Tom Allen is travelling the world by bicycle, and you can read his story on his blog and watch some videos of the journey on the podcast site.
A shorter excursion than normal, this time into the Greater Caucasus mountains of northern Georgia in autumn, just before the onset of winter in the higher valleys.For more information about mountain-biking in Georgia and the Caucasus visit www.mountainbiking.ge and tom.ride-earth.org.uk
Slideshow: Autumn 2009: Mountain-biking The Caucasus >>>
Last week I travelled to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to meet Andy for a few days of mountain-biking in the Caucasus mountains to the north of the city.
Andy told me that many people outside the country still think it must be a ‘warzone’. This is probably due to the monumental fuss made by the international media over an incident last year which has become known as the 2008 South Ossetia war. The reality of this war was a few days of localised conflict on the borders of a region which has been fighting for independence for nearly twenty years, but this didn’t stop it being portrayed as the closest thing to World War III (with a good deal of anti-Russian spin for good measure).
Today, a tentative peace prevails. Ethnic groups arbitrarily united and divided by newly-drawn borders still struggle to accept their neighbours and find justice for past wrongs done against them, but it seems that most people would rather harbour their resentments and get on with the business of eating, drinking, working and having families.
We headed out of Tbilisi – me, Andy and his Georgian mountain-biking friend Dato – towards Zhinvali and the small mountain villages of Georgia; square, tin-roofed, wide-terraced houses of bleached wood and crumbling concrete. Vines pulsed with ripe grapes, chickens, calves and sows roamed the little pot-holed tracks, and the trees were just beginning to dust the ground with the oranges and browns of autumn. It was our last chance to go and explore these high, remote valleys before the onset of the harsh Caucasian winter that Andy and I knew all too well.
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