My checklist for Turkey complete (not that I really have checklists), I hefted up my pack and aimed for Georgia.
I aimed for Sivas, with one ride handing me a handful of cigarettes as we parted ways in the middle of nowhere, while a group of students showed me their hometown of Kayseri before packing me on a tram out of the city center. Turkish rides are usually pretty eventful I’ve found, especially when some are constantly making sexual signs with their hands as they drive you three hours down the road. Wonderful stuff.
Outside Sivas I spent a good few hours into the night, talking go random streets dogs as cars just kept going by, and certain songs playing through my headphones that reminded me of hanging out in front of the Playstation with my brothers. So long ago, and look where I am now, outside a dusty Turkish gas station in in the middle of nowhere (could almost describe every day, really)
That night I spent in an adjacent parking lot, hiding half-under an abandoned truck.
The next day, after being woken up from a huge but friend and curious sheepdog, I made a lot of miles. I was picked up by a trucker bound for Iran, and the next five hours would see us becoming friends over the mountainous roads on the way to Erzurum.
It’s a beautiful road, really. Many ups and downs, relatively unspoiled nature, and you get to see how the Jandarma headquarters go from regular government buildings into something resembling a forward operating base in Afghanistan (due to conflicts with Kurdish militant groups).
I suppose the highlight was Having lunch in a mountain pass, as he used the trucks air gun to “fan” the coal to cook some meat. The scene described Turks pretty well.
Evening had me on the outskirts of Erzurum. I zipped right through and headed North, towards Hopa. Yet another beautiful road, of course I ended up camping in a horribly mosquito-infested clearing off the main road and across a somewhat trusty looking old bridge.
Continuing the next day with probably the giggliest Iranian trucker, I spent yet another half day going up and down through canyons, tunnels, around dams, and just generally taking a long time… Again, beautiful drive, though.
In Artvin, a strange looking town built up the side of a mountain, I switched to again of my faster rides in recent memory. Another palms-soaked-with-sweat sort of ride as a young fellow took every corner with a “drift,” sometimes laughing like a crazy man when I was visibly having the “is this where I die?” face on. At one point he aimed straight for an oncoming truck, swerved out at the last second, smiled and me and casually said “friend” in Turkish. Reassuring, of course.
I did make it to Hopa alive, however, and just 10km or so from the border! Unfortunately I had to compete with an increasing amount of hippies arriving on their way to the Georgian rainbow gathering. Three people and a dog got picked up before me, somehow… Not sure how that happens.
Maybe an hour or two later I was crossing the border into Georgia. Two months of Turkish magic was now giving way to the mystery of Georgia… Now that I write weeks after these events, I would be laughing at myself had I known what I know now!