Our last day in Georgia has arrived. We feel a bit reluctant to leave because we haven’t visited all the places we would have liked to, but Armenia awaits! After a nice breakfast, we head towards the border. The last stretch of tarmac becomes increasingly worse. Is this only the appetizer of what is to follow?
It looks like we chose one of the more quiet crossings. When we arrive, there’s only one other car. We get checked out of Georgia in no time but then we have to search for the Armenian border post. When you exit the Georgian one, all you see is this huge building under construction but no indication where you should go. Later we learn that this to become is the new border office. It seems like they expect quite an increase of travellers here. The new building is huge, with at least 10 lines.
The documents check at the Armenian side goes easy and after about 10 minutes I get the «Welcome to Armenia!». Then it’s on to customs. They’re in a very hot basement office with no smoking signs everywhere. The air is thick with smoke though. So much for the rules. We have to pay import tax, they tell us, and we can pay in any currency as long as it’s EUR, USD, GEL or AMD. Isn’t that convenient! A lot of paperwork has to be filled in and then we are taken to the next office to the ‘bank’ to pay. The next office is where we get our final stamp and then we’re through! Total cost for 2 bikes: 124 GEL, or about 62 EUR.
My foot hasn’t even touched ground on Armenian soil after we leave the border post, when we are stopped by 2 guys trying to sell us insurance. We know that Armenian police like to check this often, so we follow them separately into their office. We decided to spend our last 100 GEL on the 10 days insurance for both bikes, but the first offer comes down to 250 GEL each! Then the discussions start and about 45 minutes later we pay 100 GEL and off we go!
The very first impression we get is that the surroundings have become very green! Velvet green to be precise.
The next thing we notice is that Armenians like to picknick because we spot very nicely organized picknick spots everywhere! We thankfully make use of one of those to have a late lunch while enjoying the stunning views.
We continue towards Gyumri and then head east to Vanadzor. The road varies from very good to very potholed but we make good progress and by 5.30PM we roll into town.
Jo looks in the gps for the first B&B that pops up and we follow the blue arrow down a small alley. At first sight, the B&B looks very nice but it turns out it’s fully booked. After a few minutes though, the lady asks if we would like to take a room in their home instead. We gladly take the offer! Later that night we meet Jan, a Dutch guy traveling through Armenia on his own. He loves the region and has been here many times. He also gives us some interesting pointers for the rest of our route.
From Vanadzor, the next destination is Yerevan. Through booking.com I found a nice hostel in the center of town. It’s only about 180km including some detours to the Sevanavank and Hayravank monasteries, so we have a relaxing day.
The ride down to Lake Sevan is just stunning and we arrive at Sevanavank monastery just before lunch time. It’s a typical tourist trap with a local handicraft market. We make a grand entrance on the motorbike by doing the tour around the place before we can find a spot to park the bikes.
It’s quite a hike to get to the monastery but the views over the lake are all the more impressive.
We take our time walking around the site. When we are on our way back down, we are stopped by Ivan from Russia, asking if the bikes back down at the parking lot are ours. Turns out he was a motocross champion back in Russia until he broke virtually every bone in his body.
Later he joins us at the motorbikes for a picture.
When we are getting ready to leave, one of the boys hanging around the parking lot selling candles, comes to have look at the bikes. When we indicate he can sit on it, he it’s a bit shy at first but only a minute later Jo lifts him on the bike and lets him touch all the buttons! Little boys are the same everywhere.
From Savanavank we continue to Hayravank monastery, which was recommended to us by both Daniel & Magali in Tbilisi and Jan in Vanadzor, so we have to go and see. When we ride up to the parking lot, we spot a 4WD with Dutch license plate. The car belongs to Joost and Marijke who are on their way back from Iran. We spend a good hour with them
exchanging tips in both directions. They give us some very useful tips for campsites on the way to Iran.
When they leave, we go up to explore the monastery. We have to admit that it is much nicer than Sevanavank. Although the location overlooking the lake is less impressive, inside it’s much bigger. Hayravank is also much more authentic, whereas Sevanavank has been rebuilt in the fifties.
Before we leave, we have a chat with Alex and Caroline, a French-Belgian couple backpacking around the world while earning a living selling their handicraft.
We take the highway down to Yerevan. It’s not the most scenic route but at least we arrive at a decent time in the city. Compared to Georgia, Armenian traffic is the complete opposite: everyone follows the rules to the letter so no speeding, no ignoring the red light, and everyone stays in lane. We make our way to the address in the gps but we cannot find the hostel. A nice guy helps us out and it turns out it’s overlooking a courtyard with already 2 motorbikes parked there.
When I hike up 8 flights (!) of stairs to the hostel, the first thing I see, is a girl stuffing a motorcycle suit in a washing machine. She then walks over to me and asks if I’m Sofie. I must admit I’m a bit speechless. Turns out we ran into David and Eve from we2r.com! We found their sticker at the customs office when entering Armenia and I had sent them an e-mail just to wish them good luck. What a coincidence!
The hostel turns out to be pretty decent and we gladly abuse the wifi connection to get all the images uploaded. The rest of the evening is spent having dinner and exchanging travel stories with David and Eve.