While Trabzon had been a chance to rest up a while, truth is I never actually got much sleep as a result of the hotel being used by the local ‘Natasha’s’ (a term given to the prostitutes that work this area – mostly from neighboring Russia). Explains why it was so cheap though, my total stay of 4 nights coming to just €23. I had lined up a wild camping spot if I needed to wait longer for the visa code, but unexpectedly received a reply to my email informing me the Iranian MFA were still processing my application. I don’t know whether to believe this, having chatted online to other applicants who had been asked to use the ‘urgent’ service at twice the cost (despite like myself giving them more than the stated time) it seems if you say ‘no’ you don’t get the code, or at least not in a usable time frame.
I decided to move on and I’d take the long way round to get into Nepal, going through what was collectively known as the Stans and then entering from China. First stop would be Georgia and after reading a few blogs of other cyclist’s who had recently passed through, I was quite looking forward it. Distance wise, it was 207 km from Trabzon to Batumi in Georgia, which I decided to split into one long day and then a much shorter one to arrive about midday. This was following the coast road, which was not as flat as I’d been led to believe and my first days tally of 131 km included 1,230 m of climbing – that’s a pretty tough day out! I camped in a nice little spot just outside a small fishing village called Findikli and watched my last sunset in Turkey:
The mozzies kept me awake as I made the pretty stupid decision to not erect my tent, instead I’d sleep on my sleeping mat using the tent inner like a bivvy bag. It gave me no protection and I ended up with about 20 bites. At 4 a.m. I’d had enough, packed up my gear and hit the road. The weather had changed overnight and a light rain made a welcome change to the heat even at this early hour.
It wasn’t until 7:30 a.m. that I decided to stop and have a good breakfast, finding a nice quiet spot to sit and make coffee and eat the rest of the huge bread I’d bought on leaving Trabzon.
The ride to the border at Sarp was pleasant enough, except for the tunnels which were pretty scary on a bike given the way the Turkish drivers speed and the sound reverberating around inside. I made sure my lights were not covered up and always on, pedaling furiously through as quick as I could.
As I reached the border I rode on past the line of traffic and when the border policeman spotted me, I was called forward and with a cheery goodbye bid farewell to Turkey. I’d read varying reports about the Georgian side of the border crossing, it had taken an American couple cycling just a few weeks in front of me 3 hours to clear, so I was amazed when I rode straight on through to the terminal building. Once inside, I waited no more than a few minutes in line, then my picture was taken, passport checked and I was in Georgia!
It was still only mid morning (I had taken my time and had a few stops along the way) and the roads were quiet, giving me chance to take in my surroundings, which is just as well because only a short distance from the border I came across The Path Through Georgia plaque on the side of the road next to a small waterfall:
Batumi was only another 30 minutes ride away and I had the co-ordinates for the hostel I would be staying at (which was right in the middle of the town), so it would mean I’d arrive not much after lunch. What I never expected was that I’d get my application for the Azerbaijan visa accepted less than an hour later. I’ll tell you about that and the warm welcome I received in my next blog post, coming soon…