Day 53 : Tarmac, mountains, canyons and Armenians

26 Jun

The way down the Goderdzi mountain had been a beautiful piece of cake. We rode 25 km downhill, feeling the temperature increasing as we were going down. Our legs were pretty tired from the day before, and we didn’t cycle too much that day. We stopped after 50 km in Akhaltsikhe, the next big town in the valley. While looking for a terrasse in the city center, we met Rafa, a 16 year old cyclist originally from Armenia, whom family exiled to Georgia due to the armenian genocide after world war I. Many armenian families live in the city, which is as well the hometown of Charles Aznavour’s father.

Akhaltsikhe  castle

Rafa arranged us a room in the city center, and offered us to go together to see a well preserved monastery from the 13th century hidden in the mountains nearby -Sapara monastery. We discussed about the next day’s trip, the city and its history, while eating Khachapuri. It is a delicious cheese pie, one of the georgian culinary speciality.

We left to the monastery in the early morning, after a short night (we worked on the blog until late!). Our taxi driver was an old armenian guy, driving his 18 year old Lada like a rally pilot, on the very bad roads in the mountains. We are still surprised the car survived the adventure ; those old ladas seem to be incredibly robusts.

Rafa and Sergey

Sapara monastery

Visiting the beautiful building and enjoying the peaceful nature of the area was pretty enjoyable and we stayed there for a little while, before  going back to town and sleep few hours more.

The next destination was Akhalkalaki, and the road between the two towns follows a river, going upstream and gaining some elevation. It has brand new tarmac and superb scenery of mountains and castles. We started in the afternoon and  followed the road for about 70km south east, getting very close to Turkey and Armenia. The last bit was a never ending canyon that we went through when the sun was setting, and we reached Akhalkalaki at night time. We got a cheap room in a hostel, shared with friendly armenians and azeris working on the market or nearby shops, they had that scale we used to figure out about our weight after two months cycling.

Old castel on the way

Akhkalaki after sunset

We went out to find a place to watch Euro quarter final, and ended up in probably the only one place in town that shows the game. As soon as we sat on the terrasse, we got invited for an orgy of food and drink at a table of armenians guys ; ate fish, meat, melons, and of course drank vodka. While talking to them, we understand that the city has 90 to 95% of Armenians, which gives it a different flavour to the place…a more spicy one.

Yves lost 6 kg – Nico he’s still the same 😉

One of the friendly Armenian met that day in Akhalkalaki

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