Going to Georgia.. Not that Georgia!
With an endless drive in sight and unlimited Turkish truck stops to satisfy our culinary needs, we were off. We didn’t exactly know how far we were going to make it on this stretch of road, but we had ambitions to make it all the way to Tbilisi. We sure as hell were going to try our best to get there. The usual plan was in place. Jeff drives, then Jason, with Kevin taking over the night shift. But this time around Jason took the reigns to start us off. Google Maps said 1240 km and about 16 hours of driving through the D100 highway. A road that spans desert plains and subtropical forest and high altitude mountains.
We went and went and went until boredom took ahold of us and the gas tank emptied. The only respite in 30 miles was a large western looking gas station with a mini convenience store. The thought of some bagged nuts and local red bull seemed appealing to us. We took a ricky, filled up the tank and downed some power syrup. To our glorious surprise, there was a boxing arcade machine sitting outside beckoning us in with its soft yet rugged voice. “Come hit me – for the love of god – punch me as hard as you can.” We obliged and went back to the kiosk to get some turkish amusement coins.
Record machine high score: 250.3
Our High Scores
Jason: 250.2 – Sensational knock out – Punch number 3 of 5
JH: 241.8 – pretty good – Punch number 4 of 5
Kevin: 240.0 good – Punch number 2 of 5
Jeff: 250.2 – Sensational knock out – Punch number 5 of 5
Jason and Jeff finished tied 1 half point from the all time record. Better than punching air. We chatted with a some foreign guys that were building a crazy international, Russian led pipeline through the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Turkey and into Europe. Just another soviet puppet string to tug on if the winter is cold and the French start acting up. They were interesting blokes, putzing around the middle of Turkey, just like us. After the release of steam, and a quick chat, we were off again.
Dusk was beautiful as we drove down long windy roads. The landscape was endless dry and rocky mountain sides with sweeping faces. The descent was left indelibly in our frontal lobes. It is no joke when I say this – it felt like 100 miles of continuous descent down the rocky mountains. Finally after reaching the bottom, we stumbled upon another Turkish roadside food stall. And once again, like clockwork, the food was out of this world. They served us Turkish pizza that would obliterate many of your favorite neighborhood pizzarias.
As hour 16 kicked in, completely exhausted and seeing double, Jeff pulled over for some coffee and gas. At this point we had made it to the more jungle looking mountainous landscape, about 3-5 hours outside of the Georgian border. It was probably 2am at this point. Jeff plugged along for a bit longer before Kevin sprung out of his nap, ready to take charge as he usually does after midnight. Nothing gets his driving rocks off like overnight driving. Glaring lights, no one on the road and a car full of sleeping people = a recipe of relaxation for Kevin.
The sunrise enveloping yet another mountainside as we approached the border crossing was phenomenal. We chose this road over a few others because of the notoriously easy border crossing. Here is something important to remember. Some of the worst times you will have on long overland international adventures are those at the border crossings. They can be agonizingly long and invasive. When we heard this crossing was a breeze and the other option could take 5-7 hours, we knew immediately which one we were going to choose. The other options would have saved us a few hours drive time, but FUCK long border crossings.
We strolled through as advertised, took out some local loot, paid for car insurance and hit the last stretch of road towards Tbilisi. This was our first real attempt at using the drone we bought. The video quality is great, the pilot error was not. It was fun though. We stopped at a castle and got a few pano shots, some cold Georgian morning beer for the road, and some yoghurt with snacks.
Jason took the wheel and got us to Tbilisi in about 4 hours time. Jeff and JH took a sinker during that section while Kev navigated. This was the first country with true Russian or ex soviet influence on our route. Jeff was pumped since he has a sudo-fetish for Russian culture and people. Tbilisi is a beautiful city full of history, culture and personality. Our mission was to take the city for all she was worth. We wanted to bleed her dry and go deep into the Georgian underground. What happened next was not what we anticipated!