Jill was happy we’d managed an early (ish of 2am) the previous night but Susan was still of the opinion we should have gone to a tittie bar (even though we’d seen plenty in the bath house earlier that day) when we were rudely awoken by the dustmen at about 8am on the Wednesday morning, as we’d ordered a taxi for 9ish to take us into Tblisi city centre where we would be picked up in a minibus (at the statue of St George next to Rustaveli metro) and taken to Vanilla Sky’s little airstrip outside of town for our terribly commercial flight on a 2 person plane up to the mountain village of Mestia in the Svaneti region of Georgia. Susan was convinced we had tons of time and had snoozed the alarm which lead to Jill getting very anxious and impatient, convinced we were going to miss the flight and she’d had just about enough of missing flights this trip, thank you very much. It was a good 20-30 minutes in the taxi from the hotel to the city centre, and then the taxi driver drove straight past Rustaveli and had to double back around the one way system, so we were starting to really panic! We had been told to look for a “white Mercedes Sprinter” and were relieved to find loads of them waiting near the statue when we finally got there. Unfortunately NONE of them were our Vanilla Sky minibus and one of the taxi drivers told us we had just missed it, so we jumped in and told him to catch up with it! We ended up getting there in good time for the flight still thankfully, the weather was decent so the flight was going ahead and and we flopped ourselves down in the comfy chairs in the waiting room, swigged some breakfast beer and petted the two resident airport toy poodles that were mincing about being adorable. Seriously, take note Ryanair – Our research has shown that customers find the whole airport experience a lot less stressful if you provide them with poodles to touch!
Scampy airport poodles for the win!
The tiny airport.
We bonded over poodle touching and breakfast beer with Liz and Andy, a lovely couple (both journalists from That London but living in Ankara in Turkey and you can read Liz’s very interesting blog here) around our age who were also going to Mestia and were soon to become our new BFFs while we were there. After a short wait we boarded the tiny 15 seater turbo prop plane, which was too small even to stand up straight in. The pilot told the four big burly (and seemingly quite drunk) Russian blokes in front of us to sit at the front of the plane, we assume for ballast, but this didn’t stop them from trying to walk around and get into the cockpit/chair at the front once we’d taken off. It was too loud in the plane to really talk, but we attempted to continue our conversation with Liz and Andy by yelling over the sound of the engine and the drunk Russians, who were also shouting at each other. Top plane camaraderie achieved!
We dragged ourselves reluctantly out of the lovely comfy beds in the Hotel Sharq the next day and headed straight to the airport in a taxi. We went back to the ticket desk where the same miserable woman with inch thick make up on told us she couldn’t sell us tickets as the flight was full. “What? But we wanted to buy tickets last night and you said we couldn’t and had to come back today!!”
“You have to see the airport manager”.
So we wandered off to locate the airport manager who was a) hard to find, b) equally as miserable and c) the Pickwick Papers, but seemed to understand that we wanted to be put on stand-by for the Termiz flight and told us to take a seat in the waiting area. After a while he came back and said there were some seats and told us to go back to the ticket desk. Susan grabbed the passports and dashed over to the desk only to find that foreigners are only allowed to purchase flights in DOLLARS for some bizarre reason! We had enough Uzbek Sommes for the flights, but only enough dollars for one! AND the card machine was broken so we couldn’t even pay by visa! There was no way we would have had time to find an ATM (the banks we could use in Uzbekistan were very limited and tended to only be in the big five-star hotels back in the city centre) and make it back for the flight. Gutted!
There was another flight to Termiz that evening, so we had to resign ourselves to getting on that one instead (the other option being to head down from Tashkent to Khojand in Tajikistan but that would have meant missing out Dunshanbe and we really wanted to go there! Even if we only had time to have lunch and a beer on it!), and since we couldn’t buy the tickets for THAT one due to the ridiculous currency situation we would have to come back later once we’d managed to get some dollars from somewhere. It was only 6am, we’d had next to no sleep and we’d left our amazing comfy beds well in advance of the 12 o’clock check out time so we reckoned that if we went back to the hotel, and told the lovely girl on reception (she was still there – they work some crazy 24 hour shifts in these parts!) what had happened she would probably let us back in the room until then. Then we would head to the airport via an ATM for dollars and if there were no seats left on the plane and we couldn’t get stand-by seats, there were still marshrutkas leaving for Khojand that we could catch instead. As predicted the receptionist was lovely and said of course we could get back in our rooms for a few more hours sleep!
Wandering in search of a nice loose egg, your favourite idiot broads abroad embarking on an yet another enchanting voyage of self-discovery (not the kind that's in those arty french films with subtitles and hairy biffs). Join us in our journey!