Category Archives: Going Loopy 2022

All Done

There is always a point in any trip when you start coming down.  When thoughts and worries from home break down the door in your mind that you locked them behind all those weeks ago.   Today is that day.  We’ve only a few days left, the mood changes and the riding becomes more of a mechanical process just to cover miles.

Out the city and out out to the Romanian border.

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The queue is moving exceedingly slowly and I find myself chatting to a woman in a car.   She’s giving me her life story.  Her parents were born in Moldova but they did something that upset the authorities and they were sent to Siberia as punishment.  She was born and grew up there but when the USSR dissolved, families were allowed to choose which country they became citizens of and her parents chose to come back to Moldova.   She was spitting blood about the Russians and what was happening in Ukraine.  She had a daughter that she had banned speaking Russian in the house.  She said Moldovans were being brainwashed by Russian TV and bribed by the Russian soldiers stationed there.  The reason she was leaving was to collect her husband from an airport in Romania.  The Moldovan airspace had restrictions and apparently there were always bomb scares at the airport so it was much easier to fly to/from Romania.

Across the bridge and back into Euroland we go.


Its getting hotter and hotter and hotter.  We stop for coffee and I get out my chocolate thermometer, much to the amusement of the local ladies.

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Tonight is Sighisoara, birthplace of Vlad the impaler.  The only thing being impaled nowadays is ice lollies.  Nice place though

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I’m feeling properly shit again today.  It’s properly hot again and we all get warning texts from the Romanian government that the temperature is going to be over 40 and to stay at home if you can.  Well we can’t so off we go.

IMG_12439 IMG_12442 IMG_12443After a while I get so dehydrated I start to get hallucinations.  I see a giant cup of coffee that I could sit in like a bath and drink until I’m sated.


Get to Oradea and I’m a proper bad way.  The temperature has been up at about 43 and I’m fucked.  It’s all I can do to walk to reception.   I didn’t wear a buff today and the sun has been beating down on my neck all day.  I’m feeling spacy and sick and very tired.  I’ve just got overheated I reckon.  When I turn the cold shower on I hiss and steam as my boiling body quickly directs hot blood to my veins and skin to be chilled.  Thankfully recovery is pretty quick and after a couple of hours I’m good enough to go for a wander about.

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From Oradea its through the schengen border back into Hungary.  These trips really take their toll on the bikes, the riders and the kit.  I notice the thumb has almost come adrift from my gloves.  I get sad when things like this happen.  I love my old kit and I know that I won’t be able to replace it like for like.  I hate seeing something I like coming to the end of its life.

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We’re in Bratislava tonight.  It’s a Sunday and it’s oddly quiet.   The place has a strange feel about it that’s difficult to put my finger on.  Maybe I’m surfacing too soon.  Maybe I’m not ready for real life just yet.  I walk into a shopping mall for a Starbucks and I suddenly feel like an alien.  I stand there for a good few minutes just thinking, shit,  this really is too soon for this.  It’s slightly overwhelming and oddly disconcerting.  This should be my comfort blanket but it feels the exact opposite.

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It’s the last night we’ll all be together and we’re all quite subdued.   Nearly 7 weeks we’ve all been in each others pockets and mirrors every day and now its over.  One of the riders will head for Italy tomorrow to store his bike and fly home while the rest of us will high tail it back to the UK.  All we can do is have a chat about the next ride.  There always has to be a next ride.

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The one thing I am looking forward to though is not living out my little bag.  You can’t imagine how much pleasure I get by just putting on a clean pair of jeans and a T-Shirt when I get home.

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Autopilot on.  Munich please, ASAP.  Certainly sir, just add fuel

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oh.. and don’t forget cake.

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Munich to Verdun, running fast for home.  A bed in a cheap motel, a supermarket dinner and ‘see you soon’ texts to my wife.
IMG_12723 IMG_12727 IMG_12730 IMG_12733And then suddenly here we are.  The last day.  The final day of foreign scents and smells on the wind, funny money and random rooms.  Guessing from menus and learning yet another name for milk.  Time for my brain to go through all my memories and decide what goes and what stays.  But just before we do that, we get one more welcome from a foreign sun as it rises above the French fields and powers the world though another day.

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Get to the train and truth be told, I could quite easily just turn round and do the whole trip again.

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Homeward bound

It sounds weird but leaving Istanbul feels like we’re nearly home.  Heading back to the surface. Back to reality.  I’m lucky to avoid it for such long periods.  I have a really good life and wife waiting for me at home though.  I’m a very lucky bloke indeed.  Jesus if there is any justice I’ll come back in the next life as a piece of toilet paper.

We’re running fast for home now but we just want to take a small diversion on the way north.  Early start out of Istanbul to get out of turkey and into Bulgaria and Euroland.

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God only knows how many borders my old Ktm and I have been through together now.  She’s certainly earned her Adventure badge anyway.  I wonder how many trips are left in her sometimes.   She’ll have over 70k on when we get back .  She really rattles her old bones when she starts up but soon settles down to a deep purr.  I do love that bike.

Add one more official signature to my helmet and we’re back in and ready to go.


We stop for lunch in a random square in a random town trapped in a time warp.  It feels a bit like Russia with decoration running approximately 50 years in the past.  Still, it has food and pretty girls.  After the stupid cheapness of Turkey the price of life back in the EU comes as a real shock though.

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Tonight’s destination is just a small provincial town.  I should do more of this.  Visiting the places your finger just flies over on the map without stopping when you’re planing a route.   Somewhere that is usually just there to provide a fuel station on route to somewhere bigger and better.   Its a really nice little town built on the usual old Soviet model of a huge fuck off square in the middle, brutal blocks of concrete, monuments and girls in pretty green dresses.

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We’re heading for Moldova.  A consolation prize for not getting into Azerbaijan.  Another chance to put a face to a random country on a map, and to keep the riding mojo going as long as possible before life’s reality bat hits us all in the face.

We’re riding up into Romania to be close to the border so we can enter tomorrow.  It’s bloody hot and getting hotter as we go north.  Another function of the upside down climate we’re living in.  It’s definitely not helping my sweats.. perhaps I’m going through the manopause..

Another border, another language, and another name for my lifeblood milk.

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I don’t know what to expect from Moldova.  I rather suspect the place hasn’t got two turds to rub together and will be on its arse.  At the border we’re greeted by two lovely ladies with big smiles who are even willing to sign my helmet if I push it gently into their small opening ..



For a while it’s just as I expected.   Either vicious road acne or roads made of sand pits.  If it’s like this all the way it’s going to be a long day.  Small villages.  Subsistence living.  Living with their legs astride the poverty line.

We shouldn’t be on this route anyway as it runs close to the southern Ukraine border, which I find out for myself as I make a wrong turn and arrive at a border post .. ummmmm… I do these things so you don’t have to .. and because I’m a knob.

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We stop in a small town for a drink and to find some cash, my first priority when entering any new country.  We’re so used to form over function nowadays.  Buildings that look like cheese graters or giant glass jenga towers or cruise ships flying high in the sky.  Architects determined to use every function on their new CAD system to produce ever more ridiculous trendy buildings that are out of fashion by the time they are completed.  Out here its strictly function over form.  Basic and brutal.

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Every country has all its unique nuances that identifies itself and Moldova is no different.  The thing that strikes me here most is the dress.  In a small town like this in Russia you would see women wearing clothes you’d only see on a TV in black and white at home but here the girls are all wearing nice bright colourful summer dresses and looking really good.  Really feminine.  I could not give a flying fuck if that makes me old fashioned or chauvinistic or it doesn’t fit in with whatever the bed wetters are tweeting, I think women in dresses looks nice.  So sue me.

Oh, and the bus stops too. Another personal stamp for a country.  Christ only knows what the archway is for though.


Get to Chișinău and its quite a big city.  It doesn’t look at all bad to me.  There is a lovely lady on reception that speaks perfect English and we have a long chat.  She’s trying to buy a flat and she says she much prefers the older Soviet style ones to the more modern ones.  She reckons the build quality of the new places is far inferior to the traditional older places.  I wasn’t expecting that.  The new ones must be spectacularly shit if thats the case.

I go and exchange some more funny money for milk by yet another name and take a quick wander.

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And see what I mean about the dresses… though it does help if you have the figure of an olympic gymnast


We ask the receptionist what we should see while we’re here and she directs us to the Cosmos Hotel in the centre of town.  A good example of brutalist architecture when the architects only had a few simple tools they bought cheap at a car boot sale, and even then they don’t seem to have used all of them.

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TBH I quite like it.  I’m tired of characterless shiny glass boxed same old same old Grand Designs clones everywhere.  It’s good to give my eyes a change sometimes, and it just reinforces that feeling of being somewhere different.

Then you’re quickly reminded that some of the human race loves to  crawl and climb over the others and to wave it in peoples faces


When I eventually get back to the hotel with sore and aching feet I’m met by Brian and his dead phone.  The other morning I heard his old Samsung telling him that it had decided to identify as an IPhone from now on and wanted to be addressed as Siri.  So Brian has taken it at its word and  shoved something in an inappropriate hole and now its buggered.  Despite it being at least 3 centuries since he was born, Brian breathes WhatsApp and is already having withdrawal symptoms.  It’s a serious situation and demands immediate attention and we go to the google assistant on reception for advice.  She reckons there are some phone trading shops not far away.  Perfect.  IMG_12181 IMG_12186 IMG_12189 IMG_12209

Brian and I find a shop and in true British style get completely ripped off for £30 for a phone that was probably born before I was.  Still, Brian’s happy and thats all that counts.







From Trazbon we go west to Samsun.   Its wet, windy, dull, and miserable. My mood that is.  I’m starting to feel properly shit now and I keep having random hot flushes which instantly bathe me in sweat.  The other riders are keeping a distance in case its the C word.  I eat on my own, use lifts on my own, just generally keep my distance just in case.  The ride to Samsun matches my mood exactly.  It’s flat and featureless,  straight and bland.

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Samsun looks like a big bag of Lego buildings has been tipped out onto the ground.  Even here there doesn’t seem to be a beach.  The hotel is on the water so I go for a wander, leaving a regular series of big sweat patches on the ground so I can easily find my way back.

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Brian and I go on a food hunt but there isn’t much about where we are.  But Brian could find a cake shop on the moon ..


I need something settle my stomach and dredge my bowels after all the stodgy crap I’ve eaten the last few days so I do a tour of the supermarkets until I can find some cereal.   I buy a family packet and eat at least a colon’s worth for my tea.


In the morning I need to clear my stomach of air so I go wandering the abandoned streets accompanied by the sound of breaking wind until I get my ‘last warning’ fart confirming there’s one in the chamber.

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I’m riding alone today for a change.  Brian wants to wander about and relive some memories of a visit here with his late wife many years ago.  I’m on auto pilot all day long, running in ‘keep alive’ mode.  Set my body a target and ask it to get me there as safe as it can.  I’ll leave it up to my body to decide which parts to prioritise and which parts it can shut down for a few hours.   We’ve all done it.  We’ve all ridden feeling like absolute shit and just counting down the miles.  I remember hills, I remember lakes, I remember my botheredometer reading a flat zero all day long.

I get to Bolu first for a change as I’ve just stopped once for fuel and nothing else.  The hotel smells like someone has dropped a family size packet of shake-n-vak on the carpet and the room has no AC but it has a shower and I stand under the cold water to try and bring myself slowly back to life then go out hunting for some milky medicine and wait for the others to arrive.

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We’re minus one again.  I call Just-Eat but they don’t deliver Brians around here it seems.  An hour later I get a text telling me he is about 100 miles back and has a puncture.  He’s stuck a plug in it, even though its a tube, which I suspect will only make it worse, and he’s got some kids to go and hunt for some tyre seal too.  He should be with us some time in 2025.  A few hours later as I’m sat in the shade I hear the familiar beat of the AT and Brian pulls in.  I think his rear tyre is 10% air and 90% tyre weld but he has got here thank God.  We’ll see how it holds up overnight.  We’re still a long way from home and we need all the luck we can get so I decide to employ something from the spirit world.

Before taking some riders from London to Bangkok in 2016 an American rider presented me with a biker bell.  Not something I was familiar with but they’re quite common in the USA apparently.  Supposedly the brake down demons hate the sound of a bell ringing.  Who knew.  When I was wondering about earlier I saw a tool shop just up the street.  The second I walk in I see what I want.  He sells jingle bells.  Proper Santa spec jingle bells.   Jingle bells are the absolute best for this job.  Of all the bells in all the world the demons hate jingle bells the most.  Can’t go anywhere near them.  Santa’s sleigh is covered in them.  Have you ever seen him broken down on the M25 waiting for the AA?  No? Exactly!

I buy a couple for me and Brian and head on back to the bikes to affix them.  I’m going to sound like an epileptic Morris dancer riding down the road but I just don’t care.

The cold shower seems to have breathed a bit of life into me as we head out for some dinner.  The town is having some sort of celebration and there is a band setting up where we’re eating.  They sound pretty good too.

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Dinner is absolutely shit.  It’s disgusting.  It’s £2.  It’s left on the plate.  Back to the supermarket for more cereal and cake.


There is a small hammam hidden in the corner of a square just outside the hotel.  It’s little domes poking above the trees.  I wonder if a hot sauna and a severe twatting by a hairy bloke in a skirt will beat whatever is wrong with me into submission.  At the moment anything is worth a try.  I’m up early and first one in at 7am.  Its a really old place with old wooden steps shaped and worn nearly to the point of extinction.  I’ve given up caring about getting naked nowadays.  It all goes with the ‘these people will never see me again and I don’t give a fuck’ attitude my brain seems to have degraded into.  I’m given a small towel to cover my embarrassment, even though I could manage with a much much smaller one, and I’m led through a narrow and low set of corridors to the sauna.  It stinks of socks and blokes bodies.  It’s like sticking your head in a teenagers clothes basket after its been in the microwave.  I lie still, close my eyes and imagine all the little viruses getting hotter and hotter, getting agitated, starting to panic , packing their little bags and preparing to evacuate.    But it’s me that has to control my panic.

I usually can do 10 minutes or so and I have to get out but I bet I’ve been in here a lot longer than that.  My body desperately wants to flee.  Maybe it’s the little viruses trying to break into my brain and take control of my limbs.  I’m fidgeting and twitching and soaked in sweat but I’ve convinced myself this is what I need to do so I battle it out until eventually I’m collected and taken to the bubble torture chamber.  A super heated steam room with a few flat surfaces to lie on.  I can make out other bodies and hear the constant splashes of water, slaps of hands on flesh, grunts of bodies on the edge of tapping out.  I see hands full of bubbles and then I’m gone.  I feel fists and elbows and feet and knees working over my body for a good 30 minutes before being water boarded and slapped on the back to leave.  A hammam is definitely the way to start the day.  I feel almost human.  It’s going to be a good day.   And what is the price of this pleasure I ask.  He says £4.  I give him £10, a smile and a handshake.

After breakfast we all head out.  The others are all gone by the time Brian and I saddle up and head out.  His tyre pressures were fine this morning.  I’m hoping for an easy day.

That lasts for about 2 miles before Brian’s tube decides it’s had enough.  Fuckidy tits knobs and arse bubbles.. this is just what I needed.  And before anyone says anything, Santa doesn’t have tyres and can’t get punctures.  I know… I’ve got a spare tube haven’t I .. we’ll just fit that.   Ahhhhh…. if only you were riding a Ktm 1190 Adventure S and had a front wheel puncture Brian we would be out of here in no time.  I’m such a fucking idiot..

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At least we’re not too far from town.  I load my mental map from my walkabout and remember a scooter type shop not far from the hotel.  I just throw Brian’s back wheel on top of my tyres and leave him to sunbathe for a while.  Get to the scooter shop and its not what I thought it was.  It doesn’t sell tubes or fix punctures.  As far as I can see its a shop where you go in and just watch some bloke surf his phone all day.  He hits pause and walks me across the road to another random shop where the bloke speaks English and such is the way out here he jumps into his car and scoots off to what looks like a refugee camp on the edge of town where they should be able to help me.


They can’t help, but they know a man that can and I watch Brian’s wheel just disappear into the chaos on the back of a quad.


And while I’m waiting in their air conditioned workshop drinking a complimentary vanilla latte and custard slice I have a long chat to their newest Afgan mechanic about the variable valve timing on the new Shitter200 he’s working on.


By the time I get the wheel back to Brian we’ve lost a few hours, it’s steaming hot, and whatever recharge the hammam gave me this morning has run out.  I think I was teleported to Istanbul, I don’t remember too much about it.

Brian reckons his tyre is still deflating slowly so we need to try and find a new tube.  I make the mistake of asking one of the bellboys at the hotel if he knows anywhere local.  He reckons he knows a place and can take me there on foot.  By the time we’ve walked about 100m I know he’s chatting shit and winging it.  My temper is shorter than an oompa loompa  at the moment and its also on automatic so I just stand and listen like an observer to myself as I explain in plain English how I’m not fucking walking round every single shop in Istanbul asking every single fucking dozy brain dead twat if they know somewhere I can buy a new tube.  That he has stepped on my bullshit tolerance mine and can either make his way quietly out of my field of vision as soon as possible or risk being blown apart in a rabid tirade of spit and bile.

Thats another hotel I wont be allowed back to ..

Anyway.. we waste a couple of hours getting a taxi and a new tube before getting the ferry across the Bosphorus.
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I’m not in the mood to go manual and walk so we grab a taxi and slowly drift through the clogged arteries of this ancient city towards the Blue Mosque.
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I’ve only really come over the water because I need a shave and the best one I ever had was in a place really close to here.  I’ve promised Brian a wet shave because he’s never had one.  I go for a hunt around but either my old memory is playing tricks or the barber is no more.

As I’m walking my tottieometer acquires a lock and I follow it to an open window where a young woman is reading.  I take the picture before asking.  Before she can put on a different face for me.  Its usually the case in my experience that the first picture is the best anyway.  I’m gone and out of her memory before she gets to the bottom of the page.


As I take the picture I hear someone calling me from down the hill.  A shabby barber is toting for business from outside a grotty little shop.  Destiny calls it seems so we make our way down and settle down for a face full of scars and scabs.


I’m as guilty as the next man by judging a book by its grubby, warn, stained and torn cover and in this case I’m happy to be proven very wrong.  The barbers are a couple of real jokers but their skills have been honed and perfected on thousands of hairy faces to the point where they can glide a deadly blade a micron above your skin with one hand while shaking hands with the next customer with the other.  Its like a shaving circus and the result is just as good as any I’ve had.  My skin feels like cellophane. Perhaps I should go back to the girl reading the book and get her to close her eyes and run a fingertip across it ..

The sun is falling and I grab a taxi to take us back to the ferry where it looks like Hitchcock has decided to film a remake of The Birds.

IMG_11907 IMG_11913 IMG_11916Looks like we’ve booked the sunset cruise tonight.  I just sit and watch the light dance on the water and chase around the scene like a brush covered in wonderful golden paint.

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Back to black

Before coming out here I had a scout about on some Georgian motorcycle tour sites and their routes.  One of them had an off-road route south from here across the mountains right down to the very south of the country where it joins with another road to the east coast that I’ve ridden before.  The road to the coast was about 50km of rough road but from what the locals say, it’s got worse.  Brian’s old bones are being held together with gaffer tape and elastic bands.  He doesn’t want to do a few 100km off road so he takes the main road route to the west and south and we head for the hills.

The road is good.  Too good.  Surely this can’t be the right road.  Sure its very narrow, steep and slippery with running water crossing it everywhere but its smooth with not even a ripple in sight.  Either everyone was wrong or their information is 20 years out of date.   There is a hotel on a bend.  A local Mr Big is parked outside, time to check.

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Well its the right road.  Thats strange.  As we’re leaving an electric van goes down the hill.  Electric van?  WTF?  This is Georgia FFS.

The answer lies just a few miles up the mountain.  A big, brand new and extremely posh resort come spa perches smartly on the side of the mountain.  Polished and slick and obviously frequented by Georgia’s most affluent.  All tight skin and fixed smiles, bins full of fat sucked from bellies and butts, not a grey hair in sight.  People thinking you can cheat father time but he’ll always have the last laugh.

We get about 10ft past the spa, the tarmac road abruptly ends and the fun begins.   This is what we were looking for.

IMG_11099 IMG_11105The road isn’t too bad here.  Lots of big drops and very narrow sections though.  We’re not alone up here and one of the riders has a very near miss on a blind tight bend when a small kamaz doormobile comes hurtling round at him.  It was a very near miss.  I rode though his personal puff cloud just after it happened ..

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Up we go through more clouds, twisting and turning and climbing in the mist.  Slipping and sliding and seeing the ghosts of huge boulders and rock faces lunge out of the fog at us and then just as quickly fade  back to grey.   Horizons come and go, a big orange spotlight fades up and down, and then suddenly you just pop through into clean air and bight sunlight.  An isolated farm sits astride the ridge at the top with a clear view of the roller coaster descent.

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I find going down harder than getting up .. ummmm .. anyway.. the descent is very very loose with and seems to have been constructed with a million fist sized rocks.   Its rough and hard on the body and the bike.  I’ve not been feeling well at all this morning and the ride is really taking it out of me.  By the time I’ve done the last 10 sandy kilometers I’m feeling fucked.  Just as the proper road looks like its going to appear I see one of the other fast riders bike parked at a cafe by a stream.  I stop, put my foot down, and .. nothing.  The bike just falls to the ground.  I’ve got no energy at all.  My leg just gave way and folded.  Still, the bike didn’t hit anything and fell on sand.  Time for a brake while I wait like a mother hen for the others to arrive.

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Well, thats the difficult bit of the day done anyway.  Or so we think… We treat ourselves to a few miles of tarmac in the sunshine.  Let the concentration muscles recharge as we all ride along in auto pilot.  By this stage of a trip you just forget you’re on a bike.  Forget you’re wearing a helmet.  You’re just in motion and it all just feels completely natural, a man/machine blend, like you’re wired in.  It’s a lovely place to be.

We had to wait a while for lunch.. a very very long while.  I think we had to wait for the alevins to turn into trout.. whatever .. its now getting on in the afternoon.  Good job we’ve only got about 100km to go.

We get to the turn back to the coast and it’s as rough as I remember but last time it was about 50km and then smooth tarmac all the way.  Piece of cake.  Home in time for tea and cake…   make that Horlicks and a nightcap.

The road has been completely and utterly destroyed.  It’s taken a lot of time and hard work to make it this bad.  Not one metre of it is flat. It’s all big holes, ruts and lots and lots and lots of dust.  Still.  It’s only 50km.  The place is a fuck fest and its much worse than the ride through the mountains in the morning.

We come to a section where there is a huge excavator working.  He’s paused to let a car go past the other way.  The car goes past, and I press the (soundbomb!) horn to tell him we’re coming through the other way.  I set off and just as I approach the body starts spinning and the fucking great weighted rear end starts to appear across my path.  That woke the auto pilot up .. FUUUUCKKKK .. I feel someone open the throttle wide and the bike kick out the tail as I duck my head and just hope for the best.  When something like that happens I immediately delete all the details.  I wipe it from my recall.  I just don’t want to think about it.

After a few hours we reach a scabby couple of shacks at the top of the pass.  It feels a bit like the restaurant at the end of the universe.  Quite a few bikes and lots of cars whose passengers have spent hours being thrown about like balls in a bingo barrel,  nursing bruised heads and elbows and knees, asking just how long this shit goes on for.  One of the car drivers says he has taken 4 hours to reach here from the place we’re headed to tonight.
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After about 50km we get to Khulo where I’m hoping there is tarmac.  It’s there.  It’s smooth.  It’s quiet.  It’s about 1km long. Still there are shops here so I can refill my bruised bladder and rest for a few minutes.  My throat is sore and my nose is blocked solid and I feel completely shit.  Thats not good.

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What was once tarmac between here and Batuni is now like riding across a massive zebra crossing with a km of tarmac.. a km of broken shit .. a km of road .. repeat until dead.  Its quite late by the time we roll into a very basic hotel in Batumi in the rain.  We’re not only in the arse end of town tonight, we’re at the spot where the wiping takes place..

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Still, the main criteria are met and there is food across the car park. We’re just passing through, we just need somewhere to pause horizontally for a few hours and we’re out back into Turkey in the morning.

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When we wake up, Georgia is crying.  Huge tears are running down its grey face.  Georgia is obviously sorry to see us go.  Don’t worry .. you’re beautiful and you’re a lot of fun Georgia.  I’ll see you again.

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Its a long soggy wait at the border but at least we already have all the insurance sorted, unlike these Russians.  Note the ‘wear once’ Russian rain gear.  That’s a boy called Max.  His mum, Julia was a Russian that had moved to Georgia and she had met up with some other friends that had come from the far east of Russia.  She was taking Max as her pillion.  The group was going as far as the Bosphorus where their welcome ran out and they could go no further.

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Good to see and old AT and an 1150GSA in the group.  I really miss my old GSA.  That was a proper bike…

As anyone that has been along there will tell you, the coast road along the  south of the Black Sea is shit.  It’s shit when it’s sunny, and its extra shit when it’s twatting down.  It’s just a miserable, dull and boring ride, especially going west.  You seem to just ride past a never ending strip of dirty grey random buildings.  There aren’t any beaches on the coast here and its a straight drop into the sea.    There aren’t many services on the westbound side either so when we eventually see one we stop.  Stop and look out towards where all the shit is kicking off.


The traffic is bad as we get to Trazbon and we all get separated on the way in.   4 of us get to the hotel and one of us doesn’t turn up.  I wait for 30 minutes.  Nothing.  So I get on the phone to the local Just Eat concession and ask for a Brian to be delivered, and sure enough, 15 minutes later this arrives

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Brian does have a GPS but out here its purely for decorative purposes.  He is happy to rely on his bag of lucky stars that he carries.  This time he stopped, threw one in the air and as luck would have it hit the nephew of the bloke that owned the hotel we’re staying at.

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I’m curious as to why there aren’t any beaches, especially round here where there are loads of hotels so I take a wander down to the ‘sea front’.  Ahhhh… OK … its a liquid equivalent of land fill.   Fuck what a mess.  As I’m walking back I snap a couple of pictures of the trucks and a posse of blokes come running out of their port-a-cabin and start shouting at me.  I obviously don’t give them whatever response they require because the next thing I know they’re picking up rocks and throwing them at me.   That’s probably the most physical work they’ve done all day.

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Yea.. I really do fancy a swim in that.  That looks exactly like I feel at the moment..

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I get a message from the others having a beer way up on the terrace of a nice hotel.  Apparently the view is much better from there.  Best go and see.  Yep… don’t leave the hotel and you’ll be none the wiser.

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Go out to dinner at a place where they keep armaments on the stairs just in case the conflict makes its way across the water.

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We’re staying round here because we want to ride the D915.  Another one on the worlds most dangerous roads list.  Another idea that sounds great from the comfort of your couch in Eastleigh, but maybe not so good when it’s time to point your front wheel at it.  We’re still quite a way from home but at least we’re closer to a hospital so off we go.  But first, another monastery.

SÜMELA is stuck into the side of the mountain like a giant sticky bogey flicked at a rock face.  Its unnatural, it’s odd and today it’s hiding in a thick veil of mist.    Public service announcement:  If you visit there on a bike, change into your comfy shoes before you make the climb up otherwise you’re feet are likely to end up looking like they need an all day appointment with Dr Pimple Popper.  Like a lot of these places though its tourist central.  Such is the vacuous nature of many travellers competing in the Instagram MEMEMEME challenge, nobody is interested in the actual place, they just queue at the best selfie spots and spoil the view with giant fish lipped pouts.

I’m back on the waiting game.  Standing and tracking the tourist traffic, waiting for a gap or a brief moment before the next set of lips is locked and loaded.  Its a frustrating game, but if you play it long enough you just might get a selfie-less shot.

Snap… nope ..

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3 hours later ..

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I can’t avoid it any longer.  We head for the D915.  Turn off the main road and its all good for a while, but you can feel it getting almost in-perceptively narrower with every passing mile.  Like riding down a long funnel.   We start to climb up a new road section and it suddenly just filters right down to a single lane cut into a hill towards a small village.   I wonder what the others are thinking sometimes.  I wonder if they get as apprehensive as me about these roads.  I wonder if their stomach’s are tied up in knots and their arses are closed tighter than a submarine door.   Well, if I’m going to die, let’s at least eat a few biscuits with the locals first.

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Head off on the road and and suddenly you’re living life on the edge.  It’s not so much scary as just intimidating.  Sometimes you kid yourself you could go over the edge and you would probably survive but here that’s just not an option.  It would be the sound of rushing wind and bouncing bones as your body turned itself into a human airfix kit.

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On a small dirt bike this would be quite an easy ride, but on our bikes and with the occasional oncoming traffic appearing round a single track blind turn its not so straight forward.    It’s a really beautiful ride though and the views are enough to push the thoughts of death aside and replace them with feelings of just being properly alive.

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Before you know it, you’re through the clouds and back on smooth land.


Aaaaaaaand relax…   If you’re ever out this way then do this road.  It’s worth every scary moment.  And the road back down the other side is delicious too.  You feel just like a Sycamore seed dropping from the tree and spinning to the ground.  Smooth, sinuous, open, fast constant radius curves take you down to the plains below and the sunshine pushes you fast through through the fields towards lunch.


We get to a small town just as Friday prayers are about to start and the place is mobbed.  I’ve never seen this before and it’s a very odd sight.  There isn’t enough room inside the mosque so everyone has just stopped where they are, put a mat on the ground and kneeled to  pray.  The centre of the town is a mass of bodies going up and down in unison as the prayers are read.  Its a real sight to behold.. from the comfort of a cool cafe ..

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Turkey is such a melting pot of people but they seem, on the surface at least, to be quite tolerant of other people’s choices.  You’ll see groups of girls out walking, some in their full religious dress while their friends are in tight jeans with their lady bumps being tortured by tight tank tops.  A strange place indeed.

Anyway .. back to the planning ..



Today we’re making our way west to Kutaisi.  Another unknown city.   Another place people have over time decided that they can’t be bothered to walk any further and just built a house.. or two.. that turns into a village, a town, a city.  Same the world over.

I go on a hostess hunt for breakfast but she’s nowhere to be seen.  Eventually someone raises her from her bed and she looks like death.  Apparently the Russian border was closed for a while last night and people were arriving at all hours.  I’m sure I saw sleep dust floating in my coffee, but I’ll try anything once ..

The queues of trucks we saw yesterday continue here.  Probably another 50km of them all the way towards Tbilisi.   Christ only knows what it’s like there right now.

First stop is Gori.  There is a Stalin museum here.  He was born in Georgia but decided there weren’t enough people to persecute so he crossed the border for a much bigger audience.   I think its generally agreed he was reasonably successful at it.  Going round the place its just amazing how a single bag of bones with a brain and a moustache can get to cause just some much pain.

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We’re going to take a bit of a loop to Kutaisi.  We’re all aware we’re homeward bound and we just want to gorge ourselves on gorges and get high on hills where ever we can.  Turn off and for a few miles it doesn’t look like a good decision.


But soon enough the roads begin to rise, the surfaces begin to smooth and the smiles begin to widen.  Unlike these poor bastards I saw trying to revive the worlds oldest combine.  Believe it or not this thing could actually move.  I can imagine any wheat that came out of it was 90% ferrous though.


Stop for lunch at a new enterprise in a small town.  Looks about 100 years newer than everything else and even has air conditioning.  The chiller has some odd looking bottles containing stuff that Geoffrey Darmer might be familiar with, but like I said, I’ll try anything once.

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We get about 200m down the road and there is the sound of sirens.  They’ve obviously clocked us at the bar and they have their breath test equipment out.  Just the think when you’ve just necked a pint of unknown liquid.  I really hope that it was someones bodily fluids rather than vodka.


The roads and the weather both start to deteriorate as we get closer.  Setting the mood and the atmosphere for the town. Getting ready to give us our first impressions.  As we get closer we go over a small pass with a shitty road, and a gas main pipe that doubles as a crash barrier.

IMG_10846 IMG_10847We’re rarely staying in the most expensive hotels in town so quite frequently its like arriving at the spotty, hairy arse end of the place rather than the pretty face.  Today I reckon we’re somewhere round the navel.  Its a mix of good and bad, but they seem to have specially arranged perfect imitation of our best English drizzle.  Its getting dark and we’re hunting for the hotel with eyes half open and full of water.  By the time we’ve seen it we’re passed it.  The city has a big one way system and its busy and blocked.  But that never stopped us before.  Using the ‘its always easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission’ principle we just turn round and ride against the traffic,  round the tables and chairs of the restaurant under the hotel and into the sanctuary of a semi derelict building to park.

The hotel is still being finished but the host is a big happy round lady with a smile that touches both ears and who disarms me with her charm within 5 seconds.  I’m very quick to judge.  Its not always a good thing and I’m not always right but I can’t waste my life giving tossers a second chance.  My twatometer is pretty accurate and will usually tell me if someone is worth the effort within that first few seconds.   This lady is one of the good ones.  She’s struggling with the language a bit but she’s laughing and seems genuine.  The whole place smells of paint and various fixtures and fittings are laying about on the floor some way away from where they should be, and the front door is being fitted, but she’s just trying her best to start a business.  Its warm and clean and dry.  It’s more than enough.

I go out on an ATM hunt.  At first I take a wrong turn and head down to the hairy arse end of town where the bins stink, the roads are collapsing and some of the potholes are so deep that they have to employ very tall people to stand in them holding flags.

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But turn round and the town quickly improves.  Its a big place.  Lots of people about and a nice friendly atmosphere.

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I thought this one was naked for a moment..


I get down to the river and spend a while just people watching.  This really couldn’t be anywhere else in the world.  Eastern Europe .. where red hair colouring comes to dye.

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A dinner of dumplings is followed by a dark and drizzly finale to another lovely day.   I like Georgia, I really do.


We’ve got an extra day or two to fill that we expected to spend in Azerbaijan so we decided to spend another night here and do a big loop to the north.  We punch a few random waypoints into the satnavs and go out to play the landscape lottery.  A lottery where every player seems to be a winner.  But first, breakfast.  The kitchen isn’t finished so its a big picnic in our room for a change.


We head up into the mountains again, going through all the many twists and turns of today’s story until we reach a tiny village at a junction.  A row of three small shops.  There is a small bar come baker and I try to get some coffees from a nana busy making flatbread.  She dusts off an old jar of instant and puts some warm water in it.  I go into one of the two tiny shops to try and buy some milk and there at the back in the dark is a young girl sitting under the 50% stocked wooden shelves.  She’s a pretty girl and her smile lights up the whole room.  I doubt she sees many people here, just spending her day waiting.  What sort of life is that?  She will probable spend her whole life doing this. I’ll ride away in a few minutes, filling my brain with more adventures and experiences and she’ll just wait..  Life is definitely not fair.   Still, I ask her to sign my helmet, and her mum too.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hope she’s just visiting her parents.  I hope she has a set of leathers and a 1000GSXR parked round the back that she will drive on its back wheel back to civilisation this evening.

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The further north we go the more desolate and abandoned it seems to get.   Still desperate for a coffee we slowly cruise through looking for signs of life and finding very few.  A small shop is open and as I approach there is a fat old bloke sitting on a stool outside  doing some proper professional man spreading.  Balls trying to bust out and getting heated by a full on fart as I walk by.  Ok then ..

While the others head out I turn around and ride back to what looks like an abandoned train station.  I ride in and right up onto the platform to be met by a load of blokes busy doing nothing, probably waiting for a ghost train.

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Fuck I love these places .. I love this places about as much as the locals hate them I’m sure.   I don’t suppose there are a lot of options round here though.

Out of town there is a big thick blanket of mist.  I wonder if it’s hiding what’s in front, or what I’ve just gone through.  Its bloody cold for a while and bloody difficult riding too.  But suddenly we pop through and into yet more prizes on the landscape lottery.  More steep and tight roads with views hammered onto your senses with 6 inch nails.  Gorges, lakes, black tarmac snakes laid purely for motorcycle fun and enjoyment.  IMG_10959 IMG_10963 IMG_10965 IMG_10967 IMG_10968I remember speaking to Brian before we left.  Georgia was on his wish list and he was quite excited to be coming here.  Well I for one am bloody glad we did.  What do you reckon old mate?


Homeward bound

While thats a night I won’t forget in a hurry.   Not because of the princess, but because the bed was harder than a whore’s heart.

We get an early breakfast and head north out of Armenia.  We want to cross as close as possible to the Georgia/Azerbaijan border and try our luck at getting in.  I’m not hopeful but you never know until you try.

So .. exit Armenia

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And meet some Russians going the other way.  A young bloke and his pert girlfriend.  I wonder if they’re still there, or if he is presently cowering in a ditch somewhere, or worse, permanently holding his breath inside a black plastic bag.  You pass people all the time, never knowing what fate will decide your future is.

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Arrive at the Azerbaijan border and its obviously open, but the queue of ‘none’ seems to indicate that entry is by invitation only.


We park up in the sun and start heading for the booths when a very pretty young woman in a very snug and perfectly fitted uniform chassés gracefully over .. it was worth the ride here just to watch her TBH.  She has obviously managed to switch five men into basic instinct mode as we all stand on our back legs, front paws in the air, waiting for instruction.  She takes our passports, our visas, and absolutely anything else she wants and chassés back to her booth to fax the Azerbaijanis our details, just on the off chance that they’ve forgotten the border is closed to tourists and they feel like making an exception for 5 salivating man-dogs waiting at the border with their tongues hanging out.

But they don’t.  They wont let anyone in without special permission. Bollocks.

I didn’t know where we would be tonight so I didn’t book anything for today.   Hopefully fate will be kind.  It’s quite early so we’ll go on a hunt.  I could stop somewhere to find somewhere on the web but I can feel the force is with me today.  Either that or I’ve got the shits coming on.

Tbilisi is hot and tight.  The hotel we’re heading for is in the old town.  The old town clings desperately to a steep hill and its a fractious ride but as luck would have it they have just 3 rooms left and we’re in at the first attempt.

I stayed in this area before and I like it.  I like cities with trees and shade.  I like the light and shadow.  I like the cool and the heat.  I like the ups and the downs.  I like Tbilisi a lot.

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We’re having a day off here so instead of a nice sleep in a couple of us decide to get up early and visit Kartlis Deda (mother Georgia) before she has a chance to put her makeup on.  We wind our way up a set of steep stairs, head down, heart rate up.  We hear chants and gentle bells from a small church on the way up.  Step inside and there is a single shaft of morning light that picks out a young priest in the darkness as he kisses a deity on a painting .  A perfect image.  A memory stamp.  A fraction of a second where everything comes together perfectly.  It’s something impossible to recreate.  A tingle, a shiver, and then it’s gone.

Up up up we go, and there she is.  Shiny, pert and proud reflecting morning sunlight in all directions.

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However early you think you are there are always people there before you just watching the world go by. Another soul sharing eye contact just for a moment.  Point to the camera, a smile, a nod, a snap, a thank you and goodbyeIMG_10540

Then back to the daily grind .. ummm.. I wonder what the ‘more’ is.

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Looks like the traffic likes to play bumper cars round here too so we’ll have to take care.  Everywhere you look you see cars without any front and/or rear bodywork.

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Someone has recommended we go and eat in the sewing district which is a good 30 minute walk  down and across the river.   Its supposed to be the ‘happening’ up and coming area, but I get 10 minutes in and think this place must be a lot more interesting.


And catch a pavement perv taking pictures of the local talent.


We get to the sewing district and it seems our passes expired about 30 years ago.  Yooffs everywhere and the air thick with the sweet smell of ripe tottie and drugs, but not the smell of cooking meat.  Roasted daffodil and dill risotto isn’t going to even make a tiny dent in our appetites so we take one last inhale and leave.

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Go to get a taxi, and a Covid test ..


The taxi driver is a Turk.  A big ball of hair with hams of hands dwarfing the steering wheel.  We’re only with him for 10 minutes but still have time to learn he’s been married 3 times and he’s divorcing his current wife because she’s an angel in the kitchen  but refuses to be a whore in the bedroom like his previous wives, which is nice.

Last time I was here we rode north to Russia and that door is currently closed but we decide we might just go and knock on it and run away to see what happens.  We’re trying to get some local information about some of the other roads we want to try so we spread a map on a table in the hotel, chuck in some GPSs, and men are drawn in like moths to a flame.

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We’re quite a way from the roads we’re asking about but the general consensus seems to be that one is ok, and the other is currently a complete shit fest.  Perfect. I better get some more signatures ASAP in case they have to identify my body by my helmet.


We decide to take the long road through a national park.  Even the normal roads round here are twisty but the morning is like riding up a coiled spring. A greased coiled spring.  Morning dampness and cow shit covered roads makes it a slow and fractious ride.

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By the time we get to the main road there is a massive cake size hole in my stomach that needs immediate attention.  I guess we’ll just have to sit on this balcony overlooking this beautiful lake and have coffee and crepes.

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We’re headed north to try and see the Gergeti Trinity Church which is perched up in the mountains near the border. Get to the car park and its full of 4×4 vans taking passengers up.  The road is out apparently, probably a landslide. So we decide to follow the vans up the alternative rough road.  I carry a huge set of balls in my panniers that I can retro fit for special occasions and I put them on this  morning because I suspected we could have trouble up here.   These balls are made of steel and are 30cm diameter.  I have to put them on my knees when I ride they’re so big.  But they’re still not big enough for today.  The rough road is all very big loose stones and its so steep that stopping isn’t an option.  It’s not an option but with all the loons in their vans on the road its sometimes unavoidable.  And when you stop, you put the brakes on, and you just skid backwards out of control.   We soon decide discretion is the better part of valour head back down to the security of the black stuff.   I’ll leave the church until the next time.

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The border is only a few miles north of here so we decide to go up for a look.  Shout “Boo” at the Russians.  The last section is cut into the mountainside and is an absolute bitch. A slow dangerous crawl in the company of hot trucks and lunatic drivers willing to risk life and limb for a 10 second advantage at the border.  We barrel into a big dark tunnel and get a quick flash from a truck coming the other way.  The tunnel is full of horses.. of course it is..

The border isn’t that busy when we get there and we see why on the way back.  There are queues of lorries along the side of the road and they’re being managed in groups.  When I say queues… I mean 40 km of parked trucks .. I’ve never seen anything like it.

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The ride back is truly spectacular.  Its up there with the very best.

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There was only a choice of one hotel tonight, somewhere along the road back towards Tbilisi.   A hotel passed by by every decorator since sometime in the 1970s but it’s welcoming and its clean and it serves fresh trout.  In fact the trout pool is so close to the barbecue they could jump straight on if they really wanted to.

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Another night, and the same old routine from the same set of bags.  A sight familiar to bikers the word over.  I love the wear and tear on my kit.  I love all the memories etched onto it in scars and scratches.  I love the worn zips and buckles, the familiarity and feel that means you could do it all with your eyes closed.  I love opening my eyes in the darkness and those first few seconds working out where I am.  I just love life on the road.  Any road.

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No Go

When I first started doing these trips I used to write it all up every night and send it back to a small group of people I knew that had asked to be kept informed.  That was a RTW trip and by the end it was really getting a burden to do.  I meet so many people on the road that are spending half their days living life just to keep other people happy.  Doing reels and loads of posts on social media and generally spending a good percentage of their time focusing on a tiny screen at the expense of everything around them.  Each to his own.  I decided a long time ago that it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to anybody’s life to know what colour toilet paper I’d used or if my latte was slightly cooler than I’d like at breakfast.  So I got off that particular treadmill and left everything to chance.  The chance that I’ll miss something when I’m walking the corridors of my memory.  If I’d forget to open a particular door.  If I’d forget to read a note I’d scribbled on a mental wall somewhere when I was bored and chatting complete shit to myself.   If I’d walk past an image that at the time had hit me hard in both eyeballs.  Thats the thing about these blogs.  They’re not 100% complete.  They’re not 100% real either.  But the only person that knows is me.  I’m completely at the mercy of my recall and the older I get, the more secrets my memory keeps.

But today is a load of bright red memory doors, pictures surrounded by flashing lights, bright and vivid graffiti notes written in letters 4ft high.  Today is a good day.

I didn’t get to see much of Goris yesterday and I’m sure there is more.  Get up and get out early before breakfast when the stray dogs are uncurling and following you looking for food.  When the buildings are empty and yet to eat their breakfast of workers.  When the shops are flashing good morning with old strip lights struggling into action.  The best time of the day.

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I’ve made today an optional day.  Optional purely because the route passes through an area that UKGov advises against traveling in.  The route options south from here are severely limited and all involve getting up close and personal with the Azerbaijan border.  Armenia and Azerbaijan are still at war, as more recent events have demonstrated, and so you’re advised to keep away from it.   I could sound all blasé and bolshy and say I just don’t worry about things like that but that would be untrue.   All we can do today is turn the spider sense to the max, take our passports in case of roadblocks, and just be prepared to turn round at any point.  It’s almost certainly going to be no problem but you never know.

Everyone decides to do the route anyway.  They’re all grown ups and they’ve all done a great deal of traveling.  So we fill up and head out.

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Climb out of Goris and the scenery is just beautiful.  Mother nature showing off her skills to the max.

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The others have gone on ahead but I take a moment to photograph the fields.  My little memory man is running about looking for something.  A very very very old door indeed.  He pushes it open and I see my mum.  My mum was a talented artist and musician and cook, and rubbish at just about anything else.  But I remember sitting in a field as a child in the summer.  She had taken me with her instead of to school which she occasionally did.  I spent the day under a tree watching an oil painting just like this come to life on a big piece of canvas.   It was beautiful.  But I also remember sitting at home picking all the tiny bits of paint off the poppies .. I really wish I hadn’t

We’re headed for another old church that apparently sits precariously on the edge of a mountain.    I’ve been to quite a few mountains.  I’ve seen quite a few big valleys and spectacular views but today is different.  It looks more like some Armenian God has come through the place with a fuck off giant knife and just sliced  it.  The road is stupid stupid steep and very very twisty.  All the trucks going up are in their lowest gears and are travelling at walking pace.  They’re glowing with heat and its a miracle they’re moving at all.  All those going down are similarly in their lowest gears scared shitless that their load will run away with them.  It’s a brutal introduction to a range of mountains that will test us all, and will keep the little men in the engine rooms throwing away the fuel injectors and just pointing a hose of fuel directly into the cylinders.

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The church is about 700 years old and has been heavily restored but it’s impressive none the less.   Anyone that walked up these mountains and prayed deserves to get into heaven.. or at least be told they will ..

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The road up until now has been good.  Lovely and smooth.  Paved with the good intentions of all the visitors no doubt.. but from here it quickly turns to shit.  Sometimes we like shit and today is one of those days.  Things shouldn’t always be easy.  Things should be difficult and scary and dangerous.  I like to face these things sometimes.  Ride up to them fast and not have time to think.  I can think about them afterwards when they’re done.. or when I’m dead.

The route is down to Kepan which is really close to the border, then south to Meghri which is right up on the Iran border.  Its not exactly surprising that given the host country and the mountain environment that the roads are often seriously bad.  The few flat bits are usually ok but as soon a you have heavy labouring trucks pulling and pushing the tarmac then it will always tear and fold and generally look like black pastry rolled by an incompetent cook.  You can come tearing round a corner and suddenly the road is just out completely with trucks all over it and clouds of thick crunchy dust, or go into a village where the road is about 1cm wider than a trailer and looks like a footpath.  It’s pretty hard work some of the time but it’s only about 70 miles to Iran and we’re not turning back now.

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Kapan is quite a big town. Certainly bigger than I anticipated.  Dusty and hot and within artillery range of the Azerbaijanis.  It certainly has an atmosphere about it.

IMG_9930 IMG_9955 IMG_9957 The mountains change again as we head further south, and the roads with them.  The valleys open out and the scenery gets even bigger

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The border is a bit of a non event.  A big fence and a watch tower, and  a supermarket selling lots of stationary

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By the time we get back to Kapan its mid afternoon and we need to stop for food.  Brian probably needs a nap too.  So we spin round in the traffic like a stunt parachute coming into land and pick somewhere next to the river.

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The place is staffed by two Russian speaking women and I think we’ve caught them in the middle of an argument.  They both look at us and throw us a menu then one sulks off to the kitchen.  I’m sure I see her claws withdrawing into her hands as she goes.  The other tries to control her ridiculously overfilled lips and ask what we want.  She looks like she has had two car inner tubes inserted and painted bright pink.   Jesus why do girls do that.  I’m totally distracted by her lips just bouncing against each other making a weird slapping noise.. i think I notice an inflation valve in there somewhere too .. but we manage to quickly point to some snacks and off she goes to the kitchen.

About 30 minutes later and we’ve got nothing.  I make my way to the kitchen where the door is open and the two women are having a full on bust up.  Trout lips is screaming and shouting and the other one is in the corner with her claws out taking the occasional swipe to see if she can score a puncture.  As soon as they see me they don’t stop arguing.. not even for a fraction of a second .. they just slam the door shut and carry on..

We give it 5 minutes and we’re ready to go when the food eventually arrives.  Mine seems to have been hit by some flames somewhere along the way, probably from Michelin mouth, but I’m not going to dare complain about it.


Riding a good road in reverse is often a completely new experience, and so it is today, and just a good experience as it was on the way down.   We’re all wearing smiles when we head out to eat.  It’s been a day that sticks its head out above all the other days so far.  I guess none of expected anything from a place like this but it has turned out to be a hidden jewel.IMG_9796

As much as we’d like to go east from here, such is the tangled history of this region that we have to go north and back into Georgia.  We’ll head up to Severn today and cross back tomorrow.  It’s a dull cold wet day to start.  All the flowers we saw yesterday have closed their eyes against the rain and the road has decided to secreet all its soaked up oil and cow shit to form a lethal film that has my old winker stinker working overtime.   It’s a tense couple of hours before the clouds make way for the sun and we can stop to relax.

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Lake Severn is HUGE and there are several routes round it.  Brian and I decide on a mountain route, yet another one.  We’ve been away for weeks and we’ve done many thousands of miles but we still haven’t got any flat spots on the tyres.  Its been a full on bend fest and not what I expected.  
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Honey is big business.. well.. its a way to make money anyway, and you see temporary sets of hives all over the countryside all with temporary structures for the keepers.  Like this bloke spending his summer living in a bus with only 1000 bottles of beer and a dog for company. He came over already pissed as a fart shouting for me to come and have a beer with him.  It must be a lonely existence up here.


We get to the lake shore and follow it north in the sunshine.  This is an arterial route and its quite busy.   The road is in the 21st century with some shiny new technology, but move 100m into the fields and they’re still way way back in the 20th.  Thats the first time I’ve seen horse drawn equipment being used for a long while.


I’m heading for another church just for a change.  It sits on the edge of the lake and is quite a picturesque place normally but as we approach it we see a car turn down the road towards it.. then another.. then another.  This cannot be a coincidence.. especially when the next 10 turn too.  We’ve arranged our visit at the exact same moment as a wedding blessing and the place is rammed with 1980 TKMax clad wedding guests wandering about and spoiling the views… well .. most of them anyway

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I’m wandering about and I see an animal on the bonnet of a car.  WTF is that doing there.  Getting closer I can see it’s a fox, or rather it was a fox, way back in the day.  They have tethered a stuffed fox to the wedding car. Of course they have.  I ask one of the guests what that is all about.  Apparently it’s just tradition.  Fuck knows how that must have come about


Get to the accommodation at Severn and it’s a bit shit and there is an Armenian Arthur Dailey in charge, trying to negotiate cash prices and making all sorts of promises he has no intention of keeping.  I’d warned the riders this was likely up this way.  Despite being a sort of resort, Severn is a complete and utter hole.  Still, this place does have a new micro brewery just up the road amongst all the rubble and ruin so every cloud and all that.

I get a ride to the edge of town from the owner so I can get some cash.  Looks like I’ve taken a ride in a time machine.  The town is very old Soviet style.  One quick shake and the whole lot would fall to the ground.

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As I’m walking I come across a bloke jumping up and down on the bonnet of an old Moskvich.  He looks properly angry and upset.  I reckon the owner must have really pissed him off and he’s come to vandalise it.  Turns out he is the owner, and he’s just trying to shut the bonnet.

By the time I get back I’m knackered and ready for bed.  Nice eh?  I’ve always wanted to spend the night with a princess.

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Next morning I pick Brian up, shake him about, squeeze him tight and check him for damp patches.  Some of the jobs I have to do .. anyway, it seems he’s holding water and he’s ready to ride.

Get some fuel from another petrol station with one attendant and a dozen ‘in attendance’ sitting round chewing the fat.

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We’re retracing the sinuous roads we went on yesterday and they’re just as delicious in the opposite direction.  Except there seems to be more cake shops on this side of the road.

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The trouble is they put sweet and savoury next to each other and you end up just buying blind.  I end up with a super sweet filling in one roll and a disgusting dead dog’s dick in the other.  I should have just gone for the mushroom.

I saw this bloke unloading and he had some real monsters.  I was pointing and laughing .. then he went into the front seat and casually pulled out this MASSIVE porn star mushroom. If this one is magic I’m going to be flying all the way to Armenia ..


I just cannot stomach the dog’s dick so I stop in the first lay-by where there are a couple of dogs waiting for a bus. Again, no ears poor things.   He doesn’t even look at the food, he just swallows it before his mate even makes a move.


Stop for fuel .. maybe I can just suck it all up from the forecourt.  The bloody place is awash with the stuff.  Only trouble is its diesel.  Probably ok for a BMW tractor but not for something with the two big chesticles banging about under my bollocks.

This trip is an odd one when I think about it.  How many long range travel motorcycle groups don’t include a GS of some sort?  Not many I bet.  Still .. at least that means we can cross a weak bridge if we come to one.

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And here is the culprit for the diesel.  A knackered old tank with the flow control of a woman with 50 children.


We head on through the town to the Armenia border.  Last time I was here the road was a shit fest and looked more like a Red Bull special stage than a highway.  Its all mended now though .. easy peasy..


Georgia exit is still just a tin shed, but its a quick and simple process to leave.  Blimey..we’ll be into Armenia and Yerevan in time for lunch .. perfect..

Or not.  As spanners go.. someone routed about, found the biggest fuck off one they could find from an earth mover, took 3 people to carry it to the Armenian customs post and just threw it in the works about 10 minutes before we arrived.  She was about 5 foot tall with by far the worst case of OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHCD I have ever seen.

I’ve been through here before, as proven by the fact I was detained at immigration saying the bike was still in Armenia and had never left.. ummmmm.. so that took a while to sort out but wasn’t the actual root of our problem.

The process is simple.  You pay a fee of about $15 as a temporary import duty and the bloke gives you a slip.  You take the slip, and you fill in a customs temporary import form.  The exact same form you fill in on the Russian border.  Simple form.  Not much to it at all.  Even the Russians only take 10 minutes to process it.. but not here.  Not today.  Not when inch high do or die is on duty.   There are 5 of us.  An hour tops but no.  This woman is checking .. double checking .. tripple checking.. every single line then when she gets to the bottom she goes through it all again.  And again.  She really has a problem and it’s obvious to everyone.  First form takes about 45 minutes to do and the queue is building up.  Second form.. 50 minutes… people are getting seriously pissed and traffic is really building up outside even though this border sees hardly any traffic.  Someone with a big hat on eventually comes in and sees the problem, grabs someone from another room and drags him through to man another desk.  Trouble is inch high has started another one of our forms .. she’s started so she’ll finnnnnnnniiiiiiiiiiiissssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.   And now she’s passing her forms to the other bloke for him to check them too.  FFS!!!!   There is going to be a riot very shortly.  We’ve got a bit of a ride to Yerevan and the sun is beginning to fall.  We should have been out of here ages ago.   4 hours after we started, we’re all through, insured and on our way.  All I have to do is follow the pink line to my bed.  I have to follow the pink line because that is the only thing on my GPS.  No other roads, nothing at all.  Just a pink worm. WTF is that about.  I’ve never seen that before ..


Still, we’re in.  Let’s go.  The roads near the border are surprisingly good.  They look pretty new and they twist and roll south over the landscape like a racetrack.  A racetrack with no barriers and no direction arrows or warning signs.  I come to the brow of one hill and within a millisecond I know I’m in big trouble.  My brain has assumed the road goes straight on but someone decided a sharp left turn would be better at this point.    I can see a slither of black going left and a big drop into a field straight ahead.  So its the field then.. thats decision 1.  Sit upright and ride/fly into the field. Probably exit the bike in a disorderly fashion and arrange my bones across the scenery with a trail of blood and guts someone can follow to collect all the parts and put them in a bag to send home and be put in the compost bin.

Option 1 is considered for a fraction but then right at the last minute the little autopilot in my head decides he likes his ship just the way it is and decides to try for option 2.  Hard on all the brakes and push the bike onto the floor with my boot keeping it steady.  The lean angle ABS pulsing and ‘stuff’ scratching on the road I think I’m out the seat for a second road surfing with my boot and holding the bars and then I’m round.  Spit out the mouth full of adrenaline and let my eyes deflate back to their normal size.  Fuck that was close..   Perhaps the best lesson I was ever taught.  Target fixation.  Don’t do it, much easier said than done.  Look where you want to go, even if whatever you’re on is going in a different direction.  If I’m honest I don’t really remember exactly what happened except the panic, the ABS, the boot on the floor and the scraping noises .. I think Brian behind me just thought I was showing off.

Follow the road towards Yerevan .. the pink worm .. still no roads but the satnav still seems to know the way.  The country is obviously down trodden and backward but is making steps towards modernity.  Lots of new petrol stations at least.  I guess they can’t easily convert the newer (still old) cars to LPG so easily.  The landscape is impressive and different to Georgia too.  Let’s see how good the coffee is.


And the answer is fucking disgusting.  If it wasn’t for the lady with the almond shaped eyes smiling at me I’d have spat the lot on the floor.



Fuck.. I’d only just got used to the other squiggles in Georgia.  Now I’ve got a whole lot of new squiggles to learn. IMG_9530


Yerevan is a big city.  It has roads everywhere.  Big roads little roads side roads fast roads roundabouts and all the other stuff you usually expect to see on a sat nav, but I still just have the worm and nothing else.  I’m in front as some of the others have lost mapping altogether.  So in we go.  Trying to follow a line with absolutely no references through a big unknown city is quite tricky.  The traffic is a BITCH too.  All the bikes are getting very very hot again and as we get close to the hotel the roads are full of very bad men wearing their black shiny Mercedes and Range Rover coats.  Touch one of them and you’re likely to be polishing the exhaust manifold with your tongue.  We get to where the GPS says the hotel is and there is a hotel there, but it has a different name.   Its in a nest of tiny residential roads and alleyways and footpaths that we follow for a couple of minutes before admitting defeat, stopping, and hunting on foot, only to discover that the original place is actually where we’re staying but that it ‘shares’ its name with another hotel, but whose name is nowhere to be seen.. which is nice. And Brian decides to lay his bike down for a rest too.  It did look very tired to be fair. We all go round collecting our senses of humour from the floor where we’ve thrown them and track back through the maze to check in.


Its pretty late now and we’re all ratty and hangry so we go out to the street with the biggest concentration of bad man mobiles and just pick the first place we find.


Fried Khokhob .. ok then ..


A quick wander round near the hotel to find an ATM

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and a few bottles of beer to help me sleep ..


I wake up early and go for a wander.  I like to see a city rubbing its eyes and stretching before its overrun with people ruining the views.

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I didn’t know birds had mortgages ..


Yerevan is a money box like any capital.  You live on inside its not so bad.  On the outside you just throw your money in and never see any come out.   The hotel breakfast is good but the coffee is shocking so I go out on a hunt.  Bastard.. this looks my kind of place.  The barista is from Palestine and hoping to make her way to Europe, and I reckon I’m paying for half her journey by giving her £4 for a coffee..

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Back at the hotel my GPS seems to have slept well and remembered where it put all the roads.  I copy the card to all the other XTs and as if by magic they all pop into life.  Thank fuck for that.

As we’re leaving they send out an ‘all-tottie’ email and tell them to come to reception and sign my helmet .. which is nice



They’re a really nice bunch.  All speak perfect English too.  The education system must be doing something right round here.

We’re heading south today to Goris.  As you ride out the city your eyes are constantly drawn to the west where Mt Ararat sticks its head above the clouds and soaks in the morning sunshine

IMG_9737Its no surprise there are lots of churches round here, and one in particular was built with a front seat view

IMG_9744 IMG_9741 IMG_9740 IMG_9683 IMG_9681There is another well known church across some mountains and there is a decent cafe close by so we head over the pass where the clouds are not fluffy and white, but black and smoky coughed up by ancient trucks struggling to stay alive.  The views are worth it though

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The road up to the church is all in a state of destruction.  Its been ripped up tarmac is being laid but there is a section of nasty loose rocks like a ball pit which I try and the bike decides to turn itself 180 degrees on.  Decision made.. fuck that shit.  I’m going for lunch.  A couple of the others make it but young Brian decides his bike needs 2 quick lie downs before he can have lunch.

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The ride to Goris is like watching a strip tease from mother nature.  Little signs of very attractive views appear and disappear.  Mountain ridges and low clouds conspire to confuse you as you get closer and closer until you suddenly fall down into Goris and the landscape hits you in the eyeballs

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Goris is quite a big town but the money knife has spread the wealth very thinly.  I really like these places though.  They’re properly characterful.  They are just for locals and if you come here you do so on those terms.  Take it leave it.  Like it or loath it.  And I like it.

Its cash only at the hotel so I have to go on an ATM hunt.  I find one that isn’t working then another that will only give a small amount then another by a supermarket where there are loads of people watching while I take out 2 weeks wages in a big wad.  I don’t feel threatened thought.  Maybe my spider sense is broken but this place feels quite welcoming.


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Like a lot of these places it has shops that sell everything from birthing pools to eyebrow pencils.. plus the biggest tool shop I’ve seen for years

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So we decide to go and see if we can get some wheels to make a stabiliser for Brian’s bike

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Plus a pair of boots .. just in case we get lucky


Oh Georgia

We wander about trying to find our way to a restaurant in the cold and rain.  Decisions about which one is best quickly change to just find one that’s open and we end up at another random table with another random menu but with no english this time.  A bloke is across the other side sitting with a woman, not eating, looking like he owns the place.  He wanders over and you just know from his face that whatever profession he is in involves a lot of bullshit.   And so it proves to be.  He’s friendly and helpful don’t get me wrong but all the stuff in between is for his own entertainment and kudos.  He is a mate of the owner and we play to his ego and sit him down to ask him some questions.

We’re planning to try and get into Azerbaijan but from what we read the border is closed to tourists.  We’re also looking for status updates on the 3 potential Turkey/Georgia borders we can choose from tomorrow.  As luck would have it at that moment another mate of the family comes in and joins us.  He’s something to do with the Turkish border force.. and he knows some mates that are truck drivers going into Azerbaijan.  He tells us the closest Georgian border opened 2 days ago, so thats good, and after calling his mate he says the Azerbaijan border is open too .. but I’m not convinced.  I know its open for commercial traffic but tourist traffic is another matter.  Billy Bullshit is convinced its open to us and it will all be fine and he’ll personally assure our entry.  He tells us the border point to use and the procedure.. puffs out his chest like he’s just saved all of our lives and gives one of those smiles that make you want to punch him in the face…

I ask him about his wife .. or who I assume is his wife who is sat next to him.  This bloke is maybe early 60s, overweight and with a set of 2nd hand random teeth bought cheap from a tooth fairy.  Yet he virtually spits his drink out .. ‘Her!  This woman?’ and he points at her.  ‘I don’t go for fat old women like this.. ‘… yep…. a c*nt is a c*nt in any country ..

Next morning and its still a bit miserable.  Go out to the bike before breakfast and find another stray dog looking for affection.   We saw a lot of these last night and they all have tags in their ears .. or what used to be their ears.  I’ve seen this before out here.. the dogs have their ears cropped.  I’ve heard stories of it being to do with fights with bears .. or for health reasons .. or mainly just tradition.. but I’m not a fan and I doubt the dogs are either.  Anyway I get 100% more breakfast than I need and feed it to the dog.. who then refuses to leave my side.. I thought it was going to get on the back as I left

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The GPS maps have got all their one way roads back to front and we’ve already ridden 20 miles by the time we climb out of the town towards the border.. someone has been up all night painting these fields green .. and they’ve done an excellent job

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The road to the border is a long spur so if its not open we’re going to be mightily pissed. Its a lovely ride .. which is good.. but there is hardly any traffic.. which could be bad


The beasts all need feeding and so we pull into a petrol station in a tiny village and watch the cows come home.

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This petrol station is one of the strangest ones I’ve been to for a while.  It sells everything from tractor tyres to washing machines to hoovers to kids bikes .. and I think its the first petrol station in my life to offer us all a hot cup of chai as we decide if I can fit a tractor tire on the back of the Ktm

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The road from here is like an escalator taking us high into the clouds round the rims of vast valleys then down roller coaster twisties covered in gravel and dirt.  Its a high concentration high risk high reward ride that fully exercises my smile muscles at one end and my sphincter muscles at the other.

As we get close to the border we meet all the trucks.  Lots and lots and lots of trucks.. all parked up waiting.  Not usually a good sign.  Get to the front and the border is shut .. I originally wrote shit there .. yep .. that too.  It looks like they tried to open the border a bit early.  Maybe a year early .. It’s all still under construction and a couple of hours ago a big transformer transformed itself into a firework and went boom.   Farty tit wank..

So there are people stuck both sides, some in nomansland, and all systems are down.  It’s pointless asking anyone when it might be back, they’re obviously working on it, all you can do it break out the patience suppositories and sit .. carefully .. down to wait.

There is a makeshift cafe in the bushes and we decamp to decide a plan.  It’s about 120 miles back where we came from then down to the next border, and another load of extra miles in Georgia to get back up to where we’re staying.  But you need a plan or a target.. a decision point.  OK, it’s about 10:30, if it’s not open by 12 we’re gone.


Maybe 40 minutes later there are stirrings and mumblings and people are returning to their vehicles.  Looks like the leccy is back on but as is usual with these things its a case of hurry up and wait.  Computers have to raise themselves from their slumbers and shake hands with all their mates before we can do anything, and these computers either sleep really deeply or they have a shit loads of mates.  Eventually they’re fully awake and we’re shuffling slowly through the dust to the little window where our future lies.  Then through the melay we go down to customs.  There are queues from all directions but we turn down the britishness and fight our way through to the front and get the clearance we need to leave.  Well.. all the others do.. but I don’t.  ‘Problem.. you have a fine’.  What?  I’ve paid the HGS and we’ve had no beef with the police.. but then I remember the last time I was here.  I got a speeding fine that we tried to pay at the time but couldn’t work out how so left without doing it.  Perhaps its that ..

But he prints out a piece of paper with the fine on, and its a strange amount.. a cursory amount hardly worth getting out of bed for .. I calculate it in my head .. then I do it again.. and again to check.  It’s about £1.20?  WTF is that all about!


Anyway, this is usually when the panic sets it.  All the bloke does is point his finger back to where I’ve just come from. ‘Go pay’.  Where?  Who? What?  Bollocks .. the others get on with getting into Georgia and I walk back up to the border post and try to find what I’m supposed to do with this.  Eventually someone points me at a small window in a hut.  A closed window, in a closed, unoccupied  hut.   Fantastic.. just perfect.. it’s Kebab o’clock so I assume the occupant is somewhere necking some fatty meat.  I wait.. and wait .. then I wait some more.  I can see the others have all left and gone into Georgia but I’m stuck.

I hear noises.. shuffling .. the window opens.. there is a human on the other side with his hand out .. at last.. I hand him my paperwork.. his hand hits the keyboard .. and … and nothing .. the power has tripped out again. Oh how I laughed ..IMG_9177


By the time I pay and get back to customs I assume the riders are already at the hotel, having saunas and massages.  Lounging on soft feather beds and eating delicious dumplings but I’m wrong.  They’ve all waited for me up at the petrol station where they sell insurance.  They’re fed and watered and ready to ride so I get my insurance and we’re off.


We’re just entering the first post-apocalyptic village, its down on its arse and it doesn’t look as if it can fall any lower.  Dark and foreboding with houses hiding their shame behind thick bushes and trees.  I’m following a rider and I see a dog enter the scene from the right. Quite a big dog.  A dog with a death wish.  A wish it wants to exercise right now.  It proceeds to run straight in front of the rider and like 2 straight lines destined to cross he hits it hard.  Luckily the dog doesn’t go under the wheel but bounces off to the side as the riders wobbles and gets the bike back under control.   I hate watching these events unfold.. but this time the bread falls butter side up.

Its a relatively short ride to Borjomi that nestles in the cleavage between two mountains before we twist and climb up to the ski resort of Bakuriani.  Most ski resorts aren’t so attractive without a blanket of snow to hide all their warts and scars, and this place is no exception.  The whole place is pretty sad and the hotel has more stray dogs than guests.

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We’re only staying here because we want to ride the Tskhratskaro pass.  We’ve been asking people about the pass for a while.  What state its in and how dangerous it is.  We’ve had a lot of people say its pretty bad but a few people have told us its passable in a 4×4 and that we should be ok.  Just that we need to take our passports.  Only one way to find out anyway.  We’ll try it in the morning.

Well .. some of us will …

It seems that Brians meal at the petrol station was 90% poison.  You’ve heard of Novichok.. well this was Bowelunblock.  A much much more potent substance that instantly opens all exits and launches bodily fluids at full flow.  No orifice can resist the power of Bowelunblock.. no fart flap can stand in its way ..

Poor fella. I wake in the night and all I can see in the pitch blackness is a glowing red arsehole making its way from the bed to the bog to the bed to the bog all night long.  When I wake up I think I’ve died and gone to the great sewer in the sky .. the air is thick with fumes and the toilet is breathing hard from a full night of swallowing .. I go down to reception and put an emergency call in for more toilet rolls then I walk into the laundry and shout “INCOMMING”.

Brian isn’t going anywhere .. he’s going to be bum to bowl all day .. so we need a plan B.  We have a couple of spare days and I’ve deliberately not booked any hotels for today in case we had problems at the Armenia border so I just rebook for tonight and we decide to do the pass and loop back here and hope Brian is ok.  Plan C is stand Brian on his head, stick a funnel in his bum and pour concrete in.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The four of us head up towards the pass expecting the worst.  Well.. I can definitely think of worse places I could be ..

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Get to the top and there is a police station, and a shepherd and fuck all else for miles around.

IMG_9343-1 IMG_9291 IMG_9283The pass is pretty straightforward and whoever added an entry for it on the worlds most dangerous roads must get scared even pulling back the covers of their bed.   If you’re here, do it.  It’s a lovely lovely ride.
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Having said that, I only stop to photograph the nice easy bits.  The rest of the time I’m just holding on, avoiding the biggest rocks and holes, and generally just desperately trying to not break either myself or the bike.   I always mentally kiss the the tarmac the second my wheels hit it. I find off road riding a perverse love/hate experience.  I hate it when I’m doing it and I love it when I finish.

Its well past tummy rumble o’clock when we get to the other end so we head into the town to play the lunch lottery.  Finding one is easy .. I point to my stomach and someone replies by pointing to a hole in a wall.  This hole in the wall is serving HUGE donna kebabs which you can buy in 3″, 6″ or 12″ sizes.  There is absolutely no way I’m ordering a 12″ anything ever from anyone, so I go for a 6.

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There is a lady working a production line of them and throwing in generous quantities of evil looking items that will be sure to test the seal on my back door.  I’m hoping to avoid becoming a SpaceX Arse rocket like Brian.   Its really tasty to be fair but the clientele here aren’t looking too friendly so we bolt our food down and leave quick sticks.

I recognise the street from a previous visit.  Its one that fades from half decent at one end to absolute shit and destruction at the other as it heads for the Armenia border.  We’ll be back this way tomorrow but today we’ll take the scenic route looping back to our hotel and hopefully a fully watertight Brian.

I’m glad to see the pothole men have been hard at work too.  They take their job really seriously round here

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The ride back is a peach.  It runs like a droplet of water down a woman’s body,  up and down, round and round, smooth and curvaceous all the way from the head to the foot of the mountains.

IMG_9371 IMG_9372 IMG_9374 IMG_9376 IMG_9381-1Quick stop back at Cleavage for a few pictures

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Before the curvy climb back to the resort.  This is Georgia, the satnav constantly looks like an etch-a-sketch in the hands of a 2 year old.

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Maybe I should move here.  I’m thinking of making an offer on this place.

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My offer is to bring some petrol and some matches ..

There are a few nice places around, but they are few and far between.


We head out for dinner and end up walking so far that we wear away most of our legs and have to stumble in on our stumps.  The place is empty but open, and it seems to be the only option in a 200 mile radius.   While we’re waiting the bloke offers us some Georgian Whisky from an unmarked bottle in a fridge.  He gives us about a 4 shot glass and it has to down in one.


JE)(*£$%£$%$S Ch*@£R@T AL(@£@£@Y … What the fuck just happened.  It tastes mike avgas.   I reckon he’s syphoned it out a jet fighter.. I was wondering what that SU27 was doing parked on the forecourt.    What possesses you to throw a load of completely unknown fluid from an unknown person down your neck?  For fully 5 minutes  feel no effect whatsoever.  All good.. I’m 100% ok.. I can talk and move my head with no problem.  I have a bite of something to eat and BANG .. whatever I’ve eaten must be the fuse that sets of the biggest instant headfuck I’ve ever had.  Its like someone has pulled out my vertical hold.. I’m all over the place and have some sort of delay between moving my head and hands, and the signal actually reaching my brain.  What with this and the kaboom kebab I had earlier I’m fully expecting my insides to spit the bummy tonight.

Anyway.. in better news .. we walk back to the hotel in the dark and young Brian seems to have risen from the dead.  He’s wearing a pair of concrete underpants but he says he’s ready to ride



Chase the sun

The view at breakfast is just as good as at dinner.


I like this place.. I think this bloke does too .. he arrived 30 years ago and liked it so much he stayed ever since ..


We’re hugging the coast today all the way round to Antalya.. riding with one foot in the lovely blue water ..

IMG_8335 IMG_8337 IMG_8339 IMG_8341 IMG_8345It’s yet another curvy sensuous road wiggling and dancing its way along the water’s edge, you can almost hear the music in the air and feel the rhythm in the road.   I can feel my helmet begin to pull me in one particular direction. We come to a junction and it spins to the right on my head leaving blind and with no other option to turn  inside and follow the path it’s chosen down to a small cafe perched up some steps.

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Her name means ‘flower’ and she leaves a little bud on my helmet.. I think I’ll leave that sentence just as it is ..

After much refreshment its back on the road towards Atalya.  The road gets ever more busy as we get closer.  It’s very hot and very very windy and at lunch we stop on the beach.

There are some Russian ladies there, they’re the only ones sturdy enough not to have been blown into the sea.

IMG_8346 IMG_8347 IMG_8348 IMG_8349One is a pure Russian and the other is a Ukraine/Russia mix.  They both live here permanently.   The Ruskraine lady is really nice.  She is quite shy but we stand together on the beach and chat away about two totally different lives and watch turtles play in the surf.   It’s all too easy to make generalisations and I’m just as guilty as the next man but in truth, the reality is often a lot more complicated.  This lady is conflicted and one side of her brain is at war with the other, it can’t be easy.

Atalya is tourist central and its packed tight.  Approaching most cities looks exactly the same and you’re hunting the 5% that is different.. the original city .. the heart. Just like Sarajevo.  Its just another scrappy city until the last km then it all changes.  Its the same here. I’m not hopeful about this place at all at the moment though.  The Satnav is saying its less than an km and we’re still hemmed in and sweating like pigs.  Riding at walking speed with the thick metal tide.  ‘Turn right’ Right.. OK.. but there is a barrier.. and a hut here.  This isn’t a road.  Turns out the old city is gated and closed to traffic but if you’re staying in they will open the barrier and let you ride your bike through the maze of tight narrow streets along with the throngs of tutting tourists.  It’s a very delicate operation and by the time we get to the hotel the bikes and the riders are approaching meltdown.

Good hoteliers are adept at defusing tourist time bombs though.  A free beer in the shade on a comfortable couch, clean white sheets and a shower.   Everything quick and simple, no waiting about dripping sweat on the tiles.  No stupid questions.  All that can wait until later.

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In the morning we’re getting ready and someone has been through the bikes overnight.  Small things, but often stuff that’s travelled with you for years, or useful things you have no hope of replacing out on the road.  You can only strip them down so far though.

We’re off early and we quietly ride out through toy town.  It’s well before tourist o’clock and the streets are empty and clear and we plot a route out into the mountains.   It all starts out fine,  smiles set to max and bikes on auto pilot.  I’ve been really surprised at the amount of twisty riding we’ve done this far and its the same today with the bikes spending most their time on one ear or the other.

Stop for Chai .. I like mine with milk ..

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As soon as we leave it starts to rain.  The road is shiny.  Its one of the shiniest roads I’ve ever seen in my life.  I’m going round a corner and I can see a full reflection of the opposing cars in the road surface.  When it really starts to rain it’s like riding on ice.  I am properly shitting myself for about an hour, tiptoeing about, sliding everywhere, looking death in the face every  five minutes.  I’ve not had an experience like that for quite a while.

Then as  soon as it started.. it ends and we’re back on the black mirror.

IMG_8444We’re headed for Göreme today.  To the caves and the balloons.   Göreme itself is an odd place.  If Meerkats were human sized, they would live in a place like this.  You would expect with the amount of tourist traffic that it would be shiny and clean but the road is all up for miles and its a dusty dirty ride through the centre before trying to find your specific cave.   It’s a labyrinth of tiny roads wound between the rocks and it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  But it’s all worth the trouble just for the views.

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We’ve got  a day off to look around.  It really is an off place.  I’m just following my nose and we go into a village with a cave system obvious from the road.  This one was apparently occupied until an earthquake some time in the 60s.  It has the remains of a 6th century church right at the top so just for shits and giggles we climb up in 35 degree heat and full kit for a look.  I don’t get much out of looking at these old places .. but I do believe that as people wander through life they leave tiny parts of their souls behind that can hide in cracks, soak into the rocks, into the earth  Sometimes I like to close my eyes and just let my body listen.. let it tune in..  I’m convinced there is stuff beyond our five senses and I’m aways keen to feed in when I can.  Places like this that have experiences so much emotion over such a long time are a good place to do it.  Or, alternatively its the crutch I lean on ever more heavily as I get older..  I do wonder where I’ve left bits of my soul though.. by now I must have scattered it just about everywhere. 
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One of the riders wants to head out into the scrub and sand to look at some formations in the distance.  Do I really want to leave the safety and security of the solid black stuff under my wheels?  Not really TBH, I’m not a particularly confident off roader at the best of times and a lot of this looks like narrow overgrown goat tracks from here.   I have a secret mechanism for randomly flipping a coin in my head and I set it off.  Heads… right .. here we go then.  Shit or bust time.  The front rider has taken all his luggage off and is very quick and confident as we chase up and down and round the rocks, through the soft (and thankfully shallow) sand and dried up stream beds.  The only way I can make myself do this sometimes is to ride in the middle.  Trying to keep up with the bloke in front while trying not to hold up the rider behind.   It concentrates my mind and stops me hitting the emergency stop button.  Its like everything in life though.. no risk .. no reward.


I can hear my tyres kiss the tarmac when we head back to town.  A big wet Frenchy .. glad to be back :)  I can feel my inspiration waining again and I need to not let it drop any further.  Keeping everything straight and level in my head on trips like this my first priority.  We’ve all got a lot of alone time on the road, time to let my mind give me pleasure or pain,  keep the demons under control or let them run riot.  We’re all the same. Out minds can be our best friends or our worst enemies.  Anyway.. exactly when did I qualify as a psychiatrist.  My treatment today is an hours walk with the camera..

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