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66ml. Today I reached the Caspian sea and the capital Baku. I can’t go further by road as it’s too cold for me now so I wait here for winter to finish and catch the ferry to Kazakhstan and make my way to China, or I set off back for home on a different route through the Balkans. It’s a great city and lots of sights. I book into the Zion hostel and go sightseeing while I make a decision on my next move.

Yanar Dag. The burning mountain for over 500 years.

The impressive Heydar Aliyev Centre.

Reaching the Caspian sea.

Old city walls.

Flaming towers of Baku.

Mud volcanoes.

Gobastan ancient archeological site.

 

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61ml. After a day off at the restaurant due to torrential rain I make it to Pirsaat but no hotel. I find a empty building with what looks like accommodation blocks at the side and luckily found the caretaker who let me stay on a seetee. Was cold and windy today and was glad to find somewhere just after Pirsaat.

Making a brew on the side of the highway.

Restaurant owner and his sons.

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100ml. Rain forecast for next 2 days so did a big day of milage today on the highway. No scenery to speak of so just head down and give it big licks. Arrived at Kurdamir exit and there was a restaurant set back off the highway 50m so I asked if I could camp and they gave me a bed for the night. Really kind owner and his son’s. I was glad too as it rained all night and the following day.

Lots of fish and fruit vendors on the highway

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61ml. All flat again today. Old road turned bad at Zehham to Sankir so I joined the highway again. Got to VM guesthouse which I booked on booking.com and even after confirmation email from them, they said some guests didn’t check out and decided to stay, so they were full. Found another hostel in town not too far away and was lucky I got last bed.

Beautiful park on the way into Ganja

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68ml. Left Tbilisi after breakfast and took the old road to Rustavi and Gardabani. Apart from a small climb just before Rustavi, the road was flat all the way today. After 33ml I was at the border with Azerbaijan. The Georgian exit was quick but the Azerbaijan entry took about 20mins. It’s a very quiet border post. After that it was a very quiet road all the way to Agstafa. I tried 3 hotels in town, one was full, one wanted 30 manatee (€15) and the last one I got for 20manat (€10). Shit hotel as well. It’s more expensive here than Georgia especially accommodation.

Border post Azerbaijan.

Quiet old road.

Crossing paths with a snake.

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25ml. Short ride to Tbilisi. We t riding around the city to the Vake area to visit 3 bike shops to see if they had my new front caliper brake pads. Not one had them. Bought a spare chain. Found my guesthouse called beautiful. Nice garden and had upstairs to myself with a kitchen. Secure for bike and nice garden with grape vines and pomegranate trees. Also nice view up to Mtatsminda park. Had to wait for Azerbaijan visa and also tried for visa at Iranian embassy. Was refused politely at Embassy of Iran. UK citizens have a hard procedure to obtain a visa. I eventually stay here 8 nights before leaving for Baku.

Peace bridge at night.

Holy trinity cathedral at night.

Way into Tbilisi.

Freedom square.

Holy trinity cathedral.

View from Mtatsminda park.

Leaning clock tower outside puppet theatre.

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16ml. Had a day off today to visit Stalin museum and ride out to old cave city at Uplistsikhe.

Road to Uplistsikhe.

Old cave city.

Stalins parents house in the centre of Gori.

Gori fortress.

Old fortress.

Stalin museum.

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37ml. After a day off in Gori to visit I headed down the old road to Mkskheta. Great quiet road with hardly any traffic but had a bad headwind after dinner making it hard on the neverending false flat. Lost my backeye today also after 6months. Most upsetting. Booked into my guesthouse and had a look around the beautiful cathedral. 2nd largest in Georgia.

Old road to Mkskheta.

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37ml. Rode on the old road today and met Auke and Hilgiem again. We also met a Dutch cyclist coming the other way who had started in Pakistan. After goodbye’s Hilgiem booked her and Auke into the same guesthouse as I’d booked, so was nice to have good company again. We stopped for the last break on the old road on a bench outside a small house and the owner came out and gave us fruit, wine and chacha. Happy days.

Fortress on the old road.

Caucasus mountains still visible.

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41ml. After a fantastic breakfast for 7gel at Zedafoni, I rode on the main highway due to not feeling too well. The old road was hilly and unpaved after Kharagauli, as the owner of the guesthouse told me. Big climb at the end of 4ml and 500m of ascent but the top bit had a 1.7km tunnel so I put my lights on and braved the traffic rather than take the pass. Arrived at guesthouse and only me in it but had a kitchen and radiator in the room. Was cold and windy today.

Leaving Zestaponi on the highway.

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30ml. Set off heading for Bagdati then turned off at Didi to avoid the main highway. Flat road to Didi then had some steep climbs of 13 and 14%. Was cold and rained a few times. Was trying to make it to Kharagauli but I could only find 1 hotel there and after ringing them I couldn’t find out if they had a room available due to the language barrier. It started raining again so I quickly booked a guesthouse called Zedafoni. Great move as the view there was great and the owner fed me and gave me wine and vodka, homemade of course. He even put Liverpool Vs Cardiff on the tele.

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78ml. Set off after the rain stopped and managed to get a workman to hold the dog till I got away, phew. First 50ml was pretty good going mostly down. I sheltered from a thunderstorm and 3 English bike packing cyclists came past. We had a chat for 15mins and they was on a 10day holiday. They came down from ushguli in the dark. I couldn’t believe it. Wow. I managed to make Kutaisi before dark and booked into guesthouse Mariana. I had a few days off here and cleaned the bike and changed the chain, adjusted the brakes. Found a great local restaurant around the corner what did great food and beer. Very cheap also. Happy days. I went to Gelati monestry on one of my days off. Very nice place, unfortunately they were doing renovation work.

Gelati monestry.

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22ml. 8km up to the final summit from Ushguli on a bad road then it was downhill on a worse road. Hard going with the big rocks, mud and deep puddles. Took 4hrs. After 6hrs I arrived at Mele and luckily there was a guesthouse as it started to rain. So I booked in and had another lovely tea and breakfast. Also a dog followed me from ushguli and I couldn’t get rid of it. 30km and it just wouldn’t leave.

Beautiful scenery in the Caucasus leaving ushguli

My bike has had enough of this road lol.

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39ml. Hardest day this trip I think. Rained all day and I was cold. After losing all the height after a big long climb, the asphalt disappeared and turned to mud. This carried on all the way to Ushguli where I booked guesthouse Oliver. Had a lovely tea and breakfast and he dried all my clothes for me. This is one of the highest inhabited settlement’s in Europe at 2,100m.

 

Ushguli.

Approaching ushguli.

The bad road begins.

 

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Day off today and did a hike up to Ushba Glacier. 9hours and approx 20miles and 1,000m of elevation. It’s a shame I can’t show the summits due to the cloud, but mount Ushba summit is 4,710m. Also mount Shelda and mount Maziri. Shdughra waterfall is also on the way which is the highest in Georgia. The Glacier sits at 2,500m. You also pass a police border checkpoint on the way. The policeman I saw gave me water and spoke English and said the Russian border wasn’t far away.

On the way to the trail from Becho.

Border police guard dog.

Memorials to climbers.

Highest waterfall in Georgia.

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59ml. Quite hard with lots of climbing today but heading up to the greater Caucasus range in the north, it’s only to be expected. Very scenic and quiet with traffic. It’s also colder as the altitude is higher. Too cold for the tent so I book into Carpediem guesthouse for 2 nights as I intend to do a hike tomorrow up to the Ushba Glacier.

Enguri Dam.

 

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85ml. After speaking to Harry and Roelie, I decide to take the road up to the Caucasus mountain range and the Svaneti region. I had a good tail wind and managed to get 85ml in. I meet Auke and Hilgiem on the way who were on a break. They are also heading the same route, although I never see them again all route. After Zugdidi the road eased off with traffic and became quieter. I book in a guesthouse at Jvari on the side of the road and have a nice evening with the lovely family who feed me and give me homemade wine.

Road to Zugdidi.

Caucasus coming into view.

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54ml. Steady day and not much climbing. Waited for sun to dry the tent after breakfast. Stopped at a village school about 10km from Vani and spoke with teacher and children. Teacher spoke good English. Booked into a guesthouse, old retro look inside. Old lady was really nice who lived there. I met Harry and Roelie morskate in the evening for a beer and a Georgian meal. Was really nice to catch up with them and get some advice of my next direction. They were my 1st warm shower host’s in Europe, in a small town called Orischot near Eindhoven and are now cycling the world.

On the road to Kutaisi.

Great evening with Harry and Roelie.

 

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49ml. After a day off in Batumi and goodbyes to Auke and Hilgiem, I set off toward Kutaisi through the mad traffic of Georgia. Tried to visit the botanical gardens on the way but it was still closed. Seems work and places open later here in Georgia. Looked around the Petra fortress ruin on way. Was a little hilly today but as the day went on it became more flat. I wild camped next to the river on the old road towards Vani.

Petra fortress.

View of black sea coast from Petra fortress