CHRIS & GABS MAY NEWSLETTER

Author: Chris & Gabs – May 09, 2019

Cycling for… 309 days
Pedaling over… 8080km
Through… 16 countries
Currently… in Georgia!
Raising so far… £6,282.20


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This month we’ve visited…Georgia!

We have stayed in Georgia and now are in the capital which is Tbilisi. We spent the month travelling around Georgia as it is a wonderful country with so much to explore.

The most beautiful area has been…

We went for a four-day trek from Mestia to Ushguli. We both felt that this trek enabled us to experience the true culture of a Georgia and we witnessed the most amazing scenery and views.

 

 

Day 1: Mestia – Zhabeshi (16.1km)

The trail set off through a light forest and over pastures from which we had a good view of Mt. Ushba followed by beautiful view of Svaneti valley dominated by Mt. Tetnuldi peak. Our highest climb of the day 2700m!

Day 2: Zhabeshi – Adishi (10.6km)

We walked uphill along the stream flowing through the village. After around 2 hours of climbing, the trail went on a dirt track through dense forest. We reached Tetnuldi skiing resort roughly at 2500m altitude.

We stayed in a village called Adishi. Families opened their home to travelers, so you can stay with them for the night and experience the true old traditional Georgian living. They had no running water and they only put on the electric for a few hours in the evening.

 

Day 3: Adishi – Iprali (18.7km)

We crossed the Adishi river at the foot of its glacier. This time of year, the water is high because the snow is melting off the mountains. Water was flowing fast down the mountain sides. When we reached the river there were to guys on horses with their herd of cows and we asked them if we could ride their horses to cross the river and they said yes!

 

After 2 hours of climbing through the snowy fields we could not follow the trail anymore as it was all covered in snow. We made it finally to the Chkhunderi pass (2655m) but not till after Gabs suffered a panic attack on top of the snowy ridge on the very peak of this pass.

 

After this we heading down into an immense valley where the ruined Khalde village lies. Only one Russian family lives there, running a guesthouse. The views of the glaciers was mind blowing. There was no shortage of food here, his wife filled the table with delicious traditional cooking and lots of homemade wine.

 

Day 4: Iprali – Ushguli (12.4km)

On our last day we constantly climbed through forests and across streams. Gabs was so pleased to have made it, her feet were extremely sore (don’t go climbing in your cycling boots). She took off her boots to relieve the pain and walked the last few meters in her sandals only to be told that we had 3 villages to go!

 

We finally made it and stayed with a great couple who welcomed us into their guest house and lavished us with homemade food and wine. It was perfect. Gabs said that it was the best four days ever for her.

 

The most bizarre experience has been…

Ushguli is Europe’s highest continually inhabited village which split up into four hamlets. It is famous for its crumbling defensive towers that are typically characteristic of Svan architecture.

 

Travelling off the beaten track here feels like taking a step back into the past, people live there all year round, despite the fact that the outside world is inaccessible for half the year, due to snow. There are no roads just muddy paths made by the roaming cows, pigs, goats and sheep. You would think no one lived here as there is only a few wooden and tin huts for homes and guest houses. With a population of a couple of hundred, it is truly isolated, and thus the community retains an idiosyncratic character and ancient way of life. 

 

The most challenging part has been…

Gabs on the third day of our trek the top of the Chkhunderi pass,

“I do not like heights but try to combat my fears head on. I was doing well on this pass until Chris said something about our friend falling of a ridge just like it. I looked down and realised I was literally hanging off the side of a mountain and the shear height and drop was immense.

 

We were in thick snow and this made it more difficult. Chris thought I was messing around at first when I froze and starting loud deep breathing but quickly realised I was struggling, I felt dizzy but I had to pull myself together as there was no way off this ridge – I had to get to the top.

 

It was the worst day of my life and I really thought I was going to slip and fall, it seemed to take hours just to get a few meters to safety at the top. I was so happy and proud of myself when I made it. I was told after that we were off route because of the snow and no other people trekking went up there.”

A special highlight this month has been… Europa Donna Cancer Coalition again in Tbilisi Georgia

 

We went to talk with Georgia’s biggest TV personality ‘Anna’ from the popular TV soap ‘My Wife’s Friends’ (it’s the equivalent of Corrie back in the UK!) Anna plays the role of a Breast Cancer patient, just like our lovely Sally Dynevor from Corrie.

 

We were so privileged to meet many ladies here that are currently undergoing breast cancer treatment, they all have their own unique stories to tell.  What really surprised us is that the health care system here in Georgia only pays a percentage towards treatments. It’s shocking when you meet people with cancer that can’t afford the much-needed treatment they need.

 

They are trying to fundraise to raise money for their own treatment. We met one lady that only has enough money to pay for 2 more chemotherapy treatments, yet she needs many more to follow, this is so sad. Cancer treatments not to mention all other medical costs are in their tens of thousands! This reminded us why awareness and prevention are so important in every country.

 

Next, we are heading to …

 

We will be cycling into Armenia (our 17th country) but we will have to come back into Georgia to be able to continue with our route. Armenia and Azerbaijan are technically at war, and the border between the two countries are closed and are heavily militarised. It’s not possible to cross directly. So, to travel from Armenia to Azerbaijan we must go back through Georgia.

Thoughts and feelings?

We have been very productive this month talking about our World Cycling Tour, but more importantly about our charity Prevent Breast Cancer.

 

We met with Amy who is a lovely journalist from the ‘Georgia Today’ newspaper. We then had an hour Podcast with Tom Woods back in the UK, followed by a meeting with another lovely journalist called Gvantsa from ‘Through the News’ media company. We also met with two other Georgian media companies and had two articles published about us regarding the importance of Breast cancer awareness.

 

It was very interesting to get insights into various ways of treatment and support they get here in Georgia and how it differs from the UK, comparing how the patients are helped and how they receive funding, what’s going on in terms of information accessibility and psychological support, especially considering that the two latter elements still lag behind in Georgia.

 

We are cycling to Armenia in June. This country was not on our planned route but we are so close to it that we fell it would be a shame not to visit. We look forward to meeting with Europa Donna of Armenia!

 

The sun is shining here now every day, so we look forward to the next stage of our tour.

Chris & Gabs

Chris O’Hare and Gabriella Gratrix are no strangers to a challenge, but this year will see them face the biggest challenge of all, as they set off to cycle around the world for Prevent Breast Cancer. This epic journey will see them cycle over 100,000 km across 7 continents, and will take around 7 years. If just reading those figures leaves you breathless, pencil in the fact that many areas won’t have roads, and some mountain passes are almost impassable, even harder given the fact that their bikes will weigh over 55kg when loaded with kit! Now, that’s some going!

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