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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 41.6517, 41.6562
1435: Room 307 Hotel Era Palace - Batumi, West Georgia.
Woof! It's been an interesting 24 hrs to say the least! I last updated you from our ramshackle hotel balcony in Kutasi. We set off (via a couple of monasteries) to the mountainous regions of North West Georgia to stay in Mestia which is famous for huge scenary and funny little brick towers called "Vendetta Towers". This region still practices the tradition of the blood feud, or vendetta -- a custom which nearly wipes out large families in the region. If a young man or woman is killed by a member of another family, the victim's family must avenge the death of their relative by taking a life in the offending family. The vicious circle can continue for generations. "If another person kills a member of your family, you must avenge their death.".........worrying stuff..
Most of the day was spent on the coach.....one eye open....observing rather tatty villages each with an over supply of three legged dogs and derelict factories from the Soviet era. We then started to ascend through staggering mountainous scenery.........up and up......round hairpin bends.......the coach within feet of the edge! THEN SUDDENLY A TRAFFIC JAM....."oh look someone's gone
off the edge" pipes up an ill informed trouble maker from the front.....totally wrong! What was going on was a protest by the local mountain people of Khaishi, Chuberi, Idliani and nearby villages. They have 2 demands: to be allowed to cut trees for winter and to object to construction of Nentskra Hydro Electric Power Station. Protesters insist on employment of locals at power stations......Fair Enough!!!....to be honest! They all looked very thread bare and it must be a really tough existence.....
No doubt a worthy cause but they had blocked the tunnel ahead on a very mountainous
section. Loads of "yokels" were shouting at each other and waving their hands about!! There was a heavy police presence but they were just lolling about smoking and grinning!!!!! There was however a heavily armed special forces unit about 1/2 mile down the road behind us ......it could turn ugly.
It was 1615 and we had another 2 hours to go!!!! By 1730 a bus load of SE Asian tourists turned up and at once began taking photos each other waving their arms about and contorting into silly postures!!! This is one of pet hates.......
I had already planned our escape strategy if this was in
fact a nasty tourist hostage scenario....we would hide in the woods and sneak off when it was dark.....fat chance...we were about 100km from the nearest wooden hut and at about 5000ft. The terrain needed ropes and crampons.......
By 1800hrs daylight was fading and the real prospect of spending a horrid night in the coach was a real prospect! "Old Boy" suddenly came to and said in his thick Lancashire accent...."eh up....what's going on?...by the way the last time we were stuck on a "buss" was when terrorists in Macedonia were kidnapping tourists....by the way their railway system is the second worst in Europe....only Albania is worse"......AH SHUT UP!!!
The rest of the GROUP star getting restless......even the SE Asians take on that...."let's build a railway through the jungle look".....
AT 1820 precisely Cathy also stirs......she had said nothing for nearly 2 hours.........RIGHT THEN! This is ridiculous!....leave this to me........I am going to sort it out!!!.....off she struts to speak to the guide who was not actually taking control of the situation........within 10 minutes the bus had turned round and we were on our way to a comfortable hotel in Batumi. OK......we would not be in bed before midnight but we would be safe
and off a very dangerous mountain pass before it got dark!
Eventually after a very bumpy 3 hour drive we see the bright lights of Batumi........its 2245 and we pull it a local restaurant....more kebabs and aubergine salad.....during the meal Lala cheerfully announces that the road blocked was clear and we would drive back to Mestia in the morning.....breakfast 0730hrs!!!.....sorry no!....this would be another 7 hours on the bus and no guarantee that the protest would not start again as it had being on since August!
We bale out and decide to have a couple of extra days in this delightful Black Sea Resort........
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