After a little thought and with the help of Google Maps, I decided that the Caucasus would be the target for Cycling Experiences 2019. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A few weeks later, I realized that Azerbaijan was not possible to catch up for four weeks. Some parts of Georgia were closed. So, it had to be only Georgia and Armenia.
It started well. J drove me to Arlanda. Check-in was good. Sitting in the gate waiting to board narethey ask if there are any who might rebook for the plane was overbooked. I’ll give you 250 Euros, each bid. Yes, why didn’t I think that had seen it went another air Baltic plane at midnight. Instead of waiting in Riga, I could wait in Stockholm. So I signed up. But I didn’t get any money, then. I had to pick up my luggage and rebook me. Imagine my surprise when I was booked on a plane to Warsaw with LOT. Not my plan. But I arrived 50 minutes later than I thought.
At the airport in Tbilisi, my driver was waiting for me. Inthe hostel, I gave him 100 bucks. It turned out to be wrong. Because I had already paid for the transport in my booking. Well,everybody’s wrong.
I stayed in Tbilisi three days. Bought my provisions and took many long walks in the old town. En highlight was the sulphur bath. A tradition. The sulphur bath is the reason why the city was formed many hundreds of years ago.
I left Tbilisi to cycle to Batumi, the famous resort of the Black Sea. I had no idea what it was going to be like but I had high hopes it would be a fantastic trip. First by Tblisi. Crowded number of cars. The road out of town was a four-lane road. I turned off on the old main road. Immediately it became easier and I was able to relax aandlook around. I followed a valley with the KuraRiver’s flow. The first night I stayed 40 km outside Gori in a gorge.
Since Gori is best known for being where Stalin was born, I wanted to see the Stalin Museum. Saw it but only on the outside. Meeting a group of Chinese tourists, not the first.
I finally came to Camp Rest in Khashuri.. The owners were a German-Georgian couple. Camp Rest proved to be a key point for many cyclists in Georgia. Most people I talked to knew the place.
When I left Camp Rest, I didn’t know how difficult thelasttwodaysna would be. But it was memorable days to Batumi.
Batumi,a prized summer town with a long, very long promenade. Stayed in Batumi two nights at a small hostel in the center. It was pretty empty. According to the staff, it was due to a Russian tourist boycott.
Left Batumi to come to Armenia. It started well but after the second day it became difficult, almost impossible to ride a bike so I walked many long pieces. The road wasn’t good.
Was passed by a WW bus, model very old. They stopped and we talked. They invited me to lunch as soon as I caught up with them on the way.
There suddenlycamecyclists at full speed. Two Belgians who were on their way to Baku from Batumi in 14 days. Strict schedule and hotels all the way. A little opposite to my cycling experience. We had a good time together before we split up. The Germans gave me a ride up to the pass. Bad road again. Puncture, again. Then whatdidn’t happen. The pump broke. I’m not going to yell at anyone but myself. It was an old pump that I forgot to check before the trip began. Well, a little stressed i fell asleep in the tent with thoughts rolling in my head. What were my options? Go to the next town, hitchhike. It was about 30 km to Achhaltsiche..
I went, towards Achhaltsiche. Then came towards me a tourer cyclist. Andrei from Russia. He pumped my tire. I’d have walked four or five miles. Come to Achhaltsiche. Found a hostel that was good enough. “Guest house Red house“. Which was not red but blue cement plaster. Law used the time there to look for a bike shop where I could buy a pump. But in vain. There was no pump to buy, not even a bike shop there was.skjul Therewas a manwhowascooking bicycles. Happened to meet three cyclists from Norway and Belgium. Made a little inquiry if they had a pump to sell but no. They needed it themselves because they were on their way to Thailand.
Stayed at the Red House. Ate a traditional Georgian meal with local wine. The efter next day the goal was to come to Armenia. Followed a valley up and up all day. I didn’t make it all the way. I stayed in Ninotsminda. Paid for a room with shared shower in the hallway. I had dinner at the Old Tbilisi restaurant. It was a miserable night. It was raining, car and truck traffic half the night. In the end, fell asleep with sheer exhaustion. Since there was no breakfast to get hold of, I took my bike and cycled out of the city. As soon as I found a good spot, I stopped and cooked my traditional breakfast, oatmeal with strawberry jam and three cups of coffee.
The road continued up towards the border. I saw traces of the Chinese construction project New Silk Road. So come to the border crossing. It was easy. Less easy for the Chinese couple who were required on a visa to enter Georgia.
I had a plan to get to Yerevan the next day. It meant a night in the tent somewhere in the countryside. But then what didn’t happen. Puncture again, and no pump. What to do? Yes, hitchhike. So I stood with my thumbs up. It went, got a lift from a man to Gjumri. He dropped me off at a retread plantd and the hose was repaired. I spun around gjumri until I found the right way out of the city. I was heading towards Artik to cycle north of Aragat towards Yerevan. My idea was that the road should have less truck traffic when the southern road was directly to Yerevan.
In the afternoon I started to feel breathless in an abnormal way. Suddenlyit slashed to the left side of the chest. Oh, then, now it’s really bad I thought. What am I supposed to do? Considering my pacemaker and diabetes, I’m incredibly sensitive to pains near my heart. Towards Yerevan to rest a few days or quickly as it just goes home to Sweden and Eskilstuna for a medical examination. The thoughts spun around in my head. In the end I landed in that there is no loss not to have seen Jereven. The city is still there. Maybe I won’t be here if I get there. So there and then I decided to go to Tbilisi as soon as it went and fly home for an examination.
I found an abandoned farm with murar that provided shelter for the cold wind. That night, my kitchen also broke down. The next morning I cycled to Alagyas and M3. I had an idea to stop a bus that was heading for Tbilisi. There I was standing with my thumb in the weather,anhour, two hours. No one who stayed because everyone was drunk. In the end, it was a taxi that saw me and stopped. I told Tbilisithe way itwas. I can take you to Vanadzor. There you can buy a ticket for bus Tbilisi. Ibbt packed my bike and bags in the car. It was an old Toyota Corolla. That the servo lamp was on fire and the engine did not run at idle did not concern the driver but me the most.
He dropped me off at the bus station in Vanadzor. But there was no bus that night. However, I was able to buy a ticket for the bus the next morning. Here I got to help v a young girl from Texas, USA who worked as an English teacher through USAid. I was looking up to DownTown Hostel. 140 SEK incl. Breakfast sounded reasonable. I ordered the plane ticket home that night. It was now Saturday night and the flight was due to depart on Tuesday morning at 3.50am.. When I was going to load my bike onto the bus. As was a Mercedes Benz 13 passenger, there was a little discussion there. Your bike can’t fit, Well, i said, and picked off both wheels, lowered the saddle and turned the handlebars. Then I put the bike in the back. We put the bags under the seats. It cost me an extra bus ticket to get the bike on the bus. The journey from Vanadzor to Tbilisi took 6.5 hours. I came back to the Hostel.
Onthe day, it didn’t happen much,I packed the bike in my box that I leftat the hostel. I went out to the airport at 7:00 in the evening.
Normally when I come to Arlanda by bike, I usually cycle home to Eskilstuna but not this time. The easiest and fastest was to first take flixbussen to Västerås, wait an hour for the train to Eskilstuna. Taxi to the office to pick up the positionofthekey andthen home. I was home in the early afternoon. An hour later I had showered, eaten and was at the Emergency Department at Mälarsjukhuset. After four hours there it was found that there was no fault of the heart.
Cycling experiences in 2019 will not go down in history as the most memorable. It was too short and it didn’t go my way. Challenging roads, beautiful nature, Equipment that was substandard, a health that was failing.