After 5 months enjoying the warm embrace of the Republic of Georgia and its many charms, Kit and Kyle began to face the reality that there was still half of the world to cover on the rest of their journey. Grant, the soon to be newest member of the Worldwide Ricks, slowly inched closer to Georgia riding the “Blueberry” (A Yamaha WR250R) . Finally, in a one shot push across the entirety of Georgia, he arrived in Tbilisi. It was time to begin the process of moving on.
The many months in Georgia had kept Kit and Kyle off the motorcycles and therefore it was critical a second shakedown ride be conducted. With the snows of the Greater Caucasus receding, a quick 2 day trip to the region of Tusheti was scheduled. After a few quick fixes and maintenance items were completed, the trio rode east.
The ride between Tbilisi and the city of Telavi was relatively uneventful, with rolling green hills, forest and a solitary very old fortress, just the usual items that dot the landscape across Georgia with regularity. It wasn’t until the foothills of the Caucasus were met that things became more exciting.
Stopped on the side of the road, were three extremely intoxicated Georgians attempting to fix their Soviet era means of transportation. In typical fashion, the wine bottle was brought out as they tried to entice us with a drink. The Ricks were clear that accepting this one drink meant that they would be ending their day here and therefore Kit politely declined. Instead, high fives and hugs were shared with the friendly Georgians.
The road wound up and up through narrow canyons and there were switch-backs across wide open grassy slopes. Every turn turned out to be more beautiful than the last. While Kit and Kyle had learned a lot of different things about life in Georgia during their time, they had missed one important date…. the spring snow melt began the sheep raising season in Tusheti. Suddenly the Ricks’ calm easy ride had turned into a very exotic “traffic jam”.
Unfortunately, disaster struck as the engine of Grant’s motorcycle began acting up. Midway up the final slope of the pass into Tusheti, the trio had to rendezvous at the only flat camping area available anywhere: Torgva Baths. After a relaxing soak in the baths, and the first night of camping since… Greece? Grant opened his clutch cover to investigate the damage.
The brand new clutch Grant had installed had burned up on the steep gravel road in the stop and go “traffic”. It was obvious that Georgia was unwilling to let us go, much the same way the citizens themselves would try to prevent us from escaping their hospitality.
The original plan was to ride directly from Tusheti, Georgia to Vladikavkaz, Russia to pick up some motorcycle tires, and then on to Chechnya. However, due to this catastrophe, Grant and Kyle traveled by bus instead – inadvertently, ending up in town on WWII Victory Day. It was an interesting 12 hour taste of Russia, and an illustration of what to expect in the near future (more on traveling in Russia in further Blog posts).
Finally with the repaired clutch, the tires and an increasingly hot fire under their asses to catch the next ferry from Baku (Azerbaijan), the Ricks rode out to the region of Kakheti once again. The plan was to spend the final night with a friend and landlord of Kyle’s (Ramaz). Ramaz was a two time champion of motor racing in Georgia, and had also helped Kyle immensely with finding a decent engine mechanic.
Ramaz’s house in Kakheti was tucked away even from the main valley of Kakheti, very close to the border with Chechnya, and it was nice to experience life in a Georgian village. Ramaz and his friends kicked off a night of drinking that included 3 different local wines and spirits from that very valley, not even the entire Kakheti region.
Kyle could certainly argue that Georgia is the country with the greatest toasts in the world, and tonight would prove to be a shining example. The toastmaster can take up to ten minutes, passionately explaining his toast, which was usually the next thing in the world he admired and we would then drink to it. Some toasts are repeated every evening of drinking: To family, to love, to the departed, to god, and finally to the country of Georgia (Its name Sakartvelo, meaning place for the Kartvelians (Georgians)).
The next day the Ricks were itching to get on the road. Their host having slept in late, emerged with a surprisingly small hangover. The Ricks had prepared their bikes for departure, however once Ramaz awoke there was no letting the Ricks escape… he wanted first to show them the charms of his little valley.
Finally, at 5pm after agreeing to a very long lunch, the Ricks escaped to the Georgian border with Azerbaijan.
In Violation of the Law
Unfortunately, sometimes the Ricks travel in violation of the law, and this time the Georgian border guards nabbed us for not having vehicle insurance (as of March 1st vehicle insurance was mandatory). In an attempt to talk his way out of it, Kyle pleaded ignorance and told them his bike was in the country since December 1st, and had never received notice of this new law. With a sly smile the border official walked back and started looking through the records. Kyle began to sweat….
Finally she returned, informing that Grant owed a 100 lari fine ($40) because he had been properly warned about the law on entering just a few weeks prior. Kyle on the other hand owed a 1000 lari fine ($400!!!) because his bike had overstayed the temporary import (3 months vs 5 month stay). Nice going Kyle, you really talked your way into that one. With the new fine being much higher than the original amount requested if only Kyle kept his mouth shut, he now did everything in the book to try to fight it. However in the end and after having wasted several hours, the fine was paid and the crossing was made. The Ricks had finally escaped the clutches of Georgia!!