With our newly issued Iran visa in our luggage we left Tbilisi in north-eastern direction. Since the last mountain passes on gravel roads were much easier than we had expected, we tackled the journey over the 2826m high Abano Pass into the Tusheti National Park in good spirits. We planned to split the climb of 2600Hm into two days, considering that halfway up the pass there was drinking water, hot springs and apparently the only flat place where we could pitch our tent.

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We soon realized that the 16% steep, poor and exposed road challenged us physically and mentally! We pedaled (or pushed) mainly in the lowest gear. We shifted higher only to be able to shift down later 🙂 The fact that we had to leave the Tusheti National Park on the same way did not make us more confident. So, despite beautiful scenery with increasingly autumnal forests, the climb was no real pleasure.

In the afternoon, when we arrived at the turnoff to the hot springs, the road leading there was buried by a landslide. An excavator was working to clear the road. We had no choice but to continue pedaling and to hope for a flat spot. A few switchbacks further up, we were able to pitch our tent near an old high-voltage power pole – it remained the only place to camp during the entire ascent :-).

The next day we pedaled (or pushed) the remaining 1000Hm up to the pass, enjoyed a great scenic descent and reached our destination Omalo for lunch! With a delicious freshly baked Khachapuri and beautiful views of the mountains, the steep mountain curves and concerns about the return trip was soon forgotten.

We were able to enjoy the excursion to the pretty Tusheti mountain village of Dartlo only partially: We liked the panorama and the village very much… but on the way back we threw up several times. We had trusted the “drinking water” at the cafe too much 🙁
We renounced another half-day excursion in Tusheti National Park and recovered instead with Georgian flatbread and nice thyme tea.
On the next day we already had to start (still a bit battered) the two-day return trip to manage the pass before the announced bad weather. In the morning, after a cool night, we were able to watch the shepherds on the Abano Pass, who were walking through the steepest mountain slopes with countless sheep and with goats in the advance trot. Vultures circled above the flock, hoping for a crashed sheep. After the spectacle we enjoyed a fast descent of 33km and 2600 meters of altitude in only 3.5 hours ;-).

The next day, we visited a traditional winery in Kvareli during thunderstorm rain and tasted the very good wine already at 11 o’clock in the morning. In a cheerful mood and with nice weather we headed for the Vashlovani National Park.

The national park consists mainly of steppe-like grasslands and barren canyon landscapes without infrastructure and with only a few water points. Thus, we wanted to get more detailed information at the Visitor Center in Dedoplistskaro, since we needed a permit for the park anyway. The only (for us available and understandable) information was that the park is 80 Kilometer away… Unfortunately, nobody could tell us anything about the presence of water or the condition of the roads. After some thought, we decided to visit the national park with our offline map as our only source of information. With food for three days, enough water and the necessary permits, we set off. The planned round trip eventually turned into a very rewarding in-and-out ride through the impressive prairie landscape.

The trip back west led us from Dedoplistskaro through the wine country to Telavi. Here we are staying for a while and do our first workaway. We help a young couple with the renovation of their guesthouse in exchange for room and board and gain an insight into everyday life in Georgia. After five months of traveling by bike, we enjoy this settled time, the varied work and the good atmosphere with our great hosts very much!

Follow-up post on our article “On the road in Georgia“:

Georgia’s number two exports are used cars. The cars are bought abroad with a total breakdown and are repaired, rewired and repainted in Georgia. Unfortunately, dealers often miss the same assembly groups, such as the bumper or the radiator hood. As a result, many cars are driving around unfinished and patched up.

You can read a very interesting article about it on eurasianet.org.