Early days in Armenia – with a sting in the tail..

Aologies for the length of this story but it is an interesting tale..

From Tbilisi we took a local van to Dmanisi, within striking distance of the gravel road border with Armenia. It was a nice ride up an English Beech forest gorge and little traffic as most vehicles take the paved border routes. The crossing into Armenia was painless and we found a small spot off the road to pitch our tent for the night.

Some interesting facts about Armenia:

  1. It is thought to be the original cultivar of the humble prunus Armeniaca (or apricot)
  2. It has a higher percentage of ‘mountainous’ terrain than Switzerland or Nepal
  3. It was the first state/country to adopt Christianity as it’s major religion
  4. Sadly the term genocide came out of the Armenian holocaust that occurred before and after WW1, the first ‘modern’ genocide, 1.5 million people were murdered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
  5. Saying ‘thank you’ in Armenian is a total tongue twister – snoor-hakalut-yoon

Our first full day in Armenia took us straight into the small roads, and locals indicating we were going the wrong way. We biked and pushed up into the cloud, which was a first for the trip, and a constant check on our mapping app was needed. We biked past small farming enclaves, horses, cows and the odd barking dog that was usually tied up – apart from 2 small bear sized canines who luckily were called back by the owner. Our new front brakes were so noisy on the large descent that there was no sneaking past anything.

By the end of the day we had descended into the amazing Debed canyon before a climb up to Sanahin where we spent 2 nights. The 2 attractions of the town were the Sanahin monastery and the Mikolev brothers museum plus 2 doozy electrical storms.

The next day was a pushfest up steep rough roads. Pretty well 1200m of pushing as most of the up was too steep or too rough to ride. Once on the tops we did have some nice riding on double tracks following green, grassy ridge tops before a final push and descent to a beautiful camp. It had been a tough day but rewarding with stunning views.

The next big electrical storm came in the early hours, flash and boom with torrential rain. By pack up time it was clearing and we were enjoying payback from yesterday’s ascent with some fast easy miles, until….

Until we were both taken out by a flighty stallion tied to a long rope that was fixed to a stake (not tied to a heavy movable object as some are). It happened so quick – it veered away, then back in front of us. I saw Alan go down, then before I could do anything a tight (horse tensioned) rope slammed into my bike and i was down. Luckily the rope snapped, maybe on my front cog, and the horse was free, the rope slack, but the damage was done. Alan had hit his head but his helmet took the impact, I felt the crunch and intense pain of a snapped left collarbone. I was on my knees hunched forward in pain as the nearby friendly herd of cows sorrounded us taking the opportunity to lick our bike bags!

There were no vehicle tracks on the small track we were on and it was 4km to a bigger ‘road’ and perhaps a chance to hitch the 60km to a town with a hospital, but that was a daunting prospect as I was struggling just walking and Alan would have needed to deal with both bikes. We were near a small rough dwelling so i grovelled back up the muddy track, Alan dealing to the bikes.

We had trouble communicating with the couple there and unusually there was no cell coverage. Alan spotted vehicle tracks heading at right angles so he took off up to other dwellings to try and find a vehicle or cell coverage. I was invited to sit inside and the woman Arpik was really sweet trying to make me comfy and wanting to feed me, even offered a basin – I think for washing as I was pretty muddy. It seemed hopeful when she mimed a steering wheel in between doing her chores dealing to a couple of batches of cheese. She changed into a smarter overdress that got my hopes up and then I heard the sweet sound of a land drover coming down the hill and Alan’s cheery face returning.

The cavalry had arrived..but first lunch was put out for the neighbouring visitors, along with a glass of chacha, or vodka. I perhaps should have taken up the offer as the hour long, bone shattering ride was really tough, the last 10km of paved (out of 40km) could not come soon enough.

It was Sunday at the small local hospital and while not having good English the doctor seemed good. First off two vials of local anaesthetic got injected into the clavicle area and finally blissful relief. He then straightened out and applied a plaster of Paris figure 8 brace pulling my hunched shoulders back. When the electricity came on (!) he was able to X-ray, which showed a definite fracture which may need surgery down the line to stabilise.

We were only a couple hours by main road to Tbilisi and the doctor’s nephew had a vehicle that would fit us and our bikes in so we were a bit shell shocked to be back in Tbilisi that evening. It never ceases to amaze me how things work out when initially it all seems impossible.

Irina at Hostel 48a kindly welcomed us back to her lovely home, garden and great Turkish coffees. We were able to get a soft modern brace at a nearby medical clinic, no anaesthetic this time as the Dr yanked my shoulders back into a good posture position to hopefully help the healing process.

it has been a struggle getting flights home via travel insurance as most long haul flights are booked out in economy class and the insurance will only cover an extra seat for an injury such as I have. The latest schedule is via Istanbul, London and Sydney. Bring it on… not!

We have 2 more nights in Tbilisi which is a nice enough place to be and hopefully we can still get in a loop on the large Ferris wheel above the city before we head home.