Day 4 was definitely not for the faint-hearted. We left central Tbilisi on our way to the Azerbaijani border, driving through the city’s industrial area. Passing by huge factories, landfill sites and discarded car/train piles, you can imagine we were pretty surprised to find a sparklingly new rugby pitch to our left, with intimidating looking men going through their morning training. Olivier being our “rugby boy”, we cut around the gate to get a closer look and found that it was none other than the Georgian national rugby team! Being the awkward tourists that we were, we watched them through the fence from the safety of our car for a while, had an animated but short discussion about whether Oli should go ask to train with them, and then were on our way again.
The area got more and more scarcely populated and after some rudimentary navigating, we ended up on the correct track that would hopefully take us to the border zone. We knew we were getting close when we came across a disused military training camp, and then further along an active military camp and firing range. After passing the latter, we were in what looked like a kind of no-mans land, with the occasional bunker to our left and right and apart from that, an uninhabited expanse of hills. From afar we noticed some people wandering around these hills, which, on initial naïve impression, were thought (by mum) to be children on a school trip. A laughable suggestion when we later realised they were soldiers performing a mine-sweep -sponsored by the Japanese and US governments-.
We also came across (surpirseeeee) another monastery with caves, which was built on (surpriseee) a very high mountain. Knowing that we were going to be in the car for a while, we decided to go on what sounded like a short climb to see the frescoes, caves and view. A not very short three hours later, sweaty and tomato faced, we were back in the car. Apart from the scenery and the turtle along the way, it was mostly things that we had already seen before, and climbing what was quite a steep, slippery and viper-licious path in flip-flops didn’t make anyone very happy either.
It only got more cheerful as we neared the official border crossing zone, realising the car’s air-conditioning as well as my car doors’ hinge was broken, passing a decapitated dog on our way, and entering the no-bullshit Georgia-Azerbaijan border zone where we would be spending the following two hours. Apparently, we had a visa for two weeks, but our car only had a visa for three days, so that was a problem, and they had to thouroughly check our car (top, bottom, inside) with mirrors (officially, not practically) and sniffer dog before we were allowed to be on our way again.
Finally, after a few more sweaty hours in the car, we made it to Sheki, a renown Silk Road town in Azerbaijan. Our hotel f0r the night- the local Caravanserai -was a beautiful remnant of the Silk Road, with a classic Arabian exterior complete with sand coloured arches and heavy wooden doors. For dinner, we walked to the nearest restaurant where we accidentally tried liver shashlik (not a big fan), and other local food, most of which was very nice. Our bellies and minds full, we fell asleep.