Yesterday, Sean killed it!
We decided I should get the bus from Kutaisi, in the north, to Batumi, to the west on the Black Sea, whilst Sean attempted to cycle the entire distance in a day.
It was 148km, but there was never any doubt that he’d smash it – and I even passed him in my marshrutka (Georgian mini bus) and got a snap!
And here’s some footage of him on the final leg, cycling to our Airbnb which is located in what I believe is Batumi’s only ghetto.
After a quick shower, he recounted his tales – including the fact that two out of the three times he tried to go for a piss, a Georgian popped up out of the bushes just to have a look!
There was also a stunning hill to get up. I even felt the burn going up in the minibus. He managed to cycle up 90% of the way, spurred on by hooting Georgians, but had to have a break. If any cycle tourists are reading this, you might be best off finding an alternative route into the city, ie not the coastal road. It’s an absolute killer!
Then without further ado we were off into town to see what Batumi had to offer.
I was very pleasantly surprised – I imagined the city to be like a Northern UK seaside town, especially as the two main sources of it’s economy are tourism and gambling (Morecambe slot machines, anyone?). But nothing could be further from the truth!
After walking down the river front, we stumbled on the Old Town, which hosts recently restored 19th century architecture.
Batumi has had quite a tumultuous history, including being the last sea port taken over by Russia during the Russian conquest, then being given to the Ottoman Empire. Then after the USSR’s collapse in 1989 (also my birth year, in case you’re interested), it was governed by Mehmet Abashidze – who ruled the area as a personal fiefdom but also secured Batumi’s place as a part of Georgia proper. Phew!
There’s also an astronomical clock, though it’s not quite as bad ass as the one in Prague. Weirdly enough, Prague is the place that Batumi most closely resembles in my eyes.
All in all we had a pleasant few hours strolling around the streets, and I’d recommend to anyone!
Mtirala National Park
The next day we woke up and tried to sort out a few cargo gubbins, as we have to pay to ‘re-export’ our bikes from Georgia. However apparently we were in the wrong cargo area. More on that in coming posts I reckon!
We decided to get a marshrutka to the Mtirala National Park to do a small trek there. Something I hadn’t reckoned on was Batumi’s unique climate – it’s a subtropical area, so the trees that I expected (like the one’s in the UK) are interspersed with palm trees and the like. Was quite interesting!
We took the number 40 bus (from the corner of Katamadze and Noneshvili Street – in case you’re in the area yourself) at a cost of 1 GEL each. Then, once in Chakvi, you can hire a taxi to take you to the national park, wait for you to do the trek, then they’ll take you back to the bus stop. We got a nice taxi man who charged us 30 GEL all in.
The drive is almost better than the trek, as you swing around lush forests, massive mountains and a beautiful river babbling over rocks. The pictures don’t do it justice, though I obviously tried!
Once past the visitor centre, you get on a low-brow cable car to cross over the river – Sean had a great time at the wheel!
The trek is only about 5km long, though follows some fairly strenuous hills, and takes you over a river, to a waterfall, and then to a scenic lake with a picnic area. All in all I’d thoroughly recommend if anyone is visiting Batumi and fancies doing something nature-y.
This was a nice day’s relaxing before tomorrow – when we’ll hopefully sort out the cargo fiasco, and cross the border into Turkey, the second country on our list. And in case you’re wondering, I will be doing this short leg on the bike. 🙂