I’ve left Turkey behind and entered the republic of Georgia, where I immediately rode north into the legendary mountains of the Svaneti region.
Halfway between the remote village of Ushguli and the even more remote village of Tsana (population: 10), and this happened at the Zagari Pass (elev 2620m/8600 ft).
After about 20 minutes of messy work, the bike was extricated and I pressed onward even with darkness fast approaching. The reasonably decent dirt/mud road turned to nothing but sharp edged rock, like a river bed, and my pace became a crawl. It was slow hot work, my visor was fogging badly, but each time I dared crack it open, mosquitos poured in like orcs through a breach at Helm’s Deep.
I briefly considered camping at an abandoned Soviet facility, but the “road” leading to it was a cruel hoax.
On and on I went. Finally about 10:30 PM and, in the middle of nowhere, in the black of night, a distant red and blue light appeared in the valley below, a mile and a half away. Red and blue? Out here?
I wove my way towards it…. it was a cheap LED sign that shone “OPEN” as if I were on Highway 99 south of Fresno. It was the only light in the tiny village of Tsana (pop. 10), and it turned out to be a small guesthouse. I rolled up, still not believing that there might be accommodations of any sort out here. The door opened but with no light inside. The only thing that emerged from the black doorway and into the red/blue light was…. a large belly. Then…a nose. Then…a forehead.
A deep inviting voice greeted me, then a friendly face appeared, and then a motioning for me to come inside. I was saved.
His name was Actep, and he welcomed me (in Russian) with offers of food, beverages, and a hot shower (water heated by wood burning stove). Turns out he’s run the place for quite some time, a beacon of warmth and kindness for moronic travellers who find themselves stranded between villages with no daylight. Idiots.
We stayed up late, laughing and talking, not understanding a word the other was saying, and it mattered not at all.
I spent the night on a (no lie) Soviet-era bed frame and mattress (no wonder we won the Cold War) and slumbered peacefully, before awakening to a breakfast of delicious breads and a hearty stew. Actep had me sign his visitor wall and I asked him to sign my helmet.
I will never forget him.