Erkenants to Goris 48km
To Quarry 70km
SNOW. I wasn't expecting that yet. Maybe in a month or so in Turkey, but not mid October in Armenia. It's a test.
I'd pitched my tent on a hillside, overlooking a lake, and surrounded by peaks. The peaks were in cloud, so I decided a dawn photo would be best. Nope. In the morning, I'm in cloud. Everything is slightly damp. Bother. I push Fiona back up to the road. I can see only 50m in any direction. And start riding uphill. Within 5km I pass two Strip Clubs and a Casino, reminding me I'm not in Iran, but I can't see anything else. I know I'm once again on the Azerbaijan border. Well this border is with a State that has declared independence from Azerbaijan, but Azerbaijan hasn't acknowledged that independence. That's partially why Armenia isn't friendly with Azerbaijan, because they have acknowledged the independent state. Armenia aren't friendly with their western neighbouring Turkey either. It's 100 years since the Armenian Massacre, when over a million Armenians were slaughtered by Turkey, starting in 1915, during WWI. Turkey won't admit responsibility. So Armenian friends, locally, are Russia and Iran. Hence all the Irani Oil Tankers and Frieght trucks that are crawling up the hills past me, (I whizz past them on the downhills), and the convoys of brand new cars, being driven by idiots, delivering them north.
It's a weird sensation cycling in dense cloud. I'm well lit up, but only know I'm going uphill because of what gear I'm in, and because the kms are crawling by. Then suddenly, after a couple of hours of Grannie gear, I'm heading downhill, through heaps of hairpins, for almost 20km, but I can't see anything, until I reach the valley floor and cycle over a hydro dam. From here I can see huge cliffs, and deep valleys, but then I'm climbing again, into the clouds. What I see is pretty stunning. I was told Armenia was mountainous, and scenic, and I am catching glimpses... After 47km, I'm still climbing. I'm soaked to the skin, and hungry. It's 2pm, and I'm entering a town and there's a hotel. I reckon it's a sign, and when I barter the price from $35 to $20, it's another sign. I'm done for the day. Even better, it's got reasonably good wifi, and I get to talk to Ju, who has just finished a three week Urban Search and Rescue training course. She's tired, but excited about her experience, and I'm a very, very proud husband.
And then today, I wake up to snow. Only a smattering in the village but I'm still climbing. Within 5km, there's six inches on the ground, and I decide I need more clothes on. Longs, double up of Icebreaker socks, shoes instead of sandals, balaclava, two pairs of gloves. A farmer let's me warm his hands on his tractor exhaust, and hands me a couple of apples. But I'm cold. I take a bite of one, then drop it, and my gloves, in a muddy puddle. Then my bottle of Fanta explodes all over me as I open it, and with two pairs of gloves, I'm struggling to close my panniers, or take photos, but then the camera lens seems to be fogged up....... adventure.....patience... perseverance. ...
My fingers and toes are like ice blocks, but sweat is running down my chest and back, as Fiona and I continue to climb. Now that is weird, but it really gets cold, when finally we get to go downhill. I've got two warm hats on, balaclava fully deployed, four layers of windproof and Icebreaker, and I'm freezing. And at the bottom of the hill, a Cafe. Hot soup, chai, yummy fresh bread, tomato salad, and I'm warm again. I'm below the snow, and cycling over a roller coaster road....5km up, 5km down, so keeping warm.
The herdsmen who graze their stock in the mountains over summer are on the move. They're packing up their yurts, their mobile homes, tin shacks on wheels, and all their worldly goods, onto their old trucks, and heading downhill, driving their stock before them. Would make for some amazing photos if my camera lens wasn't so fogged up. Like my glasses, fogged, and splashed by passing vehicles. My eyeballs feel frozen. I find a campsite in a disused quarry, and pitch the tent just as the sun disappears behind ominous clouds. I'm shivering, which is a good sign, strip off all my cold damp clothes and throw them inside my sleeping bag. It's only 6pm, but it just seems the best place to be. The ABs play the French tonight. I'm just a little glad I can't see a TV. Too stressful.