For this trip I needed normally to do some changes to the bicycle, three gears may be not enough to go 5.190 meters uphill, but I will challenge myself and still be with three gears! Pushing the bicycle up the mountains.
Komoot and Gmaps will be my main information source, I will not use the internet, so I have to rely only on offline maps.
This time I have more gear with me: full-body reflectors, fisherman rain-coat & solar-powered batteries; however, I have just a few pieces of clothing to fit all the stuff and the bigger sleeping bag, cause now the temperature will be a bit colder on the mountains.
Click on the pic to open the details of the tour
TBILISI – YEREVAN CYCLING DIARY Personal feelings and some useful Trip notes for bicycle travelers.
Main points about the trip
I felt Safe all the time,
There are many water springs on the way, in both countries,
The folk is hospitable & they like Europeans, Georgians and Armenian are similar, even though they have some contrasts between each other, Cold on the mountains in the nights,
The month of October has great weather for cycling (not too cold, not too hot), Not too much traffic and cars keep space when they were passing me, being really polite.
Ready for departure
Daily cyclo diary
TBILISI – KVEMO TELETI 30KM
It’s late when I realize that I don’t have a sleeping pad.
I had to throw away a battery in the standard trash cause in Georgia there is no recycling going on.
Gas stations don’t have air for tires.
No one friendly met on the way, expect a fruit seller and a tire shop owner.
I get some pain in the left leg, I don’t enjoy too much going on the mountains with a three gears city bike.
Testing the solar panels, they seem to work great, I already project to make some permanent installation.
I went to sleep early, I got asleep soon but in the night many thoughts came to my mind. It’s so hard to get empty.
Cemetery. Both Armenians & Georgians have a heavy worship for dead people
KVEMO TELETI – MARNEULI 46 km (tot 76)
Cold in the night
Freedom feeling in the morning
Disgusting smell of exhaust gas from cars
I buy a one-year-expired sweet from a small shop
Hygiene issues: while the seller serves the customer the food falls on the ground, then the seller put it aside, but does not trash it, after five minutes the food is back on the shelf; several shops did this.
Cool kids in the street with bicycles cycle with me.
Car accident, yet another.
Horse with a small lace between legs and neck.
A local asks me what’s my religion, I reply: ” the bicycle” and everything circular.
A fruit which I have never seen before attracts my attention: it’s green, hard, as big as an orange, smelling a bit like a citrus fruit, it has spiral patterns on the skin, and I don’t manage to open it.
In the night there is a mix of different sounds:
Music, like a folk festival
Dogs, many of them, barking
Train, slow and as noisy as a drill machine.
My back hurts.
I manage to get car’s attention with all that reflectors
MARNUELI – SHNOGH (ARMENIA) 34km (tot 110)
It rains, so I stay in the tent and play some harmonica.
Cows licking my bicycle.
All Custom guards are eating while checking my documents.
Friendly custom control.
Arrived in Armenia.
The streets are a bit worse here than in Georgia.
The Armenians I crossed look similar to each other; many men have flat dark hair going on the forehead, a mix between Dracula and Calimero. Several Armenians I have seen have gold teeth, I am not sure if it is a symbol of wealth.
The night was cold. Many animals were roaming around the tent; for sure groups of dogs, some kind of foxes making an acute sound, and maybe even wolves, or maybe they were just dogs. I have heard animal’s sounds that I have never heard before, some kind of sad dogs group crying, even though they could have been other animals too.
I have heard another scary sound, like an army with many tanks, moving slowly next to me; then I realize is just an Armenian train. Same happens for the trucks on the road. Two similar slow metallic sounds.
In the morning my tent is still wet due to the dew. I pack anyway.
Camping in the fields
SHNOG – DSEGH 80km (tot 156)
Many cars in panne in the street.
Indiana Jone’s bridges.
Abandoned cable car hanging on the cable on top of the village.
High voltage electricity wires about 2 5 meters from the ground.
I didn’t meet any attractive Armenian woman or girl yet
A bicycle traveler crosses my way, he doesn’t even smile to me.
Surrounded by dogs around the tent.
I get sick, maybe the food (kebab or fish), maybe the water, maybe just influenza; my belly, muscles, and head are painful, I vomit four times.
Locals are extremely friendly
DSEGH – VANADZOR 20km (tot 176)
Today I am fasting
The sun is high in the sky and I am still in the tent, sick.
I have finished all the three bottles of water.
My solar panels don’t seem to charge the battery
I try to get some motivation and energy to pack and leave :
I need water,
It’s hot in the tent,
There is too much noise from cars here,
And, if I arrive soon to Yerevan, I will probably meet a cool girl there.
I start to cycle even if I am sick.
Armenian drivers behave with cyclists as Italian drivers behave with girls: they annoy you by using the horn for no reason.
The way is uphill, I have to push the bicycle; nevertheless, there is a positive thing: Yerevan is not like Rome, where ALL the streets bring you there, for Yerevan there is only one street and not even much traffic.
Luckily the road has been flattened, however, there is no protection net for rocks falling from the mountain.
I struggle to find a place to set up the tent, finally, I camp near an abandoned industrial site, full of trash in the grass, as often happens in this trip.
The mist is the enemy number one
VANADZOR – SPITAK 38km (tot 214)
Today there is a lot of mist.
Regardless of the fact that this location is a bit grotesque and full of trash, I didn’t get disturbed by vehicles or dogs, so I had a good rest.
I still feel a little weak, but I have positive mental energy, probably I will fast today too.
When I look at the map in the mornings, I see there is a long way to go, nevertheless, as I start cycling, I regularly get surprised of myself about how far you can get just with a bicycle.
Even though I still feel sick, by cycling I feel better.
Thinking of my mother, I wonder if she had ever had big traveling adventures.
All cars have dark windows, even the front ones.
Smelly, polluting, and extremely dark smoke comes from the exhaust pipe of the majority of the vehicles.
It’s incredible how many car’s tire shops there are in Armenia.
Two men invite me to a warehouse where I meet Saro, the manager. He is really kind and speaks English, I get invited to eat with them but I am still not feeling good with my stomach, so I prefer not to eat.
Mountains are all around me, they seem made of velvet.
The silence and quietness of traveling by bicycle are priceless.
I am about fasting today too, but finally, I eat some grapes.
It seems that between Armenians and Georgians there are not great relationships.
I have to climb mountains again and my back hurts.
The night is freezing cold, I absolutely need a warmer sleep bag and extra clothes.
Someone comes to visit me in the tent during the night, I don’t understand if he needs help or is offering me some.
A kind man came to offer his help while I was repairing the bicycle
SPITAK – APARAN 33 km (tot 247)
This is the third day of fasting.
Many birds roam around my tent.
I have a flat tire.
A kind man offers me tea, accommodation, and little help to repair the bicycle.
I was thinking to climb these mountains yesterday before sunset, luckily I didn’t do it, because I would have ended up in the darkness on a mountain with nowhere to camp and a flat tire.
Finally, I realize that the many cars horning at me, do it just for friendliness, while in Italy they do it also to annoy and make stupid jokes at you.
After the wheel reparation, the tire seems to be damaged, so the bicycle is riding wonky.
I get invited for a tea from a kind man.
Suddenly, I am in the middle of a wedding, they ask me if I am hungry, I reply: “a bit” (I didn’t eat since three days), the people of the wedding go to ask others, probably asking if I could join the wedding, after a while they go to the supermarket and buy me food: sweets and chocolate. I do eat the food, but I didn’t have to, cause I am still sick, so I am about vomiting again.
Both in Armenia and Georgia—even though there are no bicycle lanes and cars don’t drive good—I have to admit that the most of the vehicles take a large distance from me when they pass me.
Safety is also not an issue here, for so far I have traveled, people don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don´t commit crimes; for sure not as much as in Europe.
Aran is a nice small town to stop.
I camp when is still about 17:00, I am afraid to not feel well enough to cross the next village.
There is a nice spot to set up the tent, I have a great view and some privacy; the only issue is the nearby traffic, noisy and smelly: from the tent, I cough because of the disgusting oily smoke from diesel vehicles. They have probably engine’s issues and therefore a lot of oil is burned. Luckily there are many other vehicles that run on methane.
Yet another freezing night, regardless the fact that I have even put gloves on my feet, they were still cold.
APARAN – YEREVAN 47 km (tot 294)
It’s sunny and I am not that sick anymore.
Today I will absolutely fast.
Everyone has talked to me in Russian in this trip, assuming that I would speak—or be—Russian; some people thought I was American, when I told them that my family is Italian they loved me, they like Europeans in general.
I find trash even next to a worship place.
While I am cycling there is a bicycle passing me on the left, I turn my head and I see a group of cyclo travelers, we cycle until Yerevan together, sharing food, drinks, and information.
They are kind Russians, I try my best to speak Russian, but of course, I can just say basic concepts.
I am happy to arrive in Yerevan and take a break, I love to cycle but I really needed some rest, a better sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.
I don´t manage to fast this last day.
Learing Georgian & Food
Thanks = Madloba
Hello = Gamarjoba (gamargioba)
GoodBye = Nakhvamdis
My name is = chemi sakhelia
Nice to meet you = Sasiamovnoa sheni gatsnoba
No = Ara
Yes = Ki
Maybe = sheidzleba’Me = me
You = shen
They = Isini
I like = me mikvars
You are really kind = dzalian chkviani khar (zalian cikviani kar)
Girl = gogo
Boy = bichi
I love you = me shen mikvarkhar
I love Georgia = me mikvars saqartvelo
You are beautiful = shen khar dzalian lamazi
You have beautiful eyes = shen gakvs dzalian lamazi tvalebi (eyes)
I like your skin = me mikvars sheni kani
Are all Georgian girls beautiful like you? = kvela qartveli gogo shensavit lamazia
Can I kiss you? = sheidzleba gakotsoDo you want to watch a movie with me = ginda chemtan ertad kinos kureba
I would marry your brother just to be near you = shen dzmaze davqorwindebodi rom shens akhlos vkopilikavi
Extremely hospitable and kind people, I have got helped in all kind of ways, even with money.
I needed food, they gave me food.
I needed a ride, they brought me with them.
I was thirsty, I had free water.
I had no money, people spontaneously gave me money.
No, is not the Bible, it’s just what happened to me. Many times. Both in Armenia and Georgia.
It seems that both, Armenians and Georgians, are in competition for whom is the most friendly and kind.
Free water as fundamental right.
Until about 2014, the water at home was free.
Yerevan, city of mirrors. You don’t have to carry a mirror with you, there are hundreds of them around the city
Armenian gastronomy: Persil & Coriander everywhere. Unlucky me that I don’t like coriander!
THINGS THAT COULD BE IMPROVED
Builders working on an expensive hotel construction don’t have any safety equipment
Small kids drive mini electric car toys, these cars are mini luxury cars and have even loud disco music integrated, to make the kid fully similar to the father.
I have seen more porches car here than in the wealthiest countries of the world.
Are you living or traveling in the European Union?
There are a number of rights that you have which you may not be aware of, I make here a short list of some of these rights and I tell you which are the steps you should make in case of legal issues.
It’s your right to film Police
In the most European countries you have the right to film Police in public, also in the USA it’s allowed.
There are several organization to get informations about your rights for filming Police:
While filming is mostly allowed, once you publish a video, you may want to blur the faces of the policemen.
You should also be aware that if Police is in operation better you keep some distance and discretion while filming, otherwise they may annoy you.
How to claim your rights as a human—or a citizen, traveler of tourist—and make a complaint, “press charges”, “make a report”, to institutions and what to do to escalate it to higher hierarchy levels
Whom to contact
– Higher ranks of the same institution you are complaining about (head offices, etc…)
– Ombudsman of the institution
– General Attorney (if is about Police)
– Regional ombudsman
– National ombudsman
– Traveler rights associations (if it is about travelers)
– Human rights associations (if it is about human rights)
Mud, wind, sun, rain, the black sea, Russian Army with helicopters, lack of food, lack of water, my back hernias, my painful knee, lack of money, drunken Georgians driving like there is no tomorrow, holes in the street, toxic substances, any kind of animal in the middle of the street, Georgian excessive hospitality, mountains, hunters shooting even at night, the fact that I a have a city bike, and even farmers with axes pointed at me: none of these stopped me from getting from Kiev to Tbilisi.
Wanna know what happened on the way?
Simply read below.
CYCLING VS MOTORIZED VEHICLES
You can call a cyclist irrational, or even masochist, you may think it’s meaningless to cycle when you can take the car or an airplane, and be much faster.
Nevertheless, a cyclist believes in what he does. He believes that using the legs instead of polluting vehicles, makes you feel proud of yourself, proud of your body and of your respect to nature.
Hence, why do painters still exist when you can take a picture and get everything much faster?
This was the sentence my father used to pronounce when someone would argue that his paintings are not exactly as reality.
The same difference between a painting and a picture we can transpose to bicycles and cars.
That’s the reason why a while ago I jumped on an abandoned bicycle and decided to go to the other side of the world with it.
INSPIRATION TO CYCLE
The books that inspired me the most:
– The tour of the world in 80 days
– Future Boy Conan
– Don Chuck Monogatari
– Hokuto no Ken
I Share my Bicyle Diary with you
KIEV – ODESSA
Kiev – Bila Tserkva, First 50 km’s
I can’t easily find vegetarian food, the most people eat meat and milk products.
On the right side of the road, there is a small fence with a crowd of cows constricted inside. They have extremely little space, being forced to squeeze and can barely move.
The people I meet along the way are not too interested in interacting, some of them don’t even look in my direction. I guess this is not due to anything negative in their character, they are probably introverted and reserved. That’s actually a polite way of behaving; I appreciate much more who gives me my personal space and privacy, instead of those who go behind my boundaries. Nevertheless, while bicycle touring, one is more open and can get benefit from getting to know locals.
The 80% of the houses in the rural areas, have the roof made of this toxic material. Asbestos is everywhere. Fences, walls, water pipes, and aqueducts are in asbestos too.
I initially felt preoccupied and sad about the people’s health here, but after seeing how old peoples get, I feel released: even though they grow up around toxic’s substances and not far from Chernobyl, many manage to get quite old and still in reasonable shape.
My curiosity made me wish to know the real age of those old men and woman, still, I didn’t dare to ask.
The worst thing a cyclist can encounter are definitely dogs, that’s a constant in all countries. Northern countries are much more safe in this aspect, dogs are friendly there, they don’t bother you.
The more you go south, the more dogs become aggressive, without being racist, we can make an analogy about people.
From the moment it’s proven that dogs behave in a parallel way to humans around them, these in Ukraine start to become a problem, luckily, they get scared of me once I look at them in the eyes and they run away.
Installing the tent on the side of the road, behind few trees, where the level of the ground is about two meters below the street; I have little space cause the road is right on my left, on my right I have a grain field.
The ground is not smooth, the noise of vehicles, many of which are tractors, is annoying my sleep. Furthermore, dogs from a nearby farm, bark all night and I get really cold.
Bila Tserkva 50km – Rokytne 110km
A BABUSHKA KICKS ME OFF
In the deep countryside, I see some nut trees along the road, so I decide to harvest this healthy dry fruit. While I pick some nuts, a babushka, from a house at the other side of the street, shouts at me and points her right hand to the street, showing me the way to go away from her surroundings.
Everything is made of asbestos here, people do not seem to care.
The night passes with a continuous barking of dogs, they seem to be near the tent, I shrink into a ball in order to avoid any of them to reach me at the edges of the tent.
The sunflowers bend their head down, to the opposite side of the sun, it seems almost like a sign of rebellion to nature or maybe it could represent the nature itself, surrendering to humans, which burn and pollute the fields without respect.
It’s hard to count all the camps of sunflower, now dead, that I find on my way. I have the impression sunflower is in absolute the main crop of Ukraine, following, in smaller number, I see grain and corn fields too.
ROKYTNE, MY FAVORITE TOWN
A different town is in front of me, it’s called Rokytne. I notice immediately the many cyclists, friendly people, and finer shops.
I have a break here, it’s the only place that stands out from the standard Ukrainian post-soviet, outdated style. Also, the mentality of the people seems to be more forward. I get to this conclusion judging by how the cars drive and the fact that many locals ride bicycles for choice, not because of poverty.
Rokytne 110km – Skibin 150km
DRUNKEN MAN, WANTING TO PAY AND KISS ME
In order to get water and some food, I stop in a “Magazin”, an omnipresent small shop that sells a bit of everything. NB: the everyting that you can find in a country where import is quite limited due struggling economy and an active war.
I see a table outside, where a drunken man is napping, in a deep sleep, which is for me surprising because it’s about 10:00 in the morning; I seat at the opposite side of him, there are two bottles of beer on the table, one is right where I am sitting. From the moment nobody is there, I move the drink away from me.
After few minutes, a man comes straight to me and shouts something. I understand that I took his place, I try to explain but from the moment he realizes that I cycling a long way, he smiles, holds my hands, and introduces himself; proposing me some food. Once I tell him that I am coming from Finland with the bicycle, he becomes euphoric, offering me money as help; at a certain point, he even tries to kiss me while we take a picture.
Highlights of the rest of the day:
Too much wind, I can’t cycle.
Stop for a long reparation. My hands get black and I don’t find a place to wash them.
A scooter stops next to me, the driver has a technical problem.
Skibin 150km – Uman 220km
All the way with no restaurants or snacks.
A man is on the ground, lying on a bicycle.
Many cows and goats attached at few meters of chain.
I talk to a woman milking a cow.
Uman 220km – Kryve Ozero 310km
Lost in the woods full of trash.
In a snack, the shop owner tries to cheat with the price. It’s the first time I notice someone tryes to cheat about prices in Ukraine.
Many dead foxes on the highway.
I meet Alexander, a young boy walking on the highway attempting to reach Odessa by foot. He has not even a bag or backpack, wears dirty clothes and broken sandals. I think about the difference between him and me.
A golden toothed man gives me fruits.
Many horses on the chain.
Without knowing, I slept at the entrance of a school.
Cryve Ozero 310km – Zhovten 400km
EXTREMELY HOT AND SUNNY, I GOT A SUNBURN
A man hosts me, he is caring and helpful, drinks vodka, but misses two front teeth. He heals my burning arms by applying milk cream on my skin.
When I am about to sleep, he comes to the room without knocking, looks at me smiling, makes a circle with his right hand, putting the index and the thumb together, then releases the index finger to his neck making a sound.
I am not sure about what this may mean, but I go to another room with him.
He shows me a bottle of Ukrainian vodka, I get a full glass of it. Explaining that it’s too much, I take another glass and pour one finger of vodka in it, he takes the rest and drinks it all in one shoot.
Not even five minutes are passed, he wants to show me how strong he his, so he starts to do push-ups and similar exercises.
Zhovten 400 – Odessa 500
Main issues: disastrous road, dogs, wind, sun.
ODESSA – BOAT
Going fast under the rain: slaloming around huge ponds, crossing with red traffic lights to get to my ship, which is departing soon.
Before boarding, in the check-in room that looked more like a refugee camp for mentally disturbed and alcoholic, I already get to know that Georgians are heavy drinkers. They drink and drive, and as it turns out, they also drink and sail: a drunken officer coming from the ship confirms this.
Waiting for hours in the corridor of the custom control area, I discover that inside this small space a full ecosystem is around me. There is a mini bank office, which is actually a two square meters hole with a think glass; a miniature restaurant and even toilets, the latter smelling like an open latrine.
THE GEORGIAN NEANDERTHAL MAN
A drunken tall man, featuring a Neanderthal walking style, argues with me about his ‘priority’ in getting through the entrance.
For unknown reasons, he was carrying an old washing machine from Ukraine to Georgia. He was there with his mother, which was constantely embarassed by his behavior.
There is not much I can tell him because he is totally drunk and doesn’t appear to understand any language that I know, anyhow I explain him the situation in English, he does not get any happier.
This individual continues, during the long hours of the custom control, to harass people and disturb. He reaches the point of repeatedly attempting to kiss a well-shaped female bank employee, a security woman—old and of the dubious attractiveness—, and other women.
During these absurd actions, he was leaning so close to the victims that his lips almost reached them. He was explicitly asking to have sex, verbally and physically.
Constant shouts, aggressive approaches, pushing and pulling, verbal assaults, were all perpetrated by this monkey-man. He was talking no-sense even with whom didn’t speak his language.
We were maybe fifty passengers, there was at least a dozen of people working in the station, nevertheless, nobody stopped him, not even the border control police, customs, and military personnel.
Walking with feet at two shoulder distance, bended knees, and open arms, he looked like a zoo escape.
After the initial feeling of indignation, I could not stop to laugh, I thought to be in a dream, real life can’t be so funny.
There were continuous grotesque scenes, going from unreal hilarious to unbearable, these could all have been used in a low-quality comedy, which could have been really funny somehow.
He ended up falling asleep on the benches of the waiting room.
Two Russian helicopters visit us, they roam around the boat for about half hour. Coming approximately ten meters close to the vessel.
It is a quite intimidating experience, also because I am on a regular, innocent, ferry boat. The only issue with it is that it’s a Ukrainian ship, that’s why the Russian harassment.
DANCING ON THE DECK, DRUNKEN
Passengers offer me drinks, I drink more vodka than what I am supposed to drink, this caused:
Discussions with officers.
All night vomiting.
Sleeping for two days.
Back highly painful.
BATUMI – TBILISI
Batumi 0 – Kobuleti 35
HILLS ON MY WAY
My first kilometers in Georgia are a new experience for me.
All is really different than in Ukraine. The traffic, the roads, the altitude and the people.
A kind-hearted man helps me uphill and gives me food. There is no mutual language we both speak properly, so we communicate by hands. He tells me that with his car he just needs two hours to get to the capital. Pointing at the Coca-Cola he is drinking, and at his chubby belly, I tell him: “this drink, together with a car, are the worst for health”.
The way was becoming really steep, it seemed that the mountains I was cycling on would never end. My back it’s painful since four days already, today more than ever, I can barely walk. My bicycle has just three gears so I have to push it, operation almost impossible due the condition of my spine.
Next the first high hill, three young girls give me some water, cause my bottle was empty
Kobuleti 35 – Lanchkhuti 100
A minibus stops, there are two men in it, one of them tells me to get inside, he helps me to load the bicycle. He does not speak any English, it’s hard to communicate, nevertheless, I do understand that he is offering to bring me to Tbilisi.
I speak also with his wife on the phone, she could speak English and was really kind too.
My point is to cycle to Tbilisi, I explain this and I tell him that I just needed a bit of help for these hills and because my back hurts.
His sense of hospitality it’s really disarming, he definitely wants to do more for me, so he offers me a coffee, food, and asks if I need anything else.
Before leaving he gives me a bag full of food. There is a piece of flatbread, which is really tasty. When they are about to leave, the minibus does not start, I help to push it but it does not work. Luckily, the other person, who is his father in law, knew a trick and by maneuvering at the engine, managed to make the vehicle start.
It starts to rain, I stop at a snack, the only of the village. There I spend half day and I get to know nearly all the students of the village.
They are friendly and many of them speak english. It seems they don’t want me to leave.
One of them tells me that he knows a place where I can put my tent, I follow him but instead he brings me his home, not sure about what to do, I cycle fast to the first possible place where I can install my tent, it’s pouring rain and I am in the mud.
Lanchkhuti 100 – Samtredia 150
I get Bread and water from a sweet old lady.
I am outside the tent, shirtless, about to pack my stuff, when an older woman passes by, I regret to not have asked the people nearby if I could camp there, so I say to the woman who I am, that I have slept there and where I am going. She says something like “cleb” , I just understand that she may want to offer me some food, so I try to explain that I have already bread–offered me from another kind Georgian the day before–.
She is faster than me, I get a big fresh backed piece of bread and a bottle of water.
RAIN IN THE MORNING
I was about to depart when it started to rain, the tent and the bicycle were all wet, the sky didn’t promise any sun, I packed and I started cycling anyway, hoping to find a place where to get my stuff dry.
HORSES ON CHAINS
One of the nicest things of Georgia is the freedom of domestic animals, they are just everywhere, with no chains.
Horses don’t have the same fortune, I have seen many of them with short chains; which is horrendous for an anymal that is naturally made to roam fast in vast spaces.
Samtredia 150 – Meore Sviri 200
RAIN AND MUD: A CAR STOPS IN FRONT OF THE TENT
Blocked in the rain I can’t move from the tent, I hear people passing in front of it.
An old mercedes is slaloming in the mud like a rally car. Two man with a little beard are inside. They tell me to get in the car, I do it.
I am brought some kilometers away, in a house where there are six more men, I don’t know what to expect, also cause we don’t have any language we can use to communicate.
Some tension and worrying feeling builds up, I relax and it all ends up really sweet.
They are all very welcoming and hospitable, offering me food, drinks, even drugs!–the latter I refuse–.
I am invited to stay for the night and I get even the mud from my feet and the bicycle cleaned up by them.
Watermelons are brought to me by them as present for the morning breakfast.
The only negative side is that the host is drunk since the beginning and he does not hesitate to drive the car, like there is no tomorrow.
Meore Sviri 200 – Kvesrevi 300
Rain, rain rain.
Kvesrevi 300 – Tsromi 350
I have to depart with the tent being wet and the rain continues almost all day.
A young dog followed me a little. For the first time not to attack me, but in search of company, or food.
He was so sweet that I almost wished to take him with me.
One of his legs was injured, in a car accident probably. Anyhow he managed to run and jump run behind me. Happy as I have never seen a dog before.
Once I shouted at him to make him stop following me, he makes a dog cry, it’s disarming and pitiful, even for me that I don’t consider a dog better than a pig.
PERCEPTIVE ILLUSION OF THE STREET INCLINATION
I have to do the highest climbing now, reaching almost 1.000 meters of height.
The bicycle seems not to cycle properly, I feel that something is preventing its wheels from spinning smoothly. Therefore I stop and by putting the bicycle upside down, I check what’s the problem. All seems to be normal with the bicycle. The way, a two-lane road, goes uphill but it seemed to my eyes that it was downhill, so I got confused thinking that the problem was the bicycle. Probably my perspective made me have a wrong perception of the road’s inclination.
After the long climbing, here the fun part comes: the downhill!
In the first village, a Kid asks me for money, I am really touched by that, unfortunately, I am not able to give him money, nor I manage to spend some time with him to understand his problems.
In the fields, where pastors bring animals, I met a Man who served in the USSR army in the Baltics. We can’t understand each other much cause he speaks Georgian and Russian, I just understand few words of Russian. He seemed to be nostalgic of the USSR time.
Few hours before the sun sets down, when you still see a strong yellow-orange light, I set my tent up, on a beautiful hill, where there are cultivated fields and no garbage, finally, except for a couple of synthetic napkins.
I hear shootings nearby, it’s gonna be another night of worrying for hunters.
Tsromi 350 – Gori 400
In the night before, I have a visit of several different animals around the tent.
It was deep night. A craving creature comes out from few centimeter of my tent’s back side.
After few hours, something that could have been a fox, defecated just outside the entrance of the tent.
HOUSES AND CAR – POLICE AND COMMON PEOPLE
My eye catches many houses with just the front façade painted: it first seemed funny to see houses where the only finished side is the one facing the street. The other three sides have just bricks. Later I understand that poverty is still rampant here, the most people don’t have enough means to finish the building works. Probably stucco and paint are also expensive because they need to be imported.
From the other hand, Police buildings are really modern and luxurious. For reasons to me unknown, they have the European flag outside their police stations.
Police cars are extravagant too. They often leave police vehicles in the street with the engine running. When they are driving they keep the emergency lights, blue and red, always on. As it’s permanent emergency. Which is true, seen how georgians drive!
It seems there is a lot of money for police, but not for the Georgians or the streets, the latter often with rainwater draining gaps unfinished, transforming them in a mortal trap.
Georgians drive Cars, mostly vans actually, with German and Dutch text on it.
In first instance I was surprised, I thought many Germans were living here. Nevertheless, when I started to notice that these vehicles had German and Dutch minor businesses’s advertising, I realized Georgians were driving them.
They simply didn’t have means to paint the cars again, probably it looks cool for them to have a van with some European ununderstandable text such as: “schilderwerken Van Den Lieve”
TOMATO SELLERS GIVE ME FOOD
I was going off-road, for about two hours, going at walking speed and stopping often because the way was uphill. The bicycle was heavy, the weather is hot, therefore I get quite tired.
To get out of the dirtroad, I cross tomato sellers, one of them invites me inside a van, offering me tomatos, bread and anything he had on the small table.
In a small shop, they are kind to me, offering coffee and sweets.
This time my politeness got me into troubles, because I am not supposed to drink coffee, still, I accepted it. The coffee made me totally nervous for all the day and I could not sleep properly at night.
I discover that Georgians shops owners, to save electricity, do not keep the freezers for food always on, they unplug it for a while. They ignore maybe that unfreezing and freezing again makes food going bad.
Now I finally understand why ice-cream’s taste like expired here.
Gori 400 – Noste 428
THE CITY OF STALIN
I actually got to know just after have crossed Gori that it was the city where Stalin was born. Anyhow I had a feeling of strangeness while I was the city.
NIGHT VISIT OF A KIND THIEF
I have my tent in a side path of a muddy county road, between cultivated lands with low trees and green crops.
It’s really dark, late, cold, and it rains.
A kind shop owner offered me a coffie yesterday, I did the wrong act of drinking it, so I am restless all night. This makes me really sensitive to noises.
The bicycle is parked at the tent’s side, from the other side, I hear footsteps: “hallo”—I say immediately—“hallo”—the man replies, —“karasho”—I say, but there is no reply to it.
I hear footsteps going to the back side of the tent, then I don’t hear anything, I guess he went over a small path behind the tent.
Trying to sleep again, when not even ten minutes are passed, the same man is passing by, I pop out with my head from the tent and I see, in the darkness, his shape, the reddish light of a cigarette, and three animals going with him.
He does not come to talk to me and seems evasive, so I deduct he has stolen the beasties.
It rains since yesterday, I was wet when I went to sleep and I wake up wet, in the morning the sky is totally covered with gray, intimidating clouds, so I stay in the tent.
I discover that the ‘thief’ of yesterday, was actually the pastor of the animals.
Maybe the fact that I have eaten yesterday a tomato from the, not too clean, hands of a farmer, or maybe some other food I got in a shop which was not really hygienic or not rinsed properly; possibly a mix of these, plus a coffee that I was not supposed to accept—because caffeine act to my body like a drug—all this made my belly going crazy in the night.
I had cramps and swollen stomach, my sleep was constantly disturbed, it seemed like the digestion was having main issues.
SHOOTINGS IN THE NIGHT
Hunters became a constant, they hunt everywhere and do not seem to have much legal regulation.
I am not surprised anymore to hear shootings few hundred meters from the tent.
What surprised me was the fact that yesterday night there were shootings during hours of complete darkness, it could have been after midnight.
I wonder: “How can they see where they shoot in the night?”
Hoping they will not shoot in my direction, and that there will be no bullets coming back from the sky to me, I managed to sleep a bit.
INVITED FOR LUNCH
I go in a restaurant to eat, before I am able to order any food, I get invited from a group of people eating. They are really sweet and caring, adding food to my dish every five minutes.
GEORGIANS EATING HABITS
Just one is person talking while toasting, and strangely to me, he just cheers with few persons. I get to know that some of them are deputies.
At the end, suddenly, all people stand up and leaves within one minute.
I MEET A BICYCLE TRAVELER
From far, I see a shape of something that looks like a bicycle coming in my direction.
It’s a cyclist, traveling.
Henk, is his name, he is Dutch and we have a lot of experiences to share.
Homelessness for example, he is involved in helping people sleeping rough.
Moreover, our cycling route has similarities, he is doing the same route, but the opposite direction.
He started in America, coming from California to Asia and Middle East. Now heading to Greece, to help in refugees’ camps.
Two hunters with dogs pass by us, between the harvested corn fields. After circa five minutes we already hear shootings. For few hours they will be hunting just next to us.
Noste 428 – Tbilisi 460
A COLD NIGHT
On top of the high Georgian hills, the wind blows strong, the temperature drops steep down in the night and I get quite cold.
I have an unfortunate body setting that makes me feel extremely cold at night.
My sleeping bag is too thin, I need to wear all my clothes, even the jacket, hat, and gloves. Yet, I am not warm enough, I wake up often.
This cold night, added to all other cold, uncomfortable nights I had so far, makes me thing about people sleeping rough for all their life.
I have dreams of Henk, a boat, and a girl.
ARRIVING IN TIBLISI
The first huge advertising panels I find:
Great at hospitality.
Superb with food.
Bad with trash disposal.
Horrendous with driving.
The most recurring Georgian question: “how are Georgians” – meaning if they are welcoming enough.
Hygiene to improve.
Expensive cars, but broken teeth
As other post USSR counties, Tbilisi it’s full of architectural barriers. Car culture it’s spread as the plague and a pedastrian has big difficulty sometimes just to cross a road. Risking maybe his life.
HOSPITALITY CUSTOMS AND HOMELESSNESS
Why hospitality rules don’t apply for an homeless?
What’s the meaning of these hospitality traditions?
Are they more a “show off” or do they have social implications?
THE MORE SOUTH, THE MORE CONTRASTS
Traveling south, traveling slow, connecting with locals, this will make you truly understand a culture.
It seems that the southern one goes, the more people are different in their kindness and honesty.
In Northern Europe, you will find mostly friendly people with strong ethical values.
In Central Europe, some people may be less trustworthy.
Southern Europe is considered to be a region where you can’t really give a generic opinion, some people are extremely sweet and helpful, others quite dishonest. Asia and USA could also be placed at this level.
More South, in middle-east and North Africa, this contrast becomes more visible, many would help you no matter what, while others are just waiting to get any kind of own advantage from you.
In the Southest of the world, central-southern Africa and Latin America, you find angels, but also devils.
I still have a long way to go to prove this thesis.
Going on a bicycle as much as I can, unfortunately, I can’t cycle on water, therefore in some special circumstances, I still have to use other transportation means.
The view from an airplane shows you a perfect world, the small cars all going their pattern, all the perfectly aligned lights. It seems to be a world that does not contain anything harmful, it shows as everything good is going on, you would never think people would be killing each, being in wars, doing abuse and commit a crime, in such a beautiful, round world. Maybe this is also the vision of “god”, everything appears perfect to him, that’s why he does not intervene.
Maybe his sight degraded with time, as did mine.
THE LESS EDUCATION THE MORE DEGRADATION;
It’s independence day, a big celebration in the Dominican capital because it’s more than one century since the separation from Haiti.
Carnival shows and army parade are organized: helicopters, airplanes, fireworks; All that money spent—a euphemism, to not say wasted—for fun, could be used in social, education and health care. Here they really need these last three things.
I walk, as always, in a historical area, it’s inside the ‘Zona colonial’, which is one of the few safe areas here, that’s why I discretely take out my device to record an old woman sleeping in the street. Unfortunately many, old and young, sleep in the streets in this country.
I walk few hundred meters, suddenly, I am pushed and pulled from a group of about five or six teenagers, they are trying to steal my phone. I defend myself holding the hand of one boy.
I am quite unprepared, I didn’t expect it to happen right there, but I do manage to put one hand in my pocket to protect the smartphone and keep them away with my legs.
I try to talk to them, attempting to calm down the situation, telling that I could give them some money but I really need the phone and I can’t afford to lose it.
They don’t really listen and attempt to punch me, I shout to attract the attention of nearby people, it’s a central area and there are cars passing by, but nobody helps.
After short, I see a man with a gun pointing straight to my face as he would fire, I put my hands up, trying to calm him down. I notice the boys starting to run away; I see a policeman in uniform taking his gun and pointing at those kids; I tell him not to fire.
I find out that the first man with the gun was a policeman too, the touristic police station “Cestur” was just in front of me.
My shirt is broken, my arm bleeds but nothing was stolen. I thank the police and I go to do the report.
I meet ‘el Coronel’, I tell him what I think: “I appreciate your work; all this happened not because there is not enough police: we need here less punishment and more education for the kids”.
He tells me to come back the day after, I don’t know why.
To avoid any risk, from now on I put the phone in my underwear. This created the situation where I thought I lost my phone and was searching for it for hours, while it so was deep in my pants that I had forgotten about it.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE CARIBBEAN’S COUNTRIES AND THE USA
How different is the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico?
Long traveling still didn’t make me master politics about all the countries: before arriving in San Juan, I actually didn’t even know it was part of US, I discovered it when I had to make my travel documents.
Among the Puerto Ricans, there is a strong feeling of being independent of USA, for sure the more politically involved ones have it, but at the same time, after 100 years of Politically belonging to the US, there are many North American habits that are so strong now in PR that I would be really curious to know if Puerto-Ricans could get rid of it. Things such as driving with big cars, consumeristic mentality, and money based society.
Consequently, I wonder how Puerto Rico would have been without the US, or, how would the Dominican Republic have been now belonging to the US?
Anyhow the US still comes here to suck resources, with Coca Cola, McDonald’s and various other multinational.
I GET ROBBED IN THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRIES
As you have read above, I was assaulted in the Dominican Republic but ultimately, nobody stole anything from me.
Do you want to know where I did get my stuff stolen?
I got stolen in the richest places of the world: Copenhagen and Helsinki.
In two different situations, my bag was stolen, in Copenhagen, it was taken away from between my feet!
But this is another story…
So, what about you? Where have you got robbed? Share your story!
Want to know some secrets about how to become rich in a short time?
Well, then you should search elsewhere, I am not able to help you with that. However, the thing I can do, is to give you some outlines about how to earn little money while you travel or as a fresh expat.
These are a few options I have tried, they work, but you will not become rich! Don´t be greedy!
Tattoos, sauna, coffee, smoking, alcohol, many trees around you and stone under your feet instead of soil.
Stereotypes or real characteristics of Finland?
It’s hard to draw a line between facts and personal mental representations, but one of the facts is that the Finnish nose is really peculiar, you can recognize it directly, the central part, between the holes, is a bit large at the bottom part. Really funny and sweet.
One of the things I learned, not in Finland, but in the Navy is how to sit on a wc, now that I travel is quite useful.
To stay in topic of wc, I can say that toilets in Finland are amazing. The shower bidet is just divine, I suggest you to get to know it.
RELATIONSHIPS IN FINLAND:
Finnish girls have a really particular way of walking, completely straight on their spine, they don’t move the head at all and they just point forward with their eyes, it looks almost like a march.
Having contacts with finnish women I discover that loving and caring too much for a woman in Finland is equal to lose her, good to know.
Because in Finland women behave like man, I start to behave like a woman, now I see what means to reject someone interested in you and you to love accompanied by interest…
I did learn something from women in Finland, for example how to recognize mushrooms and how to down from stairs without light, I tried it several times and is curious and interesting. But I travel to find a reason why to stop traveling, for the same reason I did one night stands.
To give a bottom line in a more martial ‘artistic’ way: “As a samurai prepares himself life long for death, I prepare myself for you to leave me”
Ah, you would think, why do you just write about girls?
Don’t worry, ‘par condicio”, I write about Finnish man as well, just continue reading…
THE FINNISH FOREST:
Like fighters in the aikido do (to stay in theme of martial art), I use external power and energies to get my own benefit with no use of my internal power. Like in yin-yang, I don’t lose my yang by using other’s yin.
This is for sure useful while sleeping in the forest….
The forest is one of the most comfortable place to sleep, there is nothing as magnificent as opening your eyes and seeing the green leaves on the trees, hearing birds and other animals peacefully living their life.
A domestic cat between the trees of the forest, he looked like a fish trying to walk, not even able to make few meters without hurting himself, how sad.
CYCLING AND (RE)CYCLING
Sometimes life is really paradoxical, in Finland, one of the richest country, I learn one of the thing done mostly by (non-economically)rich people: “dumpster diving”.
But actually the day there will be no food in the trash, or even better, no trash at all, there will be no poor neither.
During the Finnish winter I set down a new polar record, cycling at -18 for three hours in total, in one day!
While cycling daily at -25 for about one hour.
As reward for my nordics efforts I also met Joulupukki, the real Santa, which lives in Lapland and nowhere else. I have to say that he was quite shy. To be shy is just a way of damaging yourself and get others dominate you.
This is something I think, which applies not just to Joulupukki’s, but to Finnish men as well, which I find quite shy. While the women are not shy at all.
We often have more fears by thinking than by acting, when you think too much about actions you alienate yourself from the reality becoming frustrated and fearful.
What makes me less shy is also riding a bicycle, it makes me understand how to live and how to love:
If I ride knowing and thinking that my destination is close to me and I should arrive in short Time, I will be anxious, hurrying up and ruining the trip.
If I just ride without the thought of My destination, I enjoy My time.
The same for loving and living.
HOW TO…….. WITH A CONDOM:
How to find an address in a rainy day in Finland with a smart phone and a condom,
Home addresses in Finland are not like in other countries, one house number may be the same for one, two, three, even more than ten buildings!
Then there are letters to identify buildings: a, b, c, d…¢, §, Z!
Then eventually there are more numbers coming after the letter … 1….2…3…5…8…1018586.
House numbers, letters, numbers…. And locals mostly don’t know where an address is if you ask.
I am in a shop, outside is raining and I really need to use my phone to find the address of my host.
I don’t have a map, I need my smart phone but is raining heavily and I have no way to protect my phone, I put a condom on my phone, people is looking weird to me…
They don’t understand the utility of my act. But it works!
THEATER & CULTURE
There are societies where public social services are good, other countries have just local people that help each other, the worst place to be is where none of the two things is to find.
Traveling I just realize that the only way to get to know a country or a culture is to go there, nobody can explain you the feeling and the experience of visiting a place, no matter how extensive they talk or write about it.
One thing that I hate are airports or airplanes, they make you move so fast that you don’t realize where you are, they all look the same.
The Capital cities are often the least representative towns of the culture and traditions of a country. But still I spend much time in capitals, cause I am lazy and in big towns I find much more services…
ah, I almost forgot to mention: if Finland may be not the country of rabbits, at least Helsinki is!
In Helsinki, I have also met a really skillful artist, Aino Kurki: