DAY ONE… 17.5 miles (28 km)
Home to Luton Airport…. 26th August
The journey has begun. We had some problems getting here! Our coach was cancelled just the night before we were due to fly. We were told that we could have a taxi…. probably because we had bikes! But the taxi was cancelled too and we had to wait for another coach to take us from Heathrow to Luton where we were to fly. Obviously time was ticking on. This, much later coach would only take us for an additional large baggage fee. Really!
Anyhow, finally arrived in Luton Airport to cold and rain. But the check in was pain free and fast, thank goodness as we were pretty late by now. Luton airport today looks like something from the Soviet bloc, so we could just decide to holiday here. Weirdly, found a stash of Russian money on the floor, luckily it did not have any nerve agent on it. I picked it up and kept it like the true Buddhist I am.
Arrived in Kutaisi Airport at about 1.30am. and, after a long delay, the bus, which looked like it had seats from somewhere else put into it, very badly, set off. We were dumped in the central square with 2 bike boxes, all our panniers and our hand luggage. The hotel was a 5 minute walk up an unmade road. We couldn’t walk for one second with all our stuff. Luckily some other travellers carried our bike boxes for us to the ‘hotel’. Knocked up the old man whose house we seemed to be staying in. Bed about 2.30am. Small and very hot room. Too hot and strange to sleep so stayed awake for ages.
Woke at 9am to start assembling bikes. We had decided to take a short train ride to cut down our first day’s ride. Train went at 12.15pm and we only just managed to get on it before it set off. No time for tickets. Get them on the train ASAP, we thought. But, oh no! Massive shouting and general upheaval broke out and we thought we would be thrown onto the platform, even though that would be quite involved as our bikes were on the train.
Eventually the train ticket inspectors settled on doubling the actual fare. It wasn’t much anyway. Train ride was unbelievably hot. We had no water, and I began to feel quite unwell, especially watching two children opposite drink some delicious looking substance. We’d had no breakfast either, to speak of, just some tea and cheese. I was dreaming of water and sweating like a pig.
After what seemed like a very long time, in which we covered a very small distance, we arrived, in the middle of nowhere. There was a ‘shop’, cleverly disguised as a house, selling only alcohol (no use to me).
Had a long ride through a busy town, searching for gas or paraffin for our cooker. Nothing! This was to become a bit of a theme. It was hot, hot, hot, and as we climbed out of town my legs began to feel like they couldn’t work any more.
By 5pm I was dreaming of getting on a bus. So we waited for one. There wasn’t one to be seen, but miraculously a family stopped their car and asked if they could help us. I was ready for any form of rescue by now. So, when they offered for us to go to their home with them, we readily agreed. The family kindly took our pannier luggage in the boot, then driving very slowly led us to their lovely farm dwelling. Here we were showered with food, traditional Georgian wine, and rather a lot of bread and cheese. They made up beds for us and we had a great rest.
This was our introduction to Georgian hospitality, a culture that followed us across the length of our ride.