On the roof of Caucasus – Tblisi and Abano pass

From the Armenian border we head directly towards Tbilisi to our spontaneously booked Airbnb. The road behind this border crossing is fortunately in a much better condition than the one we left Georgia on at Zhdanovakani, so we make good progress. On the way we eat the rest of the greasy sausage and dumplings and give the motorcycles a wash, because we want to do some maintenance work in the next few days.
Just in time for the evening traffic we reach the capital, and the stop and go is not very pleasant ont the oil-cooled DR. When the oil temperature reaches the 100°C mark, we finally arrive at our accommodation and push the motorcycles into the inner courtyard. For the next three days an apartment with a communal kitchen and living room and our own bathroom as well as the promising name “Instagram Hotel” is our home. Since we are still out of the main tourism season, there is only one more guest, and we have the comfy apartment practically for ourselves. For this luxury we only pay 12€ Euro per night – for two persons.

The few days off the saddle are mainly used for all the little things we have to do. Laundry is washed and all lines in the garden are confiscated by us, all sockets are equipped with chargers for our batteries, photos and videos are sorted and the website is updated.

On the bikes air filters are cleaned and freshly oiled, loose vibrated parts are fastened again and smaller repairs are made. On the search for a workshop, where we can change the oil ourselves, we find the boys of Mototravel Tblisi. Willem and Nika offer guided tours through Georgia and also rent their motorcycles to independent drivers. The fleet includes the old BMW F650GS, the Suzuki Vstrom and the new Honda AfricaTwin. Since there is no direct distribution of motorcycles and spare parts in Georgia, the boys have to import the bikes, tires etc. all from abroad. The XT660Z was their favourite, because with this model they might want to replace the meanwhile aged BMWs. The boys’ garage is a dream, beautifully furnished and elevated, with a nice view of Tbilisi.

But not only our vehicles need to be taken care of. After the nearest beauty salon refuses to cut our hair, we find a small hairdresser a few street corners away. But foreign guests seem to be rather unusual here, from all corners of the shop we get stealthy glances all the time. The two haircuts cost us about five euros, the cash desk of the salon simply consists of two empty Haribo cans: One for coins and one for notes.
The rest of the time we spend walking through the city, tasting Georgian specialties, wine and beers and ending every evening on the Liberty Bridge, which shines in the Georgian colours, accompanied by a last snack and live music.

The last evening we take the funicular up to the park above the city, which is closed at this time of day but is still open to the public, right next to the striking television tower. Under the television tower and the big ferris wheel, one has an impressive view to the city shining in the dark night sky.
Tblisi is indeed the capital and at the same time the biggest city of Georgia, but with its only 1 million inhabitants it doesn’t seem that big. As soon as one turns into a few side streets outside the centre, one finds here just as unpaved ways and henhouses as in the countryside. The city has an all around pleasant atmosphere and tempts to stay longer in order to sink a little into it.

Gori is about an hour’s drive from Tbilisi. It is a rather small town, which became famous mainly because of one man: It is the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. In 1957 a museum was built here for him. Of a whole street, only the Stalin’s parental home is left, around which the museum was built. Beside the very simple house there is still Stalin’s own railway car (Stalin had fear of flying), numerous statues and busts and an exhibition of all possible exhibits of his history and his career in the Soviet Union to visit. Particularly interesting : The numerous gifts of party friends and other heads of state to Stalin: From the chess board over a small vodka barrel and an accordion decorated with precious stones up to the most impressive bedside lamp of all times everything is present.
The museum shows a completely different extent with the own history than one is used to from Germany. Imagine the outcry at the opening of an Adolf Hitler Museum. This museum is by no means glamorous, the tour neutrally reflects the historical events and does not conceal the millions of dead from Stalin’s gulags.

After three days in the city we want to travel on our motorcycles again and head towards the northern border of Georgia. With the Abano Pass towards Tusheti the highest pass of the Caucasus is waiting for us. The guys from Mototravel tell us that the road is currently not passable again, but it has become a tradition to ignore such hints and just enjoy the way as far as we come. If we wouldn’t try it, we would just get all the more annoyed.
Already in the last village before the pass there is a big warning sign that the high road is currently closed. We start to take the first bends of loose ground under our wheels and enjoy throwing the bikes up the mountain on gravel hairpins again.
In a particularly narrow bend there is a group of construction workers who clear the larger boulders that have fallen onto the road in the winter  and fill up the holes again. After the group is overtaken the terrain becomes a bit rougher, and at a waterfall rushing across the path we stop for our lunch break. While we eat sandwiches and drink sparkling orange juice aka Fanta, a Transalp and a DRZ 400 come down the path. According to the drivers, the way is impassable in about 12 km, and on the way there a flock of sheep has to be overtaken.

And indeed after a few kilometres a sea of white wool opens up in front of us. The horse-riding shepherds do their best to clear the way for us with screams and sticks, we have to push the remaining ignorant specimens gently out of the way with our front wheels. Shortly after the flock of sheep we leave the tree line behind us. We approach the 3000 meter mark above sea level and the trees are more and more replaced by twisted, rusty power poles, big boulders of stone and snow drifts at the roadside.
At the same altitude, a lonely eagle circles in the ascending winds above the steeply sloping roadside. At this altitude the DR gradually begins to stutter in neutral, otherwise the motorcycles still run perfectly. After we have climbed many more hairpin bends, we see the announced evacuation team in front of us. The bulldozer is defective and the workers have been repairing for three weeks, towing is not possible up here. Besides the workers we also meet the boss of the local national park and some employees who are supplying the workers with food. They tell us that the road some corners further on is practically gone due to a landslide, and invite us before we can turn around for a round of small snacks and, how could it be otherwise, schnapps.

The Abano Pass is listed in many lists as one of the most dangerous roads, this is as so often an exaggeration. Yes, it’s a few hundred meters steep downhill at the edge, yes there are numerous narrow gravel hairpins and yes the weather can take you by surprise, but with a bit of caution no one on this road has to fear for his safety. At least not on two wheels, for two cars next to each other the way is almost everywhere too narrow. Then somebody has to reset for some time.
Back in the valley we stop in a village at the next small shop. Also in this place we and the machines are again a highlight and we have to answer numerous questions: Did you really drive here from Germany? How many cylinders do your motorcycles have? How many kmh do you manage with them? Do they also drive with diesel? If you come from Germany, why don’t you drive a Mercedes? Relatives are called and informed on the two crazy Germans. Since we want to leave the next morning to Azerbaijan we give the fruit dealer our last coins to buy fruit. We leave the stand with three bags full of apples, tomatoes and cucumbers and don’t really know how to transport and eat all this before it gets bad.
But somehow everything finds its place and we leave for our last campsite in this country.