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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