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Caucasus Challenge: Day 6

Sep 25, 2012

20 September | Route: Batumi - Poti - Zugdidi - Jvari - Mestia | Distance: 254 km

We have planned a very easy day today knowing how hard Day 5 was going to be. Most everyone got a good night's rest in Batumi. Those that did not were relegated to the navigator position as directions were pretty easy with paved roads most of the way.

Before departing for the day Tim took James to a local garage to buy some resin and oil. James and Kevin had cracked a joint near the oil pan on Day 5, and their car was leaking oil like crazy, including the driving entrance of the hotel. James stuck a piece of gum and some resin in the crack, and then wrapped it up with duct tape. He then filled engine up with oil. In this words, the leak is now "all bunged up". With some spare oil on hand, James and Kevin were on their way.

On the way is Inguri Dam, the world's second tallest concrete arch water damn. It is 20% taller than Hoover dam and is only second due to a recently completed dam in China.

To date, the competition has been relatively tame with all of us concentrating on challenge points from answering questions based on local knowledge and geographical coordinates. There are very minor points for who comes in first as we did not want folks too motivated to race around the Caucasus. As we were leaving the Inguri Damn, I noticed Shelley moving at a speed that was not obvious she was racing, but fast enough to make me suspicious. Seems she was thrilled to have paved roads and loved zipping around the mountain turns. Shelley and John did come in first today.

Proving that even an easy day can be eventful, Marc and Dave slowed down for a man on the road. As they were passing by him, the gentleman opened the door and hopped in. Omar their new passenger was extremely drunk, sweaty and very talkative. It was only midday and he did not stop talking. Ursus Contentus had no idea how to get rid of him. Marc tried pawning him off on me or Paul or anyone that walked by while we were trying to answer a question at an old bridge. They were stuck with him for hours.The experience is to funny to describe. In the overall eight days of the challenge, this was the only time I used my hand sanitizer!

Tim and Trish stopped to investigate some beehives along the road we all kept seeing. Trish couldn't get her sanitizer out fast enough when offered an old spoon to taste some honey. She could have used some of Michael's schnapps. Nonetheless, she gracefully bought a jar that we all tasted the following morning over breakfast, honeycomb and all.

We all zoomed along, avoiding cows, dogs, people and fallen boulders. It was a nice winding road ending in the very scenic town of Mestia. More evidence of Georgia coming up in the world. Almost every house, building and street in the town is being renovated. It is an extraordinarily picturesque town of wood and stone that could rival any ski resort in the world for character. If it were not so remote, I would love to come back.

For tonight, we are staying at the Ushba guesthouse. Not hard to find as it is a small town, but not easy as it looks like a construction zone.

As night falls on Mestia, and we walk around admiring some of the old defensive towers, there is still no sign of Traveling with the Stars. We finally track them down through text messaging and they are 100 km away. On what was supposed to be an easy day, they spotted a river that was too tempting to ignore. As they were driving, they noticed a stranded car. It seems it is normal for folks to drive their cars in the river and wash it there. This car drove in a little too far. Mark and Eric stopped to lend a hand. Unfortunately, they did not have a tow rope. Undeterred, they proceeded to fashion one, out of duct tape. They did eventually braid together a duct tape rope. It failed a couple of times before some folks looking on from the river bank came down to help with a push.

The video does not show that after several attempts, one of the local "rescuers" ambled back to his car, got a real tow rope, and voila, problem solved. It was several hours before this real tow rope appeared. I am guessing the local was either too amused by our Challengers capers or he did not want to offend their good intentions.