Super Loopy

When I first started doing these trips I used to write it all up every night and send it back to a small group of people I knew that had asked to be kept informed. That was a RTW trip and by the end it was really getting a burden to do. I meet so many people on the road that are spending half their days living life just to keep other people happy. Doing reels and loads of posts on social media and generally spending a good percentage of their time focusing on a tiny screen at the expense of everything around them. Each to his own. I decided a long time ago that it didn't make a blind bit of difference to anybody's life to know what colour toilet paper I'd used or if my latte was slightly cooler than I'd like at breakfast. So I got off that particular treadmill and left everything to chance. The chance that I'll miss something when I'm walking the corridors of my memory. If I'd forget to open a particular door. If I'd forget to read a note I'd scribbled on a mental wall somewhere when I was bored and chatting complete shit to myself. If I'd walk past an image that at the time had hit me hard in both eyeballs. Thats the thing about these blogs. They're not 100% complete. They're not 100% real either. But the only person that knows is me. I'm completely at the mercy of my recall and the older I get, the more secrets my memory keeps.

But today is a load of bright red memory doors, pictures surrounded by flashing lights, bright and vivid graffiti notes written in letters 4ft high. Today is a good day.

I didn't get to see much of Goris yesterday and I'm sure there is more. Get up and get out early before breakfast when the stray dogs are uncurling and following you looking for food. When the buildings are empty and yet to eat their breakfast of workers. When the shops are flashing good morning with old strip lights struggling into action. The best time of the day.









I've made today an optional day. Optional purely because the route passes through an area that UKGov advises against traveling in. The route options south from here are severely limited and all involve getting up close and personal with the Azerbaijan border. Armenia and Azerbaijan are still at war, as more recent events have demonstrated, and so you're advised to keep away from it. I could sound all blasé and bolshy and say I just don't worry about things like that but that would be untrue. All we can do today is turn the spider sense to the max, take our passports in case of roadblocks, and just be prepared to turn round at any point. It's almost certainly going to be no problem but you never know.

Everyone decides to do the route anyway. They're all grown ups and they've all done a great deal of traveling. So we fill up and head out.





Climb out of Goris and the scenery is just beautiful. Mother nature showing off her skills to the max.




The others have gone on ahead but I take a moment to photograph the fields. My little memory man is running about looking for something. A very very very old door indeed. He pushes it open and I see my mum. My mum was a talented artist and musician and cook, and rubbish at just about anything else. But I remember sitting in a field as a child in the summer. She had taken me with her instead of to school which she occasionally did. I spent the day under a tree watching an oil painting just like this come to life on a big piece of canvas. It was beautiful. But I also remember sitting at home picking all the tiny bits of paint off the poppies .. I really wish I hadn't

We're headed for another old church that apparently sits precariously on the edge of a mountain. I've been to quite a few mountains. I've seen quite a few big valleys and spectacular views but today is different. It looks more like some Armenian God has come through the place with a fuck off giant knife and just sliced it. The road is stupid stupid steep and very very twisty. All the trucks going up are in their lowest gears and are travelling at walking pace. They're glowing with heat and its a miracle they're moving at all. All those going down are similarly in their lowest gears scared shitless that their load will run away with them. It's a brutal introduction to a range of mountains that will test us all, and will keep the little men in the engine rooms throwing away the fuel injectors and just pointing a hose of fuel directly into the cylinders.





The church is about 700 years old and has been heavily restored but it's impressive none the less. Anyone that walked up these mountains and prayed deserves to get into heaven.. or at least be told they will ..





The road up until now has been good. Lovely and smooth. Paved with the good intentions of all the visitors no doubt.. but from here it quickly turns to shit. Sometimes we like shit and today is one of those days. Things shouldn't always be easy. Things should be difficult and scary and dangerous. I like to face these things sometimes. Ride up to them fast and not have time to think. I can think about them afterwards when they're done.. or when I'm dead.

The route is down to Kepan which is really close to the border, then south to Meghri which is right up on the Iran border. It’s not exactly surprising that given the host country and the mountain environment that the roads are often seriously bad. The few flat bits are usually ok but as soon a you have heavy labouring trucks pulling and pushing the tarmac then it will always tear and fold and generally look like black pastry rolled by an incompetent cook. You can come tearing round a corner and suddenly the road is just out completely with trucks all over it and clouds of thick crunchy dust, or go into a village where the road is about 1cm wider than a trailer and looks like a footpath. It's pretty hard work some of the time but it's only about 70 miles to Iran and we're not turning back now.







Kapan is quite a big town. Certainly bigger than I anticipated. Dusty and hot and within artillery range of the Azerbaijanis. It certainly has an atmosphere about it.




The mountains change again as we head further south, and the roads with them. The valleys open out and the scenery gets even bigger




The border is a bit of a non event. A big fence and a watch tower, and a supermarket selling lots of stationary





By the time we get back to Kapan its mid afternoon and we need to stop for food. Brian probably needs a nap too. So we spin round in the traffic like a stunt parachute coming into land and pick somewhere next to the river.




The place is staffed by two Russian speaking women and I think we've caught them in the middle of an argument. They both look at us and throw us a menu then one sulks off to the kitchen. I'm sure I see her claws withdrawing into her hands as she goes. The other tries to control her ridiculously overfilled lips and ask what we want. She looks like she has had two car inner tubes inserted and painted bright pink. Jesus why do girls do that. I'm totally distracted by her lips just bouncing against each other making a weird slapping noise.. i think I notice an inflation valve in there somewhere too .. but we manage to quickly point to some snacks and off she goes to the kitchen.

About 30 minutes later and we've got nothing. I make my way to the kitchen where the door is open and the two women are having a full on bust up. Trout lips is screaming and shouting and the other one is in the corner with her claws out taking the occasional swipe to see if she can score a puncture. As soon as they see me they don't stop arguing.. not even for a fraction of a second .. they just slam the door shut and carry on..

We give it 5 minutes and we're ready to go when the food eventually arrives. Mine seems to have been hit by some flames somewhere along the way, probably from Michelin mouth, but I'm not going to dare complain about it.

Riding a good road in reverse is often a completely new experience, and so it is today, and just a good experience as it was on the way down. We're all wearing smiles when we head out to eat. It's been a day that sticks its head out above all the other days so far. I guess none of expected anything from a place like this but it has turned out to be a hidden jewel.[IMG]

As much as we'd like to go east from here, such is the tangled history of this region that we have to go north and back into Georgia. We'll head up to Severn today and cross back tomorrow. It's a dull cold wet day to start. All the flowers we saw yesterday have closed their eyes against the rain and the road has decided to secreet all its soaked up oil and cow shit to form a lethal film that has my old winker stinker working overtime. It's a tense couple of hours before the clouds make way for the sun and we can stop to relax.




Lake Severn is HUGE and there are several routes round it. Brian and I decide on a mountain route, yet another one. We've been away for weeks and we've done many thousands of miles but we still haven't got any flat spots on the tyres. Its been a full on bend fest and not what I expected.




Honey is big business.. well.. its a way to make money anyway, and you see temporary sets of hives all over the countryside all with temporary structures for the keepers. Like this bloke spending his summer living in a bus with only 1000 bottles of beer and a dog for company. He came over already pissed as a fart shouting for me to come and have a beer with him. It must be a lonely existence up here.


We get to the lake shore and follow it north in the sunshine. This is an arterial route and its quite busy. The road is in the 21st century with some shiny new technology, but move 100m into the fields and they're still way way back in the 20th. Thats the first time I've seen horse drawn equipment being used for a long while.


I'm heading for another church just for a change. It sits on the edge of the lake and is quite a picturesque place normally but as we approach it we see a car turn down the road towards it.. then another.. then another. This cannot be a coincidence.. especially when the next 10 turn too. We've arranged our visit at the exact same moment as a wedding blessing and the place is rammed with 1980 TKMax clad wedding guests wandering about and spoiling the views... well .. most of them anyway









I'm wandering about and I see an animal on the bonnet of a car. WTF is that doing there. Getting closer I can see it's a fox, or rather it was a fox, way back in the day. They have tethered a stuffed fox to the wedding car. Of course they have. I ask one of the guests what that is all about. Apparently it's just tradition. Fuck knows how that must have come about


Get to the accommodation at Severn and it's a bit shit and there is an Armenian Arthur Dailey in charge, trying to negotiate cash prices and making all sorts of promises he has no intention of keeping. I'd warned the riders this was likely up this way. Despite being a sort of resort, Severn is a complete and utter hole. Still, this place does have a new micro brewery just up the road amongst all the rubble and ruin so every cloud and all that.

I get a ride to the edge of town from the owner so I can get some cash. Looks like I've taken a ride in a time machine. The town is very old Soviet style. One quick shake and the whole lot would fall to the ground.










As I'm walking I come across a bloke jumping up and down on the bonnet of an old Moskvich. He looks properly angry and upset. I reckon the owner must have really pissed him off and he's come to vandalise it. Turns out he is the owner, and he's just trying to shut the bonnet.

By the time I get back I'm knackered and ready for bed. Nice eh? I've always wanted to spend the night with a princess.


Great Write up and magnificent photos :okay

ps. I wouldn't worry too much about the broken "throttle cable", that's for the heated grip :D
Great Write up and magnificent photos :okay

ps. I wouldn't worry too much about the broken "throttle cable", that's for the heated grip :D

Doh :augie. Obviously the 1190 has a fly by wire throttle anyway, so no throttle cable. I just instantly thought that was the throttle position cable.. didn't think about the heated grips :). What a Womble :thumb2
What a fabulous afternoon reading your trip. Superbly written and supported by your stunning photography . Mind blowing!
While thats a night I won't forget in a hurry. Not because of the princess, but because the bed was harder than a whore's heart.

We get an early breakfast and head north out of Armenia. We want to cross as close as possible to the Georgia/Azerbaijan border and try our luck at getting in. I'm not hopeful but you never know until you try.

So .. exit Armenia



And meet some Russians going the other way. A young bloke and his pert girlfriend. I wonder if they're still there, or if he is presently cowering in a ditch somewhere, or worse, permanently holding his breath inside a black plastic bag. You pass people all the time, never knowing what fate will decide your future is.



Arrive at the Azerbaijan border and its obviously open, but the queue of 'none' seems to indicate that entry is by invitation only.


We park up in the sun and start heading for the booths when a very pretty young woman in a very snug and perfectly fitted uniform chassés gracefully over .. it was worth the ride here just to watch her TBH. She has obviously managed to switch five men into basic instinct mode as we all stand on our back legs, front paws in the air, waiting for instruction. She takes our passports, our visas, and absolutely anything else she wants and chassés back to her booth to fax the Azerbaijanis our details, just on the off chance that they've forgotten the border is closed to tourists and they feel like making an exception for 5 salivating man-dogs waiting at the border with their tongues hanging out.

But they don't. They wont let anyone in without special permission. Bollocks.

I didn't know where we would be tonight so I didn't book anything for today. Hopefully fate will be kind. It's quite early so we'll go on a hunt. I could stop somewhere to find somewhere on the web but I can feel the force is with me today. Either that or I've got the shits coming on.

Tbilisi is hot and tight. The hotel we're heading for is in the old town. The old town clings desperately to a steep hill and its a fractious ride but as luck would have it they have just 3 rooms left and we're in at the first attempt.

I stayed in this area before and I like it. I like cities with trees and shade. I like the light and shadow. I like the cool and the heat. I like the ups and the downs. I like Tbilisi a lot.










We're having a day off here so instead of a nice sleep in a couple of us decide to get up early and visit Kartlis Deda (mother Georgia) before she has a chance to put her makeup on. We wind our way up a set of steep stairs, head down, heart rate up. We hear chants and gentle bells from a small church on the way up. Step inside and there is a single shaft of morning light that picks out a young priest in the darkness as he kisses a deity on a painting . A perfect image. A memory stamp. A fraction of a second where everything comes together perfectly. It's something impossible to recreate. A tingle, a shiver, and then it's gone.

Up up up we go, and there she is. Shiny, pert and proud reflecting morning sunlight in all directions.




However early you think you are there are always people there before you just watching the world go by. Another soul sharing eye contact just for a moment. Point to the camera, a smile, a nod, a snap, a thank you and goodbye


Then back to the daily grind .. ummm.. I wonder what the 'more' is.





Looks like the traffic likes to play bumper cars round here too so we'll have to take care. Everywhere you look you see cars without any front and/or rear bodywork.



Someone has recommended we go and eat in the sewing district which is a good 30 minute walk down and across the river. Its supposed to be the 'happening' up and coming area, but I get 10 minutes in and think this place must be a lot more interesting.


And catch a pavement perv taking pictures of the local talent.


We get to the sewing district and it seems our passes expired about 30 years ago. Yooffs everywhere and the air thick with the sweet smell of ripe tottie and drugs, but not the smell of cooking meat. Roasted daffodil and dill risotto isn't going to even make a tiny dent in our appetites so we take one last inhale and leave.





Go to get a taxi, and a Covid test ..


The taxi driver is a Turk. A big ball of hair with hams of hands dwarfing the steering wheel. We're only with him for 10 minutes but still have time to learn he's been married 3 times and he's divorcing his current wife because she's an angel in the kitchen but refuses to be a whore in the bedroom like his previous wives, which is nice.

Last time I was here we rode north to Russia and that door is currently closed but we decide we might just go and knock on it and run away to see what happens. We're trying to get some local information about some of the other roads we want to try so we spread a map on a table in the hotel, chuck in some GPSs, and men are drawn in like moths to a flame.



We're quite a way from the roads we're asking about but the general consensus seems to be that one is ok, and the other is currently a complete shit fest. Perfect. I better get some more signatures ASAP in case they have to identify my body by my helmet.


We decide to take the long road through a national park. Even the normal roads round here are twisty but the morning is like riding up a coiled spring. A greased coiled spring. Morning dampness and cow shit covered roads makes it a slow and fractious ride.





By the time we get to the main road there is a massive cake size hole in my stomach that needs immediate attention. I guess we'll just have to sit on this balcony overlooking this beautiful lake and have coffee and crepes.




We're headed north to try and see the Gergeti Trinity Church which is perched up in the mountains near the border. Get to the car park and its full of 4x4 vans taking passengers up. The road is out apparently, probably a landslide. So we decide to follow the vans up the alternative rough road. I carry a huge set of balls in my panniers that I can retro fit for special occasions and I put them on this morning because I suspected we could have trouble up here. These balls are made of steel and are 30cm diameter. I have to put them on my knees when I ride they're so big. But they're still not big enough for today. The rough road is all very big loose stones and its so steep that stopping isn't an option. It's not an option but with all the loons in their vans on the road its sometimes unavoidable. And when you stop, you put the brakes on, and you just skid backwards out of control. We soon decide discretion is the better part of valour head back down to the security of the black stuff. I'll leave the church until the next time.




The border is only a few miles north of here so we decide to go up for a look. Shout "Boo" at the Russians. The last section is cut into the mountainside and is an absolute bitch. A slow dangerous crawl in the company of hot trucks and lunatic drivers willing to risk life and limb for a 10 second advantage at the border. We barrel into a big dark tunnel and get a quick flash from a truck coming the other way. The tunnel is full of horses.. of course it is..

The border isn't that busy when we get there and we see why on the way back. There are queues of lorries along the side of the road and they're being managed in groups. When I say queues... I mean 40 km of parked trucks .. I've never seen anything like it.





The ride back is truly spectacular. Its up there with the very best.







There was only a choice of one hotel tonight, somewhere along the road back towards Tbilisi. A hotel passed by by every decorator since sometime in the 1970s but it's welcoming and its clean and it serves fresh trout. In fact the trout pool is so close to the barbecue they could jump straight on if they really wanted to.






Another night, and the same old routine from the same set of bags. A sight familiar to bikers the word over. I love the wear and tear on my kit. I love all the memories etched onto it in scars and scratches. I love the worn zips and buckles, the familiarity and feel that means you could do it all with your eyes closed. I love opening my eyes in the darkness and those first few seconds working out where I am. I just love life on the road. Any road.


Utterly brilliant, love it.
You have obviously inherited your mother's artistic traits, your photography and creative writing skills are provoking, inspirational and witty....yet after all this I'm still chuckling at your description of Brian and his ' Glowing in The Dark Arsehole ' after his ' through the eye of a needle episode '.
Sorry Brian.

I've been planning ( or not, as I never plan anything ) Georgia next year so this has been very informative..and entertaining :thumb2
I read the whole of this thread so far in one hit....way after my bedtime....utterly addictive reading as ever. :thumb
Thanks boys. You're both very kind :) I really appreciate it. I'm such a very very lucky old bloke to be able to regularly treat my addiction as I do. Dredging my old brain to write these trips up seems to keep the channels open and dementia at bay at least it seems
Today we're making our way west to Kutaisi. Another unknown city. Another place people have over time decided that they can't be bothered to walk any further and just built a house.. or two.. that turns into a village, a town, a city. Same the world over.

I go on a hostess hunt for breakfast but she's nowhere to be seen. Eventually someone raises her from her bed and she looks like death. Apparently the Russian border was closed for a while last night and people were arriving at all hours. I'm sure I saw sleep dust floating in my coffee, but I'll try anything once ..

The queues of trucks we saw yesterday continue here. Probably another 50km of them all the way towards Tbilisi. Christ only knows what it's like there right now.

First stop is Gori. There is a Stalin museum here. He was born in Georgia but decided there weren't enough people to persecute so he crossed the border for a much bigger audience. I think its generally agreed he was reasonably successful at it. Going round the place its just amazing how a single bag of bones with a brain and a moustache can get to cause just some much pain.






We're going to take a bit of a loop to Kutaisi. We're all aware we're homeward bound and we just want to gorge ourselves on gorges and get high on hills where ever we can. Turn off and for a few miles it doesn't look like a good decision.


But soon enough the roads begin to rise, the surfaces begin to smooth and the smiles begin to widen. Unlike these poor bastards I saw trying to revive the worlds oldest combine. Believe it or not this thing could actually move. I can imagine any wheat that came out of it was 90% ferrous though.


Stop for lunch at a new enterprise in a small town. Looks about 100 years newer than everything else and even has air conditioning. The chiller has some odd looking bottles containing stuff that Geoffrey Darmer might be familiar with, but like I said, I'll try anything once.







We get about 200m down the road and there is the sound of sirens. They've obviously clocked us at the bar and they have their breath test equipment out. Just the think when you've just necked a pint of unknown liquid. I really hope that it was someones bodily fluids rather than vodka.


The roads and the weather both start to deteriorate as we get closer. Setting the mood and the atmosphere for the town. Getting ready to give us our first impressions. As we get closer we go over a small pass with a shitty road, and a gas main pipe that doubles as a crash barrier.



We're rarely staying in the most expensive hotels in town so quite frequently its like arriving at the spotty, hairy arse end of the place rather than the pretty face. Today I reckon we're somewhere round the navel. Its a mix of good and bad, but they seem to have specially arranged perfect imitation of our best English drizzle. Its getting dark and we're hunting for the hotel with eyes half open and full of water. By the time we've seen it we're passed it. The city has a big one way system and its busy and blocked. But that never stopped us before. Using the 'its always easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission' principle we just turn round and ride against the traffic, round the tables and chairs of the restaurant under the hotel and into the sanctuary of a semi derelict building to park.

The hotel is still being finished but the host is a big happy round lady with a smile that touches both ears and who disarms me with her charm within 5 seconds. I'm very quick to judge. Its not always a good thing and I'm not always right but I can't waste my life giving tossers a second chance. My twatometer is pretty accurate and will usually tell me if someone is worth the effort within that first few seconds. This lady is one of the good ones. She's struggling with the language a bit but she's laughing and seems genuine. The whole place smells of paint and various fixtures and fittings are laying about on the floor some way away from where they should be, and the front door is being fitted, but she's just trying her best to start a business. Its warm and clean and dry. It's more than enough.

I go out on an ATM hunt. At first I take a wrong turn and head down to the hairy arse end of town where the bins stink, the roads are collapsing and some of the potholes are so deep that they have to employ very tall people to stand in them holding flags.





But turn round and the town quickly improves. Its a big place. Lots of people about and a nice friendly atmosphere.




I thought this one was naked for a moment..


I get down to the river and spend a while just people watching. This really couldn't be anywhere else in the world. Eastern Europe .. where red hair colouring comes to dye.




A dinner of dumplings is followed by a dark and drizzly finale to another lovely day. I like Georgia, I really do.


We've got an extra day or two to fill that we expected to spend in Azerbaijan so we decided to spend another night here and do a big loop to the north. We punch a few random waypoints into the satnavs and go out to play the landscape lottery. A lottery where every player seems to be a winner. But first, breakfast. The kitchen isn't finished so its a big picnic in our room for a change.


We head up into the mountains again, going through all the many twists and turns of today's story until we reach a tiny village at a junction. A row of three small shops. There is a small bar come baker and I try to get some coffees from a nana busy making flatbread. She dusts off an old jar of instant and puts some warm water in it. I go into one of the two tiny shops to try and buy some milk and there at the back in the dark is a young girl sitting under the 50% stocked wooden shelves. She's a pretty girl and her smile lights up the whole room. I doubt she sees many people here, just spending her day waiting. What sort of life is that? She will probable spend her whole life doing this. I'll ride away in a few minutes, filling my brain with more adventures and experiences and she'll just wait.. Life is definitely not fair. Still, I ask her to sign my helmet, and her mum too. I hope I'm wrong. I hope she's just visiting her parents. I hope she has a set of leathers and a 1000GSX parked round the back that she will drive on its back wheel back to civilisation this evening.




The further north we go the more desolate and abandoned it seems to get. Still desperate for a coffee we slowly cruise through looking for signs of life and finding very few. A small shop is open and as I approach there is a fat old bloke sitting on a stool outside doing some proper professional man spreading. Balls trying to bust out and getting heated by a full on fart as I walk by. Ok then ..

While the others head out I turn around and ride back to what looks like an abandoned train station. I ride in and right up onto the platform to be met by a load of blokes busy doing nothing, probably waiting for the one monthly train that still runs.










Fuck I love these places .. I love this places about as much as the locals hate them I'm sure. I don't suppose there are a lot of options round here though.

Out of town there is a big thick blanket of mist. I wonder if it's hiding what's in front, or what I've just gone through. Its bloody cold for a while and bloody difficult riding too. But suddenly we pop through and into yet more prizes on the landscape lottery. More steep and tight roads with views hammered onto your senses with 6 inch nails. Gorges, lakes, black tarmac snakes laid purely for motorcycle fun and enjoyment.






I remember speaking to Brian before we left. Georgia was on his wish list and he was quite excited to be coming here. Well I for one am bloody glad we did. What do you reckon old mate?

I ain't no doctor, but Brians legs and feet don't look very healthy in that pic !
I ain't no doctor, but Brians legs and feet don't look very healthy in that pic !

That’s a result of exiting his bike while still in motion a couple of times. Brian is older than God and takes a while to heal😀😀
That’s a result of exiting his bike while still in motion a couple of times. Brian is older than God and takes a while to heal����

Kudos to Brian :bow:D
Every tour needs a ‘Brian’. It’s wisdom and WTF all mixed together.

Great pics and write up Jason :thumby:
Before coming out here I had a scout about on some Georgian motorcycle tour sites and their routes. One of them had an off-road route south from here across the mountains right down to the very south of the country where it joins with another road to the east coast that I've ridden before. The road to the coast was about 50km of rough road but from what the locals say, it's got worse. Brian's old bones are being held together with gaffer tape and elastic bands. He doesn't want to do a few 100km off road so he takes the main road route to the west and south and we head for the hills.

The road is good. Too good. Surely this can't be the right road. Sure its very narrow, steep and slippery with running water crossing it everywhere but its smooth with not even a ripple in sight. Either everyone was wrong or their information is 20 years out of date. There is a hotel on a bend. A local Mr Big is parked outside, time to check.






Well its the right road. Thats strange. As we're leaving an electric van goes down the hill. Electric van? WTF? This is Georgia FFS.

The answer lies just a few miles up the mountain. A big, brand new and extremely posh resort come spa perches smartly on the side of the mountain. Polished and slick and obviously frequented by Georgia's most affluent. All tight skin and fixed smiles, bins full of fat sucked from bellies and butts, not a grey hair in sight. People thinking you can cheat father time but he'll always have the last laugh.

We get about 10ft past the spa, the tarmac road abruptly ends and the fun begins. This is what we were looking for.



The road isn't too bad here. Lots of big drops and very narrow sections though. We're not alone up here and one of the riders has a very near miss on a blind tight bend when a small kamaz doormobile comes hurtling round at him. It was a very near miss. I rode though his personal puff cloud just after it happened ..



Up we go through more clouds, twisting and turning and climbing in the mist. Slipping and sliding and seeing the ghosts of huge boulders and rock faces lunge out of the fog at us and then just as quickly fade back to grey. Horizons come and go, a big orange spotlight fades up and down, and then suddenly you just pop through into clean air and bight sunlight. An isolated farm sits astride the ridge at the top with a clear view of the roller coaster descent.



I find going down harder than getting up .. ummmm .. anyway.. the descent is very very loose with and seems to have been constructed with a million fist sized rocks. Its rough and hard on the body and the bike. I've not been feeling well at all this morning and the ride is really taking it out of me. By the time I've done the last 10 sandy kilometers I'm feeling fucked. Just as the proper road looks like its going to appear I see one of the other fast riders bike parked at a cafe by a stream. I stop, put my foot down, and .. nothing. The bike just falls to the ground. I've got no energy at all. My leg just gave way and folded. Still, the bike didn't hit anything and fell on sand. Time for a brake while I wait like a mother hen for the others to arrive.





Well, thats the difficult bit of the day done anyway. Or so we think... We treat ourselves to a few miles of tarmac in the sunshine. Let the concentration muscles recharge as we all ride along in auto pilot. By this stage of a trip you just forget you're on a bike. Forget you're wearing a helmet. You're just in motion and it all just feels completely natural, a man/machine blend, like you're wired in. It's a lovely place to be.

We had to wait a while for lunch.. a very very long while. I think we had to wait for the alevins to turn into trout.. whatever .. its now getting on in the afternoon. Good job we've only got about 100km to go.

We get to the turn back to the coast and it's as rough as I remember but last time it was about 50km and then smooth tarmac all the way. Piece of cake. Home in time for tea and cake... make that Horlicks and a nightcap.

The road has been completely and utterly destroyed. It's taken a lot of time and hard work to make it this bad. Not one metre of it is flat. It's all big holes, ruts and lots and lots and lots of dust. Still. It's only 50km. The place is a fuck fest and its much worse than the ride through the mountains in the morning.

We come to a section where there is a huge excavator working. He's paused to let a car go past the other way. The car goes past, and I press the (soundbomb!) horn to tell him we're coming through the other way. I set off and just as I approach the body starts spinning and the fucking great weighted rear end starts to appear across my path. That woke the auto pilot up .. FUUUUCKKKK .. I feel someone open the throttle wide and the bike kick out the tail as I duck my head and just hope for the best. When something like that happens I immediately delete all the details. I wipe it from my recall. I just don't want to think about it.

After a few hours we reach a scabby couple of shacks at the top of the pass. It feels a bit like the restaurant at the end of the universe. Quite a few bikes and lots of cars whose passengers have spent hours being thrown about like balls in a bingo barrel, nursing bruised heads and elbows and knees, asking just how long this shit goes on for. One of the car drivers says he has taken 4 hours to reach here from the place we're headed to tonight.







After about 50km we get to Khulo where I'm hoping there is tarmac. It's there. It's smooth. It's quiet. It's about 1km long. Still there are shops here so I can refill my bruised bladder and rest for a few minutes. My throat is sore and my nose is blocked solid and I feel completely shit. Thats not good.





What was once tarmac between here and Batuni is now like riding across a massive zebra crossing with a km of tarmac.. a km of broken shit .. a km of road .. repeat until dead. Its quite late by the time we roll into a very basic hotel in Batumi in the rain. We're not only in the arse end of town tonight, we're at the spot where the wiping takes place..



Still, the main criteria are met and there is food across the car park. We're just passing through, we just need somewhere to pause horizontally for a few hours and we're out back into Turkey in the morning.



When we wake up, Georgia is crying. Huge tears are running down its grey face. Georgia is obviously sorry to see us go. Don't worry .. you're beautiful and you're a lot of fun Georgia. I'll see you again.




Its a long soggy wait at the border but at least we already have all the insurance sorted, unlike these Russians. Note the 'wear once' Russian rain gear. That's a boy called Max. His mum, Julia was a Russian that had moved to Georgia and she had met up with some other friends that had come from the far east of Russia. She was taking Max as her pillion. The group was going as far as the Bosphorus where their welcome ran out and they could go no further.




Good to see and old AT and an 1150GSA in the group. I really miss my old GSA. That was a proper bike...

As anyone that has been along there will tell you, the coast road along the south of the Black Sea is shit. It's shit when it's sunny, and its extra shit when it's twatting down. It's just a miserable, dull and boring ride, especially going west. You seem to just ride past a never ending strip of dirty grey random buildings. There aren't any beaches on the coast here and its a straight drop into the sea. There aren't many services on the westbound side either so when we eventually see one we stop. Stop and look out towards where all the shit is kicking off.


The traffic is bad as we get to Trazbon and we all get separated on the way in. 4 of us get to the hotel and one of us doesn't turn up. I wait for 30 minutes. Nothing. So I get on the phone to the local Just Eat concession and ask for a Brian to be delivered, and sure enough, 15 minutes later this arrives



Brian does have a GPS but out here its purely for decorative purposes. He is happy to rely on his bag of lucky stars that he carries. This time he stopped, threw one in the air and as luck would have it hit the nephew of the bloke that owned the hotel we're staying at.[IMG][IMG]

I'm curious as to why there aren't any beaches, especially round here where there are loads of hotels so I take a wander down to the 'sea front'. Ahhhh... OK ... its a liquid equivalent of land fill. Fuck what a mess. As I'm walking back I snap a couple of pictures of the trucks and a posse of blokes come running out of their port-a-cabin and start shouting at me. I obviously don't give them whatever response they require because the next thing I know they're picking up rocks and throwing them at me. That's probably the most physical work they've done all day.



Yea.. I really do fancy a swim in that. That looks exactly like I feel at the moment..





I get a message from the others having a beer way up on the terrace of a nice hotel. Apparently the view is much better from there. Best go and see. Yep... don't leave the hotel and you'll be none the wiser.




Go out to dinner at a place where they keep armaments on the stairs just in case the conflict makes its way across the water.




We're staying round here because we want to ride the D915. Another one on the worlds most dangerous roads list. Another idea that sounds great from the comfort of your couch in Eastleigh, but maybe not so good when it's time to point your front wheel at it. We're still quite a way from home but at least we're closer to a hospital so off we go. But first, another monastery.

SÜMELA is stuck into the side of the mountain like a giant sticky bogey flicked at a rock face. Its unnatural, it's odd and today it's hiding in a thick veil of mist. Public service announcement: If you visit there on a bike, change into your comfy shoes before you make the climb up otherwise you're feet are likely to end up looking like they need an all day appointment with Dr Pimple Popper. Like a lot of these places though its tourist central. Such is the vacuous nature of many travellers competing in the Instagram MEMEMEME challenge, nobody is interested in the actual place, they just queue at the best selfie spots and spoil the view with giant fish lipped pouts.

I'm back on the waiting game. Standing and tracking the tourist traffic, waiting for a gap or a brief moment before the next set of lips is locked and loaded. Its a frustrating game, but if you play it long enough you just might get a selfie-less shot.

Snap... nope ..




3 hours later ..



I can't avoid it any longer. We head for the D915. Turn off the main road and its all good for a while, but you can feel it getting almost in-perceptively narrower with every passing mile. Like riding down a long funnel. We start to climb up a new road section and it suddenly just filters right down to a single lane cut into a hill towards a small village. I wonder what the others are thinking sometimes. I wonder if they get as apprehensive as me about these roads. I wonder if their stomach's are tied up in knots and their arses are closed tighter than a submarine door. Well, if I'm going to die, let's at least eat a few biscuits with the locals first.







Head off on the road and and suddenly you're living life on the edge. It's not so much scary as just intimidating. Sometimes you kid yourself you could go over the edge and you would probably survive but here that's just not an option. It would be the sound of rushing wind and bouncing bones as your body turned itself into a human airfix kit.



On a small dirt bike this would be quite an easy ride, but on our bikes and with the occasional oncoming traffic appearing round a single track blind turn its not so straight forward. It's a really beautiful ride though and the views are enough to push the thoughts of death aside and replace them with feelings of just being properly alive.





Before you know it, you're through the clouds and back on smooth land.


Aaaaaaaand relax... If you're ever out this way then do this road. It's worth every scary moment. And the road back down the other side is delicious too. You feel just like a Sycamore seed dropping from the tree and spinning to the ground. Smooth, sinuous, open, fast constant radius curves take you down to the plains below and the sunshine pushes you fast through through the fields towards lunch.


We get to a small town just as Friday prayers are about to start and the place is mobbed. I've never seen this before and it's a very odd sight. There isn't enough room inside the mosque so everyone has just stopped where they are, put a mat on the ground and kneeled to pray. The centre of the town is a mass of bodies going up and down in unison as the prayers are read. Its a real sight to behold.. from the comfort of a cool cafe ..



Turkey is such a melting pot of people but they seem, on the surface at least, to be quite tolerant of other people's choices. You'll see groups of girls out walking, some in their full religious dress while their friends are in tight jeans with their lady bumps being tortured by tight tank tops. A strange place indeed.

Anyway .. back to the planning ..


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