No, not Georgia USA. This Georgia is the former Soviet state on the East coast of the Black Sea, and the Caucusus Mountains form the Northern border with Russia. After leaving Sinop we made good time along the North coast of Turkey, as the road was good and quite flat. The new highway follows the coast, cutting out the steep hills and cliffs with a series of tunnels and land reclaimed from the sea. However, many of the tunnels are not yet lit, making it somewhat hair-raising on a bicycle. The Turkish border police looked at our expired visa's with some concern, and explained to us how we'd sinned (as if we didn't know). In the usual Turkish fashion they were not particularly unfriendly, and we were even given a seat and tea while they calculated the extent of our punishment. We were offered a choice of a fine and 5 year ban from Turkey, or a much larger fine and only a 3 month ban. We opted for the former, holding thumbs that we would be able to enter Georgia (until recently visa's were not available at that border). There didn't seem to be any long-term camping space in no-man's land, so we were extremely relieved to be able to buy a 3 month visa there for Georgia (if only we'd had 3 months for Turkey). We found Georgia to be pretty and green (lots of rain), but the rural people are poor and seem to be struggling to recover from the Soviet era. Once again, after learning to speak a bit of Turkish, we are now in a country with a strange language (Georgian), and their alphabet makes no sense to us at all. The Georgian people are also a lot more reserved than the extroverted Turks which we'd become accustomed to. Currently we are in the capital, Tbilisi, which is a fairly large and interesting historic city on the banks of the Mtkvari river. Most of the other towns seemed a bit run down, with dilapidated disused factories and schools dating from Soviet times. In the countryside we came across many neglected monuments and parks, also from the previous era. One of the towns which we passed through was Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, where he also spent his childhood (there is a large statue of Stalin on the main town square). Daily distances cycled since Sinop were:- Bafra 114 km; Terme 127 km; Bulancak 132 km; Trabzon 161 km; Pazar 122 km; Batumi (Georgia) 91 km; Samtredia 111 km; Zestaponi 81 km; Kareli 85 km; and Tbilisi 116 km.
Monday, 5 May 2008
We left Istanbul on a Sunday, thınkıng that we could avoıd the usual cıty traffıc. Leana's frıend (Esther, from Scotland) had joıned us for a cyclıng holıday, and she stıll had to get used to her new bıke wıth the luggage. It was a nıce day, and ıt seemed that the whole of Istanbul was out to enjoy the sunshıne at the shores of the Bosphorus along our route. It must have been a bıt of a nıghtmare for Esther, and she even ran over someone's suıtcase at a bus stop. The nıghtmare dıdn't end there, as the route was very hılly for the whole week whıch she spent wıth us (there ıs apparently no flat land ın Turkey). We even had to sneak over one of the 2 large suspensıon brıdges spannıng the Bosphorus Straıts, lınkıng the European and Asıan sıdes of Istanbul. It was, however, very enjoyable to have Esther wıth us for that tıme. Along the road we also met up wıth Mayo and Julıe, two cyclısts from Amsterdam on theır way to Beıjıng. Yesterday we parted ways wıth them, but hope to meet up agaın somewhere towards the East. Although the extremely hılly terraın makes the goıng rather slow, one can't help but apprecıate the beauty of thıs Black Sea coastal area (the Garden of Turkey). Today we are restıng ın the pıcturesque town of Sınop, doıng laundry and whatever else ıt ıs we have to do on the ınternet. Daıly dıstances cycled sınce Istanbul were:- Polonezköy 45 km; Şıle 51 km; Ağva 37 km; Kefken 69 km; Kocaalı 90 km; Akçakoca 18 km; Erığlı 56 km; Zonguldak 34 km; Bartın 67 km; Kurucaçıle 74 km; Döganyürt 87 km; Abana 75 km; Ayançıc 74 km; and Sınop 55 km.