Motorcycle Explorer Issue 17 - Page 51

The first Georgian men we come across, because the weather is hot, are shirtless. Their bared torsos, the way they carry themselves, makes one think of strength and independence. They would need to be strong, these resilient Georgians, population just over four million, who, like many before, have dared to challenge the might of Russia and lost.

We ride through the lowland marsh-forests and swamps of the Black Sea coast near Batumi. Dense, sub-tropical vegetation encroaches onto the road; banana trees, vines clotted with purple grapes. Gentle-eyed cows claim the road as their own and all traffic is forced to give way. Briefly we turn inland and begin to climb; the air cools and is scented by eucalyptus trees that shed their bark to expose the smooth, blue-white skin beneath. Through Katumi, jousting with drivers who feel that traffic lights and white lines are merely gentle reminders, the obeying of which relies mostly on personal preference.

Back down again to the coastal wetlands, extensive and flat, the Black Sea on our left, lakes and swamps and estuaries on the right. The road is little more than a causeway raised above the level of a damp and sodden land. Pigs snuffle about in water-filled channels; ducks push their way through long grass but the cows seem to prefer the warmth and companionability of the road.

Finally, after Poti, we turn east, inland again, and towards the mountains. The road narrows, towns become villages and traffic fades.