Into the Motherland

Tuesday 6th May – 229 miles

We spent the night in Batumi, in a brand new guesthouse. It remind us a lot of south america with the funny plumbing! Smell of sewage coming of the brand new bathroom and toilet flush noisy enough to be heard from outside. The owner is friendly enough and the bikes sleep in the front yard.
The morning is cloudy. WE get up and leave as there is no breakfast included. The traffic is maniac and dangerous but we manage, by luck, to find the highway to Tbilisi. We are not going there but planning to get to the historic town of Mtskheta ( about 20 miles north of Tbilisi) with its very old cathedral, monastries and castles!
After a long ride, avoiding crazy drivers overtaking anywhere anytime, avoiding cattle, goats, sheeps, horses etc  left free to roam on the road and potholes big enough to swallow the bike, we get to our destination for the night. After a bit of searching we   find a nice guest house in the centre.
We have a nice walk around town in the warm weather, and nice diner at night. The food and wine in Georgia is indeed nice! But by night the weather turns stormy!
Wednesday 7th of May – 86 miles.
We leave Mtskheta mid morning as we are not in any rush. We want to get near the border with russia and get through the following morning. We always try to cross borders in the mornings if we can.
The weather is cold and it is raining! Again. This spring if definitely aweful!
We aim for the national park of Kazbegi, high in the mountains. Lots of people go there for highking and climbing. And it is the only road into Russia.
As we get closer, the weather turn awfully cold, thehigher we   go the colder it gets, and then the rain starts!
We stop at a side restaurant for a rest and to warm up. We then get back on the bikes with all our layers. You can bet the day we get our summer base layer out is the most freezing day! And so it is!
We climb into the clouds, the visibility is very poor, the road is steep and with very tight turns, the bikes turn asthmatic and very slow but get us to the top  at over 2,400m. It is incredibly cold. Then we start descending a bit. The views are stunning though, and in clear weather, it would be biker paradise!
We get to the village by mid afternoon and after the usual run around get a guest house, it is warm, they have the heating on and   hot water!
Thursday 8th of May – 107 miles
We leave after a nice breakfast provided at the guest house.
We then ride the few miles to the border. Getting out of Georgia takes about 15 minutes. We then ride few miles to the Russian side.
There is already a queue! A guard bark few orders to the car in front of us and to us and we get into a line. There are 2 lines for foreigners, and 2 for russians.
The weather is still cold and very windy, but at least it is not raining.
After a while a guard gives us forms to fill for the passport control. W then leave the bikes and go ahead to the little hut to get that done.
The line hardly move. Then someone asks us about anothe form. We finally get it that for custom we need to fill a form. W find them in an office, but they are only in russian! Back in the office we are pointed to a sample form in english. After filling them, weq go the the Custom office hut, at the front of the line. It seems there is no order, you just go. After having to refill forms again, cause our were wrong, apparently, we go back once again. We finally get through, after about 3 hours! I don’t understand why it was so slow.
The other lane was as slow as ours! Essentially armenians and few azeri cars and coaches.
After that, it is past 12 and we stop near a big building, few 100 metres from the border. We have been told by one of the soldiers that we could buy insurance there for our bikes. It is easy to find the office. Once all is done, it is nearly 1pm.
We finally get back on the bikes. The weather is atrocious and again very cold, windy and lots of rain, despite descending from the mountains.
I must add the staff and soldiers at the border have all been friendly and curteous.
We get a bit lost in Vladikavkaz, the 1st big town on our way, but after asking a guy in the street with my aproximate russian, and few u-turns, we get on the correct road north. As we get colder and colder, we decide to stop at Nalchik, instead of continuing to our planned destination of Mineralnye Vody, which has natural springs, i guess, and is very touristic.
We turn a bit in Nalchik streets and spot some cops in a corner of a main junction. We stop and i go investigate. The cop i speak with is very friendly and i manage to understand his instructions. There is a hotel quite close. We get there and call it a day! It has been a long day! And very cold! Again what happended to spring?
Friday 9th of May – 160 miles
We have done about 3,300 miles and been looking for a place to do an oil change for some time. Alistair do just that in the morning while i try to find an ATM that will accept to give me money! Always a problem but find Sberbank and that one works.
We then set off and back i to the highway M29 riding north. The weather is still very grey and cloudy, but as the afternoon set in, the sky clear off and we even see the sun.
We are not in any rush as our visa for Kazakhstan starts monday 12 may. We decide to stop at Budennovsk, as after that we need to take the back roads ( to avoid dagestan!) and we won’t find easily accomodation for a long time.
We arrive and find immediately what appears to be the only hotel in town!
We then go for a wander. It is victory day in russia and people are drinking and partying. Cops everywhere on the road, which is good as they drive like mads and it is very stressful!
At the town centre there are many people. It remind me very much of american Midtowns. It is afairly  pleasant place.

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