28 June, 2010

Sometimes things just don't go the way you planned....

Passing the night uncomfortably stretched across three seats in a minibus with three sleeping drivers, my pack sandwiched in the aisle gap between two seats, i woke warily far too many times. At last day broke. We waited, and waited some more. Old women with bags of baked goods wandered the station lot, in search of customers. Besides the idle taxi men, there were few customers to be found at five AM. I bought a packet of five - cookies? - something like a very dry gingerbread with powdered sugar topping, and a generous taxi man bought me a cup of tea from an old woman with a thermos. The tea had a very funky flavor.

At eight, two hours late, the bus finally left for Batumi. Luckily enough, two members of the Georgian state archery team were in the seats behind me, returning from the European archery grand prix - and one of them was an English teacher. Still, even with someone to talk to i felt frustrated, disappointed - and exhausted. The Georgian landscape slipped past in half-dreams until Kutaisi, when i finally awoke.

As the present ramble nears a close, i ruminate - what will i miss about travel in the developing world? Van drivers who pass in the face of oncoming traffic, stretching the three-vehicle width of two lane roads. I'll miss the feeling of brakes rapidly applied to avoid slamming into a cow. Yes, on the main road from Tbilisi to Batumi, there are plenty of cows to avoid.

In Kobuleti, 25 km north of Batumi, i spent a couple hours on the beach. Then, late afternoon, i caught another van. The botanic garden in Batumi is, unfortunately, located in Makhindjauri, 7km north of the city center, and i was too tired to explore further. To make things more interesting, for some strange reason the messages from my Batumi CS host (and other recent contacts) had disappeared from my inbox, and when at last i could borrow a Georgian cellphone, my host's number was unreachable. I had three options - spend another fifty lari for a room; try my luck with the chummy shoe salesman (can i crash with you, bro?); or make a run for the border, and hope i could contact CS host #2 in Arhavi.

Oh, Batumi - fascinating, dynamic, subtropical, sexy - there is so much left in you to discover, to explore. And despite how tired i am, somehow i don't feel like another spin on your human roulette wheel. I make for the border.