So while we were still absorbing the slaughter of the sheep, we struck up a conversation with someone watching the same scene. He was a tour guide for the Israeli group AND he was a former TLG staff member. (Let’s call him Misha.) Misha made some phone calls for us about finding horses to ride. But the conclusion was we needed to give them 24 hour advance notice. There you go. We tried.
So while we were milling about trying to decide what to do now, one of the Israeli came up to me and offered to take us back to Tbilisi in their jeeps. To me it was a no brainer. While I rallied the troops, she then informed us, “We are leaving NOW”… okay. We split up amongst the five SUV’s; Lindsay and I, Abbey and Erin and then Caroline in another.
The further up the mountain we drove, the prettier the scenic view became. I had to tear myself away from taking pictures to finally comment to Lindsay that we were going in the opposite direction of Tbilisi. She noticed it, too. Okay.
The road soon become a potholed, half graveled, obstacle course. But we finally came to this monument that was oddly out of place. It was a huge, cement/ tiled, semi-circle. ‘Our’ tour guide informed us that it was built by the Russians and Georgians depicting their histories. We stopped at it and got out. Little did we know it was perched on the precipice of a canyon in the mountain chain.
We got back in the SUV, cranked up Skynyrd and headed in the right direction towards Tbilisi. In the next two hour ride back to Tbilisi, we all got a good look at whom we were traveling with. They were as I said before, Israeli. They were all police officers vacationing and touring all over Georgia. They hired Misha’s tour company to secure reservations for meals, travel and lodging. Needless to say… “ballin’ status”. And they were there to have a GOOD TIME!
Misha was hell bent on finishing the bottle of vodka before we hit Tbilisi and we begrudgingly helped him complete his goal. And after the first pit stop for a bathroom break by the side of the road, it was evident the other SUV’s had similar goals to accomplish. So in the last 3 hours, we went from trying to discern where we were actually travelling in a marshrut’ka, to experiencing the most beautiful and awe inspiring views of Georgia, to being whisked back to Tbilisi with the party patrol from Israel.
Next on our agenda was to find a hostel to stay for the night. Misha offered for us to stay with him… all of us. He had a place in Tbilisi, and he lived alone. He also took it upon himself to organize the night’s activities for us. We were to go to Sky Bar, which he said had the best live band in Tbilisi and afterwards the best DJ. Okay. So we dropped off the Israeli’s at their hotel. They were going to dinner then meet us out later. We now had to figure out what to do with our stuff or if we were going to upgrade to our own hotel room. After conferencing, we decided to leave our things at the Israeli’s hotel front desk and get it after the night’s festivities. While conferencing, the birthday girl twisted her ankle. But she was not going to let that stop or even put a damper on the weekend. She powered through. So, after a quick change in the hotel’s downstairs cramped laundry room, we were freshened up (Georgian style) and ready to hit the town. Side note: Caroline had left her bags in Rustavi, so she and Lindsay went back to retrieve it, then was to meet us back in Tbilisi.
Misha was going to go with us to the bar, while the Israeli ate. Which meant that we still had access to the SUV, instead of Marshrut’kas, subways or taxis. When we arrived at the bar, it was a very familiar neighborhood, as the exPat bar was just down the stairs. And as we approached the final destination, I realized it was a bar I had been to previously. We went there the last night of orientation for a bit.
But tonight was different. It had an entirely different feel. First off there were only Georgians there (with the exception of Erin, Abbey and myself). The place ended up being packed with Georgians. Beautiful, young Georgians. We danced to the band. Misha helped us to order what we wanted to eat. And then ordered a bottle of vodka…..and then another. Okay.
I can dance all night if I had to, but it was terribly hot in this bar. So much so that after every song, I had to walk outside. On one of these excursions, I decided to head down to the exPat bar to see what was going on down there. The first person I recognized was Bekki, another member of #43, who I haven’t seen since orientation. She was hanging out with a mixed group from the Embassy and Marine Corp. I went inside and said hello to bartender friend. This bar is so comfortable. Great mix of Georgians and English speakers. And ALWAYS great music. I bounced back and forth from this bar to the other a couple of times until Caroline returned from Rustavi (without Lindsay).
When I was gone, there was apparently some drama from our tour guide towards one of my female friends. I am very protective of my people, especially my female friends. So I had to handle that. Or at least set him straight as to where we stood. Which was, we were cool and all until he crosses the line with my people. If they feel uncomfortable, that makes me uncomfortable, then we are no longer cool and therefore have a problem. He left shortly afterwards.
We decided to head down to the exPat bar. More dancing, more drinking. Met some great Marines, Embassy folks, and Georgians—and some of the Israelis showed up!
We decided to end the evening by winning some cash at the casino. For some reason, my number 11 didn’t hit as much as it should have on the roulette table. It didn’t even hit for my friends when I had lost all my money allotted for gambling for the evening. And so it goes…
Since our tour guide/ place to stay for the night left us, we didn’t have anywhere to go. and by this time it was 4 o’clock in the morning. So the Israelis saved us again by letting us crash at their hotels.
The downside unbeknownst to us, they had to leave the hotel for their next trip at 8 in the morning. So still drunk/ pre-hung over we were pushed out of there so fast, I thought it was a fire drill. We said our goodbyes and found ourselves on Rustavili street at the (what seemed like) crack of dawn with our bags in tow in the same clothes as the night before. I felt like a homeless person.
We collected ourselves enough to get to Mcdonalds and regroup. We connected the dots of the last 24 hours and simply laughed at ourselves.
Goodbye Abbey… goodbye Erin and Happy Birthday.
Caroline and I got on a Marshrut’ka at Didube Station to take the long trek home but there wasn’t a marshut’ka to Ozurgeti. Which was weird because this was one of the biggest stations in Tbilisi. What had happened was, the bus to Ozurgeti had left already and there were no more… in ALL of Tbilisi, so we had to take the one they suggested to the other side of the country to a nearby town and then switch marshrut’kas to get to Ozurgeti. Ugh. Fine. We were too tired to even argue. We should have….
It was THE LONGEST marshrut’ka ride of our lives. We literally toured all of southwestern Georgia. We saw mountain chains in the distance that I had never seen before. It was the marshrut’ka ride from hell. 7+ hours later in a town bordering the Black Sea, we finally were ushered off the bus and pointed in the right direction.
While waiting, we saw two other TLGers saunter up to our corner of the block. They were hitchhiking from Tbilisi to Ozurgeti. We were done with adventures and opted to stay put.
An hour later, we jumped on our marshrut’ka and slid into home base.
P.S. I didn’t get my Twix, Snickers, novels in English for my host brothers. Nor did I get to ride a horse. But man, did we have an EPIC weekend.