06.07.2017 - 06.07.2017 20 °C
Day 43 Thursday July 6 2017
Vardzia to Igdir / 354 km / Border Crossing Georgia to Turkey
- SG has said it before: what a difference a day makes. It is cloudy and cool this morning in Vardzia. A mere 19C; as soon as we get to Turkey this will change. We leave after a late breakfast. The hotel does not start serving until 9 a.m. - late even by Georgian standards.
- We retrace our route to Achalkalaki before heading west to the border crossing with Turkey at a place called Aktas / Cildir. The territorial line is actually drawn through Aktas Lake. A geo- political border if ever there was one.
- Georgian border country is sparsely populated, roads are potholed and the wild flowers very beautiful. We regularly check our altitude. We are driving at around 1850 meters - incredibly high considering the lack of mountain summits. As in Armenia we are crossing wide expanses of high altitude plateau.
- Shortly before the actual border we see the last Georgian church, a simple, single storey shack built in 1990, the year of independence from Russia.
- We are relieved to see the odd HGV coming in the opposite direction. We conclude that the border is definitely open.
- It opened end 2015 and still does not seem to be widely used. Once again we are the only foreigners.
- The passports with the Armenian stamps are safely out of sight. Passing through into Turkey is not a problem.
- The facilities suggest that in the future a greater volume of traffic is expected. Exceedingly tall flag poles fly the national flags of Georgia, Turkey & the EU.
- Many of our border conversations with officials develop along the following line:
Where are you from? England.
Have you driven all the way? Yes.
I like Manchester ....
This is the cue for AG to talk football. Manchester Utd is arguably UK's most famous export.
- The Turkish border is no exception.
- Our re entry into Turkey marks a turning point of our journey. We are not yet back on a westerly trajectory but we have left the Caucasus region, the main destination of our 2 month trip. We are spending another 10 days in Turkey and our itinerary does include some sightseeing - it's not a matter of just driving west. At least Ramadan is over for another year, no more Iftah suppers, just lots of minarets with loud speakers.
- Our route around the east side of Lake Cildir reveals very pleasant scenery, mainly at an altitude of around 2000m. The lake remains undeveloped commercially which makes our drive all the more special. By the water's edge a herd of cows gather on the shingle beach, not tourists. In winter it freezes over completely.
- After leaving Lake Cildir we cross over a railway line that is being upgraded significantly. See photo. We believe that this is part of the Baku Tbilisi Kars railway project that will continue to Istanbul and then on to other Western European destinations.
- Heat and altitude combine to make today's journey very tiring. 20 km or so before Igdir, and over to our east is the magnificent Mt Ararat, just visible through the clouds. Continue over the summit further east and you would get to Khor Virap in Armenia ( see Iconic Armenia entry )
- On arrival at our city hotel, the Star Royal, the only one SG could find with aircon, we note that there is a mosque very close by.
- SG checks the room before giving approval for the luggage to be taken up. It has a back view, so that's ok . But the aircon is off and has been since the last occupant vacated. It takes a good couple of hours for the room temperature to sink to a 24/5C level. We use the time to go for walk about town and find a place to eat.
- Not many tourists come to Igdir and even fewer write restaurant reviews. It's not easy - lots of tea houses and coffee shops but very few restaurants except kebab and shawarma bars. This does not appeal to SG. We end up at, horror oh horror, Dominos Pizza. Thank goodness they have one in down town Igdir. Otherwise we might have dined at Burger King.
- Fortunately on the plus side, whilst wandering around town, we manage to stock up again on Turkish delight. A favourite treat of ours during the day, especially in the absence of bars of fruit & nut chocolate.