"Oh no, I have rabies!" I thought. "I'm probably going to die!". Then I went back to sleep.
Just before leaving Georgia for the Christmas holidays in Sweden, the house cat at the hostel had given me a slight scratch. I always imagined that if I was bitten by a dog or other wild animal I would hurry to the nearest hospital for treatment, especially in countries where rabies is common. But this cat was domestic and cute. I can't go to the doctor for a small scratch from a cute cat, can I?
|Stupid rabies cat!
Two weeks later, just days after Christmas, I'm waking up in my bed back in Sweden with an extremely sore throat, a symptom of rabies. "Well, it's too late now anyway!" I thought, considering that in order to survive you need to get treatment within a week, before signs of the disease manifests.
Luckily it turns out that it wasn't rabies, but rather the result of having half a dozen flu spreading children running around fighting for attention and Christmas presents.
|Stupid rabies children!
I learned that I didn't reacted the way I always thought I would when faced with a disease. But it's not like it was a global pandemic, right? 2020 had not yet begun.
The cheapest flight to Georgia did a stop over in Riga and we had a few additional places to go before we would get back to our bikes in Kutaisi. Arriving in Georgia the woman at the border control, after checking my passport, greeted me welcome then handed me a bottle of local wine. A very unusual but appreciated gesture, since I like wine, albeit as a Swede it feels quite strange as alcohol back home is strictly controlled and heavily taxed.
We had a bit of a vacation by skiing in Gudauri. It's been several years since I skied, but it was like riding a bike.
Before getting back to our bikes we stopped by Tbilisi and explored the capital by foot, thus hoping we could avoid cycling through this busy city when we later were going to pass it coming from Kutaisi on our way to Azerbaijan.
|I heart Tbilisi!
After two months of inactivity it was hard to start cycling again. We swore that from now on we would never allow ourselves to get this out of shape, a promise we would break faster than usual. The spring was blossoming and despite our weak legs we enjoyed the cycling and the scenery. We camped by streams at mountain foothills or stayed at cheap hotels in towns like Tqibuli and Chiatura. We were invited by locals, ate chinkali and drank chacha. We fell in love with the cheese filled bread called khachapuri, ate too much of it, and thus started to detest it. So. Much. Cheese.
We tried keeping up with the news. A virus was wreaking havoc in our planned path and the countries we were about to visit next were closing their borders. We thought that if we just cycled slowly enough things would sort themselves out. How bad can it be? "There's always a disease from China", as one local told us.
|Nice spot for people and animals alike!
|Tkibula River in Tqibuli.
|Out of shape, out of breath.
|Invited for lunch. And chacha, obviously.
|The Katskhi Pillar, a limestone monolith.
|One of many retired cable cars in Chiatura used to get workers up to the mines.
We got to the city of Gori, famous for being the birthplace of Stalin, a fact they seem quite proud of. Events suddenly seemed to accelerate and reports from around the world came with a rapid pace. Our guesthouse host had all her bookings canceled, her livelyhood disappeared in an instant. Shops and museums closed and friends in other places were forcefully thrown out of the country they were in. Finally, we got a message from Azerbaijan that our visa was annulled. We couldn't continue.
We didn't have much of a choice but to try to fly back to Europe as quickly as possible and we booked a ticket to Portugal, one of few countries that still had their borders open.
A train from Gori to Tbilisi, then we had to cycle around in this big city we had hoped to avoid, in a quest to find boxes big enough to pack our bicycles for the flight. The fourth bicycle shop we found was able to help us and after a lot of swearing, by the mechanic, the bikes were ready to fly. A taxi loaded them on the roof of the car and secured them with a flimsy string. The driver drove to the airport somewhat safely by Georgian standards, still pretty fast and reckless in my mind.
The trip has ended abruptly, but we were one of the lucky ones. Most flights on the monitors were listed as canceled, and there were several other cyclists at the airport with no tickets and no boxes for the bikes.
Now, all we have to do is relax in Portugal for a week or two and let this pandemic blow over. Right. Right?
|Looking for a box in Tbilisi.
|What can possibly go wrong?
|We didn't have a scale so we didn't have a clue if we would exceed the weight limit of 32 kg. Nailed it!