5600 km! Back to riding solo, and stuck in Tbilisi.
First of all, I’m sorry for being quiet for this long. I’ve been riding together with my friend Clara, and I’ve been enjoying it too much to be bothered spending our time together writing blog-posts. I’m back to riding solo now though, so I’ll be getting back at it!
Quite a lot have happened since I wrote last time. The bit from Sivas to Erzurum was somewhat uneventful. It was pretty damn hilly, with a couple of mountain passes above 2000 meters. I made it to Erzurum in good time for Clara to arrive. Clara is one of my closest friends, whom I met a couple of years ago when we both moved to Greenland. I’d been planning on making it to Erzurum on time right from the start. When she finally did arrive, she was feeling really sick, so we took it slow for the first couple of days. We got some pretty cool experiences in Erzurum though, including getting stuck on a ski lift on the way down from an Olympic ski-jumping tower in 30 degrees heat. After fooling around in Erzurum for a bit, we eventually started riding up towards the black sea, riding through some of the most spectacular landscapes of my trip so far. Most of the time, we were riding in canyons, with massive rockfaces towering up on either side of us. As we were approaching Artvin on our second day of riding, I began to feel ill. After riding about 130 km, I ended up throwing up along the side of the road feeling pretty damn miserable. We ended up hitching a ride in a TIR truck for the last 30 km to Artvin, where we hitched yet another ride to make it up the steep mountain city. We settled for a fancy hotel that night, and started riding towards the coast the day after. Feeling a lot more energized, we had a nice ride over a 700 meter mountain pass before making it to the coastal city of Hopa. This was the last full day of riding in Turkey. I’ve ended up spending almost 6 weeks and 2000 km of riding in Turkey, and I’ve really come to like the place. It was with mixed feelings that we left Turkey, but entering a new country is always exciting. Despite Clara being very ill on arrival, she was riding strong, and often times I had to pedal hard just to keep up, and she totally smashed it up the mountains. Truly impressive. Riding in to Georgia, we had planned to stop in Batumi to go for a much-needed swim. The city itself was not really to our taste though, overflowing with tourists and the traps that come with them. We went for a quick swim and cycled on out of the city until we found a cozy guest house to sleep in for the night. We met some really good people on our way, but took note in the fact that all of them really went out of their way to actually try to convince us that the Georgian people were good. I found it sort of strange. To be fair, most of the people we’ve met have been very helpful and sweet indeed. We took a bus to Mestia, which is a small town in the Caucasus mountains close to Mt. Ushba. We went for 5-hour hike in the afternoon up to a viewpoint above the town. The view was breathtaking, and the sight of Ushba made both of us long for the mountains.
We’ve often been discussing climbing plans, so I guess we’ll have to come back here one day and do a bit of proper climbing. We only had half a day in the mountains, but it was spent well, and was a welcome change to the everyday of cycling. We rode on through Georgia on everything from massive motorways, to tiny country-side gravel roads. It’s a very scenic country, and the people we’ve met have mostly been very welcoming and helpful, so we enjoyed the ride.
I’m now in Tbilisi. Clara went back home to Denmark last night. It was tough saying goodbye, knowing that it’ll be almost a year before we get to see each other again. These last two weeks of cycling with Clara have been an absolute blast though. It’s been the most enjoyable time of my trip by far. I honestly haven’t enjoyed myself so much for a really long time in general. Sharing the everyday experiences has given me so much happiness, so needless to say I was feeling pretty lonely waking up to an empty hotel room this morning. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling the motivation to keep going at all. I packed up my stuff and went over to a nearby hostel to meet some fellow travelers. Simply meeting new people can really pick you up I’ve found, but it’ll probably take a while for me to truly start enjoying being on my own again.
At the moment, I’m stuck in Tbilisi sorting out visas for Iran and China. The China visa looks like it might be a bit of a pain in the ass to get a hold of, with reports of people having to convince the embassy that they are planning on moving to Tbilisi, booking fake flights, and designing detailed imaginary itineraries in order to make it happen. I’ll give it my best shot. It’s not the worst place to get stuck though, as I actually find most parts of the city pretty cozy and interesting. Georgian food is pretty damn good most of the time as well (minus the pigs feet we ate last night). I’m sure I’ll enjoy my time here. Once I do eventually start riding though, I’ll be out of Georgia in no time as I’m only about 70 km from the border of Armenia. Armenia is infamous for some really tough, unavoidable mountains, and at the current moment I’m seeing Armenia as more of a physical challenge than a travel experience. I’m sure they’ve got lots to offer though, so I’ll be entering with an open mind as always.
There’s been a lot of talk in the whole cycling community about the recent attack in Tajikistan, where four cyclist were killed when they were rammed down by a car on the Pamir Highway. Due to the fact that my chances of getting a Pakistan visa are looking very slim, Tajikistan looked to be the backup plan. If the Pakistan visa fails to go through, I was planning on cycling to Dushanbe in Tajikistan, and then flying to New Delhi in India form there to continue. I haven’t yet decided on how to handle the situation. I’ve spoken with a bunch of other cyclists about the situation, and I’ve read the recommendations from various authorities. The nature of this project is not without risk, but I wouldn’t say that it is inherently dangerous, as long as you stay cautious. Of course, you don’t want to be reckless when making decisions on where to go, so I’ll be keeping myself updated on the situations of all the countries I’m planning to visit before deciding on whether to go for it or not.
Though my motivation at the moment is not at it’s highest (it’s actually pretty close to the bare minimum), I do get bursts of happiness from the messages I receive, and from the donations that are being made. It gives me sense of purpose. I’ve gotten a message from a man whom I met in Ukraine, who has since followed my blog. Turns out my trip has inspired him to a degree that he has bought a bike of his own to cycle across Europe. Just this morning I got another message from a guy who had been following me on Instagram, that he had been inspired by Jamie McDonald and myself, to go on a fundraising bike ride himself. Knowing that this whole blog/social media show actually inspires people to not only go traveling, but to do good while they’re at it, is absolutely amazing. And being put alongside my own idol as an inspiration is pretty flattering as well…
As always, I’m cycling for the Association for Greenlandic Children. The Greenlandic House in Copenhagen sent me a t-shirt and gave me a bit of a shout out in their newsletter which resulted in a good amount of donations. There’s been a bit of a standstill before that though, so once again, please donate as much or as little as you can! Everything helps. All donations go towards helping out vulnerable students in Greenland. It’s a worthy cause, and definitely worth checking out. You can read more about it through the link below: