The quest of the Golden Fleece
Together with the ministry of Transport and the TBC bank, the largest bank of Georgia, we are working on a unique adventure.
Georgia is an ancient country; its civilization goes back to the Persian en Greek empires. Its western name was given by the Crusaders after St George, in Georgia they call their country “Sakartvelo”.
Ancient Greek legends tell of a fabulously wealthy land where Jason and the Argonauts stole the Golden Fleece. It was a distant land that was reached by the Black Sea and down the River Phasis. Nowadays we refer to it as Georgia.
A journey into humanity and kindness. A gem between Europe and Asia and a place you will not regret visiting. This is what people who have visited Georgia tell, it leaves a massive impact on any traveller.
Georgia is a beautiful country shaped by rugged mountains, rivers, valleys and meadows. This amazing country lies in the middle of Caucasus region and has unspoiled natural beauty to complement its unique culture.
The highest peak of Europe can be found here, the Mount Elbrus which rises to a height of 5,642 metres. To sum it up there are more than seven five-thousanders in the greater Caucasian Mountain range.
It is not only the landscape, which will grasp you. It is the combination with the unique culture, the cuisine and the warmth of tis people.
Please have a look below for a day-by-day explanation of the rally.
The Economist’s ‘1843’ magazine, reprinted in The Week.
There are direct flight from Amsterdam and London with Georgian Airways.
The flight from London arrives in Tbilisi at 06:35 (2017 schedule).
The one from Amsterdam arrives on Saturday afternoon, a few days before the rally.
Alternatively you can take a Turkish Airlines or Ukrainian Airlines flight.
We will be picking you up at the airport. It is only a 20 to 30 minutes ride to the comfortable design hotel in Tbilisi.
In the afternoon we are brought to the customs depot where our cars are waiting. We are escorted back to our hotel. We have our first dinner together.
The economy is prospering, so even in Tbilisi they have something we would call rush hour. We are escorted out of town towards the secondary road westwards. Soon all traffic disappears; we are in the hills leading to the lower Caucasus. The hills make place for high planes reminiscent of Tibet, not much vegetation, sparse cows who choose the road to ruminate and a series of lakes that mirror the sky.
It is at one of these lakes that we will be having our lunch at a trout nursery.
We continue our journey into the lower Caucasus and drive close to the border with Armenia. We pass a medieval castle and arrive at our lovely hotel.
From the swimming pool we have a great view to the cave dwellings, which we will be visiting the next day.
In the morning we visit the cave dwellings at Vardzia dating back to the 12th century. The cave-monastery once consisted of 6000 apartments over 13 floors.
We will be going back to the hotel for a lunch on the terrace.
In the afternoon we drive via Akhalkalak through the mountains to our destination Borjomi.
Borjomi is a lively tourist resort, known for its healing water. We will be staying in the comfortable Crown Plaza.
From Borjomi, while going west, we cross the watershed. From now on the rivers will be flowing into the Black Sea. We drive further into the Caucasus. It never becomes steep and the roads are mostly excellent.
The mining town of Sachkhere is more a homage to the Soviet model citizen. Lenin and Stalin still cohabit here. The mining complexes are out-dated but many of the cable cars are still in operation today.
We end the day with a special stage at the former Kutaisi Airport.
The Hotel in Tskaltubo is good but misses any special charm. We will be staying two nights here.
After a short drive we come to the Prometheus Cave. We have all seen magnificent caves but this one is something special so we felt obliged to include it.
We continue our road, at first the road is easy, bordered with lakes but soon we climb ferociously up the Caucasus. The road is steep, the hairpins tight but the asphalt is fresh. We reach the top and immediately we go down, we pass an artificial lake and drive through gorges towards the test of the day, on another airport.
We are kindly invited to have lunch and wine tasting at the Royal Khvanchkara Winery.
After lunch we continue our trip back to our hotel.
Today we drive up the Cuacasus towards the Svaneti region. The region inhabited by the Svans is made up of around 10 villages. The snow capped mountains create an idyllic backdrop for the villages scattered across pristine Alpine meadows. Despite of being Georgians, the Svans are known for
their distinct language and cuisine.
Since there is no real hotel, we will be staying with the local people. A nice experience and a way to get to know the hospitality of the Georgians.
Where you could pretend that Mestia is still part of “our world”, the idea disappears quickly when driving along the majestic mountains on the way toUsghuli. At 2100 m, Usghuli is one of the highest continuously inhabited villages of Asia-Minor. And the road becomes challenging, especially after rainfall. Judge for yourself. This inaccessibility has helped preserve the villages’ timeless feel.
We would have loved to continue our road, but it only gets worse with razor-sharp slates cutting through your tires. So after an open air lunch we return to our home-stay in Mestia.
Unfortuanetly, most of the road we take is the same as two days ago when we went up the Caucasus. Now we get to see the mighty mountains from the other side.
We will be staying in the same hotel as a few days ago.
We have now seen the west side of the country and will now be heading towards the eastern province of Kakheti.
We take the smaller roads through fields and villages towards Gori. In Gori the people still honour a man who helped “shape” the Soviet Union. It is quite interesting to see how a museum can be dedicated to all the triumphs of Joseph S.
We assemble in the old capital Mtskheta for a police escort in town.
We are welcomed by the city-officials with a drink on the Major square in town, Freedom Square.
We stay in the very comfortable and trendy Rooms Hotel.
We have a well-deserved free day in Tbilisi. The centre of the old town is actually quite lively with many bars and restaurants. The city is absolutely safe and it is very pleasant to walk around.
A cable car brings you to the castle overlooking the city.
Kakheti is definitely the touristy region; it has everything, desert, high mountains, wineries and lakes.
We start towards the David Geraja monastery on the Azerbaijan border. The monastery is partially rock hewn. And the setting is just something special.
From there we hope to get the necessary support from the government to cross the semi-desert and the Kataryeli Range of mountains.
Most of the tracks are easy to drive except for some river beddings which can even be an obstacle just after heavy rains. Some of the river beddings do have scares vegetation and are the habitat of a great variety of birds.
Once through the semi-desert we drive again a comfortable road surrounded with cultivated fields and wine ranks.
From the low lands we climb to our destination for the night, the lovely little town of Sighnagi.
We go back down into the valley where, at first, we drive south in a scarcely populated area, most of the road has recently been asphalted, we drive on the edge of what can be cultivated, huge irrigated fields alternate arid soil. On the way back we drive along the river that separates Georgia from Azerbaijan.
We continue our way into the Tusheti region, the lands becomes increasingly fertile and we pass many wine fields. We stop at a winery for a lunch and we visit the wine museum. The Georgian wine making goes back 6000 years, way before the west discovered this technique. We will learn everything about this traditional way of wine making which is still in use today.
We drive a small distance to our hotel at the Lopota Lake.
We cross the valley and drive in the gentle mountains of the Tbilisi National Park, the forest is lush with the occasional village and the roads are nice to drive, with gentle curves. Once on the military highway, dating back, dating back to the 18the century, traffic becomes more intense with lorries transiting between Armenia and Russia, the road is excellent and still being improved.
Passed the ski resort of Gudauri the road and scenery start to become really exceptional.
The last day, the rally was planned in a way so that the finish would coincide with the wine festivities at Chateau Mukhrani.
Chateau Makhrani is one of the most prominent wine houses of the country and the most prominent people of Georgia are invited to be part of this yearly wine festival.
We will be picking grapes, making wine the traditional way and being the guest of honour at lunch and dinner.
We leave our cars at the premises to be picked up the next day for shipping home. Meanwhile we take a bus back to our hotel in Tbilisi.
We are brought to the airport for our flight home. The Direct connection with Amsterdam leaves at 6:30 a.m. (2017 time table)
The direct flight to London leaves at 19:35.
Alternatively, Turkish Airlines and Ukrainian Airlines do have frequent flights to Tbilisi.
Roland van Pelt (NL)
Jan Dingemans (NL)
Marleen Dingemans (NL)
Herman de Jong (NL)
Vera de Jong (NL)
Jean-Jacques Lizambard (FR)
Jean Patrick Voisin (FR)
Peter Aarts (NL)
Nanette Aarts (NL)
Brian King (IRL)
Sarah King (IRL)
Annette Abaci (D)
Julia Edwards (UK)
Bert Kersten (NL)
Alie Kersten (NL)
Hugo Modderman (NL)
Bakhva Rukhadze (GE)
Heinz-Bruno Hecker (D)
Sylvia Beese (D)
Thomas Treul (AT)
Renate Treul (AT)
Louisa van Beuningen (NL)
Rimmert Sluiter (NL)
Arthur Brouwer (NL)
Harry Koorstra (NL)
Cees Willemse (NL)
Ingeborg van 't Hof (NL)
Rolf Furrer (CH)
Adrian Fiat (RO)
Rob Jeurissen (NL)
Jeanne Jeurissen (NL)
Reinout de Waal (NL)
Anne Marie van Dam van Isselt (NL)
Willem Vermeulen (NL)
Ellen Vermeulen (NL)
Robert Frankcom (UK)
Julia Frankcom (UK)
Michael Power (UK)
Ros Wild (UK)
A. R. (NL)
J. K. (NL)
John Noble (UK)
Jean Noble (UK)
Mamuka Khazaradze (GE)
Nika Khazaradze (GE)
Wouter Panis (B)
Menno de Haan (B)
Iens Boswijk (NL)
Gé Steensma (NL)
Bob Meijer (NL)
Start: Monday October 1, 2018
Finish: Sunday October 14, 2018
Registration: € 8.770, –
Our shipping partner is M- Star Freight.
Shipping will take place in sealed containers to and from Tbilisi.
From Antwerp: € 3.500, – (cars up to 4.50 m)
Other ports upon request.
Insurance of the car during shipment starting at € 400, –
Total rally kilometers: 2250