Heading back to Tbilisi I find myself along side Bianca in a truck drivers cab bound for the city along the mountain road from Russia. Our gracious chauffeur is Giorgi, a former Georgian weightlifting champion who is a big softy. We are in a race back to the city with Elis, Lucas and Adam who zoomed past in a Mercedes not long after we were picked up, slow and stead does not win the race. But it does win you a free dinner; drives hasn’t eaten all day so he decides to take us to his favourite restaurant round the corner from his gym.
Its a great place and far nicer than any car park or kebab house that I’ve dinned at recently. He orders two vast platters of dumplings called Khinkali. They vary region to region but are The Georgian dish. Now Georgia is not vegetarian friendly, well in fact I swear Giorgi doesn’t believe its a real thing, it can be difficult for a veggie in these here parts. Bianca is a vegetarian, full blown, not a part timer like me. She profusely apologies as Giorgi looks on bewildered, embarrassed and in a state of dismay all at once; she happily settles for nibbling some Khachapuri, cheesy bread. Which just leaves the two of us and dumpling mountain. They are similar to dim sum but bigger and of course therefore better. Like a Cornish pasty they have a handle which before I knew about the trouble maker next to me I was happily eating, as always calorie counting. By the end of the sweaty meal a small hillock of handles sits on my plate they are delicious but the glutinous quantities have me bursting at the seems.
Georgian hospitality is up there with the best of them, when Giorgi went to the loo he did the old stealth pay. So when I suggest we make a move and that Bianca and I will foot the bill he shakes his head and smiles. We return to Tbilisi and I spend my last night in Georgia lying on my back watching a film and rubbing my bulbous stomach. Azerbaijan tomorrow but first stop is the Chinese embassy to retrieve my passport.
When we applied for our visas all the other euros were fretting about their chances of getting issued a visa, “I heard that its impossible, like a lottery the randomly dish them out as if on a whim” or “according to The Blog they are always rejecting applications.” But I don’t see what the big deal is, have all your documents with the paperwork filled out correctly and there will be nay bother. Well what a mug I am, one by one they go in ahead of me and pop out smiling waving their passports like a fan, open on the page with the pristine Chinese visa . Its like exam results day all over again for when I pop out there is no smile on my face. They made me sweat at the counter asking if I had been to China before, if I’ve had an application rejected or whether I have a second passport. All this information was in the application. I’m convinced they had the wrong paper work at first but I am finally given my passport and off we trot for a celebrational round of coffee. It maybe five o’clock somewhere but fortunately not in Tbilisi as there is riding to be done.
Later Tom and I are at the Azerbaijan border crossing when visa issue number two of the day tries to really make me sweat. It turns out that I didn’t put my middle names in my application and it looks like I will not be going to Azerbaijan after all. The customs chap is extremely nice and it is obvious that he does not want me cycling away with my tale between my legs. He taps away on the keyboard probably messaging friends on facebook and makes a quick call to the powers that be and a few minutes later waves me through with a smile. Fill in paperwork correctly!
I’m smiling when we cross the border as I’m in a rush to get to port town of Alat to cross the Caspian Sea to Asia with post haste as time is short owing to the hold over in Tbilisi which was not ideal. I later find out that two cyclists got turned away for the same paperwork faux pas so I’m a lucky one.
The line between Europe and Asia has been a source of much debate between Tom and I, we have gone round in circles. Istanbul is west of the Bosporus straits and certainly on the European continent so I can at least claim to have wheeled my bike in Europe when I searched for a bike shop, to make my second continent. But in Toms opinion that is the divide and east of the straits you are in Asia.
Google would have you believe that Asia Minor or the Anatolia region make up most of modern day Turkey including the capital Ankara and also includes places countries like Lebanon and Israel. But my argument is that Georgia and Azerbaijan are in Europe as the are in Eurovision and that I will not be in Asia until I’ve crossed the Caspian and I’m east of the Ural Mountains in Russia which I claim to be the north south divide.
The Orient conjuring images of China and Japan, the term even comes from the word “east” or “rising” with reference to sunrise relative to Europe. The Land of the Rising Sun is certainly in Asia after all, there is no mention of Turkey in all this. The opposite is the Occident, but it is no longer in use for as ‘The Western World’ we have distanced ourselves from this term from atop our high horse as we are far to developed to be considered occident’s. Tbilisi by all accounts would be at home in England, Austria or Germany, it has the feel of a city of the Occident.
So once I have set two wheels on the dry sand of Kazakhstan I can claim to have reached my third continent. Asia. Though Australia is in Eurovision so my argument is null and void.