Hi, my name is Phil and this blog describes a Solo Round The World Motorcycle Trip I am starting in May 2012. The blog also contains info on other motorbike trips I have made. It is named after the Lee Marvin hit from the 1969 film Paint Your Wagon. It just seems to sum up how I feel when I am on the road. I was born..etc..etc..

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

26 - 29 May 2012

Hi to everyone.
Thanks for all your messages. Sat in my hostel room chillin out and listening to some music at the mo.  Should get my Azerbaijan visa tomorrow and hit the road agin on Friday morning.  Here are some excerpts from my diary for anyone interested.
By the way, if I wasn't here I would be getting packed for the IOM TT.  First race is Saturday so good luck to everyone involved and fingers crossed for a Guy Martin win.
Saturday 26 May, Day 23 – Batumi, Georgia
Got up early again, made easy by the local cockerel, and on the road to Tbilisi by 7.30am.  Saw a couple of the locals I had spoken to last night and said goodbye, shook hands etc. Great people!
Made my way to Tbilisi through heavy rain for the first couple of hours. At one point I overtook a slow moving Transit van only to look in my mirror and see blue lights flashing. Oh s**t, so I slowed down to stop and was amazed when he just went past again. I think he must have been delivering a prisoner or something. I overtook him again and the car in front also had lights flashing.
I stopped to brew up in a small town and was befriended by a curious school kid called Beka. His mates soon gathered and they all waved me off when I left.  Continuing towards Tbilisi I saw dozens of blacked out 4x4s with blue and red lights flashing in their grills.  Mostly these were going the other way.
About 10 km outside Tbilisi I came up behind 3 touring cyclists and slowed down to say hello.  I asked where they were from and the front one said England.  I couldn’t believe it so I stopped for a chat. The English lad was called James from Durham and was only about 24, the other two were a young Belgian couple. We had a good chat and then said our goodbyes.

I reached Tbilisi and decided to have a hotel for the night if I could find one.  My gear needed to dry out and I reckon I needed a good nights sleep.  I found a row of hotels and booked into one called the Iceberg Hotel.  It cost 50 Euros but I was too tired to go looking for an alternative.  This was my first bed for 16 days and so i made the most of the facilities and did some washing of socks etc.

Once settled, I went out to look for electrical shops to try and get my laptop fixed but it was too late and I ended up taking photos of the Cathedral.

I got talking to a guy who was looking at my bike and he said there was a PC shop on a road called Rustavelli Ave. I went shopping for some provisions then went back to the Hotel, ate well and crashed out.
Sunday 27 May, Day 24 – Tbilisi, Georgia
After an early night, I got up at 6.30am and went down to reception to see if there was a monitor I could use.  The receptionist must have heard me and came out from her room.  I showed her my broken laptop and she let me plug into the reception monitor so I could pick up my emails etc and look for a repair shop.
Found one on the internet on Rustavelli Ave as the guy had told me last night outside the cathedral. I also took the opportunity to do some online banking to get ready for Turkmenistan etc so at least if I couldn’t get my laptop fixed I could get cash out of the ATM.
Their website said they were open on Sunday so I went to track it down. When I got there it was shut so I hung around for a while just in case.  While I was waiting 2 bikes with British number plates went past.  I waved and they waved back, I couldn’t believe it and whistled but it was too late and they were gone.  I went to ask in the shop next door and the girl said the PC Store would be open tomorrow at 10am.
I was disappointed but decided to press on and head for Baku. I had great fun trying to find the route. Very confusing signs, and after riding in circles for ages I bumped into the three cyclists I had met yesterday at a petrol station.

We exchanged email addresses etc and took a photo. They were splitting up and the Belgians were going to Baku while James the English lad was heading for Tbilisi followed by Armenia and on into Iran.
I went off to try my luck at the border and eventually found the correct road which went over some really barren landscape. It was pretty much how I was expecting Siberia to look. I got to the border and two Azerbaijan men, who just seemed to be hanging around, told me that I needed a visa to get through and that I could only get this in Tbilisi at the Embassy.  I went to the border checkpoint and the Georgian guard confirmed that I could only go through if I already had a visa.  He told me the name of the street in Tbilisi that the embassy was on. 
This was disappointing and I decided to head back to Metshekta, outside Tbilisi, to see if I could find the campsite the Belgians had mentioned.  Had no joy finding a campsite so parked up on some waste ground and made some dinner. It wasn’t a very nice spot so I headed out into the country to find a free site. After 5 miles or so I pulled off down a track and came across 2 men and 4 boys with 2 dogs sat at the side of the road tending their cows.  I stopped to say hello and asked if I could camp.  One of the boys spoke a little English and they said it was fine. 
The farmer took me down towards his house and invited me to stay with him but I declined as graciously as I could and explained my tent was fine.  His dogs were great, one was a huge 4 year old male and the other a gorgeous pup.

One of the boys helped me pitched my tent in the shade of an 800 year old oak tree while another  made a camp fire from its dead branches. The father of the 2 young dogs came to investigate and was large, loud, and fierce looking.  The boys told me not to go near him as he bites, I decided to give him a wide berth.

The boys took me down to the cattle shed to see the young calves and it was obvious they were all very proud of the herd. I went back to sit by my camp fire and one of the boys brought me a branch of cherries and a bag full which were superb. Then they all came over very formally to say goodbye.  I had a fantastic night with the tent left open so I could see the moon and stars.

Monday 28 May – Day 25
Up early and broke camp to be in Tbilisi by 9am.  I went down to the farmhouse and thanked everyone and shook hands.  I rode straight to the PC Store in Tbilisi and was told they could not repair my laptop but they could sell me a new one for 560 Lari plus 400 Lari for Windows. I declined and they gave me an address for a laptop repair shop and pointed me in the right direction, so off I went.  I found the laptop shop with help from the locals and the guy took my machine and said come back at 18.00.
Finding your way around Tbilisi on a bike is very difficult and one thing that strikes me is that there are very few other bikes or scooters around.  A small consolation is that the many of the locals seem to be just as lost as I am.  Riding here is perilous to say the least and there don’t seem to be any rules. Bikes are firmly at the bottom of the pecking order in traffic which probably explains why there are so few around.  Pedestrians are given even less consideration than bikes. 
Went off to find the Azerbaijan embassy, the border guard had given me the name of a street and the girl in the laptop shop had given me very vague directions.  Eventually found it and was told they were on holiday but that the application would take a minimum of 4 working days and I would need a letter of introduction. The embassy official also told me there was an agency nearby who could arrange this.
I stopped at a Travel Agency and asked if they knew of an agency that could help with visas. They gave me an address or an agency called Xtours, which turned out to be just around the corner from the Azerbaijan Embassy.  The girl there spoke English and told me they charged $130 to get me a 30 day visa and that it could be ready for Thursday. I told her I needed to check out the Kazakhstan situation first.
I asked if she knew the Kazakhstan Embassy address and she gave me the name of a street but couldn’t give directions.  Eventually found the Kazakhstan embassy up a winding bumpy road only to find it was shut and the next opening time was Wednesday at 11am.

On the way out of Tblisi I found an electrical shop on main road which sold portable DVD players and had the same laptop I had been looking at earlier but the assistant said they would load Windows for 20 Lari (about $10).
Went back to Meketsha to hopefully stay at the same camp site as last night. The farmer seemed reasonably pleased to see me and I explained that I could not get a visa.  He said I could stay again no problem.  Made some mushroom soup and collapsed. Long hard day! A thunder storm was brewing and there was plenty of lightening. Luckily we only got some light rain and I was asleep in minutes.
Tuesday 29 May – Day 26
Overslept a little but was still in town for 9am.  Waved goodbye to the farmer on my way past and headed for the main shopping area of Tbilisi that I had seen yesterday to see if there were any more electrical shops.
Found a shop that had an English speaking pretty assistant and also had the same laptop I had looked at yesterday for the same price. Luckily this one had Windows 7 Ultimate and Office 2007 pre-loaded. I bought the laptop and went to find an internet connection to check out the info about visas for Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. I also looked for campsites near Tbilisi and found one at a place called Kojori.
Went back to Xtours and paid $130 for a one month tourist visa for Azerbaijan, including introduction etc.  I will go up to the Kazakhstan embassy tomorrow.  Walked outside and bumped into James from Durham.  He was on his way to the docs and had spotted my bike.
Went back to the square I had found yesterday to update my diary on the new laptop. Hell of a hail storm and my bike was marooned where I had parked as the road was now a river.  Went and sat in Costa Coffee to dry off and use the internet. I found a couple of hostels in Tbilisi for around 10 Euros a night and decided to track one down.

Then I realised the girl at Xtours had short changed me so I went back to their office and picked up the $30 I was owed. 

I set off to look for the Old City Sololaki Hostel and found it with the help of a taxi driver who pulled over and asked if I was OK.  I had only just stopped to look around and try to get my bearings. These people really are so helpful. I showed him the address I was looking for and he told me to follow him. We went up 2 or 3 side roads and then he stopped and asked some men at the side of the road.  They said the address I was looking for was just up ahead up a steep cobbled road.  I thanked the taxi driver and made my way up the hill.  I found the hostel with more help from the locals and the guy running was great and allowed me to put my bike inside the gates. He spoke no English but we got by.

The room was a dorm with 3 beds but it looked as though I was the only occupant.  I paid $40 for 3 nights and this included free internet access.  You can email the hostel at or call +995 77 94 44 46.  The best way to find it is to get to Freedom Square and ask around for the address which is 19 Sergo Meskhi Str, Tbilisi, Georgia. 

There was a Dutch guy called Babek in the single room who was on his way back from the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan. We got talking and I found out he lived in Uganda so we had plenty to chat about as I explained I planned to be in Africa by the New Year.  I gave him my email address to pass on to one of his friends who was on a similar route to me. It was good to get a shower after 2 nights free camping and lie on a comfy bed.
Went out to get a drink and found a cafe that served beer at the end of the street. There was an American sat there from Columbus Ohio.  His name was Dave Finks and he was working for an electrical company near the airport.  One of his team had been killed in a taxi crash in Tbilisi recently and the funeral had been yesterday. We had four or five beers and talked about travel etc.  Dave was 55 and obsessed with young girls. He was trying to strike up conversations with every girl that walked past the cafe but they didn’t seem to mind.

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