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!

Lagodekhi National Park

We are so lucky that we are able to spend time in nature! Even though Georgia is still in state of emergency (until tomorrow), we are allowed to camp right next to the entrance of Lagodekhi NP. We hiked two amazing trails, washed ourselves in the river, read books and played games. We absolutely love it here.

Because we sometimes get a little tired of writing blogs, we made another movie for you. Enjoy!

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!

 

Short update

We have been in this apartment for two weeks now, and we like it a lot. Even though the weather isn’t great at the moment, we try to go outside every day. The Carrefour is only 1,5 km away and because private cars still aren’t allowed on the streets, going for a run is very enjoyable.

The state of emergency in Georgia is prolonged until May 22. That means we still can’t drive, we have to wear face masks when we go to the supermarket and we are recommended to stay inside. The government is afraid that the amount of infections will increase in the next few weeks, because – despite all the restrictions – many people got together with Easter. Let’s hope this will not lead to a nationwide lockdown…

In addition to this tiny update, we want to share a blog that was written about us. Our apologies to our non-Dutch readers, because it’s written in Dutch. Feel free to use Google Translate, it works pretty well nowadays! Unfortunately, there are still some mistakes in the blog… can you find them?

The blog written bij NKC

Hanging out in our Airbnb

Time is flying by, even though there’s not much going on here. We moved to our new Airbnb, where we are staying together with another stranded Dutch couple and their dog. We play games, do workouts, watch tv, go for walks and play with the dogs. All in all, we are pretty content with our situation, although we would – of course – rather go back to travelling.

As we don’t have much news, we made another little video. Please leave a comment if you like to see more videos (or if you think we should stop making them at all)! If you want to know more about the Georgian artist we talk about in the video, check his page.

 

 

Just another week in Tbilisi

This will be one of our shortest blogs so far. That’s because it’s Thursday, 5.30 p.m. and we just realised that this is our blogging day. We usually finish our blog a day before Thursday, and we usually have a lot of ideas on what to write. Today, however, we just forgot and to be honest, we don’t have much to tell either. Like everyone else in the world, we mostly try to stay at home.

We went on only one adventure last week: a 25 km bike ride! We hadn’t used our bikes for months, so it felt really nice. We biked all the way to Tbilisi ‘sea’ (we are not sure why it’s called a sea, because it really is just a big lake). It is beautiful though, and it felt really nice to do some exploring again. To go to the Tbilisi sea, we had to bike all the way up a pretty tall hill. Going up was very tiring, but the way down was fantastic! It felt like we were flying! Of course, we ran into some cute puppies again and did some cuddling.

Besides this fun trip, we really didn’t do much this past week. We walked to Rike park every day, which is a really pretty park close to the old town in Tbilisi. Sparta can walk there without a leash. Besides walking to the park (and to the grocery store), we didn’t do a lot. We just watched Netflix, read a book, played games and studied Russian. We started studying Russian about one month ago. Hopefully, it will come in handy one day, when we are able to travel to all the ‘stan’ countries. For now, it’s also useful in Georgia! There are more people here who speak Russian than English, and a lot of signs are in Russian.

The last thing we did, was move to a different house! Yesterday, we moved to a new Airbnb. Although our previous Airbnb was great and the location was very nice (just 5 minutes from Rike park and 10 minutes from the old town), we decided to move anyway. Our new Airbnb has a big yard, which is great for Sparta! Especially, because we are not allowed to go out on the streets after 9 pm. With a backyard, Sparta can still pee after 9 pm and that would mean that we will be able to sleep a little longer. Besides this, we now have roommates, which is a lot of fun! Our new house is pretty big and has 10 beds, so we are sharing it with a Dutch couple (@easyoverland). It’s nice to have a chat with someone else, eat together and play a game with more than just the two of us. We are hoping that spring weather will come back soon, so that we can enjoy our big backyard and do some barbecuing. For now, we will just enjoy the fireplace and finish another bottle of tasty Georgian Kindzmarauli. Gaumarjos (= cheers)!

Spending our time in the snow

This last week, we have been spending a lot of time in the snow. Sparta is finally used to this place, with all its tourists, restaurants, slippery paths and wet feet at all times. We are definitely used to it too, because we have a lot of free time and are able to go up with the gondola whenever we want. However, we get very tired at the end of every day, so we sleep a lot.

We tried to film some of the things we do here, which you can see in the video below. It’s very amateuristic, but we hope you like it anyway! Next week, we will tell you some more about the work we do in between sliding down the mountains.

Moving on to our new Workaway in Gudauri

Last Thursday, after we had safely driven down from the dog shelter, we went to another mechanic. We’ll spare you all the details, but on Friday we were finally sure that we were able to make it to our next Workaway in Gudauri. We still had some days before we had to be there, so we decided to spend our time in Tbilisi. We booked a room for two nights and settled in before heading downtown.

It was Friday night and we had left Sparta in his box. Yay, dinner for two without being disturbed by our little man! We first wandered through the old town and then found a place to eat. We had been willing to try the real Georgian kinkhali for a while and we ordered two of each sort. They look like Chinese dumplings, but are bigger and filled with all sorts of things: cheese, meat, mushrooms, herbs… They were joined by a bottle of Georgian wine (Kindsmarauli) and a ceasar salad and we really loved them! Also, we definitely needed some time together.

The next morning, we took it easy and went back to the city center around eleven. This time, Sparta came with us, which resulted in a lot of walking and doing tricks with him. Fortunately, the weather was awesome and we could have a coffee on a cute terrace, followed by a kachapouri (bread with cheese) on a bench in front of the clock tower. We paid a visit to the post office and then took a taxi back to our hotel. We were exhausted! The rest of the day we spent relaxing in our room and cooking our own dinner. We were totally ready for a new adventure!

On Sunday morning, we left Tbilisi to drive to Ananuri to visit its monastery. It took us only one hour to get there, so we had a lot of time to explore the monastery. Unfortunately, it was very small and even though it had an amazing view, we were quickly done. Thus, together with Sparta, we walked around the village for a while and then sat down for a homemade coffee. At night, we cooked our own dinner again. Cooking in the van is always nice when it’s getting colder outside, because it will raise the inside temperature. Besides, we really enjoy our cozy and quiet nights in our Tiny home!

When we woke up on Monday morning, we got really excited about the next part of our drive to Gudauri. We were going up in elevation, so we were getting back to the snow! The side streets were all impossible to drive, so we only stopped when we arrived in the place where we were going to spend the next few weeks. Gudauri is the biggest ski resort in Georgia, so we found many restaurants, hotels and rental shops. We warmed ourselves inside a modern bistro and then found a place to spend the night. It was a parking next to the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, built in 1983. There was a lot of snow around the monument, so we had some fun playing in the snow and taking photos. It was going to be cold during the night, which meant that we had to boil water for Sparta again!

During the night, a lot of snow had fallen. We wanted to go back to Gudauri, so we had to drive through the 15 cm snow that was still lying on the parking area. After some coffee and a slow breakfast, we took our chances. It was tricky to get up the hill and back to the road, but after four tries Tamara managed to get the car on the asphalt. Hooray! Carefully, we drove back to the ski resort and parked the car in between the many cars that had arrived that morning.

So, after getting to know the place and some of the staff, we definitely think we are going to like it here. Our job is to speak English to the staff of a restaurant that is situated right under the main ski lift. We sleep in the van, because they are short on beds, but we actually don’t mind not staying in the crowded staff rooms. We managed to get an electricity cable to the van, which means that we can plug in our heater and we will definitely not be cold! Yesterday we already went skiing/boarding and many of the pistes are very good, although some of them need a little more snow. The sun is shining, we can be outside most of the day and we can play in the snow. What else would we want?

 

Around Tbilisi

While we drove from Gori to the beautiful ancient city of Uplistsikhe, we lost all of our coolant again. We saw the pink fluid dripping out of the radiator, but we decided to visit the site first. Together with hitchhiker Asher, we walked the many steps of the stairs in the tunnel, that led from the river to the old cave town. There were rooms cut out in the rocks, some of them without roofs from the everlasting erosion. The once so important Queen Tamar had her own hall here and there’s a church overlooking the valley. The video in the museum told us that this city was one of the main trading sites on the route from Asia to Europe. Very interesting and beautiful to see!

Once we got back to the car, we had to fix the coolant problem. Nienke had just emptied our bottles with coolant in the tank that morning, so we didn’t have any left. Fortunately, some friendly men helped us and assured us we could fill it up with normal water. One of them even looked under the car and tightened a screw, so that we could drive to Tbilisi without losing all of the water again. We definitely had to find a decent mechanic now!

When we arrived in Tbilisi, we had some troubles to find the right entrance to the Peugeot store. The traffic in this city is very stressful! We finally found out that this shop wasn’t able to help us (even though they are Peugeot!), so we went to Tegeta Motors again. We found this shop very reliable in Batumi, so we had some hope for this one in Tbilisi too. Unfortunately, they didn’t have time to help us, so they told us to come back on Saturday. That meant we had to wait for two days! We therefore drove to a nice park-up on the Tbilisi Lake and settled down for the night.

On Friday, we had to go to the vet to get Sparta’s last vaccination. We found a great clinic that belongs to the Agrarian University and they were definitely very trustworthy. Next to the rabies shot, Sparta also got his microchip so that we can prove that he is rightfully ours! Because we couldn’t drive very far and we had nothing else to do, we drove to Tbilisi mall and walked around the stores for a while. The weather had turned really bad, thus we decided to have lunch in the mall and go to the cinema after. Sparta was exhausted from going to the vet, so he slept the whole afternoon while we enjoyed our first movie on big screen in 6 months.

The next morning, we immediately went back to Tegeta Motors. We had made an appointment with Wild Goose for 11 o’clock, so we wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible! Fortunately, the mechanics told us that they could fix the radiator easily and that they found another problem too, which they would also fix. We took a taxi to the city center and told them we would be back later to pick up the van. Then, we finally met with Tanja and Michael again! They truly had made us an amazing breakfast, which we enjoyed with some sparkling wine and a lot of coffee. The rest of the day we played with Sparta, talked to our new friends and relaxed a little. Hopefully, our car troubles will be gone for a while now!

On Sunday, we went out to check out Tbilisi center. Wild Goose took us up with the cable cars and pointed out all the great spots that could be seen from the hill. They showed us around the old center, took us to a lovely coffee place and told us where the best markets are. We loved the city tour very much and we will definitely be back there to see some more of Tbilisi! The rest of the day, we had another delicious diner together, drank some more wine and talked a lot about all our travels. Thanks for having us T+M!

Monday, we went to Lisi Lake to have one last day of relaxation with each other. We would start a new Workaway on Tuesday, so we really needed to have some alone time. On Tuesday morning, two guys came to pick us up with the van of the company to guide us to the place where we would spend the next two weeks. Luckily, it hasn’t rained for a while and the road was dry, because there was no asphalt for about 15 km! After some bumpy last kilometers, we arrived at a big blue house in the middle of nowhere. 40 dogs immediately started barking at us! That was a very loud way to be welcomed into their territory.

Thus, we will be working with the dogs and about 20 cats here for approximately two weeks. Until now, Sparta is both excited and scared, but he is doing better with some of the other dogs already. We really love the walks we take with a group of dogs twice a day. The house is very dirty and so we have also been cleaning a lot of sh*t, which we – of course – don’t really enjoy. Cuddling with all of the dogs really makes up for that though!

In the next two weeks we will spend a lot of time with very cute dogs and cats. If one of our readers is interested in adopting one of them, please let us know! There are flights to Tbilisi every day and it’s a beautiful city, so you could definitely make a nice trip out of it ;).