Armenia: Breakdowns and Dopamine

I am flying, hovering on clouds of happiness and ecstasy
I am flying, feeling so powerful, immortal and unbeatable
I am flying      flying                     flying…

… And I am falling.
I am falling, raging, breaking apart
I am falling, fading, giving in…

And I am flying…      



The first lady Lars and I met in Armenia was a tad bit… crazy. Needless to say, Armenia is a quite religious Christian country and this one was a little over the top. Just like all people of her country, she had big, Bambi-brown eyes though her long, bushy hair was pitch-white like chalk. We had been looking for a market in order to buy something cool to drink, and she had enthusiastically waved us over to her tiny booth. It seemed most of the wooden shelves in there were occupied by photos of Jesus rather than things to eat, but we managed to spot some pirate copies of Coca Cola.

                       I camped next to this somewhat creepy God-worshipping nest one night…

The old woman kept kissing the cross she held in her hands as we pointed to the bottles on one of the shelves, and frenetically repeated “Jesus Christ Jesus Christ!!” over and over like some kind of Duracell rabbit. In the next moment she handed us a bunch of spooky photos of herself in a gloomy, godlike light to make her look like Jesus himself. Lars and I exchanged quick eye contact saying “we gotta get out of here as soon as possible!” and as soon as we had paid for the drinks we fled the field. The bottles of coke tasted rather plastic however – just like the Georgian lemonade – and we poured away most of it.



Luckily, even though many Armenians seemed very religious, none was as fanatic as this first one. After a bit of an up and down ride we descended to Armenia’s second largest city after Yerevan; Gyumri. It was quite an atmospheric city with – unlike Georgia – various big supermarkets, cozy cafés and nice restaurants and we agreed with each other that Armenia seemed a lot warmer and friendlier than Georgia (particularly than Svaneti). This was however the ending of our ride together, since Lars was heading back to Russia, and as for me… I had to rush across Armenia in order to get to Iran in time.


I had to rush across the country that is infamous among world tourers for hosting the hardest, most exhausting mountain passes in the world.

Here we go, I thought to myself as I left Gyumri, once again riding solo. That first day actually turned out to be easy. Though it seems to me now like the only easy day I have had in ages… The first 15 km I made a short climb for about 500 m if I remember correctly, and then I enjoyed a nice, steady descent all the way to Vanadzor, which must have been for as much as 50 km! Besides, the Armenians were indeed friendlier than the Georgians and rather than bitter stares I was constantly greeted by cheers and smiles and many gave me food as they passed in their cars.



As I treated myself a huge vanilla- Ice cream with strawberry sauce topping, the Spanish couple whom I had met in Cappadocia one month earlier ran into me again! They were coming from the opposite direction and had already been to Iran, now heading to Svaneti and then to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Just like the tradition when you meet a cyclist coming from the opposite direction, we exchanged as much information as possible. I told them about the tough routes of Svaneti, and they told me about the friendliness and hospitality of Iranian people.

“As a female I think I would feel a lot safer in Iran on my own than for instance, Armenia”, the woman said.

“But you will have to wear all those clothes you know”, the man said, “I use hers to wipe my bike with now!” He added with a grin. I knew all too well, and I didn’t quite look forward to that part of Iran.

I also met a bunch of Polish cyclist in Vanadzor, which – just like any sane person would – warned me about all the devastating mountain passes that waited for me… “You got some huuuge climbs and deep slopes ahead of you!!”


So let’s get it started with, I thought to myself as I made another climb of about 500 m before descending to Dilijan. It was at that small city, the real climbs would begin. “After Dilijan it will go up for all eternity” the Polish cyclists had told me.

The highest mountain pass of the classical, paved route across Armenia is only a little higher than 2500 m – yet cyclists who have been to the Andes and Tibet are willing to entitle Armenia’s mountain passes “the hardest and most exhausting ones in the world”.

How come? I had kept asking myself, and I was soon to find out.


I loved climbing the mountain passes of Armenia, but nevertheless did I hate it as much.
I loved the fact that the climbs were steep – I much rather do the steep climbs of Armenia than the seemingly everlasting, slowly ascents that I would find later on in Iran. When I get to climb 100 vertical meters in 1 km or more – that’s when my dopamine gets on. That’s when my veins open up and the blood in my body flows faster, when my skin gets goose bumps and my brains feel all ecstatic, enjoying the “living-in-the-moment” so much.

DSC_0835Bear statue in the mountains

But the deep slopes took on me. Don’t expect to ever get to keep the elevation you have gained in Armenia – as soon as you have made it over one pass, you will descend to your last starting point again, doing that same climb all over again the very next day. And then again, and again, and again.

It however wasn’t the slopes that killed me. It was the storms. The monstrous thunder and head winds.

As I reached the top of my first mountain pass the thick, grey clouds came nearer from all directions. I witnessed how they were literally hunting me and I felt as if I were in combat with the wind; I had to outrun it to flee the thunder clouds. Once I had made it down to Lake Sevan at 2000 m altitude, the sky opened up in a roaring rain fall and I quickly put on not only rain clothes but also two pairs of extra pants and shirts, two buffs, one hat, and my winter leather gloves. The reason why I hated rain in Turkey, Georgia and Armenia wasn’t mainly the fact that I got wet – but that I got so unbelievably cold, and that’s why I put on so much clothes.



Riding along Lake Sevan turned out to be quite the disappointment. I had been looking forward to its beauty for so long, but all I saw was grey, grey grey and despite wearing more than I did when biking in winter conditions back in Sweden I struggled to keep myself warm. I could just laugh at the irony of all those advertisement banners next to the road side, showing a jolly family or group of friends in swimming suits enjoying the beach and water in the beaming sun; “Spend your holidays at lake Sevan”. Yeah, sure thing…

What’s more, the thunder drew closer and closer. Just shortly after it lit up the sky the big boom pierced the air and it terrified me as much each time.



There were not many trees around and as evening approached I realized I’d rather not wild camp but would try to reach the city of Gavar to find somewhere to sleep indoors. I was so soaked that every time I lifted an arm too high the ice-cold pool of water in the sleeve ran down to my chest, stomach and back. The thunder bolts stretched across the whole sky looking like intensely glowing spider web and the loud booms went on repeat. I am not sure what caused me to hyper ventilate that evening. The fact that I was riding an uphill, that I was freezing cold, or that I was scared.

Then finally, I reached Gavar. To my disappointment however, it looked like nothing but a ghost town. There was not a single person in sight, all shops seemed closed and barricaded and there was not even an inch of light coming from any of the windows of the apartment buildings – they were all black.


At last, I found what seemed to be a bar in which I sneaked into. There were two women in maybe their 40s or 50s there, both with heavy makeup on organizing the glasses and bottles at the bar desk.

“Excuse me, do you know anywhere I can sleep in this city?” I asked them.

“Ruski?” They asked in return, and I shook my head and tried body language to make them understand instead. “Njet”, was their next reply, “no hotel, nowhere to sleep.” And then they started giggling like teenage girls, and they just kept on and on as they repeated “Njet njet njet”. I just stood there, with my clothes so soaked they made a pool of water on the floor, with my body so cold it was shaking uncontrollably, with these middle-age women laughing at my face like school girls. It seemed I had no choice but to face the storm outdoors again, and with feet heavy like rocks I pushed my bicycle forward.

I felt as devastated as this dog in the photo. Poor thing looked like she had just had pups and her whole body was trembling. I gave her some food before continuing my climb in the mountains


I found a little market next, and the woman working there soon called her friend, who was an English teacher, to speak with me. It turned out there actually was one hotel in the city center of Gavar, but Angela – the English teacher – invited me to stay in her home instead.
Despite the fact that both I and my bicycle and panniers were all muddy, she took us all in without complaints. My bicycle was lifted across the whole apartment to the balcony, whilst the rest of my stuff stayed inside. In a sense Angela reminded me of Liliana, the mother and lone caretaker of two daughters that I had stayed with in Romania. Angela too took care of her five year old son David alone, and they seemed to share the same strength. She was so nice and did not only cook a delicious meal for me but also spent so much time washing and drying my clothes, and I was given a big package of food before leaving.

Angela and her five year old son David. At breakfast in the morning David asked: “wil sister play chess with me?” It’s mandatory for all kids in Armenia to learn how to play Chess in school. My dad and brother would love that!


The storm kept on the next day, and Angela asked me to stay one night more. I told her I would have loved to, but that my visas to Iran and Turkmenistan didn’t allow me to.
Fortunately the storm wasn’t quite as heavy anymore and after I reached Martuni it faded.



And as I started the climb up Selim pass of 2400 m the dopamine was on to 150 %. It steadily rushed through my body as I made my way up to the plateau, and the clouds dispersed simultaneously. Once I had made it across the pass I in fact got to enjoy beams of sunlight, and the valley bellow looked strikingly beautiful! I had one of my nicest descents so far, and set camp in a field of high grass teeming with huge grasshoppers and other big bugs.




                                                    Eyyyyoo amiga! Mind if I join the party!???

My next pass; Vorotan Pass, wasn’t going to be as delightful. I was plagued by a brutal headwind for all those nearly eight hours that I actively rode my bike. I was literally raging as I made the climb, and each time the wind grew so strong that I nearly fell off I screamed. I shouted out loud in fury, over and over. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH not caring whether the drivers in the cars heard me or not.



Then finally, I had made it up this one too. Only to find out that there was not any nice descent waiting for me on the other side – just a continuous up and down as far as my sight stretched. I met and greeted a cyclist coming from the other direction, and I couldn’t help wanting to stab him in the eye. He looked so cheerful and at ease, pretty much flying up the hill… Whilst I was doing my best to push my bike down the hill.


I found a little market next to the road in which I could buy some snacks for the evening, and the woman working there immediately poured hundreds of questions over me as she stared at me with those big Bambi-eyes.

” Why are you alone? Are you not married? Does your country pay for this trip? Why are you doing this?” I had to resist the urge to punch her in the face and then instead patiently answer her questions, although with short, quick replies.

“Why not? No, I am not married. No, I provide for this trip with my own money. Because… WHY NOT!??” She then said that “this boy” next to her would love me to have dinner with him, but I had to neglect “this boy” in his 30s since I wanted to descend further before the dark.


And then my mood went from raging to being devastated. I felt like someone had punched me hard in the stomach; as if I lost my ability to breath, to walk, to stand. I had given it all when climbing that pass, I had no energy left to continue those hills battling the wind. I wanted to give up, I wanted to lie down next to the roadside and cry my heart out. I can’t do this, I told myself in my mind, I am too tired… I can’t, I can’t… But I didn’t lie down and cry. For I wasn’t ready to show those passing drivers, those “why are you doing this alone? why are you not married?”-questionnaires my weakness. Instead, I bit my lip and kept pushing.


Then I spotted a couple of tents in the distance off from the road – I could even make out the shimmering steel of three bicycles laying next to them! I was sure these cyclists were heading the same direction as me – because if they had had the tailwind they wouldn’t have set camp before ascending the top of the pass. The fact that I wasn’t alone out there; that I hadn’t been the only one fighting the vicious winds, comforted me a little. And I told myself: It’s ok. You don’t need to go further today, it’s ok. You can set camp too, as soon as you find somewhere suitable.

A few hills later, my tent was pitched in the middle of a fairytale, in a sea of wild-growing flowers in the mountains at about 2200 m altitude.



DSC_0801                          Cooking noodles with homemade vego-beef that I got from Angela

My leg muscles were aching the next morning, but I had had a nice sleep and felt somewhat recovered – my mind was set on the fact that “today is a new day, new experiences”.




I ran into the other cyclists already in the morning and we were indeed going in the same direction but they however stopped pretty quickly at a roadside café whilst I, as usual, felt rushed to continue. They were making a tour of Armenia and after Tatev they would go back to Yerevan and fly home.



I descended all the way down to 700 m altitude that day, then the dopamine was on again as I rushed up to 1700 m altitude… Only to find that it wasn’t the real mountain pass, and I would have to descend a few hundred meters only to climb up to that altitude again… Only to realize that I would once more descend to 700 m altitude, and then climb up my last mountain pass of 2500 m. Damn.

Preferably I would have made the second descent to 700 m and then started the next climb already that same day to give myself some advantage the day after, but I was too tired. I had already ridden 100 km and actively biked for nearly eight hours again, and thus decided to set camp at the 1700 m pass instead – well aware that the next day I would first have to descend to 700 m altitude and then make a climb of more than 1800 vertical m.


DSC_0824Traffic on the road – further up they blocked the way completely!

But it was no match compared to that devastating day with brutal headwind. In fact I enjoyed it quite a lot. By 3 pm I had made it to Kajaran, from which I would climb 1100 m more. The dopamine was on.



About halfway up, a man stopped his car: “Sex? Sex, please?” I hadn´t had anybody asking me this since those first weeks in Turkey, so I got a bit surprised. Anyhow, it’s amazing how a man like this can magically make you double your speed up the hairpin… And little did I know how much I would have to experience this all over again in Iran later.

Refilling my water bottles at the top with some of the best-tasting, ice cold water I’ve ever had




At the top of the pass I realized the following descent would stretch all the way to Meghri, a city close to the Iranian border. Why not go all the way there to sooner cross the border to Iran tomorrow? I asked myself, and hence ended up doing another 100 km day in the Armenian mountains. I didn’t quite like the city of Meghri as much as the other cities of Armenia however, and the 10 euro “hotel” I checked into was a big regret.




DSC_0877mmVictory-selfies at the top of my last Armenian mountain pass – I was happy happy!!

First of all, it definitely wasn’t a hotel in any way. It was more like a way to make some extra money out of a man’s dungeon. Unfortunately, I paid way too soon… only to later find that the yellow-stained sheets in the bed in the prison cell-looking room was teeming with little flies – hundreds of them! So a few spiders is one thing, but hundreds of bugs in my bed is more than I can tolerate.

DSC_0884The mountainscapes got more barren and craggy-looking as I got nearer the border to Iran

‘I walked up to the guys drinking beer in the kitchen, telling them “there’s no way I’m sleeping in there, I will pitch my tent in the garden” and they went to pick up the manager. Of course I wasn’t going to get any money back for refusing the room, and they seemed indeed troubled by the fact that I wanted to sleep in the garden.

“Too dangerous” they said, “snakes, many snakes.” I let out a huge sigh as I rolled my eyes and asked the guy who spoke a little English:

“Have you ever camped in your life?” He bluntly remained silent. “Well I camp nearly every night. And snakes isn’t a problem what so ever. So, I will camp in your garden tonight.” They gave in, and as I pitched my tent the manager tried to help me… he held up one of the poles, staring at it all puzzled and then lowering it to the ground… What now? I had to take the pole away from him, saying “No no, this is how you do it” and then repeatedly take things away from him again as he wanted to make a new try.

DSC_0889At least the “hotel’s” garden in which I camped looked nice with the sunflowers

I felt at ease when going to bed in my tent that night, where neither flies nor snakes would bother me. My time in Armenia had come to an end and it sure had been tough – but amazingly rewarding as well and I would definitely love to come back one day.



The next morning, it was time to enter the country most different from my homeland so far: Iran.

And in my next post, I will tell you more about it…


Georgia: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


Why do you cry dear

                                Why do you cry

Because of that dog?

It’s just a dog                                                                                                                  just a dog

Just a dog



I didn’t linger long at the Black Sea coast. It sure was nice to see the dreamy blue horizon for a bit, but Svaneti was calling. Svaneti. A mythical mountain province in the north of Georgia, inhabited by the Svans and infamous for kidnapping and robbing western travelers in the past. Svaneti. Where dog fights are traditionally arranged for entertainment, where people drive carelessly and every single vehicle seems damaged from an accident. Svaneti. Where rustic villages and ancient watch towers in stone cope with snow capped mountain peaks and rivers in the valleys; Putting together a delicate scenery for the eye.



Let me tell you more about Svaneti. Let me tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Just as we were to leave Ushguli to take on our next mountain pass a dog came running towards us, with his tail hanging low letting out little whimpers. We tried to ignore the dog at first to make him tire off us and go back to the village; But in the end we concluded there was no point. He was not going back. We were his humans now.


I met up with another Swedish cyclist, Lars (also known as The Lost Cyclist, just check out his website) in the city of Zugdidi and we decided to make the ride across Georgia together. We had barely gotten out of the city however, when we realized we were being followed by the police. There seemed to be two different vehicles taking turns in following us, as it kept on for hours. At first we thought they simply wanted to shield us from the bad traffic. Then we discussed whether it could be because of Abkhazia; A closed republic and war zone not far away from the road we were taking. In either case, we wanted to get rid of them to be able to camp peacefully in the forest. As the police car lingered behind, we took the opportunity to sneak off into the woods. We stood silent hiding behind some pine trees as the vehicle passed, and then we fled off-road… But we knew we were screwed the moment blockades of briers surrounded us and clung onto our feet and ankles.


We made sure to give Benji his share in each food pause and he always ate gratefully. But he was a really behaved dog and would never try to steal food from us unless we gave it to him, and he would never jump and never bark… unless he saw a car. If he saw a car he went complete nuts (which luckily didn’t happen often on the bad roads we were taking) and would chase after them with intense wows. “I’ll protect you humans, I know cars are bad to you, aye? I’ll save you!!”


The two police men stepped out of the car and after a pretty heated discussion (from our side, the police men remained calm although stubborn) and various phone calls between me and a woman who spoke a little English we gave up and followed voluntarily to the police station.


Reason being: It was “too dangerous” to camp in the woods, and hence we were demanded to go somewhere safer. Which meant we ended up pitching our tents in front of a soviet monument, right next to the police station! Our bikes were locked up inside the gates and in the morning we were free to go. Well what can I say, the Georgian police seems a little… over protective.


Benji was a smart dog. He knew even before we did ourselves that it would take us some time to figure out a decent way across the river, and hence he lied down on the ground all relaxed, taking a rest in the meantime. Once we had made it across the river we asked ourselves if we should go back to carry Benji over too, but there was no need to. As soon as Benji saw we were ready to go again he swam across the river with no hesitation what so ever. Though Lars helped him a little to get up from the last part…


IMG_7244 (2)

We were then headed to Mestia and thus the climb up the mountains of the Svaneti range officially begun. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the high mountain peaks due to grey clouds sporadically letting out showers, but at least we got to enjoy the mystique of the melt water running down the steep mountain sides partly hidden by fog to connect with the roaring river. Below us we passed the village Pari; in the past it was known as the “robbers’ village”, until the Cossacks drove them out.



Mestia turned out to be quite a touristic little town, with various minimarkets, souvenir shops, cafés and guest houses. Other than the watch towers witnessing of Svaneti’s past, Mestia looked more like an alp resort with the classical wooden balconies lined with flower pots. Indeed, it was a popular skiing resort in winter. We spent two days in Mestia hoping to await better weather, only to realize that the weather just wasn’t going to improve… So we had no choice really but to face it in the end.


When we had descended the pass we had to go through several villages. Rather than cheers and smiles we were greeted by nothing but bitterly staring bunches of men… and more terrifyingly several aggressive dogs. Each time it happened Lars and I knew what to do. We had to shield our little dog and be ready with a handful of stones to throw at the attacking beasts.

Twice we failed. Twice I failed my little dog and he was pressed to the muddy ground by a monster. Twice he was bitten by the four times larger dog. Both times it happened there were men present, doing nothing but staring and enjoying the show. Once I heard one of the boys in the bunch laughing from behind. He laughed as my dog was taken to the ground and bitten by his dog. I wanted to press his eye globes deeply into his sockets and further into his brains and then squeeze the juice out. But I just gave him and the men a distasteful glare and turned my back. Benji was little, but he was a fighter and he wouldn’t be taken down so easily. He got away each time with only mere stripes of blood in his fur.

Rather than going to Ushguli according to our initial plan however, we decided to try out a shortcut; To cross the Latpari pass.

“The pass is about 2850 m high. Only 200 m higher than Zagar pass (the pass we were initially planning to take), no biggie!” Sure, no biggie… 200 m difference of altitude can’t matter so much, can it?


DSC_0017 (2)

The climb up the pass was so steep we had to push our bicycles rather than biking. But it was damn fun, and I tell you Lars specifically was like a child on Christmas eve! Every finished hairpin meant another boost, another greater view of the mountains than the one before. In the evening, the sky was so clear we didn’t want to stop. We just wanted to climb and climb and climb. Not until the last beams of reddish sunlight touched the pointy, cragged mountain massive in the west did we set camp at 2400 m altitude. Our tents were pitched right next to the road but we didn’t worry that anyone would see us for the road was impassable by car; A few hundred meters below it had collapsed completely.




The sky dotted with millions of stars was amazing that night and I tell ya this: I really enjoyed my nightly pee!



Benji was a loyal dog. Whenever Lars or I got behind, he stopped and waited for that person – or even ran back to escort us! No mud and no rain was too great to him, and he was our little mood-lifter as the bad weather laid heavy upon our shoulders. At the beginning Benji was shy and wouldn’t look into our eyes. But as time passed he appreciated the intimacy we gave him more and more, and you could see how he got happier and happier, his tail wagging more often.

The next morning we would only have to climb 400 vertical m more and thus we were eager and excited to get to and across the pass. At 2500 m altitude little fields of snow were lining up next to the road side and at 2600 m altitude we had to literally lift our bicycles to get across on several occasions. At 2700 m we seemed to be confronted with a dead end. Not wanting to give up that easily though, we left our bikes laying on the ground and continued a little further by foot to see to our chances: We found that the road ahead of us disappeared in the large snow masses and the steep drops were simply not worth the risk taking. After having pushed our bikes up a steep climb of a thousand vertical meters, we were hence forced to make the decision to turn around.



As you could tell, our intended shortcut ended up being a detour and we lost a full day in the saddle (we were both a little stressed; Me to get in time to Iran for my visa and Lars to get to Kazakhstan). But it was all worth it really, it definitely is one of my most memorable days of this trip so far!


DSC_0046 (2)

When going down again, it was so steep we had to make several stops only to rest our cramping hands from pressing the brakes so hard (and in several pins we couldn’t ride at all but had to carefully push our bikes down).

Benji knew directly that when we stopped at that spot of grass next to the river we weren’t just making a short pause, but making a pause over the night and he fell asleep even before our tents were pitched. The next morning, we were all good to go again and we promised Benji that as soon as we got to Lentekhi we would buy him delicious sausage.


By the time we were down at 1700 m we were completely soaked in showers, and those remaining 10 km to Ushguli (including a 500 m climb) felt like an eternity. The wheels would constantly slip into pockets of mud making me nearly fall over and I remember checking my bike computer every 500th m; “Only 7 km left… only 6.5 km left…”


I remember the face of Benji as we took into another guest house in Lentekhi. He looked so sad when we left him outside the gates; But he never even tried to follow inside for he knew he could not. The people owning the guest house disliked animals greatly and the man in the house kicked a cat. We later heard a dog whimper from pain as someone hit him and found that Benji had gotten a new wound on his back leg; limping gravely.

Ushguli is a listed UNESCO world heritage (and also claimed to be the highest located village in Europe with permanent inhabitants) but to us it looked like nothing but a shit hole. Sure thing, the watch towers were fascinating as always – but those you can find anywhere in Svaneti – and the views would probably have been stunning – if it weren’t for the thick grey clouds… But the village itself? Nah. The streets were solemnly made of mud and cow shit and the only place to get food such as bread, noodles and peas was from a tiny magazine up the hill.




We took into a guest house in which we met a French cyclist coming from the opposite direction, which meant we could exchange some valuable information with each other. He also told us about a stray dog who had followed him all the way from Lentekhi (a 72 km ride including a climb over a mountain pass of 2600 m). That same dog would follow us for the next three days, and I’m not sure whose heart broke more after those three days. Benji’s or mine.


I had been looking for Benji in the whole village, when I at last found him right outside the shop connected to the guest house. I bought him a sausage and picked up Lars to go feed him – his tail started wagging immediately. That’s when we discovered that Benji knew “sit”. I could hold a delicious sausage in my hand, tell him to sit, and he would do so until I told him differently.


The sky kindly showed us a bit of blue as we climbed up Zagar pass. The road on the top of the pass was framed by two meter high walls of snow on each side, since a truck had been there to clean up the day before.



When descending we were once again confronted with rain – but we still felt luckier than the three Polish cyclists coming from the other way who yet had to ascend. Thinking that the descent meant a pleasant, effortless ride at 40 km/h would be fooling yourself. We had to cross a large field of snow, force our bicycles across a wade, and didn’t go faster than 10 km/h maximum due to the bad road conditions and the mud that constantly glued onto our wheels. We were in fact riding that downhill on our lightest gears, and it took us nearly 6 hours to make the distance of 35 km that day! We set camp on a flat spot of grass next to the river, and the next day we made it to Lentheki – which meant we were finally done with Svaneti.





We tried putting Benji in one of my panniers. But he was slightly too big and as the bike started moving he hopped out. That’s when we had to face the fact that this was going to be it. It was time to leave Benji, our dog, behind. For there was no chance he was going to keep up with us on paved asphalt down to Kutaisi, and the traffic was going to be too dangerous as well.


We took on one more mountain pass before crossing borders to Armenia; and this time we got to enjoy a clear sky with sun shining upon our faces. It was beautiful really; With intensely green-nuanced mountains nearest to us and the vague contours of higher, more aggressive peaks in the horizon; With thick carpets of colorful flowers decorating the roadside and a comfortable-looking dark green bed of pine trees below us. We also met a bunch of Israelis traveling in cars that handed us loads of sweets!





Our last night in Georgia we spent on a plateau at about 2000 m altitude. The landscape reminded me surprisingly much of the Swedish Lapland and if I were to guess where I was I would never have said Georgia.

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DSC_0624 (2)

I hugged my dog one more time and then we took off. But I couldn’t leave him in my thoughts. I kept asking myself in my mind: How could such an incredible dog like Benji not have a home? He could serve as a rescue dog or police dog for sure, because he was so disciplined and endurable, and nearly never got distracted by his surroundings. I also asked myself: Who had been Benji’s owner in the past? He couldn’t possibly have been born on the street since he was obviously trained by someone. Someone who seemed to care more about animals than most people in these areas. But what happened? Why was Benji homeless now?

How do I sum up Georgia to you? The landscapes are stunning really and the roads make an awesome challenge, and I might just come back for them one day (I yet would like to take on Abano pass, for instance). But that might be the one reason I think. In other senses such as people and the country as a whole, didn’t impress me much. The great hospitality I had encountered in Turkey seemed nearly none-existent here, and rather than being greeted with smiles people (well, a bunch of ten men) would most often just stare bitterly at us. Plus, I had a great distaste for how they treated their pets.


I looked in the mirror to see that little brown dot in the distance doing his best to catch up with us descending the mountain at 40 km/h. Despite our speed Benji  managed to keep up with us for a good 20 km that day.

But this time, he didn’t.