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Erzican - Girlevik waterfalls - Akhaltsikhe

Trip Details

Road Trip 2014
Date: Tue, 26/08/2014
Turkey, Georgia
Distance: 550km
Motorcyclists: Manolis, Giorgos, Stratos, Stelios (
Copilots: Natasa
Photographers: Giorgos, Manolis, Stratos, Stelios (, Natasa
Authors: Manolis, Stelios
Translators: Sakis
Map: Trip map

Sightseeing map

3rd time to east...

Finally today we will enter Georgia after two days of pure all-day riding. We ate our rich breakfast in the hotel penthouse with a view of the city and headed again eastwards. Before we change the country, however, we take a look at Girlevik waterfalls, which are considered among the most impressive in the country. It is located just 29 kilometers away from Erzincan and about 8 km south of the main road. The path that leaded  us to the waterfall, gave us with some new  but somehow contradiction images of great scenery and totally dull scenery. First we crossed a poor village with an old Turkish fountain and dilapidated houses and then before the waterfalls, we met a building boom, with huge erected hotel units and lots of concrete. Something is happening here...

Reached the waterfalls early in the morning even before tourist groups arriving. There is a vacant lot which serves as parking -with payment of course but we park right outside the entrance to the site since there is no one here yet. There is a ticket kiosk also closed, perhaps again because of the early time. A little further there are two closed cafe-restaurants, which we passed them to find ourselves in front of the waterfalls. Beautiful, but not impressive I would say. Perhaps unfairly due to the season it does not have enough water. From what I've read, the winter freezes creating beautiful stalactites and making the area ideal for climbing. Also the water is rich in clay, giving impressive slow flowing waterfalls. We stare for a long time and when we were leaving we saw that everything was open and the tavern man emptying garbage from the kitchen to the pond that is created by waterfalls ... The parking lot is open and some kids were acting as parking porters receiving fee’s illegally... rather disgusted and left.

Until Erzurum the view is familiar, similar of what we saw up to now: highlands and plateaus over 1550m, vast meadows and  straight roads consist the scenery. Perhaps it sounds monotonous, however it inspired a charm. So we turn north towards Tortum where a long straight road leading to the mountains over which dark clouds were on top of them ... We realize that the clouds were waiting us... the "dry" period!

Arriving at Tortum and while we had already begun to climb altitude (near 2000m) coming across a rocky, bare land, it started to rain. The initial thought was "... a few drops of rain, it will pass ...", but the rain continued and was getting stronger minute by minute. After Tortum, the landscape is impressive, especially crossing a pass at 2,400m. The view is unique and despite the periods of intense rain, we enjoyed the scenery. With signs for Oltu and Ardahan, we continued the climb with the a magnificent landscape  beside us.

Before Ardahan we were in a huge plateau at 2000m that your view was lost wherever you were looking, the impression is that you're in a vast plain. A little further we found stretches of road works carried out therefore our speed dropped but  winds got stronger. One more time we passed another mountain pass at 2100m., we begun to descend to the Ardahan passing peripheral roads which awaits us the only roadblock for today. But as we do not talk Turkish or German!, they signaled us to go... Then we met one of the few motorcycle convoy encountered on our trip. All bike plates were French...

And little further we saw a solid accident where a passenger has nailed on a tractor, where the military police closed the road. Fortunately for some time only... The first signs for Gurcistan (Georgia in Turkish) make their appearance, making us  smiling as our goal -to enter Georgia in three days- will soon be achieved. Once again the landscape holds us unique features that we could not imagine. Despite the fact that we are here so high up in the mountains, the scenery changes constantly and the variety of the landscape is diverse. Shortly before Damal we met a huge pine forest at an altitude of 2450m. It is the perfect spot for a short stop to enjoy our snack and our coffee. Our mood is high as we were looking forward to enter Georgia. The only negative point is the weather that we will face. Thunderstorms in the vicinity of our  direction are active, however, after what we came across so far, the weather is the last thing that worries us.

Once again we were at a plateau, where happily saw the weather improving, everything is working for us eventually. Shortly after the village of Damal, the road surface not in good condition. Potholes and places with dirt make us ride in low speed and very careful where we go than to enjoy the scenery... Continuing again climbing to 2500m of altitude with rain keeping us company again ... luckily for a short brief, that we didn’t need to wear rainsuits. We crossed to the other side of the mountain and in front of us appeared an area that we cannot distinguish whether it is Turkish or Georgian territory. The truth is that the border is only 15 km away.

After Posof the road is paved with gravel until Turkgozu, the last city in Turkey. The borders finally appear before us, filling us with mixed feelings. From joy that our purpose was achieved and on the other hand the uncertainty as neither of us had visited this place before, gave us a strange but unique feeling... long time now to feel again such a mixture of feelings. At the borders was waiting us a pleasant surprise. On the Turkish side were all employees politely speaking excellent English and gave us bottled water!

The same scenery was at the Georgian side as well. They were helpful, speaking fluent English and were humorous at the same time. In 10 minutes at most we were done! So we started for our final destination, the town of Akhaltsikhe, which was about 25 km from the borders. The landscape remains beautiful and mountainous. The only thing that changes is the addition of natural gas pipeline following the fence of houses and Soviet-style old buildings. A new feeling and expectations were about to start fulfilling us from now on.

The asphalt was in a very high quality, and therefore we enjoyed the winding twisting lovely turns. A car was in front of me  (where there is a car in Georgia and Armenia equals to Lada, namely 90% of vehicles are Lada and the other 10% luxury limousines) and tried to overtake it. Suddenly a hole showed up as the car was hiding it and with no time to react but only to open the throttle and hopefully manage to get up the front part of motorcycle ... No luck of course and the suspension terminated  in the deep puddle with the result to bend both rims... Evaluated the damage, got really angry but on the other I felt lucky that despite the damage the tires didn’t  lose any pressure so I could continue my journey and even if I had a tremor on my handlebars. So I was lucky in my misfortune...

After a while we entered  in Akhaltsikhe where the name means "new castle". It is a city of 20,000 residents, featuring an impressive -of course- castle. It is very well maintained and the location offers a spectacular view of the area. The little River of Potskhovi divides the city in the old part on the north, and the new part in the south.

We headed to a small motel (Tourist) for which I had read good reviews in the internet. Behind the heavy wooden door, a small paradise was hidden ... And with 30 Lari (~ 13 €) per person, we couldn’t begun to bargain. We parked in the small courtyard, we settled down, made a bath and followed the advice of the owner's to dine in Dubli restaurant. We crossed the city which is decorated by the lighted castle.

We struggled to find the restaurant as all signs were in the local language. We asked and asked again to find it and finally we managed, we were surprised to see a beautifully area surrounding the restaurant. We sat at a large table, open the menu and we suffered a shock! 0.40 € costs the 500ml beer! No need to even mention the rest ... We ate like wolves trying all the local dishes, drink all the local beer cellar and taste their wonderful sweet red wine, to pay the enormous amount of 80 Lari (~ 36 €)! Note: Our favorite dish was the Katsapouri a delicious pie with sour cheese (suluguni).

After dinner we take our way back, passing again from the city center. Was crowded, mostly men which some were drunk. ... The police presence is quite intense. Although everything seems relatively calm, a strange feeling was inside us, we were feeling a silent tense in the atmosphere... maybe it has to do that we were in a country that we didn’t know but we've heard "many" for it...