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Thursday 27th July - The long wait for Georgia

The two teams we'd convoyed with the day before decided to leave early in the morning so we said goodbye to them. No matter how hard we try to leave early it seems we always get on the road well after 9am, oh well, at least we avoid all the crazy work commuters.

We ate breakfast downstairs. In looking around in seemed that Trabzon is a much more conservative Muslim city. Majority of the women, save for Natalie and Haylee, were wearing full Burqas.

Today was a border crossing day. We were prepared for a rough few hours as we'd already been pre-warned by other teams of the incredibly slow process. Word on the rally street was that it would take approx 4-5 hours to get over the Turkey/Georgia border. That estimate was almost completely accurate as we were there from around 11:30am - 4:30pm. We thought we'd hit the jackpot when we pulled into the border and saw only a few cars. The guard got a bit cranky at us because we kept pointing that we'd like to go over to the passport windows. He kept pointing the other direction; "but we want to go to the other side" we said waving our hands about. He was still getting cranky at us waving to go the other way. We then discovered that around the corner was a massive line of approx 50 cars waiting to go through the border. The guard was simply signalling that we had to join the ridiculous line. We parked in the scorching sun and commenced our 5 hour wait to get into Georgia. The advantage of the long wait was that we had a chance to meet approx 6 other teams also frying in the sun. Our mates from Holy Kittens were also in the line. The Black Sea beach was literally next to our waiting area so a number of people were going swimming. You had to organise though for someone to take a shift in the car as every ten minutes or so the line would creep a few metres forward. Haylee and Patrick went for a swim. The Turkish don't take much pride in their beaches, there was literally rubbish all over the place and a mysterious brown substance in the water that seemed to stalk Haylee and Patrick. A few harmless jellyfish were also in the water. Oh well, small price to pay to escape the horrible humid heat at the border. Four hours later and we were getting quite close. Haylee hasn't driven on the trip yet (which makes her feel very guilty that she's dumped all the driving onto the boys). Despite having a number of manual driving lessons in Sydney before the rally she hasn't felt confident among the insane drivers of Europe. She took the opportunity at the border though to jump in the car and drive our Panda a few metres forward every ten minutes. Super lucky she did this though because when we finally reached the border a guard signalled that only the owner of the car was allowed to move the car through the border. All other passengers had to get out and walk through customs and passport control. Just your luck Haylee! Patrick, James and Natalie jumped out and joined a super long line of foot passengers. Haylee braved the border crossing in our Panda and drove her up to the line of approx five cars.

Sitting in the car Haylee suddenly realised she didn't have the V5 documents which border control call the 'car passport'. It's basically a document you need to get the car through any border crossing. Patrick had taken it with him in his passport wallet when he jumped out of the car. Haylee was basically screwed without it. Haylee tried calling Pat on his phone but he'd left it in the car! She then tried calling Natalie and James but of course her phone was refusing to work. The only chance she had was to explain her situation to at the window to someone who most likely didn't speak English or wait for Patrick to miraculously walk past along the security fence after having his passport checked. A few minutes later Haylee was incredibly relieved to see Pat waving and smiling at the security fence ten metres away. She started hand signalling that she didn't have the documents for the car. Patrick's face went from a big beaming smile to a quick 'oh shit!' He ran to the nearest customs officer and asked if anyone spoke English which only resulted in a confused face. A series of hand gestures and lots of pointing at the barrier seemed to make matters worse with the officer yelling at Patrick in what was probably something not suitable for repeating here. Opening the nearest official looking door landed Patrick in a room full of police officers sitting at their desks all staring at Patrick. "Does anyone speak English?" - more blank stares. But there was one young lady who hesitantly put up herself hand,

"I understand but not speak well"

Patrick smiled with relief and asked how he could get the VC5 document to Haylee.

"Follow me," she told Patrick.

Walking past the desks, there was a plain door where she knocked and waited. There was a gruff voice from the other side. The door opened and inside was a uniformed man who sat behind a large desk. On the desk was a decanter of whiskey and a lit cigarette in an ashtray.

"Speak!" He commanded and shoved his phone in Patrick's face.

"I have the VC5 document for the car but the car is on the other side of the barrier with Haylee". Patrick showed the document to him.

He responded by asking simply "Wife?"

Patrick thought about for a second before nodding. The man with the gruff voice started laughing, gave some instructions to the young female officer and waved them out.

"Outside", she tells Patrick.

"This is special circumstance - we never let anyone through fence. You are lucky."

She signals the guard and door buzzes open. She then accompanies Patrick to the car to find a very relieved 'wife'.

Haylee continued to drive through the border, chuffed that she didn't stall. The VC5 was stamped and we were approved to drive into Georgia. We picked up Natalie and James and continued on into our next country. The first things we noticed was that cows get right of way across the roads. Despite driving in a major city (Batumi), cows were walking all over the road. Oblivious to the traffic around them.

We discussed having an early dinner in Batumi before driving on to Tbilisi (the capital). We couldn't resist the urge for some Maccas so looked up the nearest Golden Arches and drove there, hungry for some burgers and fries. On the way we saw the famous upside down White Restaurant located just near the beach. Maccas was only a few km's up from this. It was an extremely unusual McDonald's; built like a large glass pyramid. There was nothing yellow or red even on the building. We welcomed the cool air conditioning inside and ordered meals via the electronic self serve screens.

Food in our bellies we drove on to Tbilisi. We drove through an area which appeared to be Georgia's version of Surfers Paradise. It was a beachside town with cafes and shops everywhere and a park with rides and camping areas. We couldn't resist pulling over to watch a beautiful sunset on the water.

The evening drive proved to be incredibly tiring. It was approx three-four hours to Tbilisi. Our app took us through a dodgy town which it must have assumed had a paved road. That it did not; the road was dirt and extremely uneven. Our Panda got her first taste of off road driving, fortunately she handled it very well. After driving for thirty minutes on this bumpy dirt road we found the main highway again. Poor James got the midnight driving shift. We arrived in Tbilisi around 1:30am, extremely zombified. We checked into our hotel and passed out on our beds ready for another big day.

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