It felt like the end of chapter. We had spent an entire year cycling in Asia, in mostly buddhist areas, getting to know the Eastern side of things. Now we would be heading into the real West. Back to something a little more familiar, the places we had learned about in history and where some of our ancestors are from. We reflected on our incredible year over a bottle of Saperavi Georgian wine. Amsterdam here we come!
South America was not suppose to be part of this trip, but we just couldn’t shake the idea of going there. We’d be on the cusp of the rainy season in Peru, but if we timed it all and moved swiftly we’d at least be able to squeeze in a month in each: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Patagonia. We gave it 24 hours to incubate, and over a dinner of cheesy khachapuri. It was clear we were much more excited about spending our remaining time in South America rather than trudging through steamy Turkey and Europe for the next six months. Meaning we needed to end our ride in Georgia immediately, like the very next day...
The beauty of long term travel is the realization of having the entire world at your feet. In the beginning we were meticulous about our planning and rigid with our schedule. And it worked, we hit our spots and times and were on schedule. In general, everything more or less went as planned. But as time and circumstances have bent, we learned to become flexible, enjoy the ride, and see the virtue in the unpredictable. One perfectly timed train ride and you’re hundreds of miles, cultures, and languages away from where you ate breakfast that morning. And with this realization came endless opportunity and options. We were almost paralyzed in our freedom, an ironic problem that many could only dream of, this was not lost on us.
Svanetian towers are iconic to this region and were built by families as a way to fortify themselves from outsiders and attacks. Being high in the mountains they were on their own; they could easily seal themselves with their goods inside the towers with the height advantage of attacking from above.
Something about traveling through deep green gorges really gets my juices going. Leaving Ushguli we stopped for lunch at the top of the pass, enjoying the last views of snowcapped mountains.
Climbing higher still to Ushguli and beyond was absolutely gorgeous.
We began climbing our way up to Mestia, an old medieval town built in the heart of the southern Caucusus.
After a few days wondering around Tbilisi and getting our fill of Georgian wine and cheese, we took a train across the country through the beautiful Svaneti region to Zugdidi, to the start of our ride.
Tbilisi It is one of my favorite cities in the world next to Hanoi. It blends the old world with the new, sporadic modern buildings rise above the old city and ancient sulphur baths are still in use. Adding to the mysterious charm, huge parts of the city are crumbling.
Grand stone churches with impressively high ceilings made you feel it necessary to speak in a hushed whisper, mainly out of intimidation. Heavy large wooden doors give way to flat cartoon-like medieval paintings framed in giant gold and gemstone inlay, gigantic frescoed covered walls and relics of priests past. Every church felt so lavish compared to our time in Ladakh with the simple Tibetan Buddhist monasteries made of mud with plastic framed pictures of the Dali Lama, crumbling smoked out frescos from indoor fires for centuries, worn plastic flowers and rows of threadbare pillows for the monks to sit on.