Driving all the way back

Leaving Turkey, we drove along the coast, all the way from the South East to the North West. We weren’t in a hurry, because the wedding we wanted to attend in The Netherlands was still a couple of weeks away. However, because of the summer heat, we didn’t feel like staying too long. The last place we visited, was the city Edirne. The big mosque was beautiful, but as we slept next to it, quite loud! We only stayed for one night and we arrived at the Bulgarian border on August 23. People had told us that it was a busy border crossing, but that it was easy to get through. We kept our thumbs up!

In between Dutch, German, Austrian and British cars (packed with Turkish families), we waited to get into Bulgaria. As we got closer to customs, we got more scared: many people had to open their trunks and the officers were even opening suitcases. We didn’t bring any illegal stuff with us, but we did have a dog without the right papers! Luckily, we got through in a jiffy; Sparta was in Europe! The only problem was that we got a Bulgarian vignette for just one day. We had to hurry to the Romanian border.

After a long day of driving, getting into Romania was easy. We spent the night next to a monastery and continued North the next day. Fortunately, our friends from @Easy_overland were in the same area, so we met them in an old quarry, and we spent two nights together. It’s so great to spend time with amazing people with the same way of life! The dogs played and found many bones, we made campfires and we talked about going back. We all agreed, that going back was the best thing to do, for now.

On Wednesday morning, we said goodbye and drove a beautiful (and unfinished) road to Oradea. Here, Nienke worked as a volunteer in 2009, so it was really great to catch up with the founder of the organization. The border crossing to Hungary the next day was very easy. From now on, we would drive to The Netherlands in a straight line. Still, nobody knew we were heading home!

We passed Hungary and arrived at the Austrian border, where we had to wait for a long time. Apparently, many families came back from their summer vacation and wanted to go home as fast as possible. When we finally got to customs, the guy asked where we were going. ‘Only a transit, ok!’ he said. He handed us a form and we could go. However, the form said that we had to options: we could either drive through Austria and leave on the same day, or we had to go in quarantine for 10 days.

Actually, we had planned to stay in the mountains one day and go for a hike, but that was no option now. Driving to Germany right away was no option either, because it was already late, and we were tired from crossing Hungary. So, we decided to spend the night at a TIR parking, with lots of trucks, but also a nice shower, and continue the next day. Getting into Germany was no problem at all; apart from the signs that said we needed to get tested or go in self-quarantine, everything was normal. We spent our last night on the road next to the Concorde factory, where they make these huge motorhomes. Luckily, we weren’t the only home on wheels that was a little smaller!

Finally, on Saturday the 29th of August, we arrived in The Netherlands. A little sooner than expected, because corona kept us from enjoying more time in Austria. In the following days, we surprised our families and some friends by just showing up at their doors. Peek-a-boo! They were all flabbergasted, but very happy to see us again. After the people we are closest to knew we were back for a while, we could also tell everybody through social media.

So, we are back in The Netherlands. We have driven through a big part of the country to see our friends and family, but we have also been very busy with finding a house and a job. Besides, we had to arrange registration, health insurance and sim cards, which all took a while. It seems like we got everything under control now, although we are still job-hunting.

We’ll keep you posted!

The reasons why

We are back in The Netherlands! That means that we already drove through a big part of the country to see many friends and both our families. Also, we took Tiny to the mechanic for a check-up: he got his APK/TUV! We have to get two (quite big) things fixed in the next couple of months, but other than that he is still perfect.

So, about why we came back. It certainly wasn’t easy to make the decision to end our trip, but once we had decided, we felt relieved. In spring, we had been stuck in Georgia, which was actually not that bad at all. Georgia is a beautiful country and we were able to visit all the sites we wanted to see. Still, we didn’t like the fact that making new plans was impossible, as things around corona changed every day.

Once it was clear that only the border to Turkey – and definitely not the one to Azerbaijan or Russia – would open, we decided to leave Georgia. We were hoping to be able to cross the border to Iran, but it became clear that this wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. We worked on a farm for one week, but we wanted to know what was next. It was then that we decided to go back to Europe, if we could.

We have to tell you that we really LOVE Turkey, though. Staying there for another few months would have been great, if we weren’t hoping to continue our journey to the East. It felt like we would have had to wait it out, without anything to do. If you are waiting, even the prettiest place would get boring at some point. Working in Turkey as English teachers would also have been an option, but the wages in Turkey are very low. So, we figured that while we were waiting anyway, we could also drive back to The Netherlands!

Going back seemed like the best option: we would see all of our friends and families again and we could try to find a temporary job and a place to stay. However, we had a problem: if we would take Sparta to Europe, we needed the right documents for him. That would mean that we needed to get another rabies vaccination and redo the test (the one that wasn’t good enough when we did it in Tbilisi). Because this test is quite expensive and because other travellers had told us that they don’t even check it at the border, we decided to just try to cross the border without the test. If they wouldn’t let us through, we could always do the test again after all.

Just to say it again; it was a very difficult decision to pause our trip for a while. We had planned to be on the road for two or three years, but only one year had passed. For us, this is therefore just a temporary solution to this situation we found ourselves in. It’s not the end of our journey, it’s only a short break. A couple of months in which we will settle down, spend time with our loved ones, find a job, a house and earn some money to live from. Then, in spring, we will hopefully return to our travelling way of life and continue our trip. In the meantime: will we see you in The Netherlands?

The Western coast of Turkey

Driving, driving, driving… We did a lot of it! Even though we don’t like to be in the car so much, we wanted to go to the coast, where we could cool down in the sea. We have started to love Turkey, but being here in the middle of summer is a little too warm for us!

Finding a place to sleep in this season is not easy either. Many spots on Park4Night aren’t available anymore and other places are full of locals. Still, we found a nice bay with a pretty boulevard, where we could park close to the sea. Sparta played with some stray dogs and Nienke went running along the beach. Lovely!

Then, we went to Çanakkale, one of the most famous places in Turkey. During WWI, this was the location of a great battle between England, France and the Turks. Because the (much smaller) Turkish army could stand her ground for a long time until she fell, it was an important moment in Turkish history. After this huge battle, the Ottoman empire crumbled down and Turkey became independent.

We first visited the city of Çanakkale itself, with its long boulevard and modern city center. As food in Turkey is very cheap, we hardly ever cook ourselves and we enjoyed lunch in one of the small streets. Next, we went back to the car and got onto the ferry to the peninsula across the water. It was the first time on this trip that Tiny was on a boat! We loved it. Next to one of the little cafes on the coast, we found a place to spend the night. If it wasn’t for corona, this part of Turkey had probably been filled with international tourists, but now there were only some Turkish tourists. And us, of course!

The next day, we explored the peninsula. Whereas other parts of the Turkish coast are very crowded with resorts and restaurants, this part was very quiet. We saw sunflowers all around us and every now and then, there was a war cemetery or a monument. During the war, 22.000 soldiers died here. Although many of them are unknown, they are all honored on the numerous cemeteries. All in all, we learnt a lot about the battle of 1915, which we both found very interesting.

After this long day of driving and visiting monuments, we were happy to find a great place to sleep. We parked the car on top of the rocks, with a lighthouse at the end. Below us, there was a small beach with the most beautiful water we had seen in a long time. Some people were already there, but this spot was so amazing that we climbed down anyway. Compared to the sea in the South, where the water was warm, this part of the sea was freezing cold! What a relief, after so many hot days.

Now the question is, what do we do next? For now, we’ll just stay here for a while, to think about our next destination. Please let us know if you have any tips!

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!

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!

We are on the road again!

It feels so good to write this! And it gets even better: I am sipping my Georgian wine (which we just got as a gift from some locals) on my camping chair in the sun, wearing a tank top and shorts and with the sound of a wild river floating by. This is what we love about travelling! We are located on the edge of the Lagodekhi National Park, in the Caucasus region. We parked our van next to a ranger station, on a big open field in the middle of nowhere. It’s just us and Polly, Brian and their dog Busso here. It almost feels like there is no Corona!

But… let’s start from the beginning. Yesterday, we finally left Tbilisi. Wow, it felt like we were ‘moving house’ again! It took us a few hours to pack up all our stuff, but then we were ready to leave. As you probably know, we have spent the last 5 weeks with Polly and Brian, a Dutch couple. Together with them, we left Tbilisi, heading towards the South East of Georgia. Close to the border of Azerbaijan are some monasteries that we wanted to visit. These David Gareja monasteries are located in a beautiful landscape. Polly calls it ‘bacon hills’, we will try to add some pictures so you can decide for yourself. Unfortunately, the last 30 km to the monasteries was all off-road. On one big bump, we even hurt Tiny again. We now have a loose (and low hanging) wastewater tank, which makes it difficult to drive off-road again. When we go back to the city, we will do another garage retreat.

However, when we got there, it was worth the drive. The surroundings were stunning and the one monastery we could visit was quite picturesque too. The bigger one that we didn’t get to visit, was too close to the border of Azerbeidszjan and the border patrol wouldn’t let us through. We guess this is because of Corona.

After visiting the monastery, we started looking for a place to camp. We were not allowed to sleep in the ‘border zone’, so we had to drive all the way back to the nearest village. Because it was getting late, we decided to ask some locals where we could sleep. Soon, a nice guy let us use his closed campsite for the night, for free!

The night was pretty bad: the wind was so strong, that it felt like we were sleeping on a boat on a wild sea! We decided to leave early the next morning (today), and the main goal was finding a nice wildcamping spot. That really turned out not to be easy! We will spare you all the details, but on our third try we finally found a spot! Without the help of the apps, but with the help of some very friendly locals who even gave us a bottle of chacha and 2 liters of homemade wine. We will probably hang out here for a while!

The spot is beautiful, and we are located 20 meters from the entrance of the National Park. One of these days, we are planning to hike up to a 40m high waterfall. We will enjoy the sunshine and all the things this place has to offer. This afternoon, Nienke already took a dip in the wild, but o so clear river! Right now, she is prepping a fire for our dinner. Wow, it feels amazing to be camping and just to be back in nature again! We are going to love it here!

 

The prospect of leaving the city

Even though we are getting a little fed up with this apartment and with the rain we’ve had, we are happy to be in Tbilisi. Last week, Nienke noticed that she had a bladder infection, for the first time in her life. We hoped it would heal on its own, but unfortunately, it got worse. Thus, after talking to an online doctor, we decided to look for a real doctor. Luckily, we are situated very close to a hospital and many pharmacies, so finding one wasn’t very difficult.

First, we tried the hospital. Many people here don’t really speak English, so it was a big challenge to explain what kind of doctor we needed. Finally, they told us that there was no doctor available and they were not able to tell us anything else. Next, we tried one of the pharmacies: in countries like Georgia, you can sometimes just get antibiotics without a prescription. However, when Nienke explained her problem, the woman pointed to the Urology Clinic across the street. We had seen the sign before, but weren’t sure if we could just walk in.

After telling the guy at the entrance what we needed, Nienke could go in (only with a face mask of course). Tamara wasn’t allowed to come along, so she went back to the apartment. Once inside, Nienke had to wait in line for a while. Fortunately, someone at the desk was able to speak English and he explained what she had to do. The first step was to pay 50 GEL (+/- 16 euro) at another desk. Then, a doctor on the 3rd floor could see her. He asked some questions and then sent Nienke to the 2nd floor to get an ultrasound and a urinalysis. However,  when she got there, she was both sent to the adjacent desk to pay for the test and back to the first floor to pay for the ultrasound. Interesting!

When Nienke finally got back to the 2nd floor for the ultrasound, she was invited into a small examination room. Two women were inside; one to do the ultrasound, one to put the results in the computer. The woman who did the test was able to speak English, so it was very nice to hear that nothing unusual was visible on the screen. Next, Nienke had to go to another room to ask for a plastic cup. (We’ll spare you the details…) This woman didn’t know any English, so it was a bit unclear what Nienke had to do after she handed in the cup.

Back at the 3rd floor, the doctor said that waiting for the test results would take about half an hour. It took more than an hour! When Nienke finally received the paper with the results in Georgian, she went to the 3rd floor to see the doctor again. With another patient translating, she was told that the doctor was in surgery, so she had to wait in the lobby on the first floor. More waiting! But finally, after four hours in the building, the doctor gave Nienke a prescription for antibiotics.

The next day, it was Nienke’s birthday. We had some delicious cakes for breakfast and then left the apartment to go to the city center by bike. We left Sparta with our friends, so we could explore a new part of Tbilisi. The weather wasn’t great, but we enjoyed being outside a lot. Once more, we realised: this city is amazing and definitely worth a visit!

In the afternoon, two of our new friends joined us for coffee and cake. Polly had asked what Nienke wanted for dinner, so she made a lot of delicious pancakes. Unfortunately, Nienke couldn’t drink the wine that the guests had brought (because of the antibiotics), but the chocolate mousse for dessert definitely made up for that!

All in all, it has been an interesting week. We keep ourselves pretty busy, but we long for better weather and spending more time in nature. By the way, Tamara is teaching English to a 10-year-old girl! Three times a week, online, and she’s enjoying it a lot. As corona measures are getting more flexible, we will probably be able to leave Tbilisi next week. We are looking forward to sleeping in Tiny again and getting out of the city. Tamara will continue the English lessons, so we will buy unlimited internet, but other than that we will try to limit the use of our devices.

Hopefully, our next blog will not be from Tbilisi, but from a wonderful place in a national park!

Covid 19 in Georgia

Finally, the sun is back! Because the weather was so good yesterday, we decided to go on a long hike. We went to see the Tbilisi Sea and from there, we walked all the way home. All in all, we covered 15 km and were extremely tired at the end of the day. So, one day late, here is our new blog about the corona situation here in Georgia.

The Georgian news website keeps telling us how good Georgia has been handling corona. The Georgian PM gets a lot of thumbs up from surrounding countries and even receives compliments from all over the world. Today, 539 people are infected with Corona, 6 have died and 178 have recovered (Georgia has a population of 3.7 million).

You’d think that corona has just started here, but actually the first cases were discovered on the same day as the first case in The Netherlands. So, what did they do to prevent corona from spreading?

At the end of February, Georgia had its 3rd case of corona. By then, the government decided to start being careful and they took the first measurements. Schools have been closed since March 2nd and at the beginning of March, borders to surrounding countries were closed too. Besides taking early measurements like closing borders, closing most shops, setting a curfew (we are not allowed to be outside from 9 pm until 6 am), wearing gloves in supermarkets (and now also facemasks), people had (and still have) to go into quarantine a lot! Whenever there is a slight chance you’ve had contact with a person with corona, you have to go into quarantine. This happened to us in the restaurant in Gudauri. There had been some customers with Corona and all of us had to go into quarantine.

On top of that, the police actually check that you stick to the quarantine and hand out a really high fine when you don’t obey the rules; all fines are terribly high. There was never a full lockdown here, such as the one in Italy for example, but whenever there is a city with a larger amount of infections, that city or county will be closed off completely! This way, the government tries to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible. And they were doing really good, until Easter came…

Easter is a bit different here. The orthodox church is the biggest church in Georgia and Easter is a week later than it is in the Netherlands. With Easter, people go to church, share the same spoon (to drink the blood of Jesus) and get together with friends and family. A lot of families go to graveyards and have picknicks next to the graves of their ancestors. The government was very worried that corona would spread rapidly during these days and tried everything they could to prevent this. But they did not close the church or forbid the Easter ceremonies. Obviously, churches here still are pretty powerful!

What they did do, was close down the 4 main cities of Georgia. Since Tbilisi is the biggest city, from then on, we were stuck here! Besides this, they also put a ban on private transportation. It was so quiet on the streets for a week, it was great! They even closed all the graveyards for the Easter weekend, which we noticed when we went on a long walk.

We ran into a dozen police cars; they were all parked near the small entrances. We even had to cross a police line to get to the church we were headed. Luckily, they let us! On a side note: on a lot of our walks, we pass the most beautiful graveyards. Some look like entire cities! There are benches and some graves look like picknick areas…

But… back to Corona: all the measurements seemed to help a bit, because even though there was a raise in numbers, it didn’t spread as much as some people thought it would. Last Monday, the Government even started an 8 week ‘re-opening’ plan. Every two weeks, more restrictions will be lifted. It is really nice to see some dates on which we can go back to ‘normal’ (even though some might be postponed later). If all goes well, in 7 weeks we might be having dinner in outside restaurants again! Unfortunately, there’s still no word on when the big cities will open again, so we will just have to wait and see.

Yesterday, we read an article that stated that Georgia might be one of the first countries to start opening borders for tourists again. That would mean that we would be able to start moving freely again! We can’t wait.

Of course, we would love to continue our travels and our plan, but that will still take a while. We might have to change our route, but planning is impossible these days. For now, we are just glad that, very slowly, life seems to start returning to ‘normal’ again.

Spring in Tbilisi

Here we are, in sunny Tbilisi, while the world is going crazy. We read the Dutch news and we hear stories from our friends/families in The Netherlands and we are convinced that Georgia is the better place to be now. Last Tuesday was the last flight to Amsterdam: we are glad we didn’t take it. We are safely staying in our little apartment in the city centre, close to Rike Park. However, this last week, a lot has happened here too.

Exactly one week ago, we met 4 other overlanders like us: another Dutch couple, a Dutch man and a German man. Although it felt kind of wrong to meet up and sit close to them in the living room, we spent a whole night together. We drank wine, had dinner and talked about everything that’s going on. Just like us, they had all decided to stay in Georgia, for as long as it is necessary. What a lovely evening!

During the weekend, we spent a lot of time outside. The weather was amazing and we saw and smelled blossoms everywhere. Even though we loved Tbilisi, we had made an appointment with people in Khashuri, a city about 100 km West of Tbilisi. They had offered us a place to stay: they rent an old house across the street from their B&B, where we could use the toilet and the shower. Before we left the capital, we stocked up on food in the Carrefour. It was crowded and we didn’t feel really safe there, so we were happy when we went back to the van. It was time for a drive!

Arriving at our new place, the weather was still very good. Our hosts were outside, so the house was easy to find. Sparta immediately loved it: a big garden to run around in and other dogs to play with! Unfortunately, our van didn’t fit in the yard, so we had to park on the street. As the house hadn’t been renovated yet, the only things we could use, were the garden, the toilet, the sink and the shower. However, there was a broken pipe, so the water was leaking through the walls when we turned on the water pump. Not very convenient!

Soon, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. We spent the rest of the day in the van, watching Netflix and having dinner. The weather forecast told us that it would continue raining for a couple of days… Would we stay in the van during that time? Would we book an AirBnb in the next village? Or would we just go back to the apartment in Tbilisi? The next day, we talked about it a lot and we couldn’t figure out what to do. While walking around the city, we at least found out that this wasn’t the place we would want to stay during a potential lockdown. So, which options did we have left?

That night, we found out that the Georgian government had announced a nationwide curfew, starting on Tuesday morning. We weren’t allowed on the streets between 9pm and 6am and gatherings of more than 3 people were prohibited. This meant that walking Sparta at night would be impossible! We decided to head back to Tbilisi, to at least be able to go to the park during the day. Also, there we could buy enough food and medicines for weeks, if needed. However, we wanted to pay a visit to Borjomi first, because it was very close by and supposedly beautiful.

Thus, we drove 30 km to Borjomi, bought lunch at a little bakery, turned around, got another bottle of coolant at a car store (the problem is still there, although not as bad as before) and headed back to Tbilisi. The drive was beautiful and we enjoyed being on the road again. When we almost entered the city, we were stopped at a checkpoint on the side of the highway. A huge group of police officers and soldiers were standing next to a big army tent and we had to park our car in front of it. They wanted to check our passports and we had to come into the tent to check our temperatures. On top of that, they disinfected the outside of our car! Finally, after about 15 minutes, they told us we could go. Pfew, both us and the car were healthy!

Not long after we were released, we stopped at the Carrefour (again). We wanted to buy some extra groceries for the next week. Surprisingly, things had changed a lot since we had been there two days before! The line in front of the entrance was gigantic: people had to stand two meters apart and only a limited amount of people could enter at the same time. The Red Cross was handing out mouth masks, which we were happy to receive: everybody was wearing them and they really stared at us because we didn’t! This definitely was a strange, but very funny experience. (In the store, we even saw people with plastic bags around their shoes!)

So, now we are back in our cozy apartment in the city. People are still going outside, although the streets are quiet. We spend our days doing workouts in the park, walking Sparta, learning Russian and watching Netflix. We are not happy with the new curfew, but it’s a lot better than a lockdown. So far, only 115 people in Georgia have been infected with Corona, and no one has died. Let’s hope it will stay like that!

We wish good health to all our readers, family and friends. Please stay home as much as you can, but go outside (alone, or together with someone) whenever you feel good. Walk, ride or drive through your beautiful surroundings. Spring is here, so let’s enjoy it!