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Over the Mountains of Southwestern Georgia

From Batumi we planned to ride about 160 kilometres until our next rest day. Our route would take us first into the humid forested valleys of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains across the Autonomous Region of Adjara, then over the 2025m Goderdzi Pass. We would break for a few days in Akhaltsikhe, the capital of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, a hotter and dryer region, where we would do some local sightseeing.

Ambitiously, our plan was to do the trip in two days with an overnight in Khulo. The road deteriorates right after Khulo so we knew our first day would be easy but that we might have to take an extra half day and camp somewhere between Khulo and the top of the pass.

We left Batumi a little bit later than we had hoped, thanks to some noisy roommates in our dorm room who had kept us up well into the night. The only way Yann could keep me from having a total meltdown was by promising (at about midnight when we were still lying wide awake in our beds) that we would sleep in until 6:30am. Luckily it rained most of the night and into the morning, cooling the air and making for extremely pleasant riding conditions. The scenery was great and the few vehicles were not driving very quickly due to the sharp curves on the road. Villagers were friendly and waved to us as we rode by. We felt very happy with our choice of route.   Along the Batumi-Khulo road

The historic Dandalo Bridge, on the Batumi-Khulo road

  We're in a good mood because we chose such a nice route

The day was relatively easy until about 10km from the town when we had to make up for 70km of gradual inclines with a 300m climb into Khulo. The only hotel with any vacancies was an additional 100m climb (which I walked). We had a great meal and an even better sleep in the cool mountain weather. I went to bed feeling confident, we had climbed to 950m and we were 30km from the top of the pass (Yann only told me the next morning that we would go down more than 200 metres before starting our actual ascent).

Having had such a lovely sleep we woke up at 4:30am not wanting to get out of bed. I convinced Yann that we should take a rest day since we had such a great, inexpensive place to sleep. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast then decided at 9am that we both had lots of energy and that we should continue riding. So we set out an hour later (almost 5 hours later than we had planned).

The second day of riding was much more difficult, not because of the grade of the road but because of its generally terrible conditions. Not more than a few metres out of town from Khulo the road is no longer paved. But the traffic was sparse, the scenery beautiful, the people friendly and the weather cool once again, so we didn't spend too much time worrying about the condition of the road.   Yann making his way to the Goderdzi Pass

 These two beauties ran out from their home to watch us ride by

In the late afternoon, after about seven hours of climbing and after finishing the most difficult portion of the road (10% grades, large loose rocks), we were still 200 metres from the top of the pass. We were getting tired, Yann even had to push his bike for the first time (in solidarity he claims). We debated whether to set up camp but decided instead that if we did not reach the pass by 6pm (another 2 hours) we would stop for the night. At 5:45 we had made it to the top, averaging a whopping speed of 5.7km/hr. We had 2.5 hours of light remaining in the day and 55km to Akhaltsikhe and we decided that we would make it.   Emilie climbing up to Goderdzi Pass, moving average from Khulo: 5.7km/hr
    Goderdzi Pass, 2025m

This wasn't the smartest plan, mainly because we didn't get to enjoy what would have otherwise been a very easy 55km. We had 20km of difficult descent on steep unpaved road like the one we had just climbed, but then we hit a brand new pavement for 35km which we sped across without taking more than a few 2 minute snack breaks. We hadn't had dinner and our lunch had consisted of hazelnuts and dates.   Passing the village of Zarzma, it is getting darker, we have 35 km to Akhaltsikhe, and we still haven't hit pavement

The closer we got to Akhaltsikhe the more the traffic increased and as the sun set we got more nervous and peddled as fast as we could. At one point a car purposely swerved towards us and pulled away at the last minute (hopefully as a bad joke), making us even edgier.

When we finally arrived at the Prestige Hotel in the darkness, starving and exhausted, we were greeted by friendly staff who opened the front door as they saw us coming and instructed us to wheel our bicycles right in. We were in our room a few minutes later eating a huge pile of food from the grocery store next door, very happy to be safe and settled, having learned the lesson to slow down.

Stats for Batumi to Akhaltsikhe:

Days of cycling: 2
Days of rest: 1
Kilometres cycled: 174
Metres climbed: 2559
Cycle-tourists crossed on the road: 5


Partially sponsored by Mountain Equipment Coop  Expedition Support

4 comments:

Brian Bice said...

That elevation profile does NO justice to that climb...

YandE said...

We agree!

Thank you Brian for reminding everyone at home of our suffering :)

mom said...

The Tour de France winner has nothing on you guys.

paradiso(angry) said...

Bravo,bravo,bravo Papa