First up was revisiting Svaneti, but this time on two wheels for a magnificent week of mountains, sunshine and autumn hues that we very appreciably soaked up, knowing they would probably be the last for a while.
A contested country with a heavy military presence and very little tourism is always going to be fascinating. For two weeks we roamed the rough mountainous roads that wind through this land. Large guns towed behind army trucks were common (Megan quipping as to how much artillery it was normal to see in one day!) but the sentiment of their uniformed occupants was relaxed and welcoming, and though the people see few tourists they too were great. It was interesting how although the world might view it as a controversial place, the people had long since just gotten on with living their lives. Mostly living rural existences, the ‘concerns’ of the world’s leaders mean little to them if they are left in peace.
Having borne the brunt of many sanctions, Iran’s banking system has been severed from the rest of the world and you must take all the money you will require in cash (ironically in USD) into the country, And if you want to keep up with social media during your stay you also need to organise a VPN connection as most sites have been blocked by the ruling regime.
Admin for Iran complete, with 400km to the border I expected to be there in four days and, somewhat melancholic, rode off alone again through southern Armenia. Six days later after almost 10,000m of climbing(!), I summited the final massive climb of 1800m (that’s bigger than anything in the Tour de France!) and cruised down to camp on the border with Iran.
Focus then shifted to the country across the river only a couple of hundred metres away – accounts of travellers spoke so positively of it, but it was difficult not to be intimidated amidst the demonized image that is portrayed in our media…one thing was for sure – from tomorrow I would find out for myself.