A couple of hitches

Christmas came early in the form of Nick, bearing replacement credit cards, new hole less, clean and well fitting clothes and bicycle bits and bobs for our onward journey. Nick joined us in a ride from Kars in Eastern Turkey to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
Li and I had arrived in Kars with 3 days to while away before Nicks arrival from London. We were in a quandary. Ani on the Turkish, Armenian border was a must visit……did we sight see in these few days or wait for Nick, but risk not enough time to back track back and pedal back into Georgia for Nicks return flight home.
We were told Ani was absolutely not to be missed. Nick should also see Ani as we were so close….ok…..we wait for Nick……also persuaded by the throbbing ache in my legs and Li’s dodgy elbow. I sat, legs throbbed, Li moved, elbow stabbed, results of the worst roads, constant vibrations and toughest climbs we had just and so far experienced.
The plan was to start early, see Ani, the ruined Armenian city and make haste towards Georgia. On a high due to having Nicks company the road to Ani was not difficult. We stopped several times to tweak Li’s bike set up following the replacement….new tyres….and to ease pressure on her elbow. We travelled at an easy and relaxed pace. Nick and I shared a tear in the eye as the skeletal, in in parts, fully intact ancient capital came into view. Ghost like and set amongst little inhabited steppe, we wandered the outside museum with only 3 other couples of tourist popping in and out of view. We camped, enjoying the view of the crumbling wall, castle, churches and mosque, and again as the sun rose highlighting our vista before we rode away. Nick had 3 punctures in close succession……then a headwind from hell…..slow progress….my legs had not healed and the 3 days rest I had considered sufficient was a fallacy. We should have cycled well beyond Kars however we made it no further, contacting our couch surfing host who was kind enough to let us stay despite not being home herself. We were becoming anxious about arriving in Tblisi on time and discussed our options….if need be we would have to hitch.
Another day……another strong headwind. Road works and the slow pace being the deciding factor in ditching the option of an unridden route. We would continue the way we had come. Temperatures were dropping quickly and we woke to a temperature of -5 degrees and frozen water in our containers. Like our first week on the road…..what feels a life time ago….condensation on the tent had turned to ice.
Quickly the sun provided warmth and no wind signalled perfect riding conditions…..however Li and I were familiar to what beast, the mountain, that lay ahead and realisation dawned that we would not be able to make it to Tbilisi. It was our preference that we hitched now in Turkey on a road we had already traversed rather than a panic hitching the last leg in Georgia and miss cycling a section of our journey. How did Nick feel not climbing the beast…..thankfully he had nothing to prove…..Li and I were physically knackered and Nick was carrying some of our luggage in an attempt that we would keep up.
30 kilometres in the back of a pick up truck was a breeze…..very breezy in fact, and as the incline increased, we covered a days ride in less than an hour. Next we flagged down a bus. 45 kilometres……and rather than feel disappointed at having to take transport, gazing at what we had climbed…..I was impressed. No wonder our legs were becoming increasingly sore. The bus struggled, we looked down in awe…..where we had ridden about a week previously was now covered in snow. The gradients were taking my breath away……and these mountains may be small in comparison to what will eventually come, but I felt on top of the world.
In the saddle again we crossed the border shortly before the sun set. then Li’s second puncture for the trip. A quick repair. We camped in Georgia, confident we would make Tbilisi and with a brief visit from the border police before a restful sleep.
Our legs still ached…..increasingly. But we had bursts of energy, spurned on by great company, incredible views. 2 1/2 days more days riding, no killer gradients, ruined castles, churches, snow capped mountains, a final push and thanks to a tail wind we actually flew into Tbilisi. Our reward some of the most scrumptious food, wine and equivalent of Turkish baths. Legs will have time to heal and…… unfortunately, time to say good bye……but I have nicked Nicks, very good pair of winter riding boots!


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