I woke up and, in what now has become a relaxing routine, drank some coffee while watching the sun rise. Then I was off. The first part of the day took me along the Caucasus through farmland. Here I saw my first medieval style walled monastery castles built up on small steep mountains. Some were still active and sold wine and cheese but they were all closed this early in the morning.
As part of my attempt to forestal my arrival in Istanbul, I decided to continue following the Caucuses along back roads until I was directly north of Tblisi. This turned out to be an adventure as the road I choose soon turned into a narrow loose gravel track and wound through steep forested mountains. This lasted for about an hour. One of the greatest feelings you can get riding a motorcycle is the feeling of perfectly smooth asphalt after an hour of rough gravel and northern Georgia allowed me that just before I turned south towards Tblisi.
In Tblisi, I stopped quickly at a hotel cafe to use their internet and then after a frustrating hour spent lost in the city's narrow streets I speed off south into the high mountains near the border of Armenia. At this point I have grown tired of Cities and touristy places. They are crowded, and waste a lot of time that I would much rather spend on some mountain road or in a village somewhere. So I can't really say I saw Tblisi.
The afternoon's drive reminded me of the Tibetan Plateau portion that I crossed earlier in the Trip. After a couple hours I was in a large cold treeless landscape. The roads which were decent at this point, wound around low rolling hills and past large cold lakes. Soon the sun light started creeping up my wind shield and I started searching for a camp site. I drove off the main road onto the mostly flat grassland and soon found a perfect location behind a small hill next to a river canyon. I watched the sun set, ate some noodles and then set up my tent.
Up at dawn, coffee, sunrise and then I was back on the road by about 6:30. The day started out as it had ended but soon the road turned again to loose gravel. This road, I was told, should have been asphalt but I guess I had been lied too. For those who are curious this road goes from Akhaltsikhi to near Khulo, just unded 100km. Loose gravel isn't so bad but when on narrow mountain roads it can be a bit of a challenge. However soon the road turned to loose gravel with large mellon sized rocks scattered around. The turns became unreasonably tight and the road very steep. First it wound through forested mountains but soon I was back above the tree line and the road passed along steep hillsides and cliffs. One big rock hit too fast and I could fall a good 50ft or more off the side of the narrow road. So I went pretty slow.
On the way down the mountain pass, about three quarters of the way through this road I met a bicyclist going to opposite direction who also had been tricked into taking this road by some Georgians earlier in his trip. I guess this is some kind of Georgian joke. He told me about his trip and I mine and then we discussed the road ahead. It ended up being a pretty interesting conversation. We happened to meet just about where the road changes from bad to VERY bad. I had just come from the worst section and had gotten used to its challenges and he from the much easier part. So when he asked me how it was, I just said its pretty much the same as it is here and it doesn't really get worse. He told me about two VERY bad sections and we both went our separate ways with very wrong ideas in our heads. The road improved dramatically for me and when I got to the difficult sections he'd talked about, they were no where near as bad as the entire road behind me and ahead of him.
The road became very fun when the asphalt returned but it wasn't very smooth so I didn't get to enjoy it as much as before. I arrived in Batumi mid afternoon and headed along the Black Sea to the Turkish Border. The crossing was easy. I was still able to buy a sticker visa. And then there I was, back in Turkey after a year and a half away! It was getting dark so I started looking for a camp site but couldn't find anything good so I stayed in a hotel in Rize.