“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
If you are anything like me you can probably hardly even place Georgia on a map (to the east of Turkey, south of Russia, north of Armenia) unless you have already been there, so a little history lesson is in store before we enter into this beautiful country. As a small country of five million inhabitants Georgia is a predominately Eastern Orthodox Christian country which is filled with vineyards, beautiful old churches (due to the fact that they adopted Christianity very early on, in the fourth century), small farming villages, and mountains. The Caucasus, which run down from Russia, host a range of peaks over 5,000m and an array of different national parks and beautiful landscapes to go along with it.
Georgia, which has a long history of domination from different empires, gained its freedom in 1991 from the Soviet Union though the country experienced civil unrest and an economic crisis until the rose revolution in 2003 when a new government was introduced. These new reforms have brought about an incredible change, and though the median income (450$ a month, much higher than the 200$ a month it was a decade ago) is still lower than most of Europe, Georgia now has one of the fastest growing economies. Though tourism is starting to play an increasing role in their economy (a whole lot of Polish tourists as well as Russians) the country is still relatively untouched which will allow Kevin and I to explore it without all of the “tourist attractions” that get in the way.
Cycle tourists who we have spoken to have nearly always named Georgia as one of their favorites because of the beautiful landscapes, relatively untouched culture, and amazingly hospitable people. Cyclists also report that it’s possible to camp just about everywhere, and that the camping is some of the easiest and most beautiful in the world. Needless to say, I can’t wait!
When you pedal out of Tblisi, aim for the Jvari monastery. It’s a hell of a climb up, but you can camp on the ridge opposite the monastery and overlook the two valleys below! The road between Mtskheta and Gori is phenomenal – as you can see it runs parallel with the main road but sees very little traffic. Once you reach Gori plan to take the tour of Stalin’s birthplace. Despite being persecuted throughout Stalin’s reign, Georgians have this strange sense of admiration for the ruthless dictator. There’s a really interesting BBC article you could read online if your interested, ‘Georgia Divided Over Stalin “Local Hero” Status in Gori’! Or of course you could skip all that and tackle the mountains 😉
When you going?! Sounds amazing. I’ve never thought of going there!
Just a tip for you: buy a tripod, a cheap and light one. If you are traveling alone it allows you to appeare in your photos with self-shooting and at the same time you will avoid those sad (and a bit strange) pictures with the bike standing alone. If you have a mate you’ll be always togheter using the tripod. You can also shoot in the low light of sunset, or at dawn, or at night without problems with the exposimeter. Buy that !!
Dario, cyclist, landscape photographer – Italy.
Alright, looks like I need one then!