It was raining when we set off today. Big heavy soaking drops. So we headed slowly north – slowly not just because of slippery roads and poor visibility , but also because any puddle might have concealed a cavernous pothole capable of turning the bike’s wheels square.
One of the oddities of this country is that off-road riding skills (standing on the pegs, leaning forward, knees and elbows bent as shock-absorbers) are in most demand in the towns, where the streets can be a churned-up mess. In one town we had to work our way up a hill between huge trucks that were stuck in a bog of mud and chunks of macadam that was once a street.
Mid morning we stopped at a ‘restaurant’ where the only food on display was a skinned goat stretched over the counter like a great bloody bird, and where we were served by a a Norman Bates lookalike. We are exotic in these parts. When we walk in, the locals stop talking and turn to stare – like we’re Butch Cassidy and the boys. If we manage to communicate and they ask where we’re going, the answer ‘China’ just gets us glassy stares, like we’re clearly not right in the head.
We pushed on through the rain. Our clothes proved waterproof, but visibility was a challenge for us all. It’s hard to stop the visor fogging up, but if you push it up, the icy rain blasts your face. Meanwhile, the Georgian drivers continue to play chicken around us like its more fun in the rain.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that had 8 separate dining rooms (on the left in the photo below) – each containing a dining table, chairs and wood-burning stove.
Servers delivered large trays of food and drink through the rain from a central kitchen. Simple fare, but at that moment, very welcome. Outside was a thundering mountain river, about to burst its banks, and a very sad bear in a cage.
The stick-to-the-ribs food was good and we were starting to thaw out and relax…
….when SImon, who had stepped outside, staggered back in, blood pouring from a wound on the bridge of his nose. His camera was covered in mud and he looked like he was in shock.
“That bloody bear just punched me”, he said.
It turned out he’d gone to snap a pic of poor old Paddington and had stepped over the guardrail to poke his camera through the bars (yes…I know..and so does he now…). In the instant it took him to raise the camera and focus, Paddington leapt up, hurled himself across the cage and took a huge swipe at him. He smashed the camera back into Simon’s face and sent it (the camera, not Simons face) flying into a muddy ditch.
Fortunately, Simon wasn’t badly hurt, just a little abashed (and his camera and the bear were both fine).
The rain stopped and we pushed on to Tblisi, Georgia’s capital. It looks interesting, but we were too tired to explore – just dined in the hotel.
Tomorrow we look around.
Best to all,