After cycling with my brother for almost a month I met up with (a cleanly shaven) Chris in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Like every other major city in Georgia, Tbilisi wants to become a haven for mainstream tourism. Since the Rose Revolution eight years ago, Georgia opened its gates to tourists from all over the world (mostly Russians though). Removing the need for a visa, getting rid of the corrupt police and bringing in investors certainly helped the country. If you haven't been to Georgia, now is the time to go. Tourists will change the country and in less then a decade it will probably loose a lot of what makes Georgia so special.
Crossing to Armenia was easy, the road we took was quiet and took as along rivers up to the Armenian border. Getting the visa was cheap and painless and so we went on our way to discover Armenia. We didn't know what to expect of Armenia, both of us had no idea about the history, culture and landscape. As it turned out, Armenia was the first Christian country and still has many relics from those times. Wherever you go you can see old monasteries and churches, some of them changed to tourist attractions others can be found on the less traveled paths. I tried to avoid the touristy ones, but didn't spend to much time on the others either.
For me Armenia was a great country because of it's stunning landscape, full of mountains, villages and ruins from past times. Almost every day of our 21 days in Armenia was spent at high altitudes (between 1700m and 2000m). The cities in Armenia reminds one of the times when Armenia was part of the Soviet union. Armenia's culture and cuisine show many similarities to its neighboring countries as well.
We stayed in the capital (Yerevan) for almost a week, relaxing from rough camping and enjoying our times meeting other travelers. In Yerevan we also got a first impression of what Iranian hospitality is like. Before we even entered the country we have been offered help by every Iranian we met. It made us more and more excited to go to Iran.
After Yerevan the terrain got harder and we've been climbing hundreds of meters of altitude every day. One unfortunate day when we were short on water we got some water from a hose that stuck out of the ground in front of a small wooden cottage. I was lucky enough to only take a couple of sips, Chris finished more than a liter and the next day his stomach and later his whole body started acting up. We had a really good camping spot, but that didn't make it any easier for Chris. He's as tough as travelers come, but the first time you become sick while traveling is never pretty. The night was cold, I gave up my sleeping bags, but with all his clothes and three sleeping bags he was still shivering. After he emptied his stomach for the dozenth time, sometime after midnight he was finally able to get some rest. The next day we stayed at that spot and I cycled back some 20km to get water and food. It was also the day that I've been traveling for six months. It was good to reflect and to have time to just sit and think, while Chris was trying to recover.
Armenian visas allow you to stay in the country for up to 21 days. After that one can extend his visa in Yerevan, but that was no option for us and so we kept on cycling. Chris needed more rest and so we separated for two days and joined up before crossing over to Iran. He seemed more fit afterwards, but he kept on having problems for three more weeks. Like I said, he's really tough, but because it took him such a long time to become better it affected his mood every now and then and was cause for some distress between us.
Crossing into Iran was awesome and I stayed there as long as possible (three months). A lot of beautiful things happened to me and the next blog post is going to all about that.