Sweaty in Svaneti: Day 04
08/19/2016 | Tsvirmi to Ushguli
It’s not like we dragged bikes in the dirt behind us on a crowded, guided walking tour of the ancient Egyptian pyramids. But we didn’t exactly do any trailblazing on this one.
I Day 04 Stats & Intro
START – STOP: Tsvirmi – Ushguli
DISTANCE: 20 miMAJOR SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
ELEVATION GAIN: 3546 ft
RIDING TIME: 5:00
TIME AWAKE SPENT IN PURSUIT OF THE TRIP, ROUGHLY: 8:00
POINTS OF INTEREST / OBJECTIVES:
- The long, rad dirt road descent from Ughviri Pass to Bogreshi. You can go REALLY fast.
- The Tower of Love just outside of Bogreshi. You can’t miss it. You shouldn’t miss it.
- Lunch and beers at the cafe in Vichnasi. It’s on the right hand side as you’re coming into town—you can’t miss it.
- We had a really neat time having a couple of sodas/beers/waters with this Russian dude who owns a little cafe/bar in Iprali. We also ran into a rad Israeli couple there. No guarantees you’ll meet them, but you should try.
CUE SHEET: KML DOWNLOAD
WEATHER: All day we had the sun on our side. But then all of a sudden it wasn’t on our side, then it got hot and agitated all the latent water hanging around and things got really humid.
“Tower of Love, The Entry Price 1 Gel” by Daniel Wakefield Pasley. That’s what I wanted to call this article originally because it was going to be about Tourism. About how most of the time on this channel we don’t do Tourism in the classic sense, we do some kinda elevated or considered or whatever version of Tourism in the form of adventure and bike riding. But the more I thought about it the more I got bored with that idea. Also, it turns out adventure and bike riding ARE Tourism, so what’s the point? When Kyle and I first talked about this article theme in last week’s editorial meeting11Reader, we have those, we have editorial meetings. Mostly on Mondays but not always, in fact I think this particular meeting was on a Wednesday we were lite-preoccupied with how this route, our route, is actually a VERY WELL-ESTABLISHED trekking route. Like, it’s definitely world-renowned if not world-famous (I’m fucking with you because what’s the difference? I don’t think there is one, in fact I just checked dictionary.com and there is no difference). Anyway, my point is that we passed many groups of trekkers, day hikers, quadders, mountain boarders, bird watchers, etc., who were clearly from all over the world. If the footwear and flair aren’t enough to tell, language seals it. Also, more frequently than not we stopped to visit with them, as is custom in and around the world’s better-trafficked alpine thoroughfares, at which point many of them said things like Shalom, my name is Yael, my friends and I are from Israel, we’re trekking the Caucasus, and oh, yes, Ushguli is lovely you will be sure to enjoy it, the village is a UNESCO World Heritage site, try the salt! So yeah like I said, lots of international action up there in the Caucasus, on a route that’s basically as well-known if not better-known than the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), headed to the St Moritz x Taj Mahal of Georgia the same way thousands and thousands of others have before us, to do, roughly, some variation of the same thing everyone else has done. Is doing. Will do. Only with bikes.
It’s not like we dragged bikes in the dirt behind us on a crowded, guided walking tour of the ancient Egyptian pyramids. But we didn’t exactly do any trailblazing on this one. Have you ever painted by numbers?, me neither but listen it’s not important, what’s important is that we didn’t care. We did this willingly, maybe even lustily. While the truth is, as you know, that we were a little pressed for time and support in regards to the organization of a Tazer and the route, the second it dawned on us that our best option was to effectively go to not-Russia with more than enough time to (legally) ride THE BEST sections of the PCT except with huts, hostels and hotels in every village of which there were many, all conveniently spaced-out in the verdant valleys of Europe’s tallest mountains, equipped with robust WiFi and supernatural salts, in the midst of day-hikeable glacier after day-hikeable glacier and those Game of Thrones towers, we happily let it happen. Because us.We’ve never really been pioneers doing pioneering, you know that. That’s why God invented Steve Doom Fassbinder and Jon Bailey.”- YJ
That’s not our thing and it never has been. Sure, the elevation over Sunchulli Pass (16,700 feet) in Bolivia was rugged and that time we had to work a griz in British Columbia was a little rowdy, but we’re not packrafting Class IV glacial rapids or wading through the Darien Gap at night. We’re pussies, in the grand scheme of things. And this Georgian Campaign, well, this is just us being us. Also, don’t act like you didn’t know it already. And now that you know, do you care, are you surprised, does it matter?
I want to get through this as fast as possible so I’m going to use a list, lists are an effective mechanic for this kind of thing. Also I’m going to be as terse as possible but terse is not easy for me so be advised.
- In the beginning Experience meant Adventure, Adventure meant Epic, and Epic meant, well, Epic.
- Then we got tired and old, and bored with a one-dimensional approach to Experience.
- So we slowed down and re-prioritized. We moved haunted tunnels, swimming holes and go-kart tracks to the top of the list.
- Which led to this, a 10-mile day up a road—featuring several lunch stops—next to a river on the way to a bar with magic hot pockets and a view (kinda) of Shkhara Glacier.
- No judgment, if you want to crush you should crush.
- But we’re not crushing anymore. We checked, and crushing is less fun than not crushing. The future of bike-packing for us is camping and the ‘ole hub-n-spoke. And this Trans-Svaneti version of the PCT.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just trying to justify being lazy. I wouldn’t put it past me. Or maybe I’m advocating for a more nuanced concept of a multi-day Experience of the World by bike. Because like, well, bike riding as a means to an end is scientifically more interesting than “landscape blasting.”Jesus, I’m 890 words into this thing, I checked, and all I’ve really said is that we, Yonder Journal, are now firmly in the Rose Smelling camp—as if that wasn’t clear from the start two years ago.”- YJ
Listen, with all this in mind here is a collection of our Georgian Roses; in the meantime, all you need to know about this particular day (Day 04) is that we had fun riding up a short road to a internationally-noteworthy town:
- Notes from the cab ride to Rooms Tbilisi from the airport at four in the morning: “it’s a right and whip!, a clapped out BMW and we’re tokyo drifting our way through town, lots of high beam flashing, Disclosure “Help me Lose My mind” remix followed by Gorgon City Imagination featuring Katy Menditta, cigarette smoke.”
- Watermelon stands everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Watermelons as far as the eye can see. And Georgians eat cucumbers with every meal. What’s up with the water fruits? Wait, cucumbers aren’t a fruit though.
- “Manger Danger” – a rating system used to judge how ethnic or gamey local dairy products are.
- Animals everywhere. Including inside. All the classics: chickens, cows, sheeps, ducks, dogs. Alpine Georgia is basically old MacDonald’s farm, with a moo moo here and moo moo there, eieio.
- A bowl of the local yogurt covered in the local honey under the local (Ushba) glacier.
- Sharing a cup of legitimately good coffee in a quasi-designer chalet called the Grand Hotel Ushba with a documentary filmmaker from Germany named Max.
- Rock Jocks from Chamonix wearing cargo shants and wielding walking sticks.
- Drinking a bottle of green anise-flavored soda with a couple from Israel, a Russian bar owner with a thing for Rihanna, and a dude named Yuri on whose road we’d been riding all day—apparently he’s the tractor guy, the guy who made and continues to maintain the road.
- Camping in between a church, a model home still under construction and the world’s best primitive shit shop view.
- Carrying a 688 page book up a mountain on a nine hour hike you lied to yourself about.
- Living through an alpine-alpenglow-sunset time lapse.
- Crossing a glacial river on horseback on the way to a “special water” spring.
- A three hour conversation about cyclocross.
- A 12-mile pump track in a fetid arsenic grotto.
- Watching this light which light you’re convinced is a group of alpinists on a portaledge flicker in and out for hours, imagining the whole time what that nightmare would be like.
Sun's Up in Tsvirmi We breakfast, then ride out under a sparkling, cloudless sky.
The Tower of Love A brief, intimate, and memorable stop at a touristic love castle.
Lunch in Vichnashi You stop for one beer and then...
Lunch Number Two at Iprali We'd been riding again for about an hour, then we stopped here to let the good times roll.
A BRIEF SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION OF A PARTICULAR GEORGIAN EXPERIENCE AND THE CONVERSATION THAT SPARKED IT. SCIENCE BY BRIAN. "SHUT UP NERD" BY DANIEL AND KYLE (TAZER TOO, BY ASSOCIATION). Shut Up, Nerd
Kyle: “Man that breeze just came up. I wonder if a butterfly in Madagascar flapped its wings a few days ago. LOL!”
Brian: “You’re talking about Chaos Theory? Probably got that from Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park.”
Daniel: “Jeff Goldblum was awesome in The Fly. When he compound fractures that dude’s arm!?”
Kyle: “Yeah Jeff Goldblum is like a secret ass kicker.”
Brian: “Yeah, that stuff is neat guys, but do you know what is even neater? Quantum Entanglement! There exists a phenomenon at the quantum level of physics where particles (and parts of particles) can become paired or entangled in particular defining properties. The particles can be separated, even by miles, and maintain the connection. For example, two entangled particles can “spin” in opposite but equal directions. When the direction of “spin” is changed for one particle, the other particle will instantaneously…”
Tazer: “Shut up, nerd.”