Day 13: Of Graves, Garbage, Boiling Heat & Bees
Oh my, how to explain today? It was hot from the get go. Very hot and humid. I had little appetite for breakfast (most unlike me) and felt pap on the bike. The ride out of Zugdidi took us via a depressing succession of old, dilapidated Soviet era buildings, which then gave way to the most bizarre and elaborate series of tombs, each a stand-alone mini construction, with photos of the deceased and various offerings – in my opinion, the epitome of kitsch and wasted space, but fascinating none the less.
As the town gave way to the countryside, things got somewhat more cheerful with an abundance of fruit trees of every conceivable type – cherries, plums, figs, pears, apples, grapes, pomegranates, loquats, black berries even prickly pears and I entertained myself photographing and sampling these where they were accessible (really just an excuse to stop a lot).
My energy remained low and we pulled in to a gas station for a drink “coffee?”, ” no thanks, waaaay too hot!”, ” iced coffee with ice cream?”
“NOW you talking!” We sat in the shade and sipped contentedly and I wished it would last forever, but alas, the inevitable slurp signaled time to go and we lethargically remounted and headed towards the hills. As we crossed the river, I suggested to Steve that we head down for a swim before the big climb that lay ahead. He hesitated briefly, but vetoed – too exposed (we would regret this big time a few km up the road).
With the incredible abundance of water we’d encountered up until now, it never occurred to us that this could be an issue, so we set off this morning with our usual 1 small bottle, but once on the climb, we were soon dry and wilting with not a drop in sight. There was also very little shade and we were pouring sweat in the 40-degree heat. The heavy backpacks didn’t help.
This was our first time following a tar road and in my low state, I couldn’t help noticing and soon fixating on the inordinate number of cans, plastic bottles and cigarette cartons discarded at the side of the road – km after km of natural landscape defiled by garbage carelessly thrown from passing cars. I felt my ire rising, but admonished myself – no point being judgemental or irate, it simply is what it is. The best we can hope is that as the consciousness of such issues is raised globally, by virtue of the 100th monkey concept, developing countries such as this will automatically come along for the ride and begin to care for and clean up the environment and get rid of the devastation that is single use plastic.
When we could bear it no longer, we decided to wait out the midday heat in the sparse shade of a wild olive tree. We ate the chocolate cake scaled from yesterday’s breakfast and the kingali (cheese filled ravioli-type pies) from today’s and then propped ourselves on our backpacks and lay down on the hard ground to snooze.
I managed a decent kip despite the inevitable ants crawling over me…
After about an hour we hauled ourselves up and continued on in search of water, which only finally appeared once we were heading down, but when it came, it came in abundance in the form of a raging waterfall and we not only drank and filled our bottles, but we drenched ourselves as well. Steve was a bit concerned about modesty, with a family of honey vendors set up nearby, but I didn’t give a rat’s arse and was in, boots & all. Pure Heaven – nothing beats the bliss of bare essentials when you really need them!
Our spirits duly raised we flew down alongside an impressive dam, past literally 1000s of bee hives stacked up all along the side of the road and vendors selling golden honey everywhere (pity it’s too heavy to carry). I am still amazed that neither of us was stung with bees filling the air on the descent and impossible to miss.
I kept my mouth firmly closed and zipped my top up all the way, despite the heat!
After just 55km we called it quits and checked into a simple roadside hotel, where we had a cold “shower”, lying on the floor crouched under the tap (since the pressure disappeared entirely if you attempted to use the shower head), washed our sweaty kit and lay down to write up the day’s events and await dinner, which my growling stomach tells me should be about NOW…