But now we have to travel on.
Back in the coach we travel westwards, passing close to South Ossetia. Advice on safety and security for travelers from the UK foreign office advises us that: "along the M27 road (also known as the M1), particularly where it runs very close to South Ossetia (between the Stepantsminda/Gudauri turnoff and Gori, and between Gori and Khashuri)... There is a risk of criminal activity in these areas." This is our route! The website further advises that: "The British government does not recognise the unilateral declarations of independence made by the de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is no UK diplomatic representation available in either location." We have every confidence in McCabe's meticulous attention to such details, and also in our excellent Georgian guide and driver.
|A refugee camp on road to Kutaisi|
|on the road to Kutaisi|
|on the road to Kutaisi|
There is a family of stray dogs basking on the bonnet of an abandoned car by the wayside; a bitch and her pups, clearly set up home there. There are too many emaciated stray dogs around - so sad.
The wild flowers in the meadows as we drive along are stunning in their diversity and colors. Poppies give us flashes of bright red brilliance, there are fields of barley and wheat, and there are plenty of smallholdings and small orchards in and around the villages we pass through. Much accommodation here seems very old and run down, in stark contrast to the very modern IDP settlements. Rusty corrugated iron roofs cover many of the older buildings, again in contrast to the many shiny new satellite discs seen as we drive further to the west.
|typical Georgian food very Veggie friendly!|
|dough for the flat bread|
|colorful roadside market stalls on|
road to Kutaisi
It is a three hour drive after lunch to Kutaisi and our hotel for the next two nights so we settle down to read, sleep, watch films on our personal tablets etc. or listen to music. I cannot do any of these things; I watch out of the window continually, anxious not to miss any detail of the changing landscape of this lovely countryside. There is so much of interest to see along the roadside;
There are many small fields of newly planted "greens." Then I see a motorbike pulling a farm trailer! A large and rare road sign in English at the road works along the way urges the traffic to "Slow Down." They are widening this very main and busy route and improving its surface at the same time.
Always there is litter, especially at junctions and along the main roads. Curiously the towns themselves are nearly always relatively clear of litter. Lovely Georgia, please stop desecrating your beautiful countryside in this way. Sadly, I fear the UK is heading in the same direction unless we change the filthy habit of "litter bugging" soon.
|Kutaisi street scene|
Home to the story of the Golden Fleece, Kutaisi is Georgia's second largest town, with a population of 200,000. It is also the oldest, with evidence of settlements going back to perhaps the 17th century BC. It was certainly established as a Greek colony by the 7th century BC.
Here we will be visiting two monasteries and the wonderful Bagrat Cathedral, as well as soaking up the atmosphere of the Georgian Independence celebrations which happily coincide with our visit....to be continued...