We survived the first week of our Silk Road adventure – and we’re into the second week – during this week we’ll be going from Goreme to Yerevan. This is a whistle-stop tour of most places. In this second week, we’ll check off a bucket list place, have five consecutive nights of bush camping and cross two borders. We start in Goreme, the main town of the Turkish Cappadocia region.
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We start our second week on the Silk Road and another bucket list item. After we left Pamukkale and the glorious ruins of Hierapolis, we headed to Goreme, the main town in the area of Cappadocia. We have a campground at the top of a hill overlooking the valley of Cappadocia. There’s a pool, wifi and cold beer again. These folks know how to treat us right.
We don’t stay up late though, as most of us are up at 0345 for an early pickup and the spectacular experience of ballooning through Cappadocia. It’s spectacular start to a very long day, which finished around midnight after we’ve done laundry, and headed off to a Turkish Night, complete with traditional dancing and an obligatory belly dancer. Here at Goreme, we collect another two travellers, who are joining us all the way to Kathmandu.
The next day isn’t so good. It’s a drive day. We end the day at a bush camp, on a hill outside Gumshane. It’s a prickly scrubby little place literally a spot on a hill outside the town. This trip so far is a series of highs and lows. We’ve bush camped here as we’re heading for the border with Georgia.
Turkey – Georgia Border Crossing
I think we all knew as we drove up towards the border past the miles and miles of queued-up trucks that this wasn’t going to be quick. Or easy. This is a busy border crossing.
And while other buses get to drive straight to the front we’re not so lucky and have to get in a line with buses and minibuses. Our motorbiker heads to the front and finagles his way through. It’s a hot crossing. We all have to take our luggage (minus tents and sleep gear) off and join the throng to go through the border on foot. It’s hot. This isn’t an orderly queue. There are folks fainting (or faking it to get through quicker). The line for non-Turkish citizens contains mostly Turks. As usual, the little old ladies are the meanest in the line.
It’s days like this that we need a lot of reading material, like a serious amount.
Georgia is a breeze by comparison. They even have air conditioning in the arrivals hall. And money changers and ATMs. It was hot, cramped and disorganized, but compared to our Landrover driver, we had it easy. We arrived in Georgia around 13:30. He finally joined us at 20:30
Khertvisi Fortress and Georgian Beer
We spend 30 minutes at Khertvisi Fortress, before being welcomed to Georgia with 2.5-litre bottles of beer for a mere 7 Lari. (USD $2.92, GBP 2.27). It sets us up for the beach camp – where we have camp burritos, and a welcome swim in the Black Sea to swill off the sweat of the day. The following night is hot and humid. We learn to look out for night security lights, end up moving our tent in the middle of the night, get bitten by mosquitos and need a swim again the following morning.
The next day in Kutaisi is a delight. The market here is superb and we take advantage of it, the cathedral not so delightful, but the hike up to induces a seriously good sweat. We collect another solo traveller. Our lunch at the Georgian speciality restaurant , Baraqa is superb as we sample all the types of Georgian bread we can possibly stuff into us. After lunch, we head to see the oldest set of dinosaur footprints in the world at Sataplia. Check out our guide the Best Georgian Food.
We also get to hang out in a cave that stays at a constant 14 degrees centigrade. It’s a welcome relief. Bush camping tonight is just down the road, here in the National Park. There are wild blackberries, cows wandering around, and not a huge amount of breeze. However, there is plenty of used toilet paper and garbage blowing around in whatever wind there is.
Drive Day – Dust and a River Camp
Today is a drive day. We break for lunch at the dustiest, crappiest place that I think can be found. Just a few miles away is the glorious riverside town of Borjomi, where we also have to stop. We picked up a parking fine in the dusty shithole and have to pay it here. We park on a roundabout to pay. Thankfully our bush camp is alongside a river, where we wash away the dust and sweat and drink red wine at 25 lari for 5 liters.
We have our first casualty, as Brenda falls down the truck stairs, knocking her head, but splitting a toe and fingernail. There are blood and bruises, but no lasting damage.
After a quick pitstop at Khertvisi fortress, we head to the cave city and monastery of Vardzia. It’s a stunning location, a crap audio guide, and stinking hot. You can easily take a day tour of Vardzia from Tbilisi – check out prices and availability here.
Georgia – Armenia Border Crossing
After a quick lunch, we head for the border with Armenia. It seems mostly built, but our crossing is in more of a portacabin. The crossing is quick, all our passports are stamped. No one has problems, although I curse that this new stamp in my passport is on a brand new page. The stamping gods have not smiled on me this time.
Cook Group Armenia
We’re on cook group again and our first, second, third, and fourth plans come to nought, as we stop in a dusty town. It’s meatballs in herby tomato sauce with pasta, which goes down well. Our fruit salad for breakfast also goes well. Our bush camp is by a leech-infested stream bed. It’s a windy night and there are tired faces the next morning.
Armenia to Yerevan
On our first full day in Armenia, we drive across the plains. This is a wide-open space, with undulating, unending hills. Our photo and toilet stops are in rubbish-strewn wastelands. But it’s a quick final day to this second week on the Silk Road. We are in Yerevan by lunchtime. Alice, our truck, is parked on a street close to the hostel. We decline the beds in a dorm of six and the two bathrooms shared between 14 and head off to a private room in a hotel close by. The Albert House had great AC, good wifi, a comfortable bed, a fridge and a private bathroom – PLUS an incredible breakfast! Check out prices and reserve here
We won’t do this all the time (I don’t think), but it’s a good respite. We’re used to travelling by ourselves, and the constant group is tough to get used to.
This second week on the Silk Road has seen us in three countries, crossing two borders, bush camping for five nights and ending up in air-conditioned comfort. There’s been a bucket list item, and interesting spots to visit. From here we spend three nights in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital and then we’re heading back into Georgia and the beautiful capital city of Tbilisi. See you later!.
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