Day 19 – Monday, May 13th 2013
Cruising along the coastal highway of the Black Sea on a beautiful sunny day, we left Turkey for the second time on our voyage. Everything went smoothly at the border and we were even given a tube full of Smarties by one of the border officials – Turkish people are so generous!
The Georgian border was also a breeze although no Smarties were exchanged. Knowing little more about the country other than it shares the same patron saint as England (and hence the similar flag), this was going to be a visit of discovery for us.
Here are some things we would endeavour to find out before arriving in the next country:
- The language they speak
- The alphabet used
- The currency
- The time zone
With Georgia we had failed on all 4.
We reached Batumi and were determined to get our visa applications in at the Azeri consulate, and we’d arrived 15 minutes before closing, or so we thought. It seems that Georgia is one hour ahead of Turkey, turning our early arrival into one that was 45 minutes late.
Next plan, find the nearest hostel or tourist information to see where we could park for the night. Turns out, parking on the street in front of the hostel was no problem and we did notice one or two other foreign cars on the same street – seemed like the thing to do.
We now had some time to wander about the city, which at first impressions was undergoing a serious facelift. Huge buildings, hotels, casinos were either under construction or had been built in the last 3 years. Everything near the seafront seemed brand new whereas 500m away there were still the old soviet style apartment buildings and neighborhoods that seemed to have never been maintained. It was such a strange juxtaposition that it really took us a while to understand where all this development money had come from and why. The answer came when we stumbled upon a billboard showing what would be a new Trump tower, we spotted a McDonalds, and there was already a massive Sheraton hotel and casino – American investors were keen to build up this Georgian holiday town.
Well, a stroll along the seaside and ice creams eaten – must be time for bed!
Day 20 – Tuesday, May 14th 2013
Mission of the day was to submit our visa applications. The Azerbaijan consulate opened at 10 and we were there ready and waiting. The man there was very relaxed, helped us with our forms and assured us the visas would be ready to pick up in 2 or 3 days. That was probably the easiest visa application we have done yet.
With a great sense of accomplishment that the application was in and went so smoothly, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice lunch by the seaside. Our first taste of Georgian food and we knew we would like it here! Delicious cheesy pastry, beef in walnut sauce, beef cooked in butter with herbs and spices, cucumber and tomato salad, sparkling pear juice, and Georgian bread – amazing.
We visited the tourist information centre to find out what we could do with the 2 days we had, got ourselves a free map and a tip that there was free internet available in the public service building – little did we know this would become our second home in Georgia. Between tracking the parts delivery in Turkey and ensuring Kim’s Canadian passport and Chinese visa application were going well, we managed to spend far too many hours at this place.
Day 21 – Wednesday, May 15th 2013
Ivor had been behaving very well for the whole trip but he seemed to pick up an annoying habit of screeching every time we used the brakes. With a bit of spare time on our hands, we thought it would be wise to investigate the cause of the screeching in case there was something major going on with the rear brakes. First wheel came off, next challenge, remove the brake drum – should be no problem since we had these off only a month or so before – unfortunately, one bolt was determined to stay attached to Ivor, so much so that we broke one tool and bent another trying to remove it. Hmm… time to hunt out someone who could help us.
Armed with a Google translation of what we were after, we were given directions to what we understood to be a GM service centre, and off we went. The GM service centre was elusive, but we spotted a few garages on the way so we thought we would try our luck. The first one we came too couldn’t help us, but there was a friendly man (Koba) keen to help us and who could speak a few words of English – but literally only a few. The men at the garage explained to him where to take us and he hopped into Ivor and guided us to an industrial area where there were 10-20 different garages to choose from. Here we had the luck of a very handy mechanic who quickly jacked up Ivor, took off the wheel, beat the pesky bolt out of the drum and had a good look at the brakes – no problem! He did the same for the other wheel, which also had a pesky bolt, quickly put everything back together, spotted a dangling cable and secured it, then sent us on our way. We offered to pay for his time and he would not accept any cash. Another kind gesture from a kind mechanic!
We drove back into town and dropped off Koba after giving our thanks.
After all that excitement, we thought it was time to be touristy so we hunted out the Batumi Botanical garden – which according to the tourist office was a must see. It was a massive park with plants from all corners of the globe. As is typical with us, we had arrived a little late – but with enough time to have a good walk round the place, and to take in some stunning views of Batumi from across the bay. We had just decided to call it a day and head back to the truck when we walked passed a group of youths, who had already seen enough of the botanical wonders so were getting stuck into some gigantic bottles of beer. They motioned for us to join them, and not wanting to appear rude, accepted straight away.
One of the girls spoke a little English, but otherwise we spent a fair amount of time sitting with them, and conversing via charades. One of the couples there had been married the day before so they were all still celebrating, and we were happy to help – though Vaughan still had to pilot Ivor back into town for the night, so had to show a little restraint! The park shut at 8 so we said goodbye to our new friends, and went back to Batumi to park up for the evening – with enough time for another stroll by the sea before bed.
Day 22 – Thursday, May 16th 2013
The day got off to a good start, we were up early for a jog along the sea front. Unfortunately things turned a little sour when we checked emails and found that Kim’s Chinese visa application had been rejected – The application being at the Toronto consulate, it was not acceptable for Kim to have an employer based outside of Canada. After racking our brains for a while about how we get out of this tight spot, we decided it was best to tell a little fib and get the visa agency to change the application to show she was unemployed rather than concoct a story or fake employment details from Canada.
While dealing with this we did manage to pick up our Azeri visas though, which helped brighten the mood.
We lazed around for the afternoon and decided we would head back to Trabzon in Turkey to wait for our parts delivery… Which were at least showing themselves to be in the country on the USPS website.
We crossed the border again without fuss and made it a hundred kilometers or so into Turkey before settling down for the night in a lay-by.