June 2014 "I took the one less traveled by And that has made all the difference"
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
“You who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by”
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
I had decided to try hitch-hiking from Kars to Tblisi. It just seemed a nice way to travel, to meet some locals along the way, and avoid being cooped up in a bus (not to mention saving myself around 30 euros on fares).
It's early still on a Sunday morning (about 7.30 am) and after walking out of town and waiting for about 30 minutes I begin to wonder if I have been wise as there is hardly any traffic at all. I then get my first ride to the highway interchange about 5 kms out.
A guy named Aran picks me up in his truck. He confirms my route … that the way to Posof (near the Georgian border), is a left at the T-junction 20 kms on, where he will turn right to Apacay. But
when we get to this junction he tells me that it's better if I stay with him and go to Apacay, and that I can get to Posof by an alternative route. I am wary but stay with his suggestion. I get more wary as I notice the road becoming smaller and less trafficked.
Aran then invites me into Aparcay for a cay
and I assume he will again drop me back on the road to Posof which by-passes Aparcay and is a km back. But he doesn't... he just says goodbye and I have to lug my bag back to the road (whilst voicing abuse at Aran to the trees). I think I was just a showpiece for him at the local cay evi
. I score a ride back to the road on a horse drawn cart.
After another 45 minutes (and maybe three vehicles passing in that time), Hussein stops for me in his seriously big truck and we are off to Cildir. The prize for this alternative route is a magnificent drive around the gorgeous Cildir Golu (lake).
It's now 11 am, I have traveled about 100 kms from Kars and still have the
same again to the Georgian border. A local with excellent English stops but he is going in the opposite direction. He just wants to gloat at the fact that I am here in the middle of nowhere and “...going the wrong way.... there is no traffic along this way”. I thank him with a false smile.
After about 40 minutes I prove him wrong when two young guys stop and drive me the next 40 kms to where the original route joins this one. So it's after midday and I am feeling good.
An executive type guy gives me a lift to Hanak, a small town with some kind of major industrial plant that he is attending. He stops at the local petrol station where he knows the worker, and lines it up that if anyone stops for petrol going my way, a lift will be arranged. He is right.... it happens 20 minutes later.
Sirhan is from Aralik (250 kms back and near the Armenian border). He is an amateur archaeologist and on his way to Tblisi for his annual holiday (from what job I am unable to ascertain due to lack of English/ Turkish). But
I am set now all the way to my destination. We drive through wonderful mountains and my spirit soars at the scenery.
Following the windy International Highway wide enough for a one-horse cart, we get to the Georgian border at about 3 pm Georgian time (2 pm Turkish).
THEN.... 'broken licence' ….. and another story begins.......
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