We made a trip to Tusheti last week with some six guys from Israel. After a late flight in we hit the road with the 4x4 cars loaded with the trailers with the bikes.
On the way we picked up lunch, changed money, and headed for the Gombori pass, Kaxheti and the roads to the high mountains of the Caucasus.
Our guests were experienced bikers. In Israel mountain cycling is very popular. There are many trails and on the weekend the trails can be very busy.
The drive to the high mountains is impressive across the plains of Kaxheti and then begins the Abano Pass. The road requires jeeps to cross unless you are biking it. You need expert drivers for this route.
Recently there have been a lot of improvements on the road and we came across some roadworks on the way. The views on the road are incredibly impressive; white-water rapids, lush forests, rising up above the tree line.
We reached the pass after many switchbacks, unloaded the bikes, threw on biking kit, ate snacks and I led the way. The switchbacks traverse the mountainside and then drop down at the turn. The ride is a challenge but a very enjoyable one.
After crossing the river at the bottom of the switchbacks, the road undulates beside the river, passing through a couple of villages, the ranger station. After about 25km riding we decided to put the bikes into the trailers and drive the remaining amount to the village as the light was closing in.
We got to our guesthouse, our guests found themselves comfortable in their rooms, whilst dinner was being prepared, the rest of us pitched tents and we then enjoyed a delicious spread of food. It had been a long day with the drive, and we were all looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep for the next day.
The following morning, we walked up to the famous towers in the village. These mediaeval stone buildings traditionally protected villages from invasions throughout the centuries. From the towers there are amazing views, if you look closely you will spot an eagle on the thermals and you can see back across the plateau and the rest of the Valley.
Following on in the direction of Dartlo the road climbs and then descends on switchbacks before climbing up past a guesthouse, where we stopped for a bit of maintenance. Then the road climbs and descends along the valley into the village. There were a fair few hikers and horse riders, but we were the only bikers.
The descent down into Dartlo is a real pleasure as you can temptingly see the village from a distance. it is such a magical place, unlike any other I’ve experienced. The buildings built in the traditional style are examples of expert craftsmanship and a testament to the skills being passed on down the generations.
After checking into a guest house with views over the village, we hiked up to another village on the mountain behind, which had been abandoned. It is a very special place to visit.
The single-track switchbacks and views over two houses perched on the mountainside makes you wonder why people live such a simple lifestyle the only routes to get supplies is to climb up and down the mountain otherwise they are self-sufficient. An old way of lifestyle is preserved there. We don’t know how long it will last but for the moment is possible to visit and to exist in a place which is such a contrast to our modern cities and lifestyles.
The guests were happy to have a change of pace to save some energy before the following day’s ride. We were up early with a ride down the valley to the border point at Girevi. The ride out is a slight climb following the river but an enjoyable ride. Along the way we visited the villages, listened to the sound of the river, and gazed up at the tall mountains towering above us.
After lunch of the we followed our way back down the valley with a slight downhill which made for a flowing ride. Grins all round could be seen whilst we enjoyed a beer on the balcony. That evening we ate great feast Georgian food prepared by our hosts in the traditional way cooked over an open fire. We exchanged stories of the day, next to the warmth of the fire, under the clear stars in the sky.
An early starts and breakfast, meant we could leave early in the cars drive up to the pass and then have plenty of time to navigate down the road out of Tusheti. We kept together in a close-knit group, stopping halfway down to visit the hot spa baths. The ride down was a great challenge, and something that can be looked back on and told as a story for many years to come. It is a great accomplishment.
On the last day we did a walk around the main sights of Tbilisi, the local markets, historical spots stopping for a feast before our guests made our way to the airport.
Originally written September 2015 for the Georiders website.