We go and after a bit 'of ups and downs begins a long descent with which we greet the Svaneti. But do we're not done with the hills. After a few kilometers of lowland our friend the gps tells us to turn left. We obey. And immediately a police car there begins to stalk, is the second time. They make a few meters, stop behind us then depart as soon as we leave. A few more meters and stop. In the meantime, it's raining and we're struggling with a climb that never ends. At one point the road becomes an expanse of stones. Here if you mess up you have no escape, you expect the gravel. And always with the stalker cops behind. Every now they stop and ask us where we are going and seem they want to give us a lift, but we do not know the fee of this particular taxi. Rather to trust these guys we'll prefer to walk up to Tbilisi. At the end of a very rocky slope they stop following us. It does not seem real. They had been following since 40 kilometers! That is, all day.
We arrive in a rather ugly village on side of a river and we stop to buy bread and cheese. We want to sleep near the river, it's late, we're tired and wet. But guess who's arriving? The cops! New province, new shadowing. They ask us where are we going (again), we tell a city on the road, which is to far to be reached today, but we prefer not to say we'll free camp. We leave and, needless to say, they begin to follow us too!
It 's almost dark, we stop in a pasture near the river, cops or not.
And so the kilometers of shadowing becomes 60! It starts to rain again. We assemble the tent just in time. After a little 'there comes a car, here they are again, it is a nightmare! And then the absurd thing is that we do not understand what they want from us. Walking around in the pasture where we pitched the tent and go away. But the weirdest thing happens after about half an hour, when they come back again. But this time, with their wives and children! Show them the tent (we stay inside of course), we hear children saying "hallo, hallo."
Then, they go!
But during the night they return a couple more times. They do a spin and go, flashing us with the car lights!
Could them be our body guards?
We would like another beer but we have to meet Dato (Green Alternative) for the interview about Khudoni Dam project. We get a bit late (helped by the fact that here there are no names on the bells and often not even the civic number). The interview is fine but takes a lot of time. Since he had many interesting things to tell. I go back home while Daniele goes to meet David to go play music somewhere.
Just left the hotel we realize that we are in a city dominated by cars. Crosswalks and traffic lights do not exist. Somehow we manage to cross the road (3 lanes on one side and 3 on the other) and we do ten kilometers straight ahead to our left the river. It reminds us the Tiber. After endless minutes spent trying to cross the road (the only ways are the subways but with bikes is impossible) we arrive at the embassy shortly before closing time. The visa should be ready in three days. We hope. We go in search of a place to sleep. In front of a fruit and vegetable shop there is a sign that says "hostel tobacco", we ask but they say that it is full. The guy in the fruit and vegetables does some phone calls, and there comes a girl who lives in Salerno and helps us as translator.
Another lady takes us to the guest house, is a very nice house in the neighborhood Sololaki, that is very similar to some cities in southern Italy. We're welcomed by a lady who speaks only Russian, but says that the son and grandson speaks English, she calls the son and we talk to him, he's very kind. Take a shower and go for a walk around the neighborhood, eat something and back home, where we find the boy and the dad watching the football game. They are all very nice, we drink the wine that we bought together and offer us the Chacha (undrinkable for me, has been 60°). I would say that a glass is enough (while Daniele would like a second one), but certainly works well as a digestive!
We leave, no more body guards.
We have no idea what they wanted, maybe nothing. Maybe they are bored and following us was an alternative way to spend the day. The street is an up and down but nothing impossible. Here the houses look quite poor.
We are in Samegrelo again.
We arrive in a city, there is a train and decide to ask if there is a train for us and our bikes up to Tbilisi. The road is a bit 'boring and we would not want to be late for the Azeri visa application. The lady at the ticket office says that we can get on with the bike. Well. But the train leaves at 18:00.
Let's go get something to eat, we sit with some men who obviously like us because we are compatriots of Celentano. When we go to pay we realize they have already paid for everything! Let's go back to the station and find out that the backcombed ticket-woman has changed his mind. No more bikes on the train. It seems they are too big. We try to make her understand that they are normal size bikes but no way. Couldn't tell us 3 hours ago?! Again we feel in a Kafka's story. Soviet times are not completely gone here.
We are about fifty kilometers from Kutaisi, we begin to pedal, we should arrive before the train and hope to meet a ticket lady who knows what she says.
The road is a long and busy strip of asphalt. Flat. We arrive in town, the nearest station doesn't actually exist. There is a second station further away, but before this ghost station there comes a proposal that we can not refuse, a marshrutka will leads us to Tbilisi, for the same price of the train! Win, with a little hard work (Daniel loses almost a fingernail) load the bike in 4 places at the bottom of the Ford Transit and the bags in the small trunk. Here we go! The driver shoots blaring Georgian and Russian disco music. He drives like a crazy. Overtakes all, even when there is no space. And he doesn't makes the sign of the cross, not even once, a shame for a Georgian! The first half of the street is beautiful, we thought it was boring, we regret a bit for our hurry. We arrive in Tbilisi at 10 pm, the driver leaves us in a place full of taxis, but far from the center. The other passengers are complaining but he is adamant! He was probably in a deal with cab drivers.
Anyway, as soon as we get down a tropical storm begins! We seek refuge with the taxi drivers. Eventually one of them wants to accompany us in a nearby hotel, we agree the price (including the room) and we accept. And then, why not trust a taxi driver without an eye?
The hotel is close, there is no sign outside, understand that it is a love hotel, it's run by a lady who's grim but sympathetic.
Tomorrow we'll go to the embassy of Azerbaijan and looking for another place to sleep.
Tbilisi - Vino Underground, Ramaz and the good wine
Today we visit Vino Underground, a nice little place where they sell and do tastes of the delicious Georgian wines in Qvevri. Here works Ramaz, local manager of the Slow Food garrison, and wine maker from Imereti. In addition to the wine (a beautiful msvane made by Ramaz) we also enjoy a very tasty ham (Lori) and a very good selection of cheeses, especially the dry ricotta!
After the interview Ramaz also gives us some contacts for our wine tour in Kakheti. We are reached by a French couple, traveling in a van with a child of about two years, Leon. We drink a bottle together. Then they run away because the match France-Germany is starting and they can not miss the Marseillaise. We reach them at the end of the first half. Boring game. Germany wins.
Oh, and of course the visa is not ready, the embassy tell us to "try" on Monday.
So tomorrow we leave for the wine tour! Needless to stay here waiting!
Hopefully the visas will be ready on our return.
Although, to tell the truth, here we are just fine and we did not really want to leave Georgia for Azerbaijan.