The second phase of the Caucasus ascension was much harder and steeper than the first one. After a morning swim and some time spent enjoying the camping area, we got back on the road and rapidly gained altitude. A group of italian cyclists told us it would be really hard for us, loaded as we are, to get to the top of the mountain, which was about 2000 meters high, main problem being the state of the ‘road’, a mix of rocks and sand after the city of Khulo. It went indeed smoothly up to that point, even if the road is somehow dangerous -narrow with big cliffs ; and started getting really steep already few kilometers before Khulo. We climbed that part under the midday sun and arrived in town pretty exhausted, aware this was just the beginning of the fight.
We filled our tanks with soup, meat and bread, rested for a bit, then hit to road at about 3PM. Straight after the town, the road downgraded to a steep path of sand, earth, dust and rocks. The conditions didn’t improve for the next 20 kilometers, which were among the hardest, if not the hardest, that we’ve cycled so far.
Getting there, slowly but surely
Chocolate stop on the way
We arrived at the top of the mountain for the sunset, with magical views over the valleys. It was right on time before the only shop miles around closed, and we bought noodles and beer to celebrate our physical achievement. We were above 2000 meters high, it was cold and we could see the eternal snow closeby. We asked Guguli, the owner of the shop, if there was a warm place to sleep in the area. There wasn’t, but she offered us to stay in her house, with her 13 year old grandson. We obviously felt very grateful to not have to spend the night outside in the cold, and discovered with amazement the lifestyle of the family, from another era. The house was entirely warmed on the same wood fire used for cooking ; they were eating only homemade natural products : milk, cheese, cream, bread, and various types of conserved vegetables. The water they used was taken directly from the source (no showers and that sort of things), and the toilet was just an elevated platform where the stuff felt directly into a compost (no paper, just water). It feels like a great way to live at this time of the year, but it is probably a much tougher lifestyle during the winter, when they have to deal with the 3 meters of snow they usually get.
Anyway…we quickly crashed in our beds after dinner.
Guguli, cooking for us
Morning view over the shop and the house we stayed in, in the background