Bicycle tour in Georgia (Caucaus) and Armenia to commemorate the Hungarian prisoners of war and Hungarian civilians, who worked in the Soviet Union

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Here I politely ask every cyclist or person I met during my cycling tour, to contact me by e-mail.

Why did I plan a tour to Georgia?
My father with some hundred thousand other Hungarian civilians was deported by the Soviets from Hungary to the Soviet Union for a so called "small labour" malenkij robot ( to labour camp or gulags) in January 1945 . They called themselves prisoners of war, though they had never been soldiers. I dedicated this tour to the memory of those prisoners. At least one third of them died. My aim was to find out the location of some prisoner (labour ) camps. My father built roads in the high mountains. I also wanted to meet locals, because he had a good opinion(experience) about the people in the mountains, where the prisoners worked.
65 years after his return from the labour camps in the Soviet Union I successfully did this tour commemorating those innocents civilians. I planned the tour, so that I would be able to climb some challenge BIG destinations (passes or ski centres).
Tendürek pass 2644 m 4 km from the Iranian border, happy on the pass top, for I have just escaped the terrible cloud burst
As I was putting my bike in the car, it started to pour with rain. So I missed to glance at Mount Ararat.

part I.
The magical Svanetia

day I.: on August 2nd at 3.50 p.m. local time (two hours later to the Hungarian time) I started my bicycle tour from Sarpi at the Georgian -Turkish border ~80 km
   The first Georgian church Typically both countires have built new churches and mosques right at the border.
Turkish-Georgian_border waterfall Batumi_bazar Poti_Black_Sea

       starting point of the tour: Sarpi in Georgia at the Turkish border  waterfall with St.Andrew' s statue   Batumi, bazar         sunset at the Black Sea     

In the big heat and with tail wind I began the tour. In the first km the statue of Georgia's Saint Andrew waited for me with the waterfall besides, in which not only children were taking a bath . Within the first kms I already got to know the road obstacle Nr.1 in these countries : the"holy" cows , who did not move any cm from the continous white line of the country road even to the horn sound of the lorries. In
Batumi genuine Asian atmophere received me. It seemed to me that the minibuses of the town' s transportation randomly stopped in the middle of the broad road. I had to compete with them not to be pushed off the road.
Coming out of the town the scenery was flat, though with some short steep slopes . Besides the heat the sound of the horns was tiring. Both accompanied me during the whole tour.
In Poti I was glad to see the sign room to rent . I stayed here for 15 Lari( 10 bucks). It was a simple small house consisting of a tiny room. The shower in the garden worked with solar energy "heated" water. Several such small units were on the plot with Georgian and Armenian guests. The owners :Morozov, a Russian couple did not leave their house after the Russian-Georgian war as some neighbours did. They still brought up the children in Russian. I went with my friendly host to the beach of the Black Sea 150 m away.
With his help, he watched my documents and money, I went for a short swim in the excellent water. While I was swimming , he cleaned the beach from the driftwood and rubbish. It was strange for me that the beach had grey sand not yellow. He meant it is from the andesite rocks.

in_shade_fig_treevolutery_informators Georgian_hospitality Georgian_letters

   in the shade of a fig tree it is pleasant to rest               my voluntary informants                    I asked for water, and also received a warm welcome and hazelnuts 

day II.  August, 3rd   ~ 110 km
As usual, I started my cycling early in the morning. I crossed many rivers during my tour. This is Georgia ' s biggest river Rioni. Again a monument. Exercise of Georgian letters. Plane alley with a train from the Soviet era. On the most important main road of Georgia I shared the road with a wheelchair man , who did his job happily. In my next break local people again joined me for a brief talk. It turned out here that a kiwi plantage looks like the one, which was just behind the shady poplar alley.
Then I first caught sight of the chain of the Caucasus. The first watchtower in Svanetia .Finally I reached the valley of the Enguri river. I supposed that my father built the road in this valley for 34 months.
I went on very slowly on the climb in the big heat. In the meantime I also drank my spare water. On my question I was informed that there will be a spring in a few kms. It often looked like a black plastic tube in most cases with cool water in. I found it within a wooden fence. I saw a girl on a larger grassy area. She and her friend were on hitch hiking holiday from the Ukraine. Their tent was standing hidden behind the wooden hut.
I immediately remembered the words of the embassy official in Budapeste"the area is not safe, do not go there.

                         river beach                            first sight of the Enguri river                                        I reached the climb,too                   first watchtower in Svanetia

day III.  August, 4th.:~90 km
Besides the dog from the nearby quarry, other visitors also arrived in the middle of the night, but only to the spring. Of course, I did not know that at once. I was nervous. The words of the embassy official rang in my ears. But they left quickly.
After the evening rain I quickly packed my stuff. The Ukrainian couple got up later, because the trucks ran later than me. I lifted my bike over the fence, put my luggage on. As I started to cycle I noticed a puncture in the rear wheel. I was working on the other side of the road when a motorcyclist stopped by me. After him a vehicle of the UN. They were UN observers from Germany. I asked the biker about the road after Mestia. He promptly answered: "off road". He did not ride the whole section of 120 km. But I took from his words I can not expect anything good. We exchanged some words in Hungarian With the driver in the car as he noticed the Hungarian flag. He came from Cluj/ Kolozsvár Romania. Note for not Hungarians: this big town used to belong to Hungary for 1000 years.

   Jvari_water_reservoir   Jvari_water_reservoir    road_built_by_prisoners   creek_feeding_river_cycling_partner_in_mountains_wanted

       some photos of Jvari water reservoir          the road built by the prisoners was flooded by the water reservoir,but here it was out of the water      

The country road was winding long aside the water reservoir. I had a conversation with a beekeeper. He told me that most of the road constucted by the prisoners was flooded by the later water reservoir.
Countless such brooks fed the river.

my_first_bridge_over_Enguri_river father_with_daughter  Enguri_gap cycling_partner_wanted_in_mountains cycling_partner_wanted_in_mountains  
       the first bridge over the Enguri river I crossed         father with daughter in front of his shop I obtained new informations about the labour camps in the valley     brooks followed brooks       mountains of Svanetia   These mountains are waiting for my attack.

The first dark tunnel in the Caucasus. Georgian characters also the English equivalent of the village name is written, at least in the Western half of the country.

     village_Svipi   water_source_sign      peaks_over_4000_m  dark_tunnel 

                      Svipi village                     the water source sign cheered me up        peaks rising up to 4000 m       my first tunnel in the Caucasus

moutains-in_Svanetia peaks_up_to_5000_m  watch_tower_in_Latali  trudging_cows_cycling_partner_in_mountains_wanted

      that is the true Svanetia    these peaks are reaching almost 5000 m    Latali' s watchtower This scenery receives the visitor every morning and evening: trudging cows.

I am soon arriving to the area,which the UN observers judged the most beautiful. The inner part of Svanetia, ~20-30 km before Mestia. In Latali the road led under the cemetery. Locals were mourning somebody. I did not stop to shoot a photo, but the marvellous tunes touched me deeply. The tumes spread from the hill all over the village, though the houses were built in these villages far from each other.
This evening's destination is near :Mestia

old_man_in_font_of_his_house my_guide_with_granddaughter  watch_towers_in_Mestia_by_night Mestia_in_morning

  old Caucasian man in front of his house          my guide with daughter and granddaughter      some watchtowers of Mestia with Liberty Bank in the foreground   a part of Mestia from a garden gate in the morning

I exchanged some words with this old man. He did not worry any more as I answered his question: do you visit a friend in Mestia with a definite yes.
Maybe not such a long time ago, the safety was not as good as nowadays?
By the way as I answered the frequently asked question, is somebody following me, coming with me?, with no. He, like other people before, was very surprised.
On the advice of my host in the evening I was looking for the vulcanizer to get my punctures repaired in the evening. But his container was closed in the darknes.
My compensation was the fancy sight of the lit up watchtowers in different parts of the town. A police car stopped by me. They inquired about my accommodation. As I told them I was looking for the vulcanizer. They said, I should go back and wake him up.
Strikingly, there were lots of European and American tourists in the tiny town. Since Mestia had an air field and asphalted road lead here, the number of tourists has been growing rapidly, as my host informed me.
I also asked him about the labour camps. I should not have mentioned the name of Stalin, because he immediately reacted. There were much more evil people than him f.e. Beria. It must be known, that Stalin was born in Gori, in the middle part of Georgia, though Beria also not far by Kutaisi also in Georgia.

day IV.     August 5, .:~65 km
My host helped me repair my bike.I stuck two punctured tubes. But the bowden of my derailleur came out of its position. Together with him I put it back more quickly.
He is planning to take loan and enlarge his house for a guesthouse. I saw about 20 sacks of cement lying in the corridor.
The house, I stayed in. It looked like this from the street. A part of Mestia from the distance.
I started the climb to Usguli. The asphalt disapeared already at the beginning. Suddenly a small moutain river crossed the road. I saw the cars driving across. As I did not find another road, I tried to cross it. I got to the 2/3 of it. Then I fell into the cold water. Until I freed my right leg out of the pedal patent, on which my bike with the luggage was lying, the water ran into my ears and nose. I somehow got out of the water. My right ellbow was bleeding and terribly swollen. But it was not broken. I made a summary of the losses: my sunglasses, a plastic bottle with one 1 l of water. Then I observed the spot,where I fell more closely. The river arrived from those mountains.

on the_streets_of_Mesztia bathing_in_the_river  getting_dry van_crossing_the_river

            On the roads of Mestia                         bathing in the river                           getting dry                                               a van crossing it

The atmosphere of the next village made me forget my forced bathing

     off_road Svanetia_road  first_pass_in_Svanetia Estonian_team

                off road                    true face of Svanetia               my first pass in inner Svanetia                                      Estonian team

the Enguri river
I kept on cycling in the big heat. I was glad to find this spring Taking care of a calf in the mountains. A cross received me before almost every village. Before this village I could take a photo of even the Georgian flag and a watchtower.
      illustration_of_novel    meadow_with_gentians    view_from_snack_place    Enguri_valley

     Wass Albert's novel illustration              meadow with gentians      snack place         first pass in inner Svanetia               Enguri river's valley

Enguri's gaps. Half step to the river! Somebody managed the "whole step". You should think about it.

gap_cycling_partner_wantedend_of_gorge break-neck_road pass_top?

                                                                                         Enguri ' gaps          I thought this is the pass top

I enjoyed the only one "road" in Svanetia. The gorge still continued. The road became rougher, the scenery nicer. I thought this is the pass top. But the river was still winding nearby.

.     falling_in_bush     Chazhashi_on_UNESCO_world_heritage_list     steep_rocky_road     at_the_end_of_the_wold

      This bush caught me from falling into the gorge.    Chazhasi is on the world cultural heritage list of UNESCO     the most cruel section I could hardly push my bike because of the iron on my shoe sole    Chazhasi at the end of the world

At a guest house an Izraeli lady addressed me in Hungarian as she saw the Hungarian flag on my bike. She revealed that her husband is from Undercarpathia (former Hungarian territory). He speaks Hungarian. That gave me new energy. I endeavored climbing up quicker because of dark clouds. Something was creaking terribly for a longer time. First I thought it was the chain. Long dusty road, then the puddles and streams. I hoped my chain will last to Kutaisi, the first town.

 ridge_of_Caucasus fallings_pushings opposite_slope_cycling_partner_wanted downhill_cycling_partner_wanted

  ridge of Caucasus, Zagar ughelt (pass)   after some falls I had to push my bicycle several times     the slopes opposite the ridge         on terrible "road" 60 km to next to next village     

On the terrible "road" I met some jeeps. They stopped beside me, they were packed with Izraeli tourists. In the meantime my brake pads wore down, they could hardly catch. I was so excited that I forgot they are adjustable.
I was lucky to find a small dry place between the two branches of a river, where I could pitch up my tent quickly. Then it became dark.The thunderstorm arrived at my place by midnight. I was afraid the lightning might hit my bicycle. Because there was no other metal just my bike. I could not be even found in this hidden place at 2300 m hight.

.                 ridge_of_Caucasus  ridge_of_Caucasus  my_camp_site_cycling_partner_wanted  

                      ridge of Caucasus              5000 m peaks you can almost touch                   my tent place         the only street sign in 78 km distance

day V.     August, .6th:~120 km

This was the only sign in a 70 km section. But more at least 50-60 such muddy puddles and countless smaller creeks. Even side rivers. To cross a creek is easier, because you see its bed. But muddy puddles are insidious. In such a brown one I took "a bath".
I was just arranging my luggage and myself when two motorcyclists passed me asking "are you all right ? Their performance is great. If you fall with such a motorbike on the steep, rocky, wet slope, I do not know who would be able to lift the heavy bike and ride on. I had difficulties even with my bicycle, though I was lucky not to fall on the downhill ride.

         washed_away_bridge      bridge_construction     Ukrainian_cycling_team  

                  the washed away bridge                                    a worker trying to start a machine                                   Ukrainian team      

getting_dry_in_snack_time creek_cycling_partner_in_mountains_wanted  still_life_cycling_partner_wanted   road_construction  Tshenitskali_river

  getting dry during snack time   creeks again     still life in the Caucasus   I came across a road construction Tsheniskali river, where the hydroelectric power plant is being planned

For about 35 kms my bicycle computer did not work, because of the lots of puddles and water flows. No wonder that my brake pads were completely worn down. So dispite of my usual style I descended slowly on the bad road.
I finally reached Lentekhi. From there the road was covered by asphalt. I had a feast at the drinking fountain, bought some sweets and food. I last saw such a shop a day before.
I also tried to get some oil for my chain. I stopped a young boy, who spoke a bit English. He led me to his home, where I got waste oil. I used it for the chain and the derailler. Only after that did I realise that my patents on the shoe sole made the squeaky noise. So my concerns about the chain were unwarranted . My old patents on the shoe sole were worn down on the rocky, gravel road while I was pushing my heavy bike. So one danger for my tour was over.
I thought of the prisoners, how many such situations they had faced during the three years ?
I had to change my travel route because of the brakes. I had an option for a shorter way to Tkibuli. I learned later that a large section of that road was covered by new asphalt!
But I had to go to the town of Kutaisi to find a service shop. Before I had to find a budget inn near the expensive hotel, where they were happy to serve me breakfast at 6.30 a.m.
That was my farewell to Svanetia and was looking forward to the repair of my bike in the town.

To continue click on the link >>> Georgia's true face to see part II

back to Georgia,Svanetia cycling tour part I.

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