Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Day 8 - Turkey into Georgia

The soldiers came back about 8 the next morning, they didn't stay long, all they wanted was to make sure we had survived the night and a picture with us and the cars. We packed up and left soon after and followed the only direction we knew which was East. We spent the day driving along the coast of the Black sea, the road was a just one long duel carriage way with reasonably decent tarmac all the way. It was refreshing to see the sea again and we stopped off at lunch time in what was a shanty town in a crop of trees neighbouring the beach. It was the first time for any of us that we had gone into the sea carrying shower gel and shampoo for a wash.

It took us the entire day to reach the Georgian border arriving finally at 11pm. We had met up with two more teams, two irish guys in a gold and white mini with no bonnet (extreme over heating precautions) and a red fiesta. It felt good going through the border point in mass, less chance of being screwed over or messed about. There were a few problems with me not having the right stamp on exiting the Turkish side but after getting it stamped about 10 different times we eventually escaped, only to end up standing around for an hour or so at the Georgian side. We were a little apprehensive about the lack of correct vehicle documents again and hoped we got a a tired and uninterested customs guard. Luckily with a bit of persuasion that the part I had was in fact correct and I think to the fact it was the middle of the night, we somehow got through. The extremely thorough customs officials impressed us most, "You have guns and drugs in your Machiner?? No? Ok you go now!" Didn't even open the door.
The change on entering the new country was staggering, the landscape was different and the buildings, cars and people had a very communist feel which I guess lingered from the USSR days of the past.

Also the town of Batumi which sat on the border is horrible, I think we may have been on the 'wrong side of the tracks' as most of the buildings we past were run down, shabby shacks. We took a wrong turn at one point and ended up down a road which just disappeared into nothing, first we knew about it was at 35 mph when the tarmac ran out.

The thought of Mafia ruled neighbour hoods and gun-toting foreigners in the back of our minds did not help the situation especially as we had got ourselves very lost at 1 oclock in the morning. At was at this point that the crash happened, we had pulled up to a red light at a junction, the Citroen in front of us, when the there was an almighty bang and the SJ jolted forwards. We sat there for a moment and the first thing that sprang to mind was our missing brake light after John had reversed into a wall back when we were leaving home. The guy behind must not have seen us stopping and driven straight into the back of us.

We jumped out only to find a very large M class Mercedes wedged under our rear bumper. I checked the SJ for damage and it turned out by some unbelievable luck that he'd hit the exact spot where John had hit the wall, so there no new damage and he couldn't prove that our rear light had been out before he hit us. Then I looked at the Mercedes, or more to the point the front bumper hanging off and the smashed headlight.
I looked up for the inevitable gun-toting Mafia boss who was no doubt going to jump out and shoot us down in the road. The door opened and a old guy swayed out the car clutching his shoulder, he staggered towards us and then attempted to talk, we couldn't understand what he said but recognised the drunken slurs and more to the point the smile on his face. He was actually more concerned with our health and the state of the car. We assured him that both car and passengers were fine and enquired after him. He was OK too and told us to go, so we did, the longer we were there, the more chance of the Police turning up and that was one situation all of us wanted to avoid especially him.

The Citroen had driven up the road slightly, I think to avoid any ensuing gun fight that broke out at the scene of the accident so they were slightly shocked to see us zoom by so soon. We somehow found the right road and headed out of town in the hope we could find a secluded camping spot for the night. By the looks of it Georgians don't go camping much and we were quite keen to find somewhere decent so to avoid the goings on of the previous night.
We drove on for a while eventually coming to a town, we decided that although we maybe more likely to be bothered, it would be safer for us to stay in a more populated area than a dirt track at the side of the road. So we ended up stopping in the centre of a town square which had a central park area full of trees, benches and pathways.
And sure enough five minutes into setting up our tents, the Police turned up. This time the officer didn't say anything, he walked up surveyed the scene, turned and returned to his car. He then pulled a U turn in the road and as he was driving off came the sound of a heavily accented voice over the car's loud speaker, "Welcome to Georgia."

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