DAY THREE… 19.5 miles (31.5 km)

Everywhere we look to try to buy camping gas or paraffin we are met with helpful offers of candles or explosive acetone.  Then we have the idea to ask at the tourist information cabin. We duly ask the helpful young man behind the counter, who knows exactly what we want, but tells us that we can only buy this in Tbilisi.  Oh no !!! But he tells us that he has a can of gas at home and before we can ask any questions, he jumps in his car and drives home to get it. I hope that we that he comes back soon, as the last train of the morning leaves very soon. Just as we prepare to set off, he reappears with an almost full can of gas, which he gives us and adamantly refuses to take any payment for. Wow these people are so kind.  And we did get some gas, at last!

Our next train is at 10.55am. The Borjomi–Bakuriani railway climbs the 1,000 metres, almost to the top of the mountain.  The mountain train ride was amazing. Over a bridge designed by Eiffel.

Borjomi–Bakuriani railway 1,000m uplift

When the train ride ended, we realised that we were still far short of the pass, so we ended up paying for a taxi ride up to the pass. The road was really terrible and it would have been hopeless to cycle up it . At the top, the views were absolutely fabulous. There were quite a few police with sub machine guns who did not want us to take photos, so we had to move on.

Taxi, with mandatory cracked windscreen, taking us up to the pass

There was also a very large cloud approaching. I’d read a lot in other blogs about thunderstorms at the top of the pass and this was the exact time for one, about 2pm. Obviously you are very exposed on a pass, so we cycled fast as claps of thunder broke out all around us. I was terrified of being struck by lightning.  We sheltered briefly, but it was inadequate, so we thought best to descend quickly. That was very hard. The ‘road’ was described as unmetalled. This does not even half way describe the hours of gruelling, bone shaking descent. It was more like mountain biking, and I am not a fan. 

Claps of thunder & nowhere to shelter
Blue skies at last, descending off the pass

The road improved marginally with still 15 miles to go. Eventually we got to the bottom and found a place to camp in a bit of woodland, with spectacular views out to the mountains. There’s no one around, just small farming villages and plenty of dogs, but nothing serious, so far. 8pm. Just been obviously checked out by a couple in a car, but slept OK anyway.

Wild campsite amongst the trees