After some busy days of sight seeing around Armenia, we didn't actually have any sights to see today; all we had to do was make the four hour drive from our hotel on Lake Sevan up to the Georgian capital Tbilisi, with the small matter of a border crossing in the middle. That didn't make the day boring though, since as we have come to expect, the drive took us through some beautiful scenery on the way. Before we hit the road though, we took a wander down to Lake Sevan to take a few pictures and drip our feet in the water. It was fairly overcast and only about 17 degrees out, but the water wasn't as cold as we expected, and there were quite a few people already out for a swim. We opted not to go any deeper than our ankles, and soon got in the car and departed.
Within a few miles of Sevan we came to a rather old road tunnel through the mountains where we started going downhill, and by the time we came out the other side of it after a few kilometres the landscape had already completely changed from the high altitude lake with no trees in sight, to an alpine landscape covered in green forests. This was another remarkable change in scenery, and we couldn't quite believe what we were seeing. This forested area is where the resort town of Dilijan is located, which I later read is known as Armenian Switzerland due to the close resemblance. The locals have embraced this by building in an alpine lodge style, with many wooden hotels and apartments available or under construction. Given we hadn't long since departed Sevan, and Lucy was fast asleep in the back of the car, we only drove through Dilijan rather than stop for a walk.
The next part of the drive took us through Dilijan National Park which continued the alpine theme, and we bizarrely saw a tortoise crossing the road at one point. The mountains then climbed higher to the sides of us and we were driving along a river in a valley on the next stretch. This brought us to the town of Alaverdi where we stopped for lunch by the river. Alaverdi turned out to be quite an interesting place, with huge Soviet era buildings all around, many of which were completely abandoned including a large factory. It felt a bit like a place that time had forgotten about, and the grey overcast weather helped to add a bit of atmosphere to the decaying buildings. Reading a bit online this evening, it sounds like Alaverdi is still an important industrial town in Armenia - perhaps we missed a newer factory hidden in the forest!
Shortly after Alaverdi we arrived at the Armenia/Georgia border, which I'm pleased to report was a much quicker experience than the border going the other way. First on the Armenian side they made all passengers including babies get out of the car and use the passenger terminal. I was then on my own with Summer, but with only a few cars in front of me it didn't take very long. While I was in the queue a customs official came over and asked for the copy of the customs declaration document for the car which had taken us so long to get on the way into Armenia. He didn't even look at it before walking off to the next car. Once I reached the front, the border official was quite amazed by my passport, studying the front intently. He looked up after a little bit and asked amazedly "England??", which I confirmed. He then asked "English??" which I also confirmed. He looked very pleased with himself, and then stamped me out. Luckily none of the hassle with the car documents and licence plates this time!
With us all out of Armenia, we all got back in the car and drove the bridge over the river to the Georgian side where we had to repeat this process all over again, only difference being Lucy was allowed to stay in the car on this side. Here the border official unusually spoke excellent English, which helped quite a lot when I tried to get out of the car and he told me firmly I must stay inside. While he was looking at my passport a man came over and started asking him something in Armenian. This sparked quite an amusing interaction where the official angrily asked the man where he is, to which the man wasn't sure what to reply. When the official asked again "Where are you?" he then replied "Georgia", and the official shouted "Then why would I speak Armenian!!". The ridiculous thing was that they both seemed to speak good enough English, but the Armenian man looked rather embarrassed and walked away after his telling off. The official's attention was then back on my documents, and he happily stamped my passport, asked if I have insurance which I confirmed, and smiled and said "welcome back to Georgia, have a nice trip".
Back safely in Georgia, the rest of the drive up to Tbilisi was rather dull, with the road being frustratingly slow single carriageway through uninteresting rural farmland. However, once we reached Tbilisi though we were immediately impressed, with the city being much larger than we imagined and sprawling all along the Mtkvari river. It seems there are quite a few areas to visit in the city, none of which are walking distance from each other. This won't be a problem though since we have decided to spend a couple of extra nights here to take it all in and relax a bit after a lot of driving since we left Batumi last week. This evening we went for dinner in the nicely built up area of Vake, and we can already see the city feels very European. Looking forward to a walking tour and seeing some more of it tomorrow!
We didn't expect any questions about Summer coming back into Georgia and our assumptions were correct. The customs officer cared more about Lucy's cot mattress than the cute dog on the back seat of the car.
The drive down from Lake Sevan at 2000m altitude to Tbilisi at about 500m meant we had a very efficient driving day, averaging double the miles per KW we would usually expect. We therefore did the full 141 miles on about 30% of the battery and have arrived in Tbilisi with just under 50% remaining. No need to charge today, but will look for a charger in Tbilisi tomorrow.