We’re into Georgia now where we’ll park up the bikes until next year before resuming this ride and head on to Mongolia.
Definitely less prosperous than Turkey and like Armenia still littered with the ghastly apartment blocks of the Soviet-era, there is a sense of relief crossing the line from the darkest, medieval world of Eastern Turkey’s Muslim areas into the cheery world of the Georgians – like Armenia, determined not to be suffocated again by an authoritarian regime.
It’s just amazing that you can cross a border line in the sand and suddenly gone is all the smothering paraphernalia of a theocracy that treats women like cattle, insists they wear sackcloth and ashes as a symbol of some deserved contrition, promotes so blatantly the chauvinistic insecurity of males (who no matter how young push past women on the street as though they’re just a nuisance and have no right to be there), bans alcohol but encourages chain smoking (males only of course) and consumption of a sugar–laden diet. For all their quaint charm our excursions over many years now into the Islamic world always provide a great sense of relief when we exit.
Georgia is drop dead gorgeous, no doubt about that. Not just the mountains of the Great Caucus, which we won’t properly explore until next year, but the high plains that you cross as you wend your way from Batumi on the Black Sea to the capital, Tbilisi are at this time of the year a vision of fertility and harvest. The people up here are of course a lot poorer than those down in the largest city of the Caucuses, but somehow not worse off for it. Their environmental wealth is spectacular. Not since Tibet have we seen farming families making cow dung patties and stacking them on their walls to dry for winter fuel. Life is basic here for sure – one gent at our morning chai stop today became very angry to learn that we could be riding all over the world and over his life he hasn’t managed even to get more than 30 kms down the road. From worlds so different.
Onward to Tbilisi which is an attractive and growing city, sited along a river and with many spectacular public buildings and parks. It is an island of civilisation amongst what remains a largely rural economy.
We’ve finished this section of the ride now, 3 months and over 15,000 kms since we rode out of Casablanca. Time for new tyres, a bit of motorcycle maintenance and then leave our bikes here and go and do other things until we return next year for the push across Russia to Mongolia. We’ve crossed 27 borders on this section, really enjoyed our riding – although for sure we’re getting slower as we age – and feel enormously privileged to have ridden so much of Morocco, the Balkans, Turkey again and now into the Caucuses. Without doubt motorcycling is an unparalleled way of seeing the world, staying independent and having so many options of where to go every day. Stay upright !