Blind as Ray in Georgia
10th of September, 2015
As blind as Ray in Georgia
The story goes when it rains cats and dogs, it comes from the days of old when the thatched roofs got so saturated cats and dogs playing on the roofs fell through. Well if we had cats and dogs playing on the roof of our thatched roof car they would have been in my lap. It was pissing down as we passed through Georgian customs and after our big day there was no worries on my part as we pulled up at the controller, all for a good reason, what a dude. A little small talk, mention of Cha Cha (the local poison) stamp stamp, do we need insurance? No not here. Boom! I love this country all ready.
Too easy, but as I look up at the flags in the darkness, the shine of Georgia (white with red cross's. Like St George plus some) then to my surprise there flows the E.U. Flag standing proud, what back in Europe. Another post Soviet country landlocked between its Muslim neighbours and bullying old leader, Georgia stands strong.
The rain is pelting as we endeavour to find our way, rumours had it we were going to keep on trucking as camping in the pouring rain is out of the question. The road is disappearing so is the car in front. As we venture through the boarder town, in the flashing lights of police cars, the road turns into a river. We have to pull the pin, thinking wise we decided to settle for a hotel for the night. The first hotel of our journey, hot showers, internet and comfort.
The morning brings sunshine as we rock on out, there seems to be an invisible middle lane as the cars, buses and even trucks fight for the front. It's total chaos, which to me is a surprise as the police rock around in angry looking beasts, with their lights flashing continuously. Like they've been watching to many American movies.
As we head for the hills something jumps out, a little bit out of the ordinary. Big overgrown gardens show old manor houses that don't seen to old, but abandoned. The local community live in more modest abodes. I come to realise the reasons as we head into the mountains. Georgia was the Soviet Riviera where the rich Russians would come to their holiday houses, enjoy the famous wine and bask on the beaches of the Black Sea in the hot Georgian sun. With Georgian/Russian history it's obvious why these buildings are left abandoned, just weird why they are still standing.
Driving in the mountainous valleys the roads get windy and the driving just gets crazier, I read that every 20 minutes there is a crash and every 18 hours there is a serious injury or death. This statistic doesn't surprise me at all. On a good note old vines climb through every garden we pass. The road stalls are selling honey and the famous Georgian wine. Georgia has perfected the art of making wine, a fact, Georgia was the first nation to make wine. A clear bottle also seems to make an appearance, normally in the back of the stall and not in great numbers, it's the infamous Cha-Cha the locals distilled masterpiece.
I have a feeling tonight's going to be a good good night.
As we head through some dodgy old post soviet towns we hit the capital Tbilisi, what a beauty. Loads of funky buildings, weirdly reminds me of Cuba, with its wooden overhung villas, little balconies with wrought iron surroundings. In their day would have been spectacular, now a little let go gives character.
Once finding ourselves, we are on a mission to stay with a local. Apparently the hospitality of Georgia is second to none. Our navigator of the day Benny has a village in mined. So let's see where this night takes us. Turning up a random road we start rolling through some small villages to our chosen destination. Again it's like stepping back in time, horse and carts, old farming communities, small villages with ancient grape vines rolling over stone walls surrounding houses and courtyards. This fells just right. As we climb further up the valley with the lead car boosts straight through a police stop, as they wave them down Camo happily waves back and carries on. The look in the soldiers eyes made Sonny and me stop with out thinking twice. He probably would have fired if we had carried on. In a stern yell he directed us to call up the other car to return. We politely tried to explain we had no communication with them, so he yelled louder, even though our Georgian is pretty much non existent, it was pretty easy to understand. Lucky for us Camo and team rocked on up... With our charm it wasn't long before, they were taking selfies with Camo. They just wanted to know where we were heading, as much further up the valley is Russia and not a happy place to be, a war zone.
Soon we were on our merry way, cruising aimlessly towards a red zone. No less than two or three kilometres up the road we hit our destination and the destiny of our evening. Crazy Dave appeared out of the dusk, with a huge smile. Broken but understandable English invites us to stay at his, bribing us with wine and Cha-cha. It wasn't long before we were at Dave's getting on the waste. Little food, loads of home made delights and, great characters. Hard men, hard life, telling stories of just five years prior Russian invasion, of their fighting, of their homes being bombed. Just six kilometres from here is the Russian boarder. Now the soldiers make more sense.
The night was enjoyed till the early hours, stories, shotguns, even a bit of local dancing.
I still didn't get the wine brewing technique, somewhere lost in translation. Georgia is the home of wine and its brewing secrets need to be shared, it is incredible. So is a home made meal apparently, but not at Dave's.
The morning brings reality, tried, slow and a Cha-cha head, ready to hit the road as Azerbaijan is waiting. Broken we hit the road early with 500 km to the boarder. Nothing much to write home about, as we drove east the towns lost their character as the lands flattened and the post soviet country showed little change since their bullies retreat. It feels like this area of Georgia still has got a long way to find itself again. As we approach the boarder the road deaerates along with the buildings, a amazing comparison to the western Georgian Rivera. Again apprehension as we hear stories about Azerbaijan, boarder and its authorities. But now we play it as it comes, we got this, thanks for the awesomeness Georgia........