The Zagari Pass to Lentekhi and Kutaisi

Wall painting in Kutaisi

We are on our way to the Unesco village of Ushguli. A small town located at an altitude of about 2100 meters and right at the base of Shkhara, the highest mountain in Georgia. It is said that Ushguli is the highest continuously inhabited settlement in Europe. A lot of superlatives and we can’t wait to see for ourselves.

We leave Mestia with the sun shining and a clear blue sky, slowly climbing to the first unknown pass. As we reach the summit, we meet three Spanish cyclists heading the opposite direction. It’s great to speak Spanish again! They tell us about the two dogs that have been following them for about 80 kilometers or so! Wow, good we brought a Dazer to scare them off… little did we know.

Tarmac is finished and a dusty and muddy track continues to climb slowly towards Ushguli. The weather is changing as clouds roll in again. And by the time we reach Ushguli mount Shkhara has completely disappeared from our view.. a bit disappointed we find a place to stay at one of the many guesthouses and hope tomorrow will be better.

Off road track to Ushguli

Upper Ushguli and the high Caucasus mountains behind the clouds

Last night thunder and lightning kept us awake and this morning it’s not much better. It’s raining cats and dogs as we leave Ushguli to ride up to the Zagari pass. All other tourists head back the same way they came, this means no traffic at all! Apart from one guy on a horse, it’s just us here. Well, that’s not entirely true.. as we left Ushguli this morning, two dogs came running to us with only one goal: join the pack. Remembering the conversation we had with the Spanish cyclists, we quickly grab the Dazer to scare the hell out of them. They tilt their heads when hearing the high sound and start wagging their tails! Wow, that will teach them a lesson! NOT.. maybe throwing rocks will help? They start fetching them! Yelling? More tail wagging… I guess we are stuck with them now.. we are going uphill, so it’s easy for them to follow us. We decide to keep going and hope they will loose interest when we ignore them. They don’t…

Cycling up to the Zagari pass

Zagari pass

In the tiny town of Mele we are invited to stay with a family and looking at the mud and the rain, we decide to accept their invitation. Their guesthouse is just too nice to pass!

Yesterday one of the dogs decided to exchange us for two cyclists going the other way, but the black labrador is still with us. I guess, giving him food was not the best idea.. but we feel so sorry for him. Last night he slept under the stairs at the guesthouse and as soon as he sees us this morning, he is so happy, but we have no intention of keeping the dog. What to do?
A couple of kilometers after Mele pavement takes over, but it’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride and every time we think we lost him, he catches up with us. Completely exhausted… for 20 kilometers he keeps running and running. In small villages he almost sticks to our bikes, seeking shelter from other dogs… heart breaking. Then, finally; hairpins, a long fast downhill, this time he can’t keep up. It breaks our heart to see him still trying… crazy dog! It’s time to move on.

Wild camp spot on route to Kutaisi

Elmar cleaning the bike

We are not able to reach Kutaisi in one day, but we find a great camp spot near the river. The next day it’s a quick 40 kilometer ride into town. We stay here an extra day to visit the Prometheus Cave, with it’s disco lighting and the Motsometa Monestary. Enjoying holiday time and feeling very relaxed. 😉

Related posts

Georgia the movie

A bikepacking adventure to the Chaukhi pass

Bubbly waters en route to the Zekari Pass


Mams October 29, 2018 - 16:59
Hallo Ellen en Elmar Het was weer een mooi stukje om te lezen inclusief prachtige foto,s Ik heb ervan genoten.
Bicycle Junkies October 29, 2018 - 17:05
Thanks! ;)
Chuck October 29, 2018 - 17:33
I have had dogs run with me for miles. They know the way home. I think it is something fun for them.
Bicycle Junkies November 1, 2018 - 08:32
Yeah, might be. They are strange creatures! ;)
cees van der knaap October 29, 2018 - 18:04
heel mooi het waren weer prachtige foto,s mooie beleving van jullie vacantie mooi verhaal bedankt
Bicycle Junkies November 1, 2018 - 08:31
Dankjewel Cees!
Paul vanPeenen October 29, 2018 - 20:14
I think I must go to Georgia.
Bicycle Junkies November 1, 2018 - 08:30
You would love it! Apart from nature and friendly people, the local beer is great and they have lots of Georgian wine! ;)
Decavele October 30, 2018 - 07:07
Dag Ellen en Elmar, goed om te horen en te lezen dat het goed met jullie gaat. Eerst en vooral wil het jullie het volgende laten weten: soms zijn jullie mij voor in het fietsen doorheen een land/cultuur... Soms lees ik jullie berichten en dan komen er enkel mooie herinneringen op. Nu zijn jullie mij voor. (Al lees ik jaren boeken over Georgië en Armenië.) Zeg, zijn jullie veranderd van fiets? deze fiets een meerwaarde? Kan je doorheen Georgië fietsen zonder verende voorvork? Of ondervinden jullie dat het beter is met de mountainbike te reizen? Groetjes en....doorgaan he. Stefaan
Bicycle Junkies November 1, 2018 - 08:30
Dag Stefaan, onze Santossen staat tentoongesteld bij Santos zelf en zie ik nog regelmatig als ik daar ben voor werk. We hebben overigens geen specifieke voorkeur en omdat we bij Bike4travel werken, is het goed om meerdere merken zelf ook te testen. ;) Dit is een Avaghon X27.5 overigens. Je kunt daar heel goed zonder verende voorvork fietsen, zelf zou ik dat ook niet aanraden als je met bepakking wil fietsen. In deze setup (semi-bikepacking) kijken we eerder naar een carbon voorvork om nog meer gewicht te besparen. Groetjes terug en keep on pedaling! ;)
ton October 30, 2018 - 11:58
ik heb veel respect voor jullie reis. Ik kan me jullie treurnis om de hond goed indenken. Wat ik mij afvraag hoe je telkens de weg vindt, of op de bonnefooi? Ik verbaas mij tevens over de - naar mijn idee - geringe hoeveelheid bagage die jullie meenemen. Groet en veel plezier en sterkte. Ton Heine
Bicycle Junkies November 1, 2018 - 08:22
Hi Ton, we hebben een GPS bij ons en daarmee hebben we tot nu toe altijd de weg kunnen vinden. Deze keer hadden we inderdaad niet veel bij ons en dat beviel ons prima! Het is dat ik best wat camera-spullen en een drone meesleep anders hadden we nog lichter kunnen gaan. ;)
Riska November 9, 2018 - 10:23
Herkenbaar van de hond. (Ik had hem zelf bijna mee naar huis genomen.) Mooie foto's weer!
Graham Weaver January 9, 2019 - 16:25
Hi, When did you cross the Zagari Pass? I'm planning to ride there in the middle of May but not sure if it will be clear of snow. Kind Regards, Graham
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