MestiaDay 128 Wednesday 25th May 2016 – Tbilisi to Batumi
As our bus did not leave till 12 noon decided to risk the breakfast at the hotel, should not have bothered –stale bread, processed devon, boiled eggs and stale cake – yummy. So with empty bellies we packed our bags and moved out getting a taxi just near the hotel, we showed him our bus tickets and he stated the price as 3 Lari to the bus station no negotiation (remember our Football player’s carry on for 10 Lari). When we arrived and were accosted by other drivers he told them we already had tickets and to leave us alone. Donned the backpacks thanked our driver and found our bus but typical us were over an hour early so got to check out a Georgian bus/coach terminal and can I say it is pretty much like anywhere in the world, I could have been in South America. As usual I did a quick toilet stop where a group of ladies started screaming when they saw a cat sleeping on the floor and the screams continued for the whole time I was in the bathroom, I do
Till the cows come home
have to say there is a weird psyche here toward animals. Finally we were underway with a pretty sane driver for Georgia who even had an ear piece for his mobile phone. The scenery was spectacular and the bus was comfortable with all the mod cons like WiFi and movies although in Russian/Georgian. Stopped for a buffet lunch break which we declined although it looked OK and the stop had reasonably clean toilets for 0.5 lari.
At about 6.00pm we arrived at the Batumi bus station which is 6.5km from where we are staying and yes you guessed it the taxi drivers said it was a 20 Lari trip and 13km but after we said we would take the minivan to town the price dropped to 15 still too much but we said OK. You get to know the drivers you are going to have trouble with, it is their manner, this one said “Georgian music OK” and we replied “yes” and he pumped it up, some bad folky stuff and sang at the top of his voice. He was in his late 50’s and just kept carrying on then when we hopped out and gave him
his 15 Lari and he said “that is each” we told him to take a hike which he did without much of a carry on. As we say it probably works 1 in 10 tourists so worth a try.
We are staying in an apartment so the owner had to meet us there, we were lucky the block has a reception and the girl on the desk was very helpful and within 10 minutes the owner had arrived. The place is great which included the advertised balcony, kitchenette, cooking utensils, washing machine and a view over the Black Sea. The owner who did not speak any English made sure everything was OK taking us back downstairs to the receptionist who did speak English before leaving. We settled in and then headed to find an ATM and a meal then some groceries before returning to do the boring stuff like washing our clothes. Day 129 Thursday 26th May 2016 – Batumi
It feels so nice to be here the apartment is great so we took it easy looking out over the Black Sea and cooking bacon and eggs
Black Sea coastline
for breakfast. Across the road on top of the Casino is a film shoot for either a tragic boy band film clip or a Bollywood movie not sure but there is a lot of choreographed dance moves. Went for a long walk on the boulevard near the sea before arriving to an Army display for Independence Day, it all looks fairly low key at this stage with just a few armoured personnel carriers and guns. The only odd thing as Australians, it is quite scary seeing small children being helped to pick up machine guns and point them at the crowd. About 3pm we stopped for a bite to eat at a seaside café and back to our apartment.
Later that evening walked back to the same restaurant as last night as it was fresh, tasty and reasonably priced although the smiles were a little light on. Day 130 Friday 27th May 2016 – Batumi
Sorry nothing exciting to tell you today but for us it was great with a late breakfast cooked in our apartment looking over the Black Sea, reading, planning and generally
What a Khachapuri looks like...yum.
bludging till noon. I had decided to try a hairdresser today after spotting one that looked modern yesterday, the first hurdle was she did not speak English so my streaks may turn out pink rather than blonde. Then through charades she indicated that “no they were not cheapskates and saving money on power but there was a blackout”, so she could not do it anyway.
Walked back to the apartment and enjoyed grapes, cherries and a glass of white wine which was short lived on the balcony as the wind picked up and a storm roared through. When it settled down went back to the restaurant from last night for another great meal plus a cuddle with a small cat just a kitten really that was already knocked up. Much to the horror of the locals once our meals were finished she jumped into my lap and curled up while we stayed for a beer. The waiter tried his best not to smile but I guess he is getting used to these odd Aussies.
After dinner we stopped at The Dancing Fountain show to see a wonderfully tacky event which included the music of
Tower with bridge
Elvis, Janis Joplin, Steppenwolf (with images of a motor bike in the water) Nirvana (images of a drummer) then classical (with ballet dancers) and movie themes like Last of the Mohicans. Day 131 Saturday 28th May 2016 – Batumi
Another beautiful day by the beach and today we walked across the beautiful sandy beach - oh no sorry different dream, it was a painful walk across the hard river stones to the water. Yes I am a cravenand hate the cold and this is the Black Sea so I only dipped my feet into it, although the Russian tourists seem to enjoy the brisk water temperature. The Black Sea is not a completely landlocked sea as water moves in and out through the Bosphorus and into the Mediterranean Sea. It is however unique in that 90%!o(MISSING)f the deeper Black Sea is anoxic water, meaning that it receives very little oxygen, so if you go lower than 50 metres you won’t find an abundance of sea life. Anoxic water can also be found in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and is generally a naturally caused
Water Fountain show
phenomenon but it has recently been found that us humans are making it worse. Unsure exactly why the sea was called “The Black Sea”, but I do know that the Greeks called it both “the Hospitable Sea” and also “the Inhospitable Sea”, I guess it depended on how your voyage went.
Walking along the boulevarde checking out all the bars and restaurants we decided to stop for a beer on the pier watching the amazing green Black sea but before we knew it the sky was black and the rain poured with thunder and lightning. Then the hail started and the outdoor furniture was being moved out of the rain, damned it is about a half hour walk back to our apartment. Whilst sitting there watching the rain the staff decided it was time to fix the furniture and right next to us were staff electric welding a chair back together, sort of a rustic light show complete with showers of sparks, very spectacular. Run back to a restaurant for a feed with more storms passing over and finally got a break so we could walk home.
At the bar I saw a woman
Locals taking a quick dip in the Black sea
with a strange pink patch in her hair maybe she ended up at the hairdressers from yesterday and was told that a lady from Australia asked for this same hairdo it is all the rage!!! Glad I walked away who knows what tragic 80’s popstar I would have ended up looking like maybe Boy George?? Day 132 Sunday 29th May 2016 – Batumi to Mestia
For some reason we both felt like we needed a road trip so a couple of days ago we sat down and worked out where we wanted to drive in Georgia and then booked a car online. Of all the countries we have driven through Georgia has worried me the most, as their drivers are manic, and we have seen some weird stuff whilst here. Google the statement “Aggressive driving” and I am sure you will find 10 pages and a 100 images about Georgian drivers. Not only do they roar through city centres at 100km/h but they are also likely to have their girlfriend standing up through the sun roof and their mate sitting out the window. Not stopping for anyone (including old women
and children) at pedestrian crossings and arrogantly cutting off other drivers is just the norm.
Despite the small worry of driving in this country I slept like a baby and could have easily slept in our comfortable bed till midday, but was up and moving by 8. Our car was being delivered to our apartment at 10.30 so I wandered down at 10 just in case they turned up early, but as always with these things our car didn’t arrive till 11.30. A bit annoyed at the late arrival but was even more annoyed at how putrid the car was. I only ever wash my car once a year so I guess I shouldn’t throw rocks but when hiring a car you do expect to get it in a clean state. As soon as we got the keys we loaded the car up and hit the road. Once again Shelley fired up the GPS and combined with her great navigation we managed to escape Batumi and head out into the countryside.
It was a long slow journey today with the speed limit generally being 50 – 60km/h, which is due to the many towns
Amusement Ride at the top of a building
we passed through as well as the poor state of the roads. I can be a bit of a lead foot when I drive at home but didn’t really want to be here as just about every second car here is a police car. I sort of consider Australia as a bit of a police state but they have nothing on Georgia, they are everywhere.
When we started climbing into the mountains the roads got worse with lots of landslides and road subsidence. Rocks were strewn over the road everywhere and we had to keep our wits with us so as to avoid them. This is the Caucasus Mountains so as you would expect the scenery was spectacular and I won’t gush on too much, except to say that due to the wet weather all the waterfalls were flowing and we stopped at a few of them for photos. As we went on the rain got heavier and the road worse so it was with a great deal of relief when we arrived at Mestia at 5.30 after driving for 6 hours.
Our Guesthouse is located in the back streets and we both took
Ferris Wheel and Guns do mix
a guess at what streets would get us there as our GPS was a bit light on information in this town and by some miracle we guessed right and ended up on the doorstep of where we needed to be. No one was home when we first turned up but after ten minutes an old woman appeared and although she hardly spoke English she was able to show us to our room. It is very “rustic” but clean and she got the heater going in the room to kill the chill. Before it got too late we decided to head into town for an early dinner. Probably should have driven but walked in the rain instead it was only 15 minutes and we found a warm place that served us a great feed. The rain stopped whilst we ate and we headed home for an early night. You have heard of a two horse town well this one is a two and half plus a few cows on the way back two horse and a foal walked passed us on the main street and a block further on a group of cows were congregated at the foot of the hill
that leads up to our guest house. Day 133 Monday 30th May 2016 – Mestia
Woke to the sound of rain and other guests in our guesthouse stomping around in their size 11 boots. To be fair to them the house has timber floors and ceilings so it is hard to creep around silently but we had arranged for a 9am breakfast and didn’t need to be awake at 7. When we went down for our feed the woman who runs the place put on a massive spread of things to eat, just really didn’t know where to begin and after such a big meal last night we both struggled to eat much of it. What makes the breakfast here so extra great is that everything is prepared on a wood fuel stove, and I am betting the poor old dear cuts all the wood herself.
Because of the rain we really didn’t want to be doing a hike in the mountains but opted to do a bit of a drive around the area. Shelley wanted to get out to a town that was 50km away but
Cows on the loose in town
after 10 km the road went from concrete to billy goat track and just didn’t want to push our little Kia through it especially as by this stage it was pouring rain and the mud road was awash so we headed back. The mountain scenery is spectacular (yes I know that’s what we always say) and the towns in this area are picture perfect. Mestia and the surrounding towns are dominated by defensive stone towers called “Koshki”, which are designed to house villagers at times of invasion or local strife. The towers were built between the 9th
century and about 175 survive today. Mestia is the tourist magnet for this sort of town but after driving around a bit you realise that lots of other towns are very similar. Got back to Mestia and we stopped at a café for a hot chocolate and then a wander around town before the wet weather got the better of us and we headed back to our room. Sat on the communal balcony and read whilst listening to the rain and the local cows complaining.
Late in the afternoon we put on our wet weather gear and braved
Our apartment is on the 4th floor in the building on the left
the downpour for the short walk downhill to the café we ate at last night for yet another fantastic feed. While eating dinner saw a cow walking home for the night, it is a very laid back place in a beautiful corner of the world. Bit of a shame we have copped such a wet day in our travels but I guess it is the time of year for it and wet weather hasn’t ruined too many of our plans. Day 134 Tuesday 31st May 2016 – Mestia
Wow what a beautiful sunny day, the breakfast room at the guest house has amazing views of the rolling green hills. So after a huge breakfast we headed out the door into the sunshine and walked up the hill to get a view of the town from our side and then walked over the bridge to the other side for a view back over town. The town like the rest of Georgia has many unfinished buildings there must have been a building boom and then things turned bad so everywhere from Tbilisi to Batumi to here there are buildings that were just
Spot the frog
about finished now slowly decaying and being vandalised. Thankfully here it has not taken away the magic of the place.
On the other side of town is the small but well laid out Svaneti Museum with a treasure trove of religious items dating back to the 9th century including religious books. After looking around the security guards told us to go to the roof of the building where you can get uninterrupted view of the town and its towers. The roof is flat and has a garden with grass and wild flower very pretty in its own right but it is the view of the town that takes your breath away on a beautiful sunny day. Back on the road and we crossed the other bridge leading into the centre of town and eventually stopped at the café for a hot chocolate and then wandered back to the guest house in the afternoon to sit on the balcony and just look at the mountains and towers, and enjoy the sunshine.
Early evening walked down the main street said hello to the cows and settled into the café for dinner. While sitting there 4 Ural
Our Guesthouse with mountains behind
motorbikes with sidecars turned up, that must have been a comfortable ride up the mountain on the rough roads, even the cows wandered across the road for a look. My (Scott) mother has always loved the classic old movie Brigadoon and in our travels we have always felt that we are looking out for it, and to a certain degree Mestia comes close to fulfilling the myth. Not sure I could ever drag my mother to Georgia but I am fairly certain she would almost feel at home here, even though there is no sign of Gene Kelly (thank God). Tomorrow we are leaving Mestia on what was to be one of the more challenging days ever of our travels.
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