GEORGIA: 22.10. - 27.10.2003

Route: Poti, Batumi

Distance: 125 Km

Preface: Although warned several times, we wanted to make our own experience. We stayed just a couple of days in Georgia, but we had experienced quite a bit: heavy rain, roads turning into lakes, great hospitalety, power gaps (up to several hours long) and great hospitalety. Fortunately, we had some very good experiences in the beginning with some locals. But corruption is still a big issue among police officers and so we were finally quite happy to leave the country. We would't recommend cycling in Georgia!

Border Crossing: We were refused to crossed the border between Russia and Georgis on the land and so we took a fast ferry from Sochi to Poti (to avoid Abrasia), the KOMETA 51. Boarding was not so easy, because the crew suddenly wanted 40$US extra just for our bikes, as muchas our fare. We had quite a discussion on that issue and finally the Captain agrreed to take the bikes for free, if we would load them to the back of the boat on our own. The boat trip was not really speacial and we arrived in Poti in Georgia well anfter dusk. Immigration office and cusoms clearance we quite fast and after 1 hour we left the port. Now we were in the middle of a big town and there were no streetlights, so we had to cycle through the darkness. It was quite a challange to orientate in a completely dark town, without a map, trying to find a campground. We were quite fortunate not to fall in one of the big and complertely open canalisation shafts (1m²) and afer about 10 Km we fond a place to pitch our tent in a forest.

Invitation: It was raining quite a bit on our first day in Georgia, and when we started to look for a campsite we had steep mountains on the left side of the road and the sea on the other side. It was already nearly dark, when we were invited from a family to stay with them. We were really happy to have dry place and stayed over night. While we were talking with the father, his daughter and his mother (Babuschka) made a delicious dinner for us. Because it was still rainig very heavy during the next morning we were invited to stay another day. Around noon, the rest of the family returned from a big shopping trip, and while we spent nearly the entire afteroon with playng Bagammon an Checkers wizh zhe men, the women were very busy in cleaning the whole house an preparing a big dinner. In the evening some guests arrived and gave a present to Anna, the youngest daughter. Now a big feast started. While the "kids" of the family (all already adults) had to stay in the kitchen, we were allowed to sit together with the other guests on the table in the living room. Now all the men (father, his eldest son and two guests) started some tough drinking. One after each other stood up, gave a small toast and emtied his glass at once. Now the next me stood up to give his toast (they talked up to several minutes) and this went on during the whole dinner. After about 2 hours, the eldest sun was already so drunk, that the party was stopped and all the men brought him to his home. Good luck but we didn't have to join this dinking performance. After the 3 remaining men were back, they again started their drinking until one of the guests was completely drunk and also brouhgt home. When the father and the last remaining male guest returned, they gave a last toast and the party was over. After all the guests were gone, we asked for the reason of this party. It was the engagement party for Anna, the youngest daughter of the family. The guests were the family of her groom and they came to bring the engagement ring. For us a quite strange engagement, because Anna had to stay in the kitchen to prepare the dinner and the groom was also not participating. Although it was still raining on the next day, we went back on the road on the next day.

Police in Georgia: Already on our first day, we came a couple of times in contact with the traffic police. The first two police men had nothing to do and so they chatted a bit with us and gave us some sunflowers. A couple of kilometers later was a checkpoint, One of the officers interviewed us about our iternery and finally asked us for some dollars, but his partner sent us back to the road. The policemen during our third control were very friendly. This four officers had already realised, that their job was quite boring (normally the cars they tried to stop did not stop), and so they took it quite easy. We told them about our journey and they were very afraid, that we wouldn't eat enough and so they organized some fruits for us. After about one hour, we finally took a picture of them and went back cycling. A couple of kilometers later, we were stopped again (our 4th control on our 1st day!!!). This time the policemen claimed, that we had no registration plates on our bicycles. Than, they wanted to see the documents of our bicycles and because we had none, they wanted to fine us. We told them, that we were not able to understand them (our Russian was quite poor) and just waited. After quite a while, we were too booring for them and we were allowed to leave. Our 5th control on the our 3rd day was the worst. After we were stopped, two police men checked everything in my handlebar bag. They opened everything and took all my money out of the different purses and gave it me. Then they told me, that it would be saver to have the money in my pocket. I belived them, took the mony in a pocket in my trouser and packed all my things back into the handle bar bag. Now they started to serach me for weappons, while Nadines handle bar bag was searched form another police man. After they had searched me I checeked quickly the money in my pocked and I still could feel it. After we were searched, they told us to cycle on. About 1 Km later, I checked my money propperly, and it turned out, that one of the two bundles of money I had in my pocked was missing! The police men had stolen 60 US$. Quite uneasy we climbed the next pass. On the top of the pass were tho youg guys who wanted us to stop. They looked quite strange and so we didn't stop. Now they started to run behind us and one of them even tried to pull something out of his pocket. We were afraid he tried to get a pistol and started to cycle away as fast as possible. Nadine was so shocked, that she cycled straigt off the road. Fortunately a car came just in this moment and so our persecuters stopped and we managed to dissapear around the corner. Back in the valley we were again stopped from the police. This time I had to follow the police officer into his car. After he had checked our passports, he wanted to see a registration but we had no glue, what he was talking about. Instead I told him that half an hour ago we were robbed by the police. He was quite surprised and now asked me to show us all the money we still had left. I got Nadines purse and after he had checked our money he old us to go on cycling. Quite surprised I asked them for assistance. Altough they were quite afraid, that it might have been the chief of the police who did stole our money they made phonecall. After about 15 Minutes, the chief of the police came and broght back our money (althoug he pretended, that it has been in Nadines purse all he time (because he wanted to see Nadines purse and when he started to open it, he suddenly had the money in his hands)). Well, for the circumstances of the chief of the police I finally had to pay 20,- US$. Now we decided, that it would be not safe enough to stay any longer in Georgia and cycled straith to the border to Turkey, where we arrived after dusk. Quite interesting is, that although there were several police ceckpoints until the border, we never were stopped again.




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