Across the border into Batumi, Georgia

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May 1st 2014
Published: May 22nd 2014
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1st May

It's a new month and we're heading for a new country, Georgia! The drive takes us along the Black Sea coastline and through several tunnels and small towns. It wasn't too far and so we set up wifi hotspots to use up the data left on our phone plans - which lasted long enough for people to update FB statuses...

Stopping for an early lunch and to do cook group shopping, we then crossed the border around 1pm. It was an easy departure from Turkey and as we walked along the pathway separating us from Suse and the truck and other large vehicles, we came across a duty free store. Alcohol prices were cheap and although we'd heard that it was cheap in Georgia, some weren't willing to take the risk and purchased some spirits.

On the Georgian side we waited in line at passport control. With a beautiful looking but illegible written language for all of us, I asked the immigration woman how to say hello. It took several attempts and writing it on my palm to pronounce 'gamajoba' correctly, much to her amusement, adding 'mardlaba' to my palm when I thanked her. Our visas
Beautiful stained glass windows and gold detailBeautiful stained glass windows and gold detailBeautiful stained glass windows and gold detail

I did try to find out what this building was but no luck. It's quite possibly residential.
were all unexpectedly free which was definitely something to be thankful for! Then browsing the information counter whilst waiting for the others, the woman behind the counter took a photo of me holding up my palm and then a group photo of a few of us. It was a great way to start off a visit to a new country.

Outside, things soured slightly. Beggars approached all of us and I witnessed a tactic I hadn't seen before. Children threw themselves at peoples' legs, their bony limbs wrapping tightly around a lower leg. I watched some give them money to dismiss them while others tried joking with them, carrying them along. Thankfully it didn't happen to me as I wouldn't know what I'd do. A few others were less fortunate and stood there waiting for the children to tire but it turns out the only thing that will move them is a call from their parents to move to a wealthier looking victim. We were all soon on the truck and on our way.

On the drive to Batumi one thing became quickly apparent: the Georgians are crazy drivers. On narrow roads with no shoulders they drove as if in a rally; overtaking on blind corners, forcing oncoming traffic to slow (which it barely did) and more than once requiring Suse to slam on the brakes. Welcome to Georgia indeed.

In Batumi we parked near the coast at a quieter end of town where construction workers stopped to stare at us. With truck security for the first time in a new country, Scott, Alex and I stayed with the truck and waited for others to change money and get their bearings before coming back to relieve us.

After Suse and Nat returned from the Azerbaijani embassy, we headed out of the city in search of a camping spot and found the perfect one down a muddy, potholed road that spat us out in front of the Black Sea. Boys played football amongst the tall trees that they seemed to use as obstacles in their game and moved closer to us to take a look as we set up, then helping collect wood without being asked when they saw us doing the same.

We'd passed a cafe of sorts as we drove towards the sea so four of us walked back down to see who was
That's a ferris wheel!That's a ferris wheel!That's a ferris wheel!

It's hard to see with the lighting but the currently empty building has a ferris wheel near the top!
there and say hello. We found Madonna and her husband setting up their cafe for the season which would start tomorrow. She spoke enough English to get by and after pleasantries, sat us down and announced that we were her guests today and vanished into one of the two rooms to make coffee. Diego joined us and also received a coffee: the thick Turkish version served in a pretty espresso sized cup with a sugar bowl on the side. On her next trip out she brought a saucer of jam with a spoons and plates for each of us though without bread, we were a little confused. I happily took a spoonful and thought it tasted like plum, though we hadn't seen any, and everyone followed suit.

At seven we bid Madonna farewell after she'd waved off our offer of payment. We loitered around the campfire but then moved towards the sea to watch the sunset. Storm clouds blocked the majority of it and signs of distant rain had us moving back to the truck to put up the tarp over the cooking equipment.


2nd May

Sure enough it rained overnight and when we got out in the morning there were gigantic slugs everywhere. I accidentally stood on one and the explosion was not pretty. I made sure to avoid them thereafter.

We had a free day in Batumi and although I wanted to hire a bike, we'd spied a cable car up to an observation point yesterday and headed off in that direction.
Walking along the still quiet boardwalk we found the nine metre tall Love Statue of Ali and NiƱo (dedicated to Georgian-Azerbaijan love and friendship), a Ferris wheel and fishing boats both unloading and waiting for people. The cable car opened at 11 so we kept going, finding gluten free products in the nearby supermarket and then turning left onto the muddy market road. The air was perfumed by the large amounts of flowers for sale, mainly long stemmed roses that we'd pay a small fortune for at home.

The cable car was cheap and through the window, allowed a half decent photo of the city below. Once at the top, we realised that there wasn't a cafe for lunch nor much else to do except see the view. The city was very spread out with many vacant lots and half finished buildings scattered amongst the housing. Our ride down was shared with two Russian men who gave us tips on what Georgian food to try.

After lunch I stepped into a couple of churches, making use of the box of scarves found in the entrance to cover my hair. I lit some candles, watched the handful of locals inside pray and quietly made my way back out, smiling at the beggars sitting at the church gates. From there I met Steph and Quinn to do cook group shopping and we headed back to the truck which then took us back to the same spot as last night.

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