We hid in the Georgian capital for almost 3 weeks, burrowing ourselves away from the searing heat. When we ventured out we sizzled in the 40 degrees pan, our rind crisping and minds short-circuiting. Our days were spent formulating, then discarding onward plans. Researching, calculating, we composed alternative scores for month long symphonies that would carry us across the Caspian sea, to Kazakhstan’s desert plains, past Uzbekistan’s fabled mosques, and over the snowy peaks of Kyrgyzstan. We looked at the weather forecast, deep purple bruises cast burning shadows across our intended path. We scribbled numbers – costs, times and dates – and the abacus grew too heavy, the calendar ran out of pages. And so with heavy hearts we admitted defeat and decided on the easy option, a plane (the cigarettes of the sky). We sit uneasy with this decision, fully aware that it contributes to the scorched planet, the Biblical monsoons, the hurricanes, the famines, the wars for resources and the waves of humanity moving north. (And closer to home, it contributes to the flooding that left Lancaster, my city in the north of England, without power for 5 days in December 2016). Some pay a heavier price sooner, but in the end we will all suffer. Nature will not discriminate, she is the great leveller.
Flying was always a last resort but at every other option we were thwarted- Iran (not possible for British citizens without an expensive guide for duration of the trip), Pakistan (not possible without an armed escort and untold Parental concern), across the Caspian Sea into the Stans (possible but expensive visas and great distances would decimate our budget and time). And so it was final we would cycle to Yerevan in Armenia, apply for our Indian visas and then fly to Delhi. In other words, we would fail.
To distract ourselves from disappointment we made early morning and evening forays into Tbilisi, a magical place that reveals her delights slowly. It is a city of discovery – hours spent sifting the flotsam and jetsam of life on sale at the Dy Bridge Flea Market, awe-struck by the intricate beauty of the ancient jewellery on display in the National Treasury, throwing shapes within the light projections on the ravine below the old city, sweating in the steamy private sulphar baths where cigars of filth were scrubbed from our thighs by strong men and women. Nights were spent sharing Lake-side tales with new friends or eating delicious meals in romantic flower-filled restaurants. It felt like a reward of sorts to be here in this sleepy, nostalgic, city of possibility.
Tiblisi is a city that is reluctant to let you go, somewhere that you only truly appreciate as ‘quite special indeed’ once you leave. Our last night was spent on the outskirts of town at a hostel run by two Punjabi lads. It was by sure chance that we ended up in their gentle care, nourished by delicious food and sent on our way with a bag of apples from their garden, but it felt like a blessing for our journey ahead to their home – to India.