Batumi to Borjomi

Friday, August 5, 2022 - 19:15

Today we got back on the road and our task was to drive the roughly five hours from Batumi to our hotel for the night in the mountain resort town of Borjomi. As soon as we set off from Batumi it became apparent that this was going to be a bit of a slog of a drive, with busy single carriageway most of the way other than a few miles of recently completed motorway. Outside the cities Georgia is very poor and undeveloped, much more so than we were expecting, and given the green landscapes and mostly cloudy day it reminded me a lot of driving in Costa Rica last year on their painfully slow and busy roads. On top of that, there are cows all over the place! Simply roaming around the sides of the roads, crossing them, sitting in the middle of them, and we even saw some in the middle section of the short stretch of motorway we came across during the morning stretch. It sounds like cows all over the place might be dangerous, but the average speeds were so slow, and the cows so slow to react to cars, that they weren't actually a problem. What could be a problem is the overtaking antics of some of the Georgian drivers, who overtake at speed on bends, and force oncoming traffic to drive right to the edge of their side of the road. My experience on this type of road before meant it wasn't a problem, but I can imagine some might feel a little nervous when they first drive here.

At roughly the halfway point to Borjomi was the city of Kutaisi, so we left the main road and stopped there for lunch and a little walk around. A quick Wikipedia search informed us that Kutaisi is the 5th biggest city in the country and has a famous cathedral that used to be a Unesco site but lost its status a few years ago. First impressions of Kutaisi driving in through the suburbs are that was a rather ugly city full of run down communist-era tower blocks (sorry if anyone from Kutaisi is reading this). It got a bit better in the very centre of the city where there was a huge Marble Arch-sized roundabout with a rather fancy fountain in the middle. The fountain is called the Colchis Fountain and had gold animals all over it, apparently replicas of ancient Georgian figures. We parked up to take a photo, then walked a few blocks to a cobbled street by the river where we had lunch in a nice restaurant (Gardenia) overlooking the water. The river itself was a bit of a feature, being very wide and fast flowing, with interesting rocks in the middle. After we were done, we got back in the car and attempted to drive up to the Bagrati Cathedral to take a photo before leaving. However, we got rather lost on some awkward hillside streets which Google had no clue how to navigate, and rather than ending up in a stressful driving situation, opted to view the Cathedral from a distance and get back on the road.

The second half of the drive after Kutaisi was even slower than the morning drive, perhaps because it was in theory Friday rush hour, and also because they are actually constructing a brand new motorway on this stretch which will go all the way to Tbilisi. This meant we had to take quite a few winding diversions as we passed huge new bridges, and drove past many freshly drilled tunnels through the mountains. There were signs up in Georgian and Chinese suggesting the project is being funded by China. I found this quite interesting since in the developing countries in Europe (Bosnia, Albania and even some in Turkey), the motorways are being funded by the EU fund, whereas out here it seems the Chinese are pulling some of their soft power strings to influence these countries the other way. Given how poor Georgia is I suppose they aren't too fussed where the money comes from (as long as it isn't from Russia), and from what we have seen so far they are a very long way from being ready for EU membership.

Eventually we made it to the mountain resort of Borjomi, which we haven't been able to fully appreciate yet since we arrived in the middle of our first rain storm in weeks, and by the time it cleared the sun was setting. Borjomi is famous all over Georgia because the primary sparkling water brand is called Borjomi, since the water here is naturally carbonated. We've tried some and haven't found it to be particularly tasty unfortunately - a quick read of the bottle label shows it has extremely high sodium content, though the locals have been drinking it for 1000+ years so it can't be too bad. Tomorrow we will have a better look around the place and hopefully see the natural springs where the water comes from.

Dog Notes: 

We got in a bit of trouble regarding Summer when we checked into our hotel today! The front desk manager came over while we were being checked in and asked me if 'that dog' (pointing at Summer who was over with Melisa) was my dog. I said yes, and he proceeded to explain that the maximum weight of a dog allowed to stay in a guest room is 6kg, and the hotel manager (who we never actually saw) had noticed Summer is more than 6kg and asked this front desk manager to come and speak to us about it. He actually went quite far with the telling off (though exceptionally politely), saying we wouldn't be allowed back to stay with Summer again, but since we are already here and have IHG status he would make a very (very) special exception. We've stayed at quite a few IHG hotels with Summer on this trip and others before, and never come across a 6kg limit rule, so I apologised for not noticing this nuance, though I didn't go as far as to tell him we probably wouldn't ever be returning to Borjomi with Summer anyway.

Electric Vehicle EV Notes: 

I was happy to discover on the E-space charging app last night that they have a few 50KW DC chargers dotted around the country, including one on our route today. This meant we could quickly get to 100% charge just over halfway through the route.
- E-space high speed charger at Wissol petrol station just before Argveta. Nice service area with places to rest and restaurants and a shop inside. First time the E-space app has charged me, and worked out to 19p/KW which isn't bad at all.
- E-space charger at Hotel Likani Borjomi. I checked with the hotel prior to travel if I could use their charger despite not staying at the hotel. They kindly said yes. As a bonus, it was turned on when I arrived so we're charging for free tonight.

Miles Driven: 
Crowne Plaza Borjomi


You've certainly seen life Jamesy. I wonder if Rishi Sunak is helping them with their economy!

Funny what the hotel manager said that you can’t return - as if you ever would!

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