Getting further away from home

 IMG_0446I got a real sense of thrill when I crossed the border into the Iran after cycling through Georgia and Armenia,  two countries that up until now felt very remote and unreachable.
The day I crossed from Turkey to Georgia through the Black Sea border town of Batumi it was sunny and the sea was sparkling. I sat and took time to look at the silhouette of a mosque and the mountainous coastline I was leaving behind. I thought about how I would miss the calls to prayer from the mosques.  They had been marquing the time of the day during my stay in Turkey. It’s sound often woke me up in the morning and I would lie in my sleeping bag listening to the beautiful sounds coming from different mosques talking to each other, echoing each other.
Batumi is a lively city with really interesting architecture and the most beautiful tropical gardens but after all these months it was time to say goodbye to the Black Sea.   I camped on the beach and the day regale me with a beautiful sunset. In the morning, I turned my back on the sea and followed the course of a river swelled by the melting slow of the mountains and the recent heavy rain. In the deep valley, along its course were villages with square squat grey houses, smoke coming out of their chimneys. Hanging bridges joined the two sides of those villages spanning across both sides of the river. There was hardly any people around,  just the odd person here and there.
Typical Georgian village
Typical Georgian village
Headwind was my companion for a lot of my time in Georgia. Headwind is the one thing that sucks all my energy and gets at my spirit. Pushing against it in the lowest gear on a flat road for hours on end and getting nowhere is frustrating and disheartening.  At one point I had had enough and I just couldn’t keep encouraging myself any longer. I stopped by the side of the road and had a good cry, the first one this trip. I sensed that I was probably crying about more than the headwind but I couldn’t really say what was all about. All I know is that I felt a million times better afterwards and was ready to continue battling the wind.
Traffic jam in the main road between Tbilisi and Yerevan
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Georgia before I got to Armenia. I was really apprehensive, even scared about cycling in such a mountainous country but also looking forward to the scenery.
Heading for the mountains
With Armenia it was love at first sight. Amazing mountains, extraordinary monasteries and really friendly people.
In Armenia I made peace with wildcamping. Wildcamping has been a real struggle for me from the start. You can camp pretty much everywhere and people are encouraging and reassuring. In Armenia I camped in monastery grounds, beaches, woodlands…getting better at relaxing and getting a good night sleep.
IMG_0201In Armenia I pushed my bike uphill more than in the previous 9 months put together. Gradients of 12% are common and the road surfaces appalling. It was just impossible to cycle up those hills even in my granny gear but the scenery was worth the effort. Enormous canyons, huge snowy mountains, mirror like lakes, monasteries perching in the top of cliffs, villages hanging for dear life in the slopes.
Armenia’s landscape is untamed and dramatic, it is wild and it takes over. In a way I was glad to have to stop often, it gave me the excuse to admire nature in all its splendor.
I arrived in Yerevan when the trees were about to explode into flower. A few weeks later and the city would have been a bloom.
I saw the city through the eyes of Serge, a kind person who opened his house to me and who I know consider my friend. It is always wonderful to see a city through the eyes of someone who loves it.
Thanks to Serge I experienced Yerevan and Armenia in a deeper way than any of the other countries I have visited until now. I learnt about its history, about the Armenian diaspora, about the unrecognised genocide of its people, about their pride in their country, about cafes, farming, pigs and apricots…
International Women’s day in Yerevan
With Serge, I marched the streets of the city on International Women’s day, visited an NGO hub where lots of different organisations are working to make a difference, went to visit ancient monasteries and monuments, listen to church choir,  contemplated Ararat the sun rising  light and eat ice cream at midnight
Ararat  from Serge’s house
I could have stayed in Yerevan for months but the road and Iran called me and I left with promises of coming back.
Some of the gentle slopes I climbed
IMG_0441I continued pushing my bike up impossible gradients, crossing high mountain passes, sleeping in beautiful woodlands until I got to the border with Iran when all of a sudden the mountains where changed by a deserts. I had arrived in Iran.

10 thoughts on “Getting further away from home”

  1. I hope you were crying because you miss all us lovely friends! We want you to have a fabulous time but we need you to keep a bit of your heart longing to come back to us. So next time you meet a terrible headwind remember its all our love rushing out to meet you. Hugs and kisses my fantastic brave adventurous amiga. Carol xxx

  2. Hola Txuri, sorry but my comments are in Spanish, I feel better writting in our usual communication language.

    Me emocioné leyendo lo que escribes siempre. Nunca entenderé por qué la gente emprende aventuras tan extrañas, pero lo que si entiendo es que es algo que te empuja desde dentro a hacerlo, aunque te de miedo.
    Gracias por compartirlo con los que no necesitamos hacerlo pero si conocerlo.
    Un abrazo muy fuerte desde Donosti y si necesitas algo, ya sabes que estoy aquí.

  3. So good to read this Blanca and know that you are ok.
    I swing between total admiration for you and being scared for you!
    You continue to meet lovely people and really experience their worlds in a way that “usual” tourists do not. This truly is the experience of a lifetime. Please remember that our thoughts and love travel with you. X

  4. ” beri nai” dice Beno. Bueno, yo no tengo palabras. Sigue así!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Estamos contigo Besos

  5. Wishing you the most amazing time through Iran. I think I would have cried lots more times by now, just from being scared and especially when facing those snowy mountains! The generous company of strangers you are meeting along the way is wonderful to read of. You attract good people Blanca who are inspired by your journey and want to help you on your way. May it be so always. Rock on!

  6. Hi Blanca,

    Armenia sounds extraordinary and wonderful. Very different to other countries you’ve visited. It does seem as if you are getting ‘further from home’. It’s great that you’re meeting wonderful people, proud of their country and keen to make you feel at home. Good luck with journeying through Iran!



  7. Hi Blanca you are amazing and I want to be in your panniers having a peak and also experiencing full on Iran. My parents and my brothers lived in Isfahan in the 1950’s. I have always dreamed of going but never planned a trip. We are sitting hear enjoying your stories take care and big hugs !it’s of love Carine sand Dinks x

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