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Monday, October 17, 2011 | From Georgia to Armenia

Following the pattern of the past few days I am up with the lark. It is still dark. The petrol pump attendant is also awake and regarding with interest the goings-on around the vehicle. (I’ve just stepped outside to get a bit of fresh air). Across the road, there is another group of curious onlookers who are probably waiting patiently for the bus to work. But I have no time to lose. After a rapid breakfast and my daily dose of caffeine, I get in the cab and set off on the long drive to the Armenian border. This potentially daunting prospect is somewhat lightened by some of the sights I encounter which make up for the not-so-good roads and the hours spent behind the steering wheel.

Particularly impressive is a magnificent fortress which appeared suddenly and unexpectedly out of nowhere as I negotiated a bend in the road; or an old railway bridge with a huge section missing leaving a hazardous drop for any unsuspecting driver.

The sun is shining and it is warm. The road is again climbing and winding gently through small villages where I am greeted by friendly locals as I drive through. The colours of the landscape seem to blend together and the countryside seems to stretch endlessly into the far horizon. In the distance I finally see the border post with Armenia, a tent-like structure which would seem to pose no problem in getting through. Nothing much seems to be happening either. However my optimism was misplaced. It took me one and a half hours of mind-numbing paperwork and form-filling to get through. A number of border guards emerge from a small barracks-type building to quiz me about what I am doing, where I am going, who I am seeing and so on. There are forms to fill in, and then more forms and I have the pleasure of visiting three different offices to complete these important tasks. It then appears that I haven’t got the correct documents, so more explanations, more form-filling until finally they deign to stamp my papers. Then an old boy appears and from the look of him (imposing) and his fancy blue uniform (ditto) I guess he must be the head honcho. He ambles over to the Editourmobil, casting approving glances at the automatic steps, and then goes inside to have a closer look at the controls and the interior.

Happily, this marks the end of the bureaucratic rigmarole and finally, they let me through and over the border so I am now officially in Armenia. To celebrate this important milestone, I treat myself to a can of ravioli by the roadside. First impression of Armenia: the endless steppe!

I’m supposed to be meeting Pepsi today in Yerevan, but I soon realise that it is too far away and just to compound the difficulties, I am in a different time zone so I am now three hours ahead. I call my contact, Ms Stepanyan, to explain the situation and we manage to re-arrange the appointment for tomorrow.

After a long journey, I finally reach Yerevan. It is already 5pm. A few essential tasks need to be done and I pull in to a nearby petrol station. The friendly crew kindly agree to divert water out of their car wash to fill the Editourmobil’s tanks, not before time, as there is hardly any water left.

I do worry a bit about the vehicle; probably, nothing like it has been seen here and it attracts a huge amount of enthusiasm and excitement. Hopefully the locals won’t get any funny ideas. I decide the sensible thing to do is to park up as near as I can to tomorrow’s appointment with Pepsi. Fortunately I manage to find a large parking place near the Pepsi offices, it’s quiet and peaceful, and I can prepare for my coming visit undisturbed.