Back in Turkey

As you probably know by now, we are back in Turkey after our six months retraite in Georgia. This country is truly gigantic! We have driven many kilometers through the Eastern part and we have mostly seen drought, although there are some lakes and reservoirs as well. We keep looking for them, because the temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees in the day and around 25 degrees at night. We would have loved to have airconditioning now!

Although we’ve been on the road a lot, we’ve also seen many amazing sites. You can see them in the video below. From now on, we will drive the coastal route and mainly enjoy swimming in the sea and drinking cold sodas. Let’s head back to Antalya!

What’s next?

A question we ask ourselves almost weekly. If it wasn’t for Corona, we would have been in Kirgistan by now. But we are not, we are actually driving in the opposite direction.

So, what’s next I hear you think. Well, we wish we knew! There really aren’t many options at the moment. Our car was only allowed in Georgia until September, so we couldn’t stay there for much longer. Georgia has many bordering countries (Armenia, Azerbeidzjan, Russia and Turkey) but because of Corona, Turkey was the only country we could enter. So we did, since we really enjoyed our previous months in Turkey. There is still a big part of Turkey that we haven’t seen yet, thus, this seemed like the best option for us now.

We are now in a part of the country called Anatolia, in the South East. It’s very different than what we have seen before. We love being back in Turkey! There are very good roads, delicious foods and friendly and welcoming people.

At the moment, we are doing a Workaway close to a city called Dogubayazit. We’re working at a huge cow farm. It’s the biggest in the South East and it’s working according to EU standards. We get up pretty early in the morning and start the day with some weeding. The farm has a big vegetable garden, but it’s really overgrown. We usually work for 2 to 3 hours and then we enjoy a warm lunch, cooked by the staff. After lunch, we relax, go for a walk, look around on the farm and sometimes water some of the fruit trees. It’s over 30 degrees every day, so it’s usually too hot to work during the afternoon.

At night, we help feeding the calves, definitely our favourite job here! There are about 40 of them. The older ones drink from a bottle themselves, but we feed the younger ones by hand. So cute! Every day, we look forward to this moment! A couple of days ago we witnessed a new calf being born, this was very special.

We will leave this place on Saturday and explore the South East of the country a little more. After that, we will slowly drive up to Antalya to meet some of the people we met 8 months ago and to (hopefully) get the radiator fixed. After that, it’s really all still up in the air. We only have a 3-month visa for Turkey, so we need to think about our next destination, but Corona makes that almost impossible. We could try to go back into Europe, but because of some Dutch ‘car rules’, this is a very tough thing to do. Besides, Sparta’s test results really weren’t sufficient. Another option would be to go back into Georgia, but with a mandatory, very expensive quarantine and us having seen most of the country, this doesn’t sound very appealing. So, to be honest, we can’t really answer the question of what’s next. We will just wait and see and live in the moment.

Our last week in Georgia

We arrived in Turkey! We didn’t go back to Tbilisi after all, because Sparta’s test results weren’t sufficient. Thus, we already crossed the border last Tuesday. All in all, we spent 6 months and 1 day in Georgia, so we can actually say we lived in Georgia for a while. We enjoyed it a lot, even though the circumstances weren’t the best. But, now it’s time to explore Turkey again!

In the video you can see what we did in our last days in Georgia.

 

One year on the road

We have been on the road for exactly one year! Last year, on July 15, we left The Netherlands for our live-changing trip to the far East. Because of corona we have only come this far; to Georgia. According to our plans, we should have been in Kirgistan by now, but as you know, that is impossible at the moment. However, we are happy that things turned out this way, because we have met many great new friends during our stay in this country.

During the 12 months that we have been moving from place to place, we have tried to spend as little money as possible. Our plans were to stay on the road for two to three years, so we had to save money to be able to do that. We keep track of our costs every day and we put them in the computer every month. Because of our travel-versary, we made a colourful chart to get a good view on the money we’ve spent.

Some of you might be surprised; we are actually quite surprised too. When we lived in The Netherlands, our monthly costs were much higher. Here, we spend much less money on housing (as we are sleeping in our own van and in nature) and on diesel (as it is much cheaper). Also, our health insurance is half the price and we don’t have to do groceries when we are doing a Workaway.

Another benefit of working half the year (in 2019) and travelling the other half, is that we got a lot of tax back. Because our yearly income was much less than calculated, the tax on our income was lower and we received a nice surprise in May. All in all, this means that we’ve had a very cheap year! Who says travelling is expensive?!

Yesterday, we said goodbye to some of the new friends we made here in Georgia. If it wasn’t for corona, we would have never met them. Even though things have gone differently from what we had expected and we’ve had some difficult moments, we are grateful. Georgia is a beautiful country; we have seen almost all parts of it. It has mountains, beaches, lakes, wild nature, fresh fruits and veggies, both extremely high and low temperatures and of course: friendly people.

It’s almost time for us to leave. Right now, we are driving back from the last part of the country that we wanted to visit: Svaneti. We spent time with our friends, hiked up the mountains and played with a lot of (stray) dogs. Because we have to pick up the results from Sparta’s rabies test, we have to go back to Tbilisi one more time. After that, it’s really time to go: we will go back to Turkey. We have no idea what we’ll do the next couple of months, as all the other land borders are still closed. We’ll figure it out as we go!

Driving from the sea to Svaneti

Oh what a great feeling when you find out that your radiator is leaking, AGAIN! All our coolant was gone on Friday morning, so we decided to go straight to the mechanic. The nearest Tegeta Motors was in Kutaisi, only an hour away. However, the mechanic who could work with our car (Peugeot isn’t common here in Georgia) wasn’t available until Monday. We therefore continued driving to Tegeta in Batumi, where we had a good experience in January. Unfortunately, they also didn’t have time before Monday, so we spent the weekend on the beach. Not bad at all!

Of course, on the exact moment that the mechanic checked our radiator, it wasn’t leaking. He also hadn’t been able to find us a new radiator, so all we could do was continue driving until it started leaking again. We thus drove up North, towards the last part of Georgia that we still wanted to visit: Svaneti. On the way, we saw a huge forest fire. It’s so sad to see so many trees burning!

Right now, we are close to Mestia, a well-known town in Svaneti. It’s beautiful here! As you might expect, the radiator has started leaking again, so we have to check the coolant level every time we want to leave. But, we will not let it get us down! Once we get back from the mountains, we’ll go to the mechanic again. Now, we will first hike up to one of the glaciers here!

 

Georgian hospitality

We’ve been in Georgia for more than 5 months now. When we first entered the country, our expectations were pretty high. Not only about the nature and the culture, but also about the people. A lot of Turkish people had told us about the hospitality of the Georgians. We found it hard to believe that it could be even better than in Turkey. The people there were all so welcoming and friendly, how could it be better? Even our guidebook and some online source mentioned the hospitality, so our expectations were sky high.

To be honest, the first couple of months were kind of a letdown… Maybe because it was winter, but we really didn’t see much hospitality at all. We hardly met anyone, since people were inside a lot. Hardly anyone tried to communicate with us and there weren’t many smiles at all. Most people just stared at the ground or looked a little grumpy. We were pretty disappointed and sometimes even longed back to the nice Turkish mentality. Adding to this fact that the weather was pretty bad the first months we were here, we have to admit: Georgia was not one of our favorite countries at all.

Luckily, things have changed! We are not sure what caused the change, maybe it really has to do with the season and the sun, but boy have we noticed the hospitality lately! Georgians love to go out for BBQs and picknicks and just this past week, we were invited to two of those! Not by people we know, just by random strangers on the edge of a national park.

We spent the last couple of days in Borjomi National Park. Tiny was parked just outside the entrance of the park, in a big picnic area. When we got back from a short hike to a pretty church, two very friendly ladies came up to us. “Modi, modi” (which means come, come), so we followed them and were invited to sit with them. They were having a big family picnic and they really wanted us to join in. Unfortunately, the only one who spoke some English was an eleven-year-old girl. But, with our little bit of Russian and the little girl’s English, we were able to communicate and we had a really fun afternoon with some delicious ‘Shaslick”.

The next day, we got up early to go on a long hike. The hike was rough; the way up was very steep and we even needed our hands to climb up some parts. The view on the top, however, made up for it! When we got back in the afternoon, we just wanted to put our feet up and not do anything at all. We did joke around a bit, because there was another BBQ going on and all the smoke was blowing in our direction: ‘hmm, maybe they will invite us too’.

It was only a minute after we said this and a man came walking in our direction with some Shaslick. He told us to follow him. It’s very hard to say no, because they really insisted and so we did. There were about 20 people on the benches: all teachers from a nearby village. They were having an end of the year BBQ and said they would be honored if we would join them. We had a blast: we enjoyed a meal with 6 courses, sang, danced and had a fantastic afternoon. Again, there was only one lady who spoke English (the English teacher), but that didn’t spoil the fun! It was so nice of them to invite us. We don’t think we would ever ask two random strangers to come and join in on our parties back home and share all our food and drinks. But who knows, maybe we would by now!

Besides these invitations, we have had a lot of people coming up to us lately to invite us for drinks or just to give us food (lots of watermelon, so far). We also got so much wine, we almost get more than we drink! By now, we can definitely say that we were wrong in the beginning: Georgians are super hospitable!

One of our other highlights this week was visiting the cave town Vardzia. Around the year 1200 it was built by ‘King’ Tamar and her dad and it was exposed due to a big earthquake. The city is humongous. We walked around for almost 2 hours and still didn’t visit all the caves, tunnels and ‘houses’ that were there. We did walk a ton of stairs and small tunnels; some were pretty scary too! We spent the night on the hill facing Vardzia, it was beautiful! We also went to a lovely castle in Akhaltsikhe and because of Corona, the entrance was free. It was a huge complex with even a mosque inside!

To end this week’s blog, let’s talk about what we are going to do tomorrow. It’s our never-ending story; we will visit another mechanic. This morning, we were all out of coolant, again. Whenever a mechanic ‘fixes’ our radiator, it always only seems to last for a couple of weeks. Maybe they all use the ‘Egg trick’ our friend Lex told us about. Who knows… Hopefully they will be able to fix it for real one day, preferably tomorrow. We still want to drive up some high mountains and we don’t feel comfortable doing that with a broken radiator. So, please cross your fingers for us!

Exploring new parts of Georgia

After we had left our apartment in Tbilisi last week, we went to see The Chronicle of Georgia. It’s a huge monument on the Tbilisi Sea, which was closed when we tried to go there a while ago. Unfortunately, it was the territory of a group of stray dogs and one of them attacked Sparta. Thus, we went back into the city, back to the vet. Sparta didn’t like it at all, but he definitely needed some stitches.

Because Sparta needed a check-up on his wound on Tuesday, we weren’t able to go far from Tbilisi. Therefore, we visited  Mtskheta, Jvari Monastery and Lisi Lake. When the vet said that the wound was healing well, we could finally leave the city and go South-West, in the direction of some places that have been on our list for a long time.

Outside of the city, it really feels like corona doesn’t exist. People are curious and happy to see foreigners and nobody cares about the 2 meter rule. To show you how beautiful Georgia really is and to give you a better impression of our journey, we’ve made another movie. Wow, it feels amazing to travel again!

Another week in Tbilisi

When we entered Tbilisi last week on Friday, it was exactly one month ago that we had left. The main reason for coming back was that we needed some things done: the best places to do that is here in the capital, where most people speak English.

We’re staying in an AirBnB very close to the city center and the park; it’s the one we stayed in before. It’s actually pretty nice to be back and it almost feels like we are home again. By now, we have managed to get most things done: we went to the dentist, Sparta has had his castration and the car is fixed, once again (we hope).

Getting your car fixed is such a different experience than in The Netherlands though. Here, people don’t do the annual checkups like we do. Georgians only go to get their car fixed when something is broken. The only thing in Tiny that is really broken, is the leaking radiator. However, it doesn’t always leak. When we got to the garage, of course it didn’t. So, we couldn’t show the problem. Besides this, unfortunately, the three mechanics didn’t speak English at all, so it was quite a challenge to tell them what we needed to get done.

Besides having the radiator fixed, we mainly wanted a good check, but that didn’t really seem possible. After one hour of waiting, standing around the car and trying to communicate, the mechanics told us that we could leave and that we would get a phone call at 5 o ‘clock. They kept our English list with things we wanted done, told us they would fix ‘everything’ and then we left.

A little after 5, we gave them a call and we understood the word ‘modi’, which means ‘come’. So, we took a taxi (there is an Uber-like service here that is very cheap and super-efficient) back to the garage. Tiny was ready for us and we had to pay about 200 euro. Of course, we wanted to know what they actually did before handing in the money, but even with someone translating for us, we still don’t know everything… They said they fixed the radiator and fixed some other things, but we still are not sure what they did exactly. We will just have to trust them. Time will tell if our radiator is really fixed this time. We certainly hope so!

Besides getting all the things done, we are also enjoying our time in the city! It’s so nice to see that things are slowly opening up again! Of course, with a lot of Corona measurements, like everywhere: we have to wear face-masks in every shop and before entering a shop (or having a coffee/food at a restaurant) we also have our temperature measured. It’s a bit annoying, but at least things are open again!

Yesterday we went shoe shopping, which was a challenge! Some shops are very strict and yesterday we ended up buying shoes before even trying them on. Trying on shoes is not allowed because of Corona and so we had to buy the shoes first, go outside to try them, get back in to exchange them and so on! Luckily it didn’t take long to find the right pair.

During our stay here, we also met up with some of our friends. On our first night back, we enjoyed a night with the people that we had been travelling with before. Most of them were back in Tbilisi and it was very nice to catch up. However, we did have to leave ‘before the party was over’: our hosts called us to tell us that there were 5 police cars next to our van. Apparently, one of the neighbours had called the cops because Sparta was barking in the van and they were worried that someone had forgotten about him. It was late at night and not hot at all. Sparta is really used to sleeping in the van at night, but with all the things going on in the street he must have woken up and started barking in the front seat. We usually put him in his box, but he is too big now and we just let him stay in the van. We always leave a note in the window to call us if something is wrong, but we guess our neighbours didn’t see it.

Luckily, our host could convince the cops that it is Sparta’s house and that he is used to being in there (with food and water). By the time we made it home (pretty freaked out, because we were worried that maybe they had broken Sparta out), he was asleep, and all the police cars were gone. Because of this adventure, we have now bought a ‘barrier’ to make sure that Sparta doesn’t go up to the front anymore.

We’ve only been here for a week, but with all these little adventures, it feels a lot longer! I guess we also know the city pretty well by now and have been to a lot of different areas. We take a walk around a part of the city pretty much every day. Today, we ran into two of our friends from Gudauri! I guess you know that you have been in a country for too long, when people start recognising you on the street… So, it’s time to go! First, we’ll see some places that are still on our to do list and then, maybe, we will finally be able to leave this country!

Bye bye farm!

At this very moment, we are getting ready to leave the farm we have been working on. This afternoon, we will try to find a winery that is open to visitors, but then we will head back to Tbilisi. We actually wanted to drive through the mountains and pay a visit to Telavi, the biggest city in the Kakheti region. However, a part of Tamara’s tooth came off yesterday, so she made an emergency appointment with a dentist in Tbilisi, which gave us no time to wander around this region any longer. Moreover, Sparta has an appointment with the vet on Saturday and we desperately need to find a good mechanic for the car. So, back to the city!

The last week has been pretty challenging. Temperatures are around 30 degrees during the day; at 8 o’clock it’s already too hot to have breakfast in the sun. We tried to start working as early as possible, but plans usually changed overnight, so we couldn’t start before we had been instructed. We planted many tomatoes over the last few days and yesterday we finished off with a field full of kale. Although it’s actually a little late in the season to plant vegetables, we really hope they will survive and grow into delicious crops!

Yesterday night, we had our goodbye barbecue. We have been here together with a Malaysian couple and their daughter and with a French couple and their daughter. Our German host bought some meat, we brought in a bottle of wine and the puppies were all playing around the fire. It was a lovely evening and a good way to complete our work here. Now, the final goal is to get Tiny out of this place, because we are parked in the middle of the hilly farmland!