Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1st Month in Gudauri Georgia

When I got to Gudauri, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know where I would live. I didn't know what the food would be like. I didn't know if I would be able to communicate. I now have a place to live in a hostel like hotel run by an old man named Rezo. He was one of the first snowboarders in Georgia and a very cool man. He speaks Georgian, Russian and German. Breakfast and dinner are covered in the rent. Usually with dinner the Georgian wine is flowing freely. New people come to the hotel every week so I have a chance to make new friends regularly. Most of the tourists here are from Ukraine or Russia. It is rare to see another American which I actually quite enjoy. The Georgian food is amazing. Khinkoly is seasoned ground beef in a dough that is boiled to cook the noodle-ish part and meat. You eat it with your hands and you aren't supposed to let the juices touch your plate. So there is quite a bit of sucking of the juices once you bight a hole in the khinkoly. Khajapuri is a flat bread that is fried with cheese in side. The cheese they use is like a "stinky mozzarella". It is quite good but also quite heavy and it fills you up fast. Lobiani is like Khajapuri but it has beans inside instead of cheese. It tastes like a fried burrito but its shaped like a pizza. For breakfast there is usually some sort of grain like rolled oats/wheat or oatmeal, or a bowl of stuff that tastes like cream of wheat but is either rice or noodles. Then there is Georgian sausages (tastes like Polish Kielbasa), cheese, oranges, bread, butter ect. Dinner is usually a soup of some sort and a main course of meat and potatoes. On special occasions there is Georgian BBQ which rocks my world. The Georgian red wine is great. Georgian Cha Cha is a "vodka" made from grapes, much like Grapa from Italy, Raki from Greece or Pisco from Chile. The good stuff comes in a recycled Coke bottle. There is also very good Georgian Cognac which is quite smooth and a favorite in the coffee while warming up on a cold day riding. There are also very good beers from Georgia. and cheep. A 2.5 liter bottle is about $3.

Georgian BBQ. Pork, beef, chicken, and lamb. 

Sveta. Our cook about 1/2 the time at Rezo house. 

Enjoying a Georgian beer with my Georgian lady friend Anna.  
Cha Cha

More Cha Cha

Now for the snow and the mountains. I lucked out when I randomly picked Gudauri. The Caucasus Mountains separate Georgia and Russia on Georgia's northern border. The mountains here are relatively "new" so they are very rocky an jagged. Gudauri doesn't have many trees so if the weather is cloudy, the light gets very flat. This would be my main complaint. For some reason the tree line is very low here. We have had many sunny days in Feb though to the point where much of the snow that we received in January was melting.

Ukrainians getting ready to shred. 

Wet windlip shlashes. 
Fisheye capture from Gopro footage. 

Waiting for a ride after dropping down to the "Georgian military road"

Getting a ride in the back of an old Russian Kamas dump truck. 

A few days later. After 10 days of no snow and sunny weather we decided to go trekking for fresh powder. The expedition turned out to be a success. 

Don't get into those jagged rocks. 

Stay on the North faces. The south facing slopes have huge wetslides. 

Some people have amazing style when they jump windlips. 

Finding fresh pow even 10 days after a snow? Am I in heaven? 

Look Mom.. I'm even wearing a helmet! 

Dumping one night. Huge flakes about 1" across. 
We woke up the next day to an amazing powder day.
Here is a quick video I put together with footage from that day. (and a few other days)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Turkey and entering Georgia

December 31. New Years Eve. Istanbul

Tolga and I had signed up for the " Istanbul NYE party". He warned me that most of the people there would be Turkish guys. We took our chances and the party turned out to be pretty good. There were about 1000 people from all around the world. Only about %25 were Turkish guys. We met a brother and sister from Atlanta, Claibourne and Prentiss. They were great fun and we celebrated the new year until very late. I'm glad I Tolga was Turkish when we were trying to get taxi cab because we talked to about 5 or 6 taxis before we found one that wasn't trying to screw us. The first few wanted $50 for a $10 taxi ride. Make sure you agree on the price before they start driving. 

Dressed to kill on NYE!

January 1. 2013. Exploring Istanbul.

We slept in and rode motos around the city. Tolga showed me some of the sights. The Mosques. The old city. The people fishing on the bridges. The most interesting thing is probably the traffic. You don't know till you experience it. While we were parked near one of the Mosques, a bearded guy in his 20s came up to us and asked me if I was Muslim. I replied no. "Well, No one is perfect". Great stuff. Later we met up with Prentiss and her brother for some dinner. I had a traditional Turkish dish that was dumplings filled with meat and covered in a sauce made from yogurt with red peppers. I really enjoyed it.

Fishing. Turkish style. 
Um... bait or keepers? 

Keepers I guess. :)

Time to leave I think. Getting stared down. 

Tolga and my 690. 

Maybe we weren't supposed to park here either. 

Tolga and Claibourne  

My amazing dinner. Could have been a bit more spicy. 
Chi. All tea is called Chai. 

January 2.

Tolgo had to go back to work so I worked on the bike. I borrowed Tolga's sweet Honda scooter and found tools I needed. I needed a extendable magnet for the valve shims, a digital mutimeter, and a digital caliper. I found my valves were out of specifications so I was going to have to re-shim. After spending some time on ADVrider, We decided it would be better to replace the rocker arms. I was worried I would not be able to find any. I have heard horror stories of people in the US waiting for months to get rocker arms when the bearings go bad. The next day we would find out.

The parking garage turned workshop. 

KTM  "fog" 

While cleaning I found a broken pin which needed to be soldered. The reason some of my numbers were kaput. 

January 3.

On the way back from work Tolga stopped at the KTM dealer in Istanbul. It turns out they had the Exhaust and Intake rockers I needed. They also let me borrow a shim kit so I could get the bike shimmed correctly. I finished the bike in the evening and Tolga and I ate some sandwiches with kofte. Kofte is like meatballs. It also can be raw meat so be careful when ordering. Again we met up with our American friends that we met on NYE. It turned out to be a late night somehow.

Old Exhaust rocker out. 

New Exhaust and Intake Rockers in. 

Sick side-ponytail. 
January 4.

My plan was to leave to start across Turkey toward Georgia. But when Tolga and I woke up, we both had a bad stomach bug. We blame the Kofte from the night before. We did not do much that day. I was either in bed or on the toilet.

January 5. Istanbul to Zonguldak 385 km

I finally left Istanbul and started across turkey. When I started it was cloudy and cold but not raining. By the evening I had rain and snow. I screwed up and made a 90km loop acidently. I thought I was on one road and I went back on my own track. After this I was frustrated and cold so I stopped for the night.

January 6. Zonguldak to Osmancik 393 km

When I woke up in the morning there was sun shining on the bay down below. I felt a wave of relief run over my whole body. By the time I finished breakfast, it had started raining again. Gotta keep moving. The first mountain pass gave me snow with some slush on the ground. By the time I got inland, it was dryer snow and less dense. For much of the afternoon it was cold and cloudy but not wet. At dark I stopped in Osmancik for the night.

These guys gave me Chai. 

The hill slid and did this. Crazy. 

January 7. Osmancik to Fatsa 304 km

Dry cold roads to start the day. Snow on the side of the road but the lanes were clear. It was cold enough where any water would turn to ice on the road. Gotta keep your guard up. In the town of Fatsa the snow was falling hard. Big wet heavy flakes. Fatsa is next to the Black Sea and going west, the road climbs over a small pass. I went about 3 km before I could not see any lines on the road. There was so much snow falling I felt like I needed windshield wipers. After I saw one car in the ditch I decided to turn around. Luckily there was an underpass to get on the other side of the divided highway. A short ride later and I was back in Fatso. Withing 15 minutes I was out of my cold wet cloths and eating some nice hot Turkish bean soup. Warm and salty. Just what I needed.

A cold Noah

Snow and the Black Sea. 

January 8. Fatsa to Arsin. 235 km

Got a late start because I had to wait for the snow on the roads to thaw. Wet pavement and rain all day. You really have to watch out for the truck drivers in Turkey. On wet pavement I slow down on the moto tires. Especially when there is traffic around. The last thing I need to do is slide into a guard rail or under a truck. A delivery type van came up on me fast and was about 5 feet off my rear tire. I motioned with my hand for him to go around. The left lane was clear. He went around the swerved back into my lane fast almost like he was purposely trying to run me off the road. I had to use breaks and go into the shoulder to avoid getting hit. I'm not sure what it was about, but this acually happened 2 times to me in Turkey. Tolga said its because not many people ride motorcycles in Turkey and the truck drivers are just "country hicks". I told Tolga in most places the truck drivers at least have a little respect for the people on moto. If not respect, at least they don't try to run them off the road. My recommendations for Turkey would be stay on the small roads/ offroad. In summer time that's where I would have been. Leaving a stoplight I couldn't find my shifter. The spring in the peddle part had broken. I pulled over and spotted what would work nicely... a discarded teaspoon. I pushed it into the peddle and it worked nicely. I found a hotel at the next exit and got a room. It was a "nice" hotel compared to the previous nights and about 2x more expensive. Dinner was pan fried chicken fillets and salad.

Skies look promising. 

Should have known better. 

These guys also gave me Chai. And also thought I was crazy. 

Quick fix and back on the road. 

An avalanche probe works very well for drying your boots when the hotel has a heater mounted up by the ceiling. 
January 9. Arsin Turkey to Batumi Georgia. 181 km

It was raining in the morning so I took my time with coffee and internet. At about 11 I bit the bullet and started riding. It rained pretty much the whole day. In the afternoon I hit the Georgian border. About 15 minutes with customs explaining that KTM is the brand name of the moto and I was on my way. The first major town that I hit was Batumi. In the summer I am told this is quite the nice beach town. When I was there it was raining. The hotel I stayed in had a storage room where my moto could sleep the night. It also had a club that was blasting euro-club-techno-boom-boom music until about 2 in the morning. The ear plugs came in handy.

In Georgia!

Getting money and food. 

Looking south toward Turkey

January 10. Batumi to Surami. 242 km

In the morning there was snow on the ground but the roads were clear. I rode north along the coast and in the afternoon I even had some sunlight. Later I was traveling east on the main road toward Tbilsi. It starts to wind through some small mountains and of course that's when the snow started. Looking in my mirror I spotted a car coming up on me fast so I pulled over and waved them by. As they pulled along side me they honked and waved with thumbs up. In the rear window was a KTM sticker. They pulled over a bit further and we talked. Then the snow started to get bad. My new friends help me get a hotel. The room was great. 1 room, 1 bed, 1 table, 2 chairs and a wood stove. Just what I was looking for after riding in the snow for a while. That night the snow kept falling. I got my first taste of Georgian Cha Cha with the owner of the hotel.

Looks safe. 

Love me a wood stove. 

Still dumping. 
January 11. Surami to Rustavi. 163 km

Coffee and breakfast with the hotel owners. The daughter was learning English in school and was asking me simple questions.. "what is your age".. "where are you from".. she would then talk to her dad and brother in Georgian. I got on the road once the snow cleared. This was the first actual sunny days I had been lucky enough to have in about a week. It was very cold but dry. I rode through Tbilisi and on to Rustavi where KTM Georgia has a garage. This is where I parted ways with the 690. It will be in storage till spring.

Finally some sun!

Teaching dad some English. 

January 12. Rustavi to Gudauri. By pickup truck

Up early in the morning. We loaded a snowbike in the back of a diesel Ford Ranger and headed up toward Gudauri. Its about a 2 hour drive and after the first hour we started to get into snow. The Caucasus mountains are quite spectacular. I would snowboard that day and almost every day since then.

Pass on a curve? Why not.  
Seems like a reasonable way to sand the roads. 

The view from up top. 

Season Pass!
Watching the sun set on the first day at Gudauri