Day 14: Back into the Big Mountains
I slept like the dead with the sound of the raging river right next to my head. When the alarm went off at 05h30 I was NOT ready to come back into the land of the living. The plan was to set off at 06h00 to beat the heat, but ultimately, we only got away at 07h30, which still gave us good 4 hrs of cool riding. We decided to forgo breakfast and stop 25km down the road, where we’d ascertained, via sign language the previous evening, that there was a possibility.
After 10km of climbing, though, my stomach was complaining loudly and I stopped on a bend to wait for Steve. ” I need a stroop waffel!”, “me too, but let’s find a more scenic spot”,” OMG, you’re becoming Kati!” (even for the smallest snack she always insists we find a scenic spot). Usually I stash something in my bar bag so that I can surreptitiously stuff my face as I go, but today I forgot and Steve had the waffles…5 left and we divvied them up exactly, then I dug out some dodgy-looking chocolate that had been melted and cooled a number of times – yum!
On we went and about 10km further it was Steve’s turn to demand a stop, “I’m bonking. I need to eat NOW”, “Ok, let’s find a scenic spot…” the standards were definitely slipping, as we pulled off onto a scrappy sand heap. Out came the balance of the kingali (cheese-filled ravioli) from yesterday’s breakfast, followed by a whole packet of chocolate cookies. By the time we reached the breakfast spot, we weren’t really that hungry, but that didn’t stop us ordering eggs, salad, gatshapuri (cheesy bread) and iced coffees.
Georgian time being very similar to African time, the food came slowly, in drips and drabs and we spent a good hour of ” cool time” hanging out, chatting to the local truck drivers and once again being plied with home-brewed Cha Cha (Steve skillfully tossed his under the table before feigning swigging it back).They insisted we take the bottle with us and I didn’t have the heart to leave it, so #2 was loaded into my increasingly heavy bag.(The plan is to share the Love with my friends in SA 🌝), and on we pedaled up the same looooong hill with the same incredibly powerful river raging below ( but not much water up above).
The good thing about riding uphill with Steve, is that I have plenty of time to contemplate my surroundings, take photos and make up songs in my head: “Oooooh the birds and the bees and the walnut trees and the big rock snowy mountains, the pigs and the flowers and the water and the towers and here comes Stevie round the bend again, dum dee dum, and here comes Stevie round the bend again…”
We were in search of water again, but with all the livestock around and seeing how the WC at the restaurant emptied directly into the river, we were a bit nervous about drinking from any old source. We had no qualms about swimming, however and lay down in an icy river when the opportunity presented itself – we were bone dry 2 minutes later, but it was heaven while it lasted…and then Steve’s freewheel hub started to slip, uh oh, this does not bode well. He nursed it along until it gave way completely, at which point, miraculously, we found ourselves directly outside a local workshop. With much trying of this and that and grunting and scratching of heads, Andrei (the Russian) and Steve managed to get the hub off and replace the broken spring with a piece of wire – thumbs up!
Much toasting with home-brewed vodka (which Steve could not avoid, as they were all watching eagerly) and we were on the road again, luckily our destination of Mestia was only 2 km away, as I must confess, I don’t have great faith in the work of the “Maestro”, as Steve dubbed Andrei. It’s still sounding pretty dodge and I am not sure where that leaves us if it does not hold…