After we reluctantly strapped our tires onto the bikes, we head towards the port area in Burgas to board the booked ferry from Bulgaria to Georgia. In the harbour we meet some other motorcycle travellers on our journey for the first time.
Claudio is Italian, has been travelling for over 10 years and bought a bright red Honda XL600 for 600 Euro to do this trip. He was given a luggage system made of plastic suitcases, but since it was intended for another motorcycle, he had to adapt it. And because the original exhaust didn’t fit properly after fitting the rack, he welded it on upside down, so now it’s raining in. Claudio rides in Italian military boots, corduroy trousers and a museum piece of a helmet, which he got for free with the purchase of his first motorcycle over 40 years ago.
Claudio’s travel partner is Roberto, a Spaniard on a BMW GS650 Dakar, whose half electrics has already failed and so Claudio has the pleasure that his 600€ motorcycle is not the problem bike of the trip. He doesn’t speak much English, but makes it clear that Claudio is “veeerry slow”.
Also on board is a Hungarian couple on a BMW, a couple of cyclists from Germany and Switzerland and a motley bunch of truck drivers from Armenia, Georgia and Bulgaria.
The paperwork in the port is uncomplicated, in customs the data on passenger and vehicle are recorded and the ticket to the ferry is issued, in the office of the ferry organization the tickets are paid (320€ per person with motorcycle) and then it’s already onto the boat. Since we didn’t find any reports about this ferry, we don’t know what to expect and have imagined everything from a multiple-day vodka binge like a Russian wedding to lying on deck enjoying picturesque sunsets.
First we have a room with four beds to ourselves and hope that it remains like this for the rest of the trip. The rules on board are quickly clarified, 3 times a day something to eat is served. When we gather for the first dinner, the truck drivers have already downed the first bottle of vodka. The food is simple, but quite tasty and satisfying. We find ourselves in a group with the German cyclists Tina and Ruben as well as Claudio and Roberto. Further travel plans are discussed before one half goes to the deck to watch the sunset and the wrestling matches of the truck drivers. At the same time the other half gets the first round of schnapps handed in the cabin, a detailed and flowery introduction to Georgian history is presented in brittle Russian and first invitations are issued.
After we finally get into our beds, our hope of our own cabin is finally disappointed at one o’clock in the morning. The door opens, two Bulgarian truck drivers enter the room, nod and leave the room again with a bottle of vodka in their hands. So that’s settled.
Since there is nothing else to do except eating and sleeping on the ferry, everyone is remarkably punctual at meals. The meal distribution starts 10 minutes before the announced time and is already done half an hour later. Who thinks he still gets breakfast at 9 o’clock is incredibly wrong. On deck a Georgian is running arounf, who probably arrived in the night and since then has spent every free minute consuming alcohol instead of sleeping, proven by a remarkably wavering gait at 8 o’clock in the morning (in an absolutely calm sea!). Lovingly nicknamed “Captain” by all of us, the slightly elder twin of Jogi Löw distributes beer cans, hugs and kisses extensively, accompanied by his excessive vocabulary “Excuse me” and “You, big problem!” Around noon he finally disappears into his cabin.
Claudio enters the deck with a pair of socks and underpants in his hand, looking for a place to dry them. In his cabin at night another Armenian is accommodated, who probably had to buy a ticket for two people. Caudio is most grateful that he doesn’t have to sleep in the bunk bed beneath him.
The rest of the day is filled with discussions on Game of Thrones, Durak, looking out for dolphins and counting the hours until the next meal. Guessing games, what it’s going to be on our plates this time, are set up including a sophisticated scoring system. Alcohol consumption remains surprisingly moderate on the second evening.
The third day on board is like the previous one, except for two subtle differences:
The Captain hasn’t been seen since he disappeared, and initial worries are spreading. Did an annoyed truck driver throw him off board? Was he locked in his cabin or truck?
And the big birthday party is coming up: Thomas turns 24 and all friends and acquaintances were invited to the extensive celebration on the party boat. Unfortunately none followed this invitation, so the celebration was held in the small round with the known faces of the last days.
If there is still absolute peace and tranquillity on board during the crossing, it will be over by the time you arrive at the port of Batumi at the latest. Strange, how one can relax, if one knows there is nothing else to do, but can hardly wait to leave the ship as soon as one theoretically has the possibility. For the completion of the customs and entry formalities, the harbour crew gets onto the boat, and fortunately, cyclists and motorcyclists are treated preferentially. When checking out, the captain is also spotted again, a huge relief! So he is still alive! Now only to get the bags packed the evening before, put them on the motorbike … and wait until the bus finally rolls over the ramp that blocks our bikes in the front of the ferry. Then we are finally allowed to leave the boat, and with the gates of the harbour area a new country opens up for us, of which we have heard only good things: Georgia!