Monday, January 28, 2013

The Pro's of Hitch Hiking

I will start this post by saying, use your common sense. If something doesn't feel right it probably isn't and you should get out and this is a theory that can be applied to any situation.

In Georgia hitch hiking isn't frowned upon as much as it is in Western society. it can still be quite dangerous and I think everyone I know who used to hitch around Georgia has at least one horror story. But it's free and can be a good way to meet people so we often did it.

My friend and were heading to Tbilisi, from the West side of the country. I started in my town of Senaki and hitched a lift into her town of Abasha and from there we wanted to head as directly as we could to Tbilisi. It was the weekend we had places to be.

The intended root.
 We kind of expected that it would take more than one car to get there, it was long drive (about 5 hours,  give or take depending on the traffic and road conditions.) We had been waiting on the road for about ten minutes when a car pulled up. He was a youngish looking guy, probably about late 20's travelling by himself. he said he was only heading to Samtredia. Samtredia 's the next town, about 25km away but we figured we would jump out and continue on from there, it was progress. When we go to town the guy (we very much later found out his name was Giorgi) said he just needed to exchange some money, he pulled out a very large wad of US money and proceeded to drive around until he found someone to change the money. This was an odd situation to begin with but neither of us seemed to phased by it, we figured at least he wouldn't ask us for money for the lift.

Whilst my friend was in the bathroom he asked me if we needed to be there at a certain time, because he was actually going to go to Tbilisi but he just had to do something first, he needed to get a bag from his parents. As a rule of thumb if someone says they are only going part of the was and then change their mind and claim they are going the full distance it is completely acceptable to be suspicious  They may expect something when they get to the destination because they have gone out of their way for you.

When my friend got back to the car I explained the situation to her, she seemed to think that he was an all right guy so we went with him. On the way out of town he picked up two more people on the side of the road that he seemed to know**. Giorgi then proceeded to drive 40 minutes into the mountains, the opposite direction to where we needed to go. I immediately started thinking that this was  bad idea, he was taking us into the mountains to chop our bodies into tiny little pieces. We would never be heard from again. I only wished that I had a significant other so that I could tell them that I loved them one more time.

We stopped the car at a tiny little house, Giorgi asked us to come inside with him. There was not much we could do outside and I didn't want to be locked inside the car. Before we even got through the gate we were greeted with multiple cheek kisses by a middle aged Georgian woman who dragged us inside and sat us down at the family table. From the other room came Giorgi's grandparents who joined us at the table as his Mother started bringing out brimming plates of freshly cooked Georgian specialities. The Babua (Georgian for grandfather) dashed outside and brought back a bottle of his home-made wine and immediately poured us a glass. From there the toasts started, to family, to friends, to those in the ground, to woman, to children, to America and to Australia.
(Left to Right Deda, Me, Babua and in the front Bebia)
Giorgi had called ahead and told his mother that he had picked up some foreigners and was bringing them to the house. This spectacle was Georgian hospitality at it's finest. We stayed at the house for about two hours until our stomachs ached with amazing food and we had drank the obligatory amount of wine - four glasses, skolled quickly.

Giorgi did not join us for wine, and when all was said and one we hoped back in the car and made our way to Tbilisi. After the four glasses of wine we had a little buzz on and we wanted to keep it going. It was a Friday night after all.  Giorgi stopped in the village market and bought us each a beer. Which set the precedent for the rest of the journey. Drive an hour, bathroom break, buy another beer.

We didn't make it to Tbilisi in record time, but we had way more fun than the other chumps who caught marshutkas. This is both one of the greatest shows of Georgian hospitality and one of the greatest hitching stories.
Actual route taken

** Seemed to know - in Georgia this could be anything from your best friend from high school to your second cousins neighbours mother. 

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