Georgia – Omalo

At the highest point of the pass leading to Omalo

At the highest point of the pass leading to Omalo

Georgia was a massive mixture of highs and lows for us – as you will shortly read.
The boys had raced on through Azerbaijan whilst we had messed around at the mud volcanoes – so after a smooth border crossing into Georgia (Our first visa free country since leaving Latvia) we hooked back up with them and found a green little campsite just off the road.
The roads out of Azerbaijan and into Georgia had changed dramatically. Well – I should say the scenery. It started to get green and lush. The grassy land laying on either side of the road was good enough to make a bowling green. The pine trees started appearing and we picked wild berries from the bushes. Camping heaven.

Jerome and I had watched Worlds Most Dangerous Roads – Georgia which gave us the idea of driving up to Omalo via the Abano Pass. The pass is only open from June-October, before it snows up. The road winds its’ way up to around 2,800m before plateauing out and descending to just over 2000m where Omalo lies. Beyond Omalo you have the heavily guarded and monitored Chechnean border.
The pass itself is just 72km long and is doable in a day. We set off early arvo and just 10km or so in we were met with literally hundreds of sheep descending the one-track road towards us.

Traffic jam number one - plenty more of that!

Traffic jam number one – plenty more of that!

They were being herded by a few young farmers and their trusty earless dogs. These dogs are huge and are an invaluable asset for protecting the livestock from the mountain wolves.

A young calf hitching a ride down the pass - born a bit later than the rest

A young calf hitching a ride down the pass – born a bit later than the rest

We stopped our cars as the sheep weaved their way around us on either side of the precariously narrow track. We soon realised that we had the rare honour of viewing the farmers bringing their animals down the Abano Pass for winter before it became impassable. It was a truly excellent experience and it got us really geared up for an awesome track that would be closed within two weeks.

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We continued winding our way up the track and literally every few kilometres coming across a huge possy of cows or sheep being shooed along by young men and the occasional shotgun.

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The scenery was awesome. Tight rocky upwards bends punctuated by mini waterfalls hitting the roof and sending the crystal clear water bouncing off and into the misty abyss. P1050996

It was green everywhere, even the rocks had moss on them. As you rounded the tiny corners there would be memorial sites – all devoted to men who had been claimed by this road. It reminded us to take extra caution.

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As we wound our way up towards the pass summit – we hit what Jerome would describe as DEMON MIST. It enveloped our Troopy and everything turned quiet as we strained our eyes to see just 5m beyond the bonnet.

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The road began to plateau out and we had a hazy view of the beautiful switchbacks that marked our first descent.

Fantastic views

Fantastic views above the mist

Tim and Nic went first

Tim and Nic went first

Eventually we reached a small settlement about 20km short of Omalo, and just after that we found an awesome little campsite down next to the river with enough wood for a fizzly fire in the half-hearted rain. We were all buzzing after such an amazing climb. Our troopies had bounced around on the rocks and the tow-bars had bottomed out on the track countless times.

Some of the drops - most of the road was like this

Some of the drops – most of the road was like this

The next day we hit Omalo and took a peek at the visitors centre which had a great lookout point.

A rare group photo from the lookout

A rare group photo from the lookout

Omalo has Kesalo Fortress (or the remains of) which was built in the 12th century. The road to Omalo is also peppered with old watchtowers. We couldn’t drive up to the fort so instead we found the nearest vantage point and stopped for lunch.

Great spot to have a quick feed

Great spot to have a quick feed

That afternoon we tracked on past Omalo towards the Chechnean border. The track was fantastic but we eventually turned back in favour of a great campsite just outside of the village overlooking a watchtower and the ever-present river.

This is as far as we went - what a great place to live

This is as far as we went – what a great place to live

Tim and Nick led the way down a little hill-track to the campsite. There was a rutt running the length of the track and Tim went up the side of the track to avoid it. Unfortunately he was on a big angle and still slipped two wheels into the rutt, almost rolling the Troopy.

Oops

Oops

Nic was out in a flash and pretty much held the car at it’s tipping point. It looked pretty bleak. Jerome snapped into off-road action and barked his orders. We would snatch-strap Bosun out of the rutt backwards. Tim turned his wheels away from the rutts and we slowly pulled the car backwards as the boys pushed it from the side. It totally worked and we all reversed out and chose a better way into the campsite. We had a few celebratory vodkas as Tim calmed his nerves! earlier that day Jerome had negotiated a tight upwards corner leaving us on just three wheels so we both had our stories to tell 😉

More great views

More great views of the ruins

The next day we headed back down the pass with the aim to get to Tbilisi. Jerome had driven all the way up so it was my turn to drive down – my favourite bit. Jerome got extreme jealousy as whilst we had been hanging out in Omalo it had snowed on the highest part of the pass and I got to drive through it.

Snow!

Snow!

We pulled off the track and commenced a snowball fight with a group of Lithuanians who we passed – also in a Troopcarrier.

Jerome.... being Jerome

Jerome…. being Jerome

The snow made the pass look so different to the previous days – and instead of oncoming herds of animals we had to overtake them. Several times I had to carefully shunt cows in the arse to get them to move out of the way 😉

Troopy looks good in the snow

Troopy looks good in the snow

The road leading us back

The road leading us back

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Jealous as

More animals

More animals

The muddy, steep and narrow track

The muddy, steep and narrow track

Anyways – we made it down the pass without incident. Jerome sussed out a track leading to the capital Tbilisi so we started to make tracks. We stopped for the night about 100km short of the capital and just before the actual track started. Jerome wasn’t feeling too well so we headed off to bed. In the night Jerome was rolling around a fair bit and complained of being too cold. Looking back now I knew I should have woken up and checked him over better. At 6am the next morning I woke up to find that Jerome was really ill. He had a horrible fever and was running a temp. of close to 39 degrees. He was in and out of it and we knew that his UTI was back and bad. I woke the guys up and we packed away quickly. I left Jerome in bed and with the boys leading – we took the main roads into Tbilisi.
I picked a hospital from the offline map (Pocket Earth) on our phone and when we got there I was amazed to see the hospital had it’s own Centre for Urology building.

Looking like a good hospital from the outside

Looking like a good hospital from the outside

Unfortunately it was still in construction and only one floor was operational. It was a literal building site.

The inside of the 'hospital' up until floor 6

The inside of the ‘hospital’ up until floor 6

found an English speaking doctor and we got Jerome inside.
To cut a long and painful story short – Jerome’s UTI had come back – and quickly. It had also spread to his testicles which was not a good sign. He spent 6 days in hospital on IV antibiotics and a drip. Luckily he was given a private room with a spare bed for me to sleep in. There was no way that I could have left Jerome alone in that Hospital. Bar the private room it was easily the worst hospital (with the worst staff) that we have ever encountered.

The only upside to that place was a private room

The only upside to that place was a private room

There was a shared toilet but no loo paper, hot water, soap or towels. There was no shower facilities at all so I boiled water 6 floors down in the car park and brought it up in a bucket for Jerome to wash with. They supplied no water or food so again I would cook in the car park and bring it up to him 3 times a day. The staff were totally inept and it was a battle to get even a clean sheet. I was expected to do Jerome’s obs and check on him though-out the night. He had about 5 different doctors come in – each one had to be informed of Jerome’s past issues before action was taken. Upon being ‘discharged’ (they just billed us and refused to administer the last course of IV antibiotics) the doctor prescribed the oral meds to take for a few weeks. Luckily we checked because they were Penicillin based – which Jerome is extremely allergic to. We had told all of the doctors and they had made note in his file (which I don’t even think existed). Upon informing the doctor of the day that he couldn’t take this medication – the doctor proceeded to have a go at Jerome; complaining that he should have told someone about the Penicillin and that he wasn’t God who knew everything! What a charmer. Anyways – we scooted off without so much as a single thank you to anyone. We were back on the road again but taking things real easy.

Categories: Georgia | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Georgia – Omalo

  1. Great blog guys! seems we have chewed some of the same ground and only a few months apart – might see you on the road somewhere! cheers for now Justin and Jen! http://www.globatrol.com

    • Hi Justin & Jen, thanks for following us. Just checked out your blog too, fantastic vehicle! So you guys are now back in the UK right? I read about your plans for Africa and the plan on how to navigate your way there…… is it still full steam ahead? Jerome and I have had a run of incredibly bad luck, particularly with Jerome’s health. Yesterday we made the tough decision after around 8 months on the road to call it a day and bar Africa. We fly from the UK back to Oz in early Jan. It’s rather crushing but we have really pushed the limits and done some crazy things already that we are very happy with. Anyways, we will follow your journey as it continues. Keep having fun and best of luck Jess and Jerome

      • Hi Jess and Jerome, I gathered you guys had a few bumps along the way – an awesome journey behind you! I don’t see your returning to Oz as the end of it, Just the next chapter! I’m sure there will be tales of future adventures around the campfire for a long time yet..

        It’s still all go for us, although it’s slowed up for a while at the moment as we are house sitting in West Sussex and looking after a Dog!! not to mention it’s good for the budget staying away from the dreaded Caravan Parks.. Haemorrhage money around here in those things.. We didn’t relish the idea of an English winter in the camper – brhhhhh, we are here until the end of February, have to admit it’s nice being in a house again for a while 🙂 hopefully head up to Scotland after that and then back to Europe, we were too late weatherise to head for Norway so it’s on next years agenda. Then toward Croatia and surrounds, You guys travelled some great country over that way so we will probably do something similar

        Still keen on Africa but you know what it’s like planning that one, will keep an eye on the place and see what happens – our plans are changing all of the time. I’m sure you guys can relate to that! Maybe we can catch you somewhere before you fly out! I have a bit of maintenance to do on the Truck and other than that we are reasonably free agents! Anyway all the best and no doubt we will see you on the track somewhere on Earth…. Be nice to catch up with fellow overlanders back in Aus.. cheers – Justin and Jen..

      • Hey guys, yeah living in a house again is heaps good. Rolling out of bed for showers, being able to do your own laundry so easily and not having to pack stuff away all the time is great! Free camping in the UK is almost impossible so an expensive caravan park in winter is not inviting! Winter has hit hard in some parts of Europe. We did a 4bie track in Macedonia and woke up to about minus 10 with fresh snow and ice. Getting down was fun and soooooo scary at the same time so we have to really think about where we end up each day now. Jerome isn’t well enough to camp in such cold conditions (Plus it gets dark so bloody early now) so we have resigned ourselves to mainly hotels unless we catch a mild day. Wow you’re next plans sound fantastic, Norway will be amazing I’m sure. It’s a shame that Europe is generally so expensive though! Would be great to catch up somewhere in the world for sure. Meeting other like minded people is great. We hit the Uk 20th Dec ish and leave fith Jan. The Troopy goes to the loading dock probably 29th Dec ish so we will need about a day or two to unload, clean and repack everything inside it. It’s going from Southampton so we will be looking for somewhere to sort the Troopy in that kind of area. And then it’s back to Oz. One thing that I have to say is that Australia really ticks so many boxes and who can be disappointed to head back there??!!! OK well take care we will be following your travels and hoping that we can live the Africa experience through people like you! Jess& Jerome

  2. AbiSmall

    Sorry Jesson…that anonymous comment was from me!

  3. Anonymous

    I’m so pleased that you’re back on the road again and both healthy. I wish Jerome a speedy recovery…your blog is awesome…sounds like an adventure story for daring travellers! Keep up the good work! x

  4. I’m just loving reading all this daring do from my South London winter.

  5. DK

    A pair of troopers in a troopy!
    To say Epic is an understatement. Beautiful photos as always.

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