Back in Tbilisi I strolled the comfortable, attractive streets in search of delicious eats to satiate an endless hunger developed over the past week of hiking. I found my return visit to this delightful city could not have been timed better. Raspberries, nectarines, apricots, and watermelons all seemed to hit peak season in perfect sync and the streets were flooded with mindbogglingly fresh and cheap produce. One vendor, slinging his berries by the bucket load, stopped me in my tracks. I needed a double take to believe my eyes, was I dreaming? For less than two dollars I became the proud owner of more than a kilogram of ruby red, firm yet juicy, raspberries. Add in a carton of ice cream and a nightly harvest festival ensued until my payload was depleted. Again I could feel myself being sucked in by Tbilisi’s magic. If I lingered a little to long, there may be no escape. To break the spell I bought a sleeper train ticket to Zugdidi; from there I would meet a marshrutka driver who would usher me back into the Caucasus.
A bit after midnight an old, yet seemingly sky worthy Wizz Air craft bounced onto the tarmac at Kutaisi international airport. The plane offloaded via a hand pushed rolling staircase. It was a short, unsupervised walk over to a small door reading ‘customs’ in English below a long string of unrecognizable characters. There were no formal lines so the mass of people piled into a tiny hall where two customs agents rapidly stamped passports with no regard for what kind of document was handed to them. Georgia’s government is all about tourism these days, and their eagerness to let outsiders in was obvious. Bags arrived promptly on the lone carousel. Before even checking if the airport had WiFi I was in and an armed police officer strapping well-worn soviet firepower was happy to watch Abi and I bobble around the unfamiliar language, eventually setting us up with a taxi. I had no idea, not even a preconceived notion, about what I would see outside the airport. The road was dark so first impressions included nothing more than a straight road ahead and the occasional dim, fluorescently lit, petrol station.