We set off in the rain today, its not usually our style. Most of the time we would hang around for a day longer and wait for better weather, but we had the urge to move. Plus we wanted to get to someones house in Tbilisi on a particular date. So a day extra on the road, means less kilometers per day.
For the first time I’ve started writing in the tent. Mayu is tucked up in her sleeping bag, maybe asleep, no idea how because we have camped next to a small waterfall, its very loud. Even though Mayu and I have spent the evening struggling to hear each other, the waterfall is conveniently drowning out the sound of the main road, that we sleeping next to. Not exactly a choice spot to be camping but we are armed with ear plugs and we’re not afraid to use them.
Setting out this morning, I had no idea where I would be sleeping, I know what I would be sleeping in but the location is always the final challenge of the day. We spent a good hour, maybe more scanning the road for possible camp sites, with the added miserable weather, we are always on the look out for some cover. Question is how grotty are we willing to go? The great plus of a tent, is no matter how much of a shit hole you’re in, everywhere looks the same on the inside.
We certainly have slept in some real dives whilst cycling, and I think South Africa topped it. We were new to the sport of bush diving and found ourselves in a particularly shitty situation. It was close to getting dark, in a town in the northern cape and surrounded by quite a few, toothless drunk people. I’m sure they all had a warm heart but we weren’t in the mood after a long days cycle in the hot sun. After trying to find a place to sleep, but with no luck we plucked up the courage to get back on the bike and ride into the evening. With no other option we pitched our tent on a slope, behind a rock. Right next to a main road. It was a pretty awful nights sleep, but character building. From that moment I began building my confidence, and not worrying about where I will sleep at the end of a day.
That brings me back to here in the tent again with its meditating sound of the water falling. A few hours before we were resting on the side of the road eating bread and cheese in the rain. After failing for a while to find somewhere. We thought we’d get that last boost of energy to take us up the hill and find us a spot to sleep. I’ve had this good attitude recently, even when things aren’t quite going to plan, I say ‘something will turn up, it always does’ and with that we cycle another 5km until I have to repeat the same sentence. However each time you say it, it lacks a little less encouragement. We ask someone if we can pitch next to their house but they refuse, saying its a problem with police, but not sure what he meant exactly. A bit further on we find our spot. A restaurant all shut up. I stroll up to check it out, a good space with a roof and a table. Perfect. Very loud but dry and its the best we’ve seen. Then someone comes out of the building. Shit, now I have to explain. Luckily he allows us to put our tent up. Its a bit of a tight squeeze because the table is fixed to the floor. I get greedy and make a bad judgement, I picked another spot and moved a table, but this seemed to piss him off and he told us to go back to the place he said. I thought Id blown our chances and we’d be off up the road again. There was something a bit uneasy about this fellow, he didnt make me feel comfortable, giving me the fear about what goes bump in the night.
Mayu and I discussed for a minute or two and decide to stay, even if this fellow is a bit funny. Because of its roadside location quite a few cars stop in an area in front of the restaurant. Its not open for business but people just use it to pull in for a minute. With each car stopping he comes out from his door, paces back and forth for a while, looks at us and then goes back inside. Strange behavior, and not making me feel very comfortable. Id better stop thinking whatever I was thinking, theres dinner to cook and tent to pitch, its cold so I’d better get busy. Looking around at this fairly miserable situation I start asking that question. Why are we doing this again? Is this what travelling is all about, sleeping in the wet, in a road side restaurant in the freezing cold. Next to a man I’m really not sure about?
After dinner we make a cup of tea and do the final bits before we hit the hay. Then he comes out again, but this time heads our way.
“Television” he shouts
I walk over to his door, pleasantly surprised to find out that he’s inviting us into his little room to watch some Georgian TV. I gesture to him that we just need to pack up and grab a few things and we’ll be over. We take our flask of tea, chocolate and some dried dates as offerings of gratitude for letting us sleep there. In return he gives us an old orange and a soft apple, seemed like a fair trade. We sat in silence looking at the box, watching a generic gameshow of sorts, I tried to break the ice a few times by offering more chocolate. The mood felt much lighter, and once again I reminded myself, your biggest weapon is your smile. And if you ever feel threatened. Offer chocolate. Leaving the next morning, I felt like Id made a friend, we left on hugging terms and most likely we’ll never see each other again. But hopefully we will stay in each others memories.
24hrs later the scene inside the tent is the same. As I said before, this never changes. But outside, like ying and yang it couldn’t be more different. The weather has been fantastic, we’ve had a tail wind all day, sailing along next to huge snow capped mountains. In such a short space of time Ive gone from questioning our motives, to being in love with the world. Getting to this next camp spot has been a lot of hard work, several trips pushing bikes and carrying bags up a muddy track, but the rewards at the end of the day, have been worth it. We have a wide open landscape all to ourselves with views across a valley to the same snow capped peaks we were cycling next to. And this is how it goes each day when finding somewhere to camp. I’m Looking forward to the next spot.
You two are so brave and, yes, a smile does do the trick most of the time, as I’ve found out throughout my life. We are thinking of you – said it before and I know it pisses you off ….but do take care! XXXX and lots of love X
Hi Elliot, Thanks for you most interesting post and you reflections on the question of experiencing opposites. We cannot really experience anything from a book or another’s account unless we have first had those experiences. We can really appreciate a cup of hot chocolate during freezing conditions or a glass of ice-cold water after working for hours in high temperatures. Everything in this material world is relative – you can’t have up without down, hot without cold but if, in the future, you can hold on to the thoughts of those experiences in your mind the joy of a simple glass of cold water can always be yours.