tbilisi part one // neu-tiflis

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Turns out after a week in Tbilisi, I liked it so much that after a week in Yerevan, I came back for another week, in a different part of the city. But that would be a very long photodump, so one thing at a time.

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Also, like, I really need to change the name of this blog sometime.

So, like apparently everyone else in the world, I decided to stay at Fabrika in New Tbilisi, which is apparently, like, the too-cool-for-school place to be — part hostel, part bar, part artsy coworking space. So it was a little hard to meet other travelers unless you lucked into cool roommates in the dorm (which I, fortunately, totally did), but definitely a cool place for a home base, especially when you’re new to the city, as there’s a bunch of places to eat and drink right in the courtyard — which, since I was there at the end of December, also morphed into an adorable Christmas market, where me and one of my aforementioned cool roommates/new friends chilled (literally), drinking mulled wine and people watching and feeling very worldly.

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I don’t even like mulled wine, but it just feels so fucking cozy.

It was also at Fabrika that I began to discover the extent of Tbilisi’s amazing graffiti/street art, as this was my introduction to the place:

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Same, little lemur(?) dude, same.

One day the water was out for a couple hours (no fault of the hostel’s, they were very helpful about it), so before I realized it was a city thing, I went exploring on another floor to see if the water was on there, only to discover that we third-floor denizens got TOTALLY cheated in terms of the art on the walls — aka none — while the second-floor bastards got to bask in THIS:

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I mean, c’mon, imagine stumbling back drunk at 3am or something and there’s just… that.

But I gotta say, the rest of the city didn’t disappoint. Cats… more dicks… skeletons boning (ha!)… god, I love the fact that human beings across the world and across the vast spans of human history just, like, never change.

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See also: why are barren amusement parks in the off-season so inherently, like, haunting?

Just to make it even better, the workers manning the rides waiting for the, like, one child in the little park to come by were so bored I’m fairly sure they were just turning the rides on just for entertainment.

Which is all well and good, until you’re just minding your own business, idly wandering around, and then creepy carnival music starts up somewhere behind you, and you turn around and realize you’re face to face with revolving menacingly behind you, with no one on board:

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Yeah. And then back away slowly, and bump into these friendly fellows.

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Yeah.

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Goodbye, little park.

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Unsettling in a similar-but-different way: I decided to take the funicular (god, what a satisfying word) up to — hold on, let me google how to spell this for the 2387573 time — Mtatsminda Park, knowing nothing about it besides that the views were probably pretty cool (true) and from the hostel window, it looked a little like a faerie playground.

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Unbeknownst to me, there was also a massive, creepily-empty amusement park at the top, aside from faerie-wheel. Though in fairness, unless Nightmare McClownpark up there, it looked like it is probably a really, really fun place in summer — just not when it’s hovering around the freezing point.

Also: a really fun place to remember that I am, the older I get, increasingly afraid of heights.

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Yeah, you can almost see me backing further and further from the edge, despite the waist-high wall. Still not sure where that came from except probably the time I got dizzying heatstroke on my first and only mountain hike in Washington. Good times!

But at least I confirmed that the Ferris wheel does, in fact, move, because I swear to god watching from the window it looked utterly, weirdly still, all the time. And that the people who get on do, I think, eventually, get off.

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But yeah, it felt more like a smaller (much smaller) Disney world during dead time of year or something, versus just a pocket of land that Stephen King created and forgot about.

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Also, if I may, I feel like one of these things is super not like the other:

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I do not think I want Extreme Octopus.

On the other hand: Giant Wheel, Cash, Dinosaurs? I’m sold on going left.

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I dunno, I’ve talked before (probably repeatedly) about my vague obsession with liminal spaces, and I suppose that’s why I love visiting places like this in the off-season — it’s like you can almost feel what it’s like in its own time, in summer with kids and families and groups of teenagers wandering around, laughing and making fun and having fun, only it is still silent and empty. Juxtaposition, man.

ANYWAY. So both aside from and because of its weirdness, I really do love Tbilisi, and got to see a totally different side of it when I came back, which was also super cool. But it’s beautiful, and the people are delightful, and like, in all honestly, I have never felt safer as a woman traveling alone anywhere than in the Caucuses (at least the cities).

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So, yeah, Tbilisi is amazing. If anyone is following my lazy ass updates, from Tbilisi I went to Yerevan, Armenia for a week, then back to Tbilisi for accidentally another week, and am now in my last few days in Baku, Azerbaijan — which I love — before heading to Astana, Kazakhstan at fuck o’clock on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

I’d say I’ll be better at updates, and like I sure hope so, but I feel like a liar every time I say it.

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kutaisi, georgia // time jump, puddle jump

Okay yes I realize I have not caught up on even half of South America yet, and the latter half (Patagonia!) was the best half probably maybe, but anyway I flew to London last Tuesday and got a train to Tbilisi, Georgia today so obviously I am posting about none of those things.

London was, of course, awesome: I’d been there… three times before, I think? But once was when I was too young to really remember, another time in high school en route to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (she says not at all braggingly), but only for a day, and another time when the 2016 US elections happened so I didn’t leave my bed for days.

This time I managed to go do some stuff; I went back to the British Museum, and did a hop-on-hop-off bus and went to the Tower of London and the Thames cruise, and went to the zoo and wandered by 221B Baker Street, and a lot more random wandering.

Which was extremely awesome but I may actually have stress-fractured my right foot. Because like… I think it’s fair to say that a foot should not look like this:

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But, since I was in London for real for like the first time kind of, I was like, well, either I can rest, and not see London, or I could… not do that. Who fucking needs feet anyway.

Hopefully I will someday sometime actually post pictures from London (and Chile, and Argentina, and Uruguay…) but for now, here’s Kutaisi.

It was kind of pointless, which honestly is exactly what I wanted it to be. I stayed there for four nights, and did not feel guilty for doing hardly anything, because there’s hardly anything to do.

There is LOTS of historical stuff around, and it’s very pretty, so I’m not trash talking the city. But for me, it worked very well as a limbo place to just be a sloth, mostly, and only walk a couple miles a day.

Also did not realize that technically/geographically, Georgia is in Asia (though is still considered European/Eurasian) so I guess I’ve sort of been in Asia for four days without realizing it.

And I made two new friends and we accidentally adopted a street dog, so I’ll consider it a win.

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He(?) was just so floofy we couldn’t not pet, and then he followed us back to the hostel, and then WAITED OUTSIDE, and oh, my heart.

Then this morning I got the train from Kutaisi to Tbilisi, which on the relatively slim chance anyone reading this is planning to do any time soon, it was possibly the least-headache-y trip I’ve ever done, and cost a grand total of about $3.50 USD (and bookable online!). The Kutaisi I station is easily walkable from the city center; I hesitantly showed my emailed e-ticked at the counter and the lady just smiled and waved me onwards; the only other interaction I had at all was when another lady working at the Kutaisi station came up to me just to point out the platform my train was leaving from. No one ever even, like, asked me for a ticket.

And it being late December, the train was basically empty, I had the carriage to myself the whole five hour trip to just sprawl out, intermittently dozing, watching the gorgeous countryside go by, or rewatching Firefly and American Gods with the Caucasus Mountains in the background.

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And like, the bathroom even had toilet paper, you guys.

Anyway I’m exhausted so here is an un-annotated Kutaisi photodump. I am not sorry that I went there but I am also not sorry to be in Tbilisi now.

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Guess it’s time to start googling “how to spend a week in Tbilisi” or some shit. Also where to spend New Year’s Eve, because who knows.

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iquique / que que que

Hi I am going to London in three days and am totally unprepared. So instead of doing any of the things I need to do, let me tell you what not to do when going from Peru to Chile.

Actually, that’s a melodramatic lie; it was fine. But a headache.

SO, to get from Peru to Chile — at least, to get from Arequipa, Peru to Iquique, Chile — you take a bus from Arequipa to Tacna, near the border, and then you find a collectivo to cross the border down to Arica in Chile, and then another bus to Iquique. It’s like … maybe ten hours total, broken up with transfers and the hour-ish long collectivo and border crossing, really not bad.

Unless your suitcase is left at the Peru/Chile border. Which, as you may have inferred already, mine was.

Maybe because a lot of the Tacna/Arica traffic is just regular local Chileans stocking up in cheaper Peru, and here’s my dumb ass with pink hair and a wheezing cough and broken Spanish. It was not a fun pit in my stomach realizing my suitcase was not in fact in the collectivo.

But on the other hand: in the end? Not a big deal. I managed to eke out something like uh, necesito mi maleta, pero no es aqui? puedes ayudarme? and after some back and forths, I was put back on the collectivo and back to the border — who as soon as I walked up, a couple lovely ladies were like ah si, aqui, aqui! and I had my suitcase back with zero problems and headed back to Arica.

Not how I wanted to spend those two hours instead of getting to my hostel in Arica, but honestly? It was two hours. Big fuckin’ deal.

So Iquique.

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Winter is obviously not the ideal time to hang out in a beach town, but it was still cool. There were tons of people (well… some, anyway) decked out in wetsuits and diving around in the shallows, which I’m still not sure what they were looking for, and a fair few intrepid surfers.

I think this was the first time I’d been on the ocean since I left Florida, and even though it’s the wrong ocean, on the wrong side of a continent — it smelled kind of like home.

And man, there is something so viscerally strange and awesome — in the literal sense — in gazing out over the Pacific Ocean, and then pivoting and the fucking Andes are just, like, right there.

Southern California was weird enough, with its ocean and its cliffs, but like. The Andes. Right the fuck there, juxtaposed with palm trees. I miss those mountains in a way I can’t describe.

Photodump, commence!

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Arequipa // the other white city

Okay, granted, it’s no Gondor, but Arequipa is a beautiful city and also LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL CAT.

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She smelled like pee, which meant I smelled like pee on the bus down to Chile, and honestly I didn’t care. I’d die for her.

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Twelve days from today I kick rocks to London. And then Georgia, and then Armenia and Azerbaijan. Panic mode setting in.

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puno // stigmatatata from lake titicaca

Puno is definitely worth visiting even if your early formative years weren’t defined by Beavis & Butthead, and trying to perfect the Butthead laugh despite being a fourteen year old girl, but it still was undeniably the impetus.

Also: definitely not warm, and my hostel either had no heat or hadn’t turned it on. There were plenty of blankets, so sleeping was fine, but just hanging around the common area was… not pleasant.

Having an actual coat might have helped.

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SO, feel-good story time! After a nice eight-hour bus ride rumbling through the desert (it was actually cool, but still… long, and sick, and oxygenless), I hop off at the bus depot in Puno — which was totally not where I thought it was to begin with, so had to get a taxi to my hostel — and promptly left my cell phone in the back of the cab when I got out.

Odds of getting it back, like, ever? lol, glhf.

After a rousing panic attack, I finally go talk to the hostel reception to see if he had any ideas. He spoke almost no English, and my broken Spanish is not helped by intense stress, yet he was so helpful. I managed to convey what happened, more or less, and he called someone he knew who knew all the taxi drivers in town, and that dude came over to look at the outdoor security footage, figured out which driver it was, called that driver, and arranged to take me to meet him back at the bus terminal.

Which would have been super awesome had my phone actually been in the car, which it wasn’t. But it was still just, like… such a kind thing for all those guys to do — and no one asked me for money, despite being taxi drivers and obviously giving up fare to cart my dumb ass around. (Which of course I gave them some, because I’m not an asshole, but they didn’t even hint at it.)

Meanwhile, I’d managed to get in touch with my mother via FaceTime on my iPad, and she’d been — hopelessly — calling my phone from back in the US, on the off chance someone picked up.

Lo and behold — an American traveler and his Peruvian girlfriend had caught the same cab after me, and found my phone; apparently he was going to turn it into the bus station lost & found, and his girlfriend was like, maybe just hold onto it for a little bit. Turned out he was staying at a hostel a ten-minute walk from me — wandered over — had my dumb phone back in my dumb hands within maybe three hours all told. After leaving it in a taxi cab, in the middle of fucking Peru.

side note: I was about to add something like, “which god knows is unlikely to happen in America, for fuck’s sake,” … but actually, shortly after I got back to the US, I somehow left that same cell phone in the parking lot of the shitty shopping mall here in Daytona. Which, again, odds of getting it back?

Well, I’d barely even noticed I wasn’t sure when I’d put it when my mother gets a text from my brother — some girl had found it in the parking lot, found my brother’s contact info (I don’t know or care if she’d managed to unlock it, or if he’d texted my phone or something), found him on Facebook and let him know she had it. Half an hour later, she and her boyfriend drove like 25 minutes back to give it back to me.

Moral of the story, like, people really, truly, are not generally dicks.

Anyway, I think I only spent maybe two nights in Puno, and if I had (a) stayed longer, (b) was not so tightly-budgeted, and/or (c) not been hanging out in I think the highest altitude place I visited, I wish I’d gone on at least like a half day tour of the islands on Lake Titicaca. But, well, all those things were things. Quito was rough enough on my ability to breathe, and Puno is almost three thousand feet higher (about 1,000 meters, for the rest of you who don’t use idiot measurements like us).

So I just walked around town, went to a really cool little marketplace, and walked around the shore of the lake. Not the most exciting few days (phone panic aside), but really, really cool to see.

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Unfortunately, my nostalgic attempts to recreate Beavis did not really go so well. Which I suppose is an understandable outcome of (a) being too shy to ask someone to take a picture of me, y’know, recreating Beavis, and also (b) not actually being a 1990s cartoon character.

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But I tried. Ish.

It’s okay. Travel Gator was not impressed either.

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cusco // cut short

So I don’t have a ton of pictures of Cusco itself, because I only spent three full days there, and the first was basically just attempting to hoard energy (and oxygen) enough to manage Machu Picchu the next, and then another day recover.

Which I did make it to Machu Picchu, even if I had to crawl (literally) back down from 20 minutes into the healthy-person-route and go scope out where the senior citizen tour groups were headed and stealthily follow them.

But I actually did blog about that, and you can read about my strange Sunday and photodump here.

And man, looking over that post, I really need to figure out a better (or any) way to edit photos on my Chromebook, because christ those do not do Machu Picchu justice.

Anyway here’s a bit of Cusco, which I’d really love to go back to (like most of South America) someday when I’m not next door to death for three months straight.

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God, I look positively vivacious.

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Also, preemptively winning softest and most adorable baby shower gift for my then-nephew to be — and now nephew I shall actually meet in one week!

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I’m basically an Olympian. But relatively respectable for altitude sickness and what I now know was nascent acute bronchitis, after a hospital trip in Chile.

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Also lemme tell you how disappointed and slightly embarrassed I was to realize that my delight in Cusco’s celebration of Pride month was, perhaps, slightly misguided, in that the rainbow flag is in fact the flag of Cusco itself. I still enjoyed it.

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And then onto another eight-hour bus to Puno, Peru to see Lake Titicaca — and where I had another of those lovely, faith in humanity-restoring reminders that like, people, man? On the whole? People are really, really fucking kind. AKA the time I left my cell phone in a completely random taxi cab in a small Peruvian city with fairly little English widely spoken — and somehow had it back in my hands within like three hours, through nothing but luck on my part and kindness of others.

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lima // photodump

Man, I can’t believe it’s been five months since Lima. I think it was the first really huge city in South America I’d been in since Bogota, and it felt more like a “typical” big city, which I suppose has its pros and cons. But it was absolutely gorgeous, and oh, so nice to be on the ocean again — if it is the wrong one.

And yeah, people weren’t lying when they said the buses got nicer in Peru. The trip from Trujillo to Lima was only (only) around nine hours, but it was very comfortable.

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(Despite my perpetual unimpressed face. I smile more in person, I swear.)

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I stayed at the Kokopelli Lima, which … frankly I don’t remember much about except (a) beautiful location in Miraflores, and (b) privacy curtains, which are my favorite things ever. And this is why I’m an asshole for not updating before everything blends together. Among other reasons.

Also, the rooftop view is pretty sexy.

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As usual, my broke ass just spent most of my time wandering aimlessly around town, which, like, not the worst way to spend a few days.

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Plus, of course, cats.

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Always cats.

 

I think growing up on the Atlantic coast of Florida, I’m always fascinated by other coastlines, from New England to Seattle to Reykjavik to Morocco, etc. Like the sensory experience(s) is so familiar, but so, so different. And I am constantly messed up by, like, no, no, the ocean is on the wrong side!

Anyway I hate Florida but the Atlantic is in my blood — but I guess the Southern Pacific ain’t so bad either.

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Bird interlude. Which in my head I said “bird interlurd,” and snickered.

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Finally I managed to drag myself away from the water and made my way up to Barranco district — I think this was one of those awesome but exhausting like ten-mile trek days.

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Fine, more water. Someday I will have the energy/know-how to organize my photos in a less haphazard way.

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I love these flowers — angel trumpets, I think? Vaguely hallucinogenic and extremely poisonous but also super lovely? Pretty sure we used to have a bunch of those in the yard growing up.

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I do believe Travel Gator is getting antsy for his next adventure. Twenty-seven days, little dude. Twenty-seven days.

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