Conquering the Georgian mountains
7 August - Mestia / Usghuli / Lentekhi - Janneke
After this, Pamir is peanuts. If we may believe all the posts that we’ve read about this crazy scary 75km road from Ushguli to Lentekhi, the north eastern part of the beautiful Svaneti region in Georgia. It will be offroad with lots of dirt and we need to pray that I won’t rain. The first leg of this road is to actually gét to Ushguli. We start in Mestia, 1500m, which is becoming Svaneti’s outdoor hub, hikers, camping sites, 4×4 Delica’s, tourist tours, its all there. Somehow it makes me feel a bit sad, in another couple of years this cute little town with its typical historical defense towers will be far away for tradition and ruined by us tourists. I can only hope the local people are smart and try to keep it within boundaries.
The road is not that difficult, some big puddles but mostly a lot of hard sand and roadworks. Not too mention all the transit Delicas that want to go past. I am riding a lot in first gear, slowly, then I am able to control the bike. Flat parts in second gear. When Salvador start to get quite heated up, I decide to not shift down and take a mudpool in second gear. Bad idea. Salvador starts to lug, I managed to keep in control, glad that I passed the wet stuff and speed up. A bit too soon, the back wheel is still wet and starts drifting. I crash. At low speed, a dramatic jump and a fair bit of grumpiness. Should have sticked to the first gear, lesson learned. Bad thing is that my throttle handle is slightly damaged, almost no free play. My kaoko is also stuck, but that is not an issue, we take the screw out so we have some kind of freeplay. Thank God we brought ducttape.
When we see the towers of Usghuli, 2100m, we are sooo happy! Nailed it! And such a reward, the view on Mount Shkhara, 5068m is impressive. Glad to leave Ushguli again, in ten years it will have hotels and swimming pools. Its boosting.
The road curls up from Ushguli until we are behind the mountain pass. We left early, because internet scared us and we think it might rain at noon. Calculations say we cannot do 75k downhill if we travel at the same speed as yesterday. We decide to stock up on supplies, ready to camp and shelter if necessary. I am a bit nervous.
Yes, the road is bad, but doable. I can do gravel, I can do down hill gravel. I can do water puddles with gravel. But this is a different kind of cookie: going downhill on rocks, big rocks, with puddles of water and water streams next to me. The water is really clear, so I can see the stones in it, I’m still scared as a cat. Not the one in Mestia though, I wish we could bring that cute little tiger in a pannier. Catcrush. Ok, back to the slope. Best thing is to keep going, I am balancing and dexterously dividing my weight on the bike to hop it down. In the intercom I can hear Tim; girl I’m so proud of you! You rock! Even with the bad throttle handle and the continuously stalling of the bike, I manage to only fall three times. Too fast, lack of concentration, make a plan but not stick with it. Not a single bike failure, all human errors.
After the rocks, we pass more slippery parts and shallow pools. This will be quite the mudparty if we need to go through this after some rain. My shoulders ace, cramp in my fingers since I hold the clutch and brake with 2 fingers: otherwise you are too late. The clock says 11.30 and we already done over 40 kilometer. I think we are going to make it! Bring on that Pamir now, because I think we are ready for it.
Then, after a small town, we see tarmac. Now I know why Charlie and Ewan are so happy to see tarmac. The last leg to Lentekhi is easy, lovely. But when speeding up, I notice Salvador is having some fuel problems, nooooooo! To be continued!