Georgia is a spectacular country that has held us enchanted for 7 weeks in which time we have clocked up over 750km. After our adventures in the Svaneti mountains and time with our generous hosts in Tsageri we made our way to Tskaltubo. It is a thermal spring resort where Stalin used to come for rest and recuperation, so we figured it might be a good place to rest our mountain legs. The off-road down hill from Ushguli had been almost as tough as the ascent, my body was tense from holding on too tightly and our minds were tired from negotiating the rough terrain and mud.
Marina, our jolly guesthouse owner, prepared us delicious breakfasts and organised our treatments at Spring No.3. It was as expected a clinical, post-soviet affair with serious (but secretly soft) women in white coats overseeing proceedings. First I lay in a blue bath as it was filled with midly radioactive tepid water, then a friendly lady massaged me under the water with a high pressure hose. It was invigorating rather than relaxing. Meanwhile Ioan was in another room having a therapeutic massage, which sent him to sleep. We swapped treatments and both concluded that the massage was very, very good. Other treatments were on offer such as a gynelogical douche or prostrate manipulation, but we passed on these like cowards. Whatever is in the water it did the trick and we zonked out for the next 24 hours.
From Tskaltubo we took a pretty direct route to Mtskheta, the old Georgian capital, via Prometheus Cave (the longest in Europe), Kutaisi, and the ancient rock city of Uplistsikhe; a total of 250km (I intend to create a map our route soon.)
It was a hot ride with temperatures reaching 40 degrees and we sought midday shade in woodlands, stringing up our hammocks for a snooze, crossing rickety bridges to lie next to rivers, or in old churches. At the atmospheric IX Century Ubisa Monastery we felt privileged to witness an Orthodox baptism.
We passed through forested mountains and we feasted on summer apples, hazelnuts, salads and mushrooms bought from roadside traders. It was our longest stint of sleeping wild and at points we started going a little mad. Camp sites included a bus stop where we had taken shelter from a storm that never ended, the locals were bemused but tolerant of the strange aliens in their midst.
We slept in recently harvested fields, washed at roadside taps and went black-moon mad under electrical storms. It was a test of our resilience, of our love, but we survived. Forever renewed by the natural beauty that surrounded us.