Talking routes...

Georgia Batumi: at the crossroads of Europe and Asia

Batumi seems to be at the be a key stage for surface travellers. On the West coast of Georgia on the Black sea, near the border with Turkey, it’s a major crossroads for lorries, and buses connecting Europe to Central Asia, India and Asia. Batumi is the capital of the Independent Republic of Adjara, part of Georgia. It’s a busy and rich seaside resort and port, and there are a few consulates of major surrounding countries like Azerbaijan and Iran.

I didn’t expect to meet so many people when I checked in at the Globus Hostel. With it’s central location and friendly atmosphere, it’s a backpacker’s favourite.

The backyard was busy with motorbikes and bicycles, drying clothes, open bags and people sorting their stuff. Their was a lot of talking going on, and most of them were speaking French. I mingled. Later we all went for dinner and drinks.

They were all on long journeys with different goals, all fascinating. Here’s quick profiles of these very special people.

Antonin Gendre

Travels from Geneva to Zanskar (India) on a bicycle
Website: http://www.antoavelo.ch

He travels for a good cause. Through his website and regular radio interviews in his home country, he collects money for a NGO that supports the development of local communities in the region of Zanskar in Kashmir, India.

He cycles from 90 to 150 kilometres almost everyday. Early in the morning, and late in the afternoon to avoid the overwhelming heat. He rides among lorries, buses and cars. Drivers are not used to see cyclists which is pretty dangerous, as well as an attraction to them. So they honk to salute when taking over, which irritates Antonin and makes him startle dangerously, even more in tunnels!

Antonin explains proudly that he never failed to complete his everyday stages since the first day. “It’s better not to stop once you’re started. Got to get to the end!”. “I make no detour, it’s too painful. Even to go see that castle 5 km off the route, it’s pure torture!”

Flat tyre, tiredness, physical pain, sickness… sometimes it’s hard to keep going, but “when I think of the monks and children waiting for me, it’s wonderful”.

Although he didn’t get any corporate fund and is somewhat disappointed, he’s glad that donations through his website are better than he expected. “Motivating people to give money for a project isn’t easy, I would have never though it would work so well. Mainly private individuals make donations, most of them are friends and family.”

If you would like to support Antonin and his project, follow his progression, check out his website!

Franck and Julien

From Paris to anywhere, travelling on foot.
Website: http://bichkoula.skyrock.com/

You might think they are crazy. Well, they are! It gets worse when you hear them talking. They left the suburb of Paris on the first of April each with a cart, a guitar and harmonicas… They have no deadline, they’re just walking. The target for the first leg of their journey is New Delhi, and they hope to go through Tibet and Nepal… They had planned to save 15,000 euros, but could only make 2,000 each… they’re on a budget! They will be camping, hitching sometimes, they’re just on the road, free, and happy! They are so cheerful and entertaining. They communicate their enthusiasm and energy, preaching one simple message with their music: don’t worry, be happy!

You can follow these remarkable people on their blog.

Leo and Cyp

From Lille to Mongolia and back on a giant loop across eastern Europe and central Asia, by motorbikes.
Website: http://vamosprimo.tumblr.com/

They are cousins, both aged 26. Leonard is a professional photographer, and Cyprien is a surgeon. Their have always been very close, and the travel bug as always been running in their family. For this holiday, they are making a dream of speed and distant horizons come true. They have the funniest picture on their “Où ?” page on their blog. both very young kids, they are on toy bikes at their parent’s house. Some 20 years later, they took the exact same picture at the exact same place with they very real motorbikes! They are riding free everywhere. On roads or dirt trails, through mountains and deserts. This is just a long holiday to them, and they have a life and girlfriends to go back to after 6 months of travel.

Their adventure is a lot faster than those of Antonin, Julien and Franck, and is also fascinating. Leo makes amazing pictures and portraits.

You can follow them and see the pictures on their blog.

 

They all had Batumi on their itinerary, and were all get the Azerbaijan visa here. We all had a very good time, and I would like to dedicate this post to all of them.

We will probably all meet again as we are all going to Baku, across the Caspian see, and on to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other ‘stans’…

Travelling the world by bike (whether bicycle or motorbike) seems actually very common… Antonin was joined by two Germans (http://sunbikers.de/en) and a few days later, I met a dutch couple in Borjomi also travelling by bicycle (http://bikepunks.blogspot.com/). They were heading to the highest roads on earth with some passes higher than 5,000 metres in the region of Pamir…

Good luck to you all!

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