Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
After Turkey, we continue our journey eastward
Our hunger for adventure is always on and after Turkey, it takes us even further East: to Georgia. Finally, we leave bad weather behind and find the good weather again. We enter Batumi, the capital Adjara, and we are amazed: it feels like we are in Las Vegas! Skyscrapers, hotels and palaces, such as the Radisson Blu and the Technological University, they have very different monumental architectures evoking the most famous of the great metropolis in the world.
Being a super-touristic city, the beach is also well-equipped: they even have jetskis! But we prefer the road, and we find a really beautiful one to ride through the countryside with views of the Caucasus Mountains, and after enjoying nature we fill ourselves with goodness: like the typical kachapuri which is a kind of bread-pizza and khinkali which are meat ravioli. We resume the journey and we have fun, we even zigzag between cows! When we arrive at Mestia, a small town by Mount Ushba, we begin a path of medieval flavour: we encounter ancient churches, strongholds and sight towers, we face challenging stretches and cross wild and swollen rivers.
When we reach Tsqaltubo – a destination renowned for its thermal waters – we deserve a bit of relax. In Tbilisi there’s a lot to see: we visit the evocative Prometheus cave that hypnotizes with music and lights, and we take a tour around mechanic shops until we find Niko, nicknamed “the friendly mechanic”, who fixes our motorcycles and a broken windshield.
Riding South we arrive in Armenia. Tumanyan, named after an Armenia’s national poet, is a very scenic town, in a lush canyon. Of the Yerevan capital, sitting at the foot of the biblical Mount Ararat with its perennially snow-capped peaks, we like everything: from the welcome tea offered to us to our walk downtown. We peek around the booths of its market, we admire the watermelon carvers, explore the artistic gardens, climb all the way to the top of the monumental staircase of the Cafésjian Arts Center and take in the city view. After getting back on our motorcycles we take a winding road through the valleys, spotting a long-length cable car, an old monastery and almost fairy-tale villages set in the mountains. In Kapan, a town enclosed within a mountain range, we camp for the night.
A warm wind welcomes us to Iran. We arrive in Tabriz, city of the famous Gran Bazaar cited by Marco Polo “The Million” book. We then leave the city and find ourselves riding through the desert. In front of us a blurry image that looks like a mirage intrigues us. Km after km we get closer and closer until it appears … an immense pink lake: it’s the salty lake of Urmia, so rich in mineral salts that its waters prevent the development of any form of life. Continuing to ride South we reach Hamadān, the ancient Ecbatana, where we spend quite a bit of money to visit the Alavian Dome with its decorated interiors. In the evening, along with other motorcycle riders, we go to see a waterfall with colored lights.
The next morning, we wake up at 6 am and have breakfast with 2 doughnuts before going back to the baking hot highway that takes us to Isfahan. We are fascinated by the beauties of this city: the Shah Mosque, Bazaar with craftsmen and fabric decorators, Naqsh-e jahān Square, Khaju Bridge. But surprises in Iran don’t end here. The next day we follow our guide’s car which is taking some of our friends through the Khara desert, and what do we see? The huge dunes forming an unforgettable landscape! We experience the thrill of climbing over and running back down in the sand like children.
A little further up the road another sight awaits us: the Varzaneh Salt Lake. Here we meet the man in charge of weighing salt, who kindly invites us to drink tea together. Together with our friends, we quickly improvise a party, with music and dances. In the evening, we ride around Yazd’s ancient alleys, looking for a place to spend the night. We get back to our travel heading to Kāshān, the first of a series of great oasis leading to the country’s great central deserts.
We eventually meet Mustafa, a real friend with moustaches: a true friend, he is one of our first followers on Instagram! This time, however, we are the ones following him: he guides us to discover Kāshān and offers us a huge lunch sitting on soft carpets. Unforgettable! Like the emerald green splendours of Shiraz’s Shāh Chérāgh mosque, a city whose beauty also appears in the verses of Persian poets.
Back on our faithful Kawasaki we work our way up Iran and we cross the border with Azerbaijan in Astara. This land is very rich in oil and sure enough we see a few extraction wells, even inside the cities. We reach the capital Baku, lavish to say the least: 5 lanes motorways, an historic downtown acknowledged by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and the largest commercial port of the entire Caucasus region. We board in the new port of Baku at Alat, and we spend the night on the ship, enjoying a sky full of stars from the deck.
The next morning we land in Kazakhstan and get started right away. We cover hundreds of miles on endless streets among the camels, under the sun, full throttle and with loud music in the earphones. We also ride through several flat and grassy highlands, areas full of insects, some good roads, others in really bad conditions, as well as rather insidious unpaved trails with stretches of sand and mud. At 7 pm we stop in Beyneu for the night. After 12 straight hours of sleep we get back in the saddle to pass Uzbek customs and, after 516 km without urban agglomerations, reach Nukus.
celebrate my birthday in Uzbekistan at Khiva, another World Heritage city. My motorcycle surprises me with a gift: a flat tire! Fortunately, we resolve everything in a minute and with a very modest expense at the tire shop. We don’t wait another second to leave, because we want to go see Bukhara with its treasures: the statue of the mythical Nasreddin Khoja, the historic Madrasa Abdoullaziz Khan, the famous Po-i-Kalyan complex with the Tower of Death, and a considerable number of mosques. We try the famous Plov, Uzbek national dish, a true object of worship, that we truly enjoy.
Finally, we can’t help but stopping to visit the stone fortress along the ancient Silk Road: Samarcanda, one of the oldest cities in the World and, of course, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we also visit the golden Mausoleum of Tamerlano, also known as the king’s tomb, the colorful market with craftsmen and the Registan with its 3 madrases. Back on the motorcycle, we stop asking for directions to reach Dushanbe. How is the road? Ask the dust: we are going to Tajikistan!