Saturday, 20 September 2008


Over the past few years I’ve dragging my family around Easter Europe for our summer holidays to catch the last glimpses of traditional life held in aspic during the old communist rule.

Our quest was inspired by a trip to Hungary after the wall came down and many of the Soviet republics regained their independence while old Russia ground to an economic halt. We picked the thread up once again when our daughters, India and Iona were ready to leave the beach behind and embrace real adventures without a bucket and spade. 

First on the list was a trip to Romania riding in the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania. We experienced an astonishing countryside and way of life not seen in the UK since before the First World War. This small but significant adventure whetted our appetite for more mountains and some serious riding. 

Next on the list was riding over the Balkans in Bulgaria. I had assumed such a trip would be relatively leisurely but it ended up as being more a test of stamina and determination, riding for up to eight hours a day with some of the longest rising trots one could expect to encounter.

With the Carpathians and Balkans under our belt and an ever increasing confidence in our ability, I managed to persuade my family into the idea of riding in the Caucuses in Georgia. On this occasion we knew what to expect and how to survive without the obligatory morning shower and general creature comforts associated with family holidays.

I knew Georgia was a fair distance from the UK and where I wanted us to travel was a place called Tusheti on the Dagestan and Chechen boarders. What I wasn’t ready for was the way of life we were going to experience as a family and how remote the region was in 2007. This travel account or Blog is an attempt to capture the magic we encountered during the summer of 2008 just weeks before Russia invaded Georgia.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Nino and a fine Georgian breakfast

On the 25th July 2008 we set out for our return visit to Georgia. On this occasion we had good Georgian friends who were keen to see us return and of course offer the renowned Georgian hospitality. In 2008 Georgia was an expensive five hour flight from the UK and as a result English visitors were a rare commodity and as such cherished. Before we could immerse ourselves in all things Georgian, we had to get there. Moments before our plane was due to take off from Heathrow our BA flight crew ‘discovered’ in the seat behind us two Spanish Terrorists. After a 1.5 hour delay and airport police bristling with machine guns the two sheepish Spaniards were escorted off the plane.  My wife Melissa swore she saw knives but all I could see was the exceptional scar on one of the chaps face. Now we were ready for our Georgian adventure.

On arrival in Tbilisi our wonderful friend Nino Simona pitched up the moment we arrived through customs, brilliant timing. Georgians never waste time in they can be doing something else. So waiting diligently and suffering every moment waiting in a queue is simply an anathema to Georgians, especially Nino who swept us off our feet with the style and grace you would expect from a Parisian. The difference was her car wouldn’t start. In 2008 cars were often old in Georgia and invariably held together with string and tape. The memories of their sleek trouble free past were held by previous owners, most likely in the west. Never down cast, Nino made a call. Georgians love their mobiles and I swear they would part with the family silver before parting with their mobile (cell phone). The message from the mobile was the battery in the boot may be the trouble and of course this advice was correct. With a waggle of the terminals the Mercedes burst into life and we were off.

Melissa started to count the red lights we jumped as Nino hurtled through Tbilisi. In those days traffic lights were for wimps and Nino, like so many Georgians, was not about to become one. In 2015 the story would be very different. Seat belts are now commonplace and traffic has quietened down which makes life a great deal safer but removes a level of uncertainty which I miss.

We had only driven through Tbilisi from the airport and already the world was changing before our eyes. The fun part was yet to come.  

After a magnificent breakfast, a feast fit for Kings we set off to experience the delights of Tbilisi which has some truly amazing museums, one of which is the second largest collection of Icons in the world. The new gold artefacts collection is world class but the place for us has to be the Turkish baths.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Traveling to Tusheti

Our Journey to Tusheti was about to begin and I hope the following images help to paint a clear picture of this magnificent region in Georgia. I’ve attempted to illustrate the key stages of our adventures during the summer of 2008 and annotated many of the pictures to help place our journey into context and of course help explain what was happening at the time.

'This account documents the two weeks my family and I spent riding along hair raising trails, fording snow melt rivers, climbing mountain passes and generally living the life of adventures from another age. In 2007 we had only touched the surface of this magnificent land. Charged with enthusiasm we fancied another taste of somewhere very special. What we hadn’t reckoned on was how rich that flavour of Tusheti  and Georgia was going to be.

I write this passage in 2015 from my notes. Tusheti has grown up and changed as has the rest of the world. You will still find wonder but a few creature comforts have now arrived.

I’ve re-edited the introduction stages and taken out a great deal of the original copy. Back in the day when travel Blogs were new I just wrote what I thought. Now we have a level of expectation so when you read this account think back when the web was new and travel blogs were a rarity. This one was.