April 1

The vino may not pack a hangover, but the tchacha certainly does.  I rolled out of bed this morning, bleary-eyed and non-bushy-tailed (smooth-tailed?) and after washing my face and having some breakfast while completely failing to be able to communicate with the owner, we grabbed our bikes from outside and headed off.  It seemed like someone had gone through our stuff, but camera, wallet, phone and passport were all there so no harm, no foul. 

The hangover was manifesting itself in us being completely unable to cycle quickly.  It took us a few hours to reach Lagodekhi, and when we stopped at a petrol station for a break, Ryan discovered that even though our mysterious raider hadn’t taken any of our things, they had taken all of his dollars.  A quick check of my bag led to the same conclusion.  Annoying, but they hadn’t taken anything useful, so screw it. 

When we arrived at the border crossing we discovered that the guards spoke good English, and we all had a good chat about what we were doing.  It’s nice to see people smiling again as well – in Georgia it’s rare for people to smile at you on the street I’ve found.  I think it’s a hangover from Soviet times – they’ll wave, but people seem to be less willing to return a smile. 

We had great riding from the border to Zagatala as most of it was downhill, but the road to Gax was the worst we’ve had on the trip.  It started off well enough, but soon devolved into a dirt track and slowed us down considerably.  At one point while the road was still good, I was convinced I was going to be robbed. A car slammed on the brakes as soon as it passed me, a door opened and a thick, deep Russian voice shouted out ‘Davai!’ and then the two other doors opened and three men in leather jackets jumped out and walked towards me.  I put my hand in my pocket and unfolded my knife in case things got interesting, but they immediately broke into smiles and laughter.  Tension eased, I explained what we were doing, and a few seconds later Ryan arrived and we headed off again. 

We arrived in Gax late in the day, and after the local youth team came to say hello, we rode off in the direction of Sheki.  Sheki has one of the best caravanserais on the Silk Road, so I was keen to go see it.  We asked for directions, as the maps hadn’t been great in telling us road conditions, and we were pointed to a road that didn’t even appear on our maps.  Who cares, so long as it’s smooth.  And it was.  It was beautiful.  Smooth, flat, with a great big hard shoulder and no cars. 

We stopped to camp once we’d ridden to the bottom of a big hill, and just as we were looking for a place to set up, a man and his little brother turned up on their wee motor trike.  They told us that this place was no good to camp, and dragged us over the road to a farmer tending some sheep.  These guys had never met I don’t think, but they soon found us a place to sleep.  The farmer – or as it turned out he wasn’t a farmer – was leaving the house he was, so we could have it for the night.  He lit us a fire, made us some tea then buggered off to let us relax.  I say house – it was a single room with a bed and a stove, but it felt like heaven to us.  A quick meal of rice and we were asleep, hangover finally subsiding.

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