Lentekhi – Kutaisi

Today was Police Day.

Left Irina’s, who’d brewed us a magic coffee, and had breakfast at a quiet spot at the edge of town. It’s Alex’s birthday, and all I had was two Snickers and a tiny candle. Anyone remember the ‘Yes’ TV ads from the 90s(?)? :) The police officer who’d directed us to Irina’s yesterday magically showed up with some colleagues to say good bye.

We followed the Tskhenistskali river down south. The road was now tarred most of the time.

Alex’ plan was to turn east near the town of Tsageri, towards Oni and South Ossetia. He wanted to try to get into and through the disputed area. I wanted to go straight south to Kutaisi. About 20km from Lentekhi and right outside Tsageri we approached the turn-off. Before we even realized that this was the spot of saying good-bye we were stopped by the police and asked about our travel plans. Knowing that going to South Ossetia is not something Georgian officials like to endorse, we both said we’d be going to Kutaisi. The police then escorted us into the town of Tsageri where we had a break, and bought some food and water. Our hopes were that the police officers would leave us alone. Instead we became the towns No. 1 attraction. Soon there were not two but six police officers around, all being very curious and asking the same questions we’d answered before. The lucky horse shoe attached to one of my panniers and Alex’s maps were the most interesting of our belongings. Alex asked about a place to get a Georgian SIM card for his phone. Instead of giving directions two of the officers took Alex to a phone shop in their car! There was just no escape!

When he returned they gave us two handfuls of cherries! We ate them on the spot, said good-bye, and continued our ride. Stopped at a bank where I withdrew some money. When I came back to the bikes – the police car was standing next to Alex, waiting for us to go on. He’d asked them about alternative routes to Kutaisi, ones that brought us closer to the road to South Ossetia, but they’d insisted that we take the direct one.

So we cycled on, followed by the police. Eventually they honked good-bye – but we were well past possible turn-offs to the east! Well done!

So Alex changed his plan and we rode on together. So far the road had been going downhill most of the time. Then it suddenly started to climb steeply and continued to do so for a few kilometers. When we finally reached the highest point we saw that we were pretty close to the southern edge of the Greater Caucasus. We could see the western Georgian plain below. Had a short break there – when a police car drove up and stopped next to us. The driver asked us about our route. Both Alex and I had the impression that he was checking if we were the two cyclists he’d been informed about by his colleagues in Tsageri.

So we left the Greater Caucasus behind us and came to a little shop where we stocked up on water. Another police car stopped next to us and the driver got out. He spoke English and asked us … about our travel plans. Then they waited. We had some ice cream, chatted, and eventually they got bored and left. We reached the town of Tskaltubo. In the town center we stopped in front of a hotel where Alex decided to stay, to be nearer to a National Park that he’d decided he was going to visit tomorrow. We were chatting with some locals when that same police car drove past, turned around and stopped next to us. The officers didn’t talk to us at all, but they did talk to our new friends who’d even offered to host us, and seemed to scare them off with their comments/questions. Our friends left quickly, the police stayed, still without talking to us. We had enough. I said my final good bye to Alex and left for Kutaisi, 10km away.

I reached it without further disturbance by the police.

I have no idea what was going on with these guys. Maybe it’s the proximity to South Ossetia. Maybe it’s just curiosity. Whenever I tried to ask what’s going on people didn’t seem to understand crucial words like ‘dangerous’ and gave rubbish replies.

I’m in a hotel which has wireless Internet and English-language TV – for the first time in more than two weeks.

Sting is in Batumi tonight.

Cycled: 90km
Max. speed: 65kph

This entry is part of the To the Caucasus and Back trip. Country: . Bookmark the permalink.