From Georgia to Azerbaijan..
OK, so everyone else had thrown it in there, but it certainly was not supposed to be the rubbish dump and there is no way I was about to add to it. With a horrified look on my face and using my hands to emphasise the point, I kept hold of my rubbish, no way would I add to this disaster. At this, the lady then pointed to her feet. Directly outside of her shop there was a deep, open gutter with water running through it, this was her next suggestion! It too was also filled with plastic bottles and other rubbish and when I displayed my dismay at the idea, she then beckoned for me to hand it over saying 'come, come' and was basically telling me that she would do it on my behalf if I didn't want to!!
I'm not sure mortified is the right word. Sadly, we have become so used to witnessing people sling their rubbish out the windows, or drop it as soon as they have finished with it, that the only words to describe my feelings were sheer anger and frustration. The ridiculous thing is that when you pass by gardens, the rubbish is only on the outside. I have even seen people pick it up from their property but merely throw over the fence, that's it!
When Mark and I took the bus from Batumi to Tblisi, we met a young girl, a translator fluent in English and I took the opportunity to quiz her about it (after all we had been siting on the back seat stewing over the amount of rubbish that had been continuously flung out the window during our bus trip alone). She was a lovely young girl, intelligent and passionate, but went on to tell us that this was the result of the Soviet era and because the average income is so low. I'm sorry, am I missing something here?? (Note that the girl absolutely agreed with us and was hopeful that the younger generation coming through, along with the drive for tourism, will change this attitude soon).
Inside the valley it was a vast, flat, fertile basin with dramatic mountains that stretched along the far side like a blockade. Welcome to the Caucasian mountains! A straight road cut directly across the valley floor, our tyres kicking up dust from the baking ground. The mountains, where we expected to find our entrance into Azerbaijan, seemed to be moving backwards on every push of the pedals. Eventually, just a few kilometres from the border of Azerbaijan, we pulled up in a shady park area, bought a watermelon and several bottles of fluids and enjoyed a liquid based picnic. As we were getting into it, a gorgeous little foal trotted along the road, shortly followed by it's mother trying her best to keep up. The front feet of the mother horse had been tied together and she was only able to make steps of half a foot at best. Now we were mortified. Russell had just been cutting the melon up with his Gerber and we all agreed we couldn't let the horse go without doing something. Subtly, Russell and David cut the horses feet free and that was the happiest moment of my day. The horse caught up with her foal and an old man who had spotted us, but we weren't sure how he would react, reached up to the branch above him and shook the fruits off the tree for the horses to eat. Good luck to them both, or at least, enjoy your day of freedom until the owner catches up with you again.
I have to say, although I wasn't expecting the repeat chaos that we had getting into Georgia from Turkey, I was expecting something quiet, basic and remote, but this was not the case at all. The border crossing was very official, modern and relatively efficient. Everyone welcomed us and the fact that non of us had been to Armenia meant that everything was fine. All six passports were stamped and we were in..
We were on the look out for a cold spring to wash ourselves down, when an old man called across to us from a fence. The man, his name was Isa, held up a fat, industrial sized hose pipe with the freshest, coldest spring water pouring heavily out of it. As we all huddled around, he held it up in the air and let us soak ourselves underneath it! The man smiled at us all so happy. After a little time, a mother and her children came from across the road to fill up their milk can and buckets. The children checked all our gear out and David and Russell offered to help carry the water back for the family. Along with some other men that had also turned up to see what all the fuss was about, the mother laughed and smiled as the boys carried the milk vat across the road, they seemed to have picked up a stowaway!
Must get to bed as planning an early rise to beat the heat. Everyone is already out to it, even with the local music blasting out near our wood camp..