and picked us up afterwards. We spent time talking to his teenage granddaughters who spoke excellent english and were visiting from Tbilisi. Its great to be able to converse with local people.
As the border crossing at Vale is a 24 hour a day operation we leave at sunrise to beat the queues later in the day. It is about 14 degrees celsius, our first cool morning in months, a taste of what is to come. Georgian Customs and Immigration are 5 minutes and we gain an hour crossing into Turkey, so that took -55 minutes, time travel. Turkish Immigration about the same. We need to buy insurance, which normally happens after Customs but as we move westwards more rules and regulations apply. We need insurance first, but we are told they do not open till 08:00, about an hour and a half wait, should have stayed in bed. We pass the time watching local dogs play, Anne chatting to French speaking Turks and eating a few snacks.
“No Motorcycle Insurance” not why, just “No”. They will do car but not motorcycle insurance. No Insurance, no entry into Turkey. Anne contacts our EU Green card insurance provider, whose Turkish insurers say we can buy at the border. Well no, we cannot. A conundrum, all we can do is go back to Georgia and head for the Black Sea crossing at Sarp a 300 km. / 190 mile detour. First we have to register the motorcycles with Turkish Customs so they can then remove them from the system, go figure. Anyway some six hours after we arrived at the border, we are back in Georgia making the long detour for the coast. We wend our way, first north, then west. It’s frustrating but in reality not that much on an inconvenience. A friend of ours recently lost his passport containing all his visas for the next few countries; he handled it very well, restructured his journey and had different adventures – our setback was a mere blip by comparison.
We plan to get as close to the Turkish border as possible, but black clouds block our way, what are clouds again? It has been so long since we have seen one, blue sky all the way. We find a hotel for the night. Wind and rain batter the hotel all night and next morning. We are not on the top floor, but the ceiling drips water, that is probably why there was no passageway carpet. Time to leave in the rain, our first ride in the wet. Cannot get Storm to start, battery goes flat and even with a push from other guests, no luck. We eventually get Storm jump-started from Streak, but we are both sodden, Turkey will have to wait another day.
Are we ever destined to get there or is this an omen? A day spent drying everything out and we will go again tomorrow, so there you go, try try again….