ANOTHER THRILLING ADVENTURE FROM DAVE'S GANG
AS THEY TRAVEL THROUGH ARMENIA
This instalment of Dave's fab four story, finds them crossing borders with difficulty and checking out Armenia on their travels. If you have missed their thrilling tale up to now you have missed a treat so click here to read the story so far
Yeravan is a city I was barely aware of, the capital of a country I knew little about. One interesting fact is that it is the oldest Christian country.
Armenia has been independent since 1991 having been part of the Soviet Empire for 70 years. Oh sorry that’s another interesting fact.
A million or so people live in Yeravan, we came in from the southwest and the first landmark of note was a very large empty vodka factory. We stopped to search the Garmin for a suitable place to stay and after a few attempts found some rooms in a block of flats in downtown Yeravan.
Architecturally Yeravan is clearly a Soviet city but not in the usual Eastern European style. The buildings are very grand as well as imposing.
“How Much Tequila (Did I Drink Last Night)”?
Walking into the centre of town we came to an area with dozens of outdoor restaurants and bars offering a wide choice of food and drink. The imperative was to watch that night's World Cup game and a cracker it was too. Germany 2 – 2 Ghana, not the result that Dirk was hoping for but a great game and in a fantastic setting. Milky was keen to seek out the 'Heisenberg Bar' as featured in ‘Breaking Bad’ but despite his best efforts it proved to be elusive. We finished the evening in a basement bar drinking tequila. I like this city!
The next day had been set aside for sight seeing and there is plenty to see. After wandering for an hour or so stopping to have coffee and cake we found ourselves at the magnificent Cafesjian Museum of Art. It is an incomplete project that was started by the Russians who ran out of cash. Later a philanthropist took up the mantle and carried on the task till he ran out of money. Now the state is attempting to finish the project. As you might imagine it is a large project and the scale is impressive.
The museum is built into a hillside with a number of terraces each with water features on a grand scale. There is art from around the world on each of the terraces and on the indoor floors as well as on the way up to each of the floors that you see when you ascend the escalators that take you from one floor to the next. The view from the top terrace over the city is spectacular. Later that afternoon I went on a quest to find some decent oil for my bike. We had reached the half way point in our journey and an oil and filter change was in order. It took a while but in a quiet back street there is a tyre shop that also has a fine selection of car and motorbike oils. So I was able to treat the KTM to fresh oil and filter, also I changed the air filter too, the one in there was more than ready to come out.
This was going to be the final evening as a group of four. Dirk had more time to play with and wanted to spend more time in Armenia and Georgia. He intended to head up to the Georgia/ Russia border whilst we were heading back to Turkey. Therefore we needed, yes needed to have a good meal and drink. Sadly the authentic Armenian dinner was not so great but the beer was good, in each of the bars we went to. We ended up back in the basement from the evening before. Milky once again went on his own quest, searching for his TV bar and this time he reported back that he had been successful, it wasn’t quite the same as on TV but what is?.
Yeravan is well worth a visit if you are looking for somewhere different to go. It’s a long ride but well worth it. Or you could get on a plane for a long weekend.
Happy trails to you, until we meet again
The next morning we bade our sad farewells, Dirk was staying on for a day or so. We were heading north for the border with Georgia. The first part of the route, on the M1 ironically, was pretty dire with miles of roadworks and contraflow but after the town of Gyumri it all got more interesting. It was a less busy, smaller road that climbs up to a plateau at about 2000 meters. We found ourselves in a grassy tundra environment, a very bleak and harsh world, must be bloody hard to live here in the winter.
Then all of a sudden we were at the border, there is no town, barely a village, just a border. Very little on the Armenian side and we quickly had to say goodbye to a country which I for one would happily return to.
The Georgians are building a new improved border crossing. It is a fairly large building site and there are no directions to go round, so we went through the middle, weaving around diggers and piles of building materials. I was expecting someone to shout or a whistle to be blown but no we were apparently picking the correct route to the crossing.
The guard at the Georgian border was very friendly and spoke a little English, he told us our friends were awaiting our arrival. I can’t tell you how bemused we were as we waited as the various officials dealt with our reintroduction to Georgia at this remote border crossing. What friends could be awaiting us? We have precious few friends in England never mind this far flung country! But there on the far side of the crossing was a group of guys with their bikes.
After we got our stamps and the barrier was raised we went over to meet our “friends”. Well, of course they weren’t waiting for us at all. Three other riders were due to come through the crossing, three Armenian guys instead of three English tourists. They were to be guests of a newly formed motorcycle club that would reach out across the border between the two countries with ride outs and social gatherings. It is a new club and there were a dozen or so members waiting for their mates from Armenia. They came from the unpronounceable town of Akhaltsikhe were we had stayed on our first visit and we were heading back to. They were on a variety of bikes, small, large, old and new and were planning a days ride with their new friends. We headed to back to Akhalsikhe and in our hotel room that evening we saw the very same guys featured on local TV, talking about their new club that had sought out to new members from a neighbouring country.
Goodbye Mr Chips
Our plan for the next day was to ride the short distance to the border with Turkey at Posof Sinir Kapisi. This was the crossing we had intended to use coming into Georgia but had messed up badly with our navigation and taken the other route to the Black Sea. It is a very scenic ride on the Turkish side. But once again we were destined not to travel this route. Why? Because again, when Mr Chip arrived at the Turkish side of the crossing the “computer said NO”. Again the question was “Where is your Transit van?” No amount of explanation was helping at this small border. The man in charge was very friendly but his best advice was for Chip to leave his bike and go back to Istanbul, a mere 1500 kms away, get in his van and come back to collect his bike. Great plan……….not!
Two Turkish guys appeared on fully laden 600 Teneres, they were heading out on a huge ride to Magadan in Siberia. They spoke with the officials on Chip's behalf but the best advice they had was to head back to the Black Sea crossing to find the guy who had sorted the problem when leaving Turkey. This seemed the best option so we headed back to the Georgian border once more, much to the amusement of the guards who had stamped our passports a few hours before.
Pumped for the ride
This was a worrying time for Chip. For me on the other hand being a totally selfish b’stard, I was looking forward to going back over the dirt track pass that is the main route back to the coast. After a navigational consultation Chip decided he would rather take the longer route via a motorway, avoiding the trail. Milky went with him and we agreed to meet up in Batumi. I was well pumped for the ride and headed up the broken road surface with gusto.
The weather was clearer than on our trip coming the other way but there was still plenty on water flowing across the track. When I got to the summit I thought I would stop in the wooden tea house for a cuppa only to remember we had pooled the last of our remaining Georgian cash and Chip had it. I had not a brass Lari with which to quench my thirst so I just pushed on down the other side, enjoying each and every gravel covered corner. It was disappointing to reach tarmac again, at first at least but after a while chucking the KTM into one corner after another became great fun. When I reached Batumi there was a message from the other two. It turned out that their route towards the motorway was more technical than mine so they were going to be a while reaching me. With my stomach rumbling I changed up some cash and found some food and waited patiently, and waited and waited. Eventually we met up and they told me their story.
The road they took headed up into a National Park and after a while became a trail that wound hither and thither. Eventually they came across a road as well as a friendly policeman who offered to provide an escort towards the motorway. Off they went, trying to keep him in sight, blue lights on and siren blaring, till they reached the end of his tour of duty. However he had radioed ahead and arranged for a colleague to take over and their new friend led the way on to the motorway. What a service!
By the time we met up it was too late to head for the border crossing so we found a place to stay in a small hotel run by an Azerbijani family. The evening was spent researching options in case Chip was again refused entry into Turkey. There had been a rumour of a ferry that sailed from Batumi across the Black Sea to Bulgaria. If we could find it we could ride around Bulgaria back to the other side of Turkey. Milky and I could enter, ride the short distance to get the van and the problem would be solved. The other alternative was that Chip would have to leave his bike at the border, fly to Istanbul, get the van and drive back to collect his bike. Surely not, that would be utterly ridiculous but the ferry option proved to be only a rumour so it was a restless night for Mr Chip.
Computer said no!
At first light we got ourselves down the road to the border, exited Georgia, again and went to the next stage. On the Turkish side, as expected the “computer said NO” and the, by now familiar routine began. Sadly, worryingly, the manager who had sorted Chip out on the previous crossing was not around and we were hearing the same arguments. The only thing in our favour was the poor officer in the booth was on his own and the queue was getting longer by the minute and he was having to deal with us, the phone and his other customers. After an interminably long time Chip was led away, we settled down for the long wait.
And patience really is a virtue. Chip returned, the officials admited defeat, passports were stamped and back into Turkey we went. Mr Chip was mighty relieved. We could now plan the next leg of the trip across the mountains in northern Turkey.
So there we go, another story for the Christmas fireside! And a tempting potential trip for the Spring perhaps?
Any thoughts? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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