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Published: June 23rd 2014
Gori, the town where Stalin was born. And we were here on Georgia's Victory day, a public holiday. The truck was parked across from Stalin's museum which we made our first stop, waiting for an English guide to take us through. She spoke fast with a heavy accent and in a voice that brooked no questions. It was very one-sided which was surprising to me but shouldn't have been: the town was very much still pro-Stalin. When the tour finished we walked through again at a slower pace but I don't feel like I learnt much that I didn't already know.
Another church, then the fortress. I was hot and flustered and having to shop for dinner and getting ripped off didn't help matters. Back on the truck I slept and after a few false starts, Suse found a bush camp for the night.
Scott got the fire going and Nic and I started prepping. Soon after, two Russian men arrived, driving into a ditch that Nic, Suse and I had to push them out of! They had a bit of a conversation with Alex and others and then left, returning with two large bottles of homemade
Adding some sparkle to Stalin's house
Not sure what I did to my camera to make it do that there, of all places
red wine! We were each poured a glass, toasted our countries, our families and whatever else came to mind before a history lesson about the area. In Russian. Before we could get dinner finished it started raining and then pouring. The men waved goodbye and drunkenly drove off. Although it's the norm in these countries, it's still frightening to see. Thankfully they only lived three kilometres down the road, if we understood properly.
Soon, mini waterfalls and rivers started appearing. Tents were blowing away or flooding. It was downright miserable. Everyone pitched in to help us finish cooking, holding umbrellas over the fire and carrying pots up onto the truck where we ate. Of course, as we finished eating the rain stopped but by the time we packed everything away, all I wanted to do is go to bed.
Thankfully this morning was clear, otherwise I may not have left the tent. Up at 6:30, Scott went to start the fire while I packed up everything in the tent then traipsed through the muddy stony ground to the truck. With so much food leftover from last night (we got our rice ratio ridiculously wrong), plus
eggs, bread and bananas, it was a bit of a buffet breakfast. The next three nights will be in a hostel in Tbilisi and so the food had to be eaten or left for the dogs that roamed around.
Not knowing if we'd be able to park the truck securely in Tbilisi, Suse made straight for the airport and we piled into three taxis for the drive back into the city. Naturally the drivers raced each other without ever actually acknowledging the fact and we arrived second. The Peace Hostel is on the river at the Peace Bridge and I later found out that the owner had only been the owner for one week. Which means I'll cut him some slack. He has big plans for the place which is in need of some serious TLC. But it was a bed and everyone was happy and Scott and I weren't even staying there. We were taken to a parallel street and up three rickety steps into a courtyard with washing drying overhead and children playing at doorsteps. Up an uneven staircase and through a door, I still wasn't exactly sure where we were staying but it turns out we
were staying at someone's house. It was deathly quiet, the water was hot and there was a washing machine. That was our idea of bliss.
That night we went out with Arthur, the manager of the hotel. The live band at the first bar was awesome and within the hour, a few were up on the bar, dancing. We left Talbot and Diego with a couple of local girls and then bounced through a couple of clubs before heading to bed at 3am.
Yesterday I didn't do anything until dinner time. I'm too old for such late nights!
This morning we made use of the washing machine and hung out the two loads while the weather was good. We found Steph and Quinn at the hostel and wandered towards Freedom Square with its upmarket shops before veering off down Rastaveli Avenue, said to be the Champs Élysées of Tbilisi. Not quite but the tree-lined street and old buildings were a pretty sight and took us to number 34 where the Prosperos Bookshop and cafe was. Off the street and into a little courtyard, we entered the bookshop and browsed the current titles and Georgian
non-fiction section before going next door to the cafe for coffees. Steph and Quinn left in search of a shopping centre and after a failed search for gluten free products at a nearby supermarket, we weaved in and out the old town streets, delighting in the crooked houses and grape vines and rusted ornate gates. A grandmother and several children sang into plastic microphones and a group of guys sat smoking on a doorstep. Only metres away from the hectic main roads, the almost empty streets were a pleasant surprise.
Meeting at the hostel at 11am, Suse rang from the Russian embassy to tell us things were delayed until 2:30 so Nic and I set off in search of a post office. Not as easy as it should be in a capital city! Then just as we were crossing the Peace Bridge it started raining and then pouring and then storming. Thunder, lightning, horizontal rain, the works. We moved inside the restaurant under the hostel but I stood outside and watched as a torrent of water cascaded down the stairs and the lightning lit up the darkened sky. Suse called Alex's phone to say she'd decided to
spend another night in Tbilisi with such weather and he ran upstairs to organise the rooms.
We couldn't move until the storm did but eventually it subsided and we dropped our bags back off at the house, feeling bad that I'd stripped the bed and was now creating more washing. But the man smiled and said it was no problem and really, I'm sure it wasn't. Not only because he was getting paid but because everyone's been so hospitable and generous.
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