Akhalkaliki wasn’t an inspiring town, our bikes were clean and Alan had had his first jabs so we headed out of town and up to the high volcanic plain that cradled Lake Parvani and was edged by cones, the tallest being Didi Abuli (3300m).
It was a fantastic ride following small tracks in big open, green country and we only saw one vehicle before we decided to call an early stop above the lake, near the village of Vladimirovka’s water source.
We had passed herds of cows and flocks of sheep tended by herders only, gratefully no dogs.
After dinner we were visited by 3 village lads, one of whom spoke pretty good English for a 13 year old. We learnt that all the lakeside communities were of Armenian descent. The Armenians have been in Georgia for 700 years but have kept their identity and language which has caused problems as the governments new language policies prevent the use of Armenian or Russian in the public sector so they cannot get the better paying jobs. Having said that the children these days are exposed to 4 languages (Armenian, Russian, Georgian and English).
The next day we dropped down to a more populated valley, and unexpected shops, before striking back uphill into the higher grazing lands and a beautiful camp. We had some wild weather pass through overnight but as normal we woke early to fine weather.
Thus started a big day of hike-a-biking. We first pushed up 300m to a ridge, followed by a steep but mostly rideable descent. We weren’t expecting the next series of 100m pushes up steep muddy tracks, followed by short sharp descents, washing the heavy mud off the tyres in the wee creek at the low points and repeat 3 more times. The first 15km of the day would only be used by foot or on horse and we were going at a similar speed of 3km/hr. After that things sped up as we hit a motorable road but we still had some pushable sections to clear the last 300m climb.
The long descent to Gori was great, bringing our total descent for the day to 2200m. We certainly felt sorry for the Australian cyclist we met just starting up in the very warm afternoon temperatures. He had a couple of days of pushing ahead in the reverse direction.
Gori’s claim to fame is the birthplace of Stalin, and an efficient military hospital which we visited next morning and got told off for being a day late for the 2nd jab (we had gotten to town too late the day before).
We visited the Gori Fortress and saw the house Stalin was bought up in and his 80 tonne personal carriage. We rested.
Unusually the next day dawned wet, but the planned visit to Uplistikke Cave town not far off our route was amazing. Uplistikke is one of Georgia’s oldest urban settlements). Top tip – get there early – pays to beat the crowds.
”Not much is known about Uplistsikhe’s early years, but during the 5th Century it developed into one of the most important cities in Kartli (a kingdom in central Georgia). At its peak the cave city is thought to have housed more than 20,000 people.”
The day stayed wet to the end but being mostly on paved roads it was more pleasant than mid-thirty heat. We made the mistake of camping beside a village soccer pitch at the bottom of the last climb. We had every local teenager checking us out that early evening. When night lights went on we thought we were in for a noisy night but they moved on about 10:30 and left us in peace.
it was a strenuous day up a smooth 1000m climb, then slow rough travel along dirt tracks before a long smooth descent back to the capital city where we had left almost 3 weeks ago.
Tomorrow, another shot in the arm for Alan and then we will head into the Kazbegi region for some more entertainment on 2 wheels..