The only way to find out if that’s possible is to go there.

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A sign on my right indicates the fortress of Smbataberd. There are also a few churches around here. Armenian churches, so particular, I have already seen some of them. But not yet a fortress. I’m curious. The stage I have planned for today is not very long. I have time to make a detour. I’m committing. Nice little mountain road, my goodness. But very quickly, it gives way to a small dirt road. Then suddenly, I have the choice: either I take a small bridge that seems more intended for pedestrians, or I pass a lookout that I see below. The lookout, from where I am, seems a little deep to me and the current rather lively, I choose the bridge. I thus engage in what is closer to a mule track but I quickly join the way… which becomes more and more uneven and rocky as I advance. Suddenly, it starts to rise. Utopia is moving forward. A mile, then two, then three. It’s getting more and more rocky and sloping. The rear wheel is slipping. The motorcycle jumps. How much longer do I have before I see this damn fortress? Suddenly, the slope becomes frankly scabrous, more than 45° in rock. But Utopia continues to rise valiantly. It was the pilot, taken by a doubt, who stopped. How much longer? Am I going in the right direction? Utopia and I find ourselves here, stuck on the slope. I can’t turn around, and I have a big doubt about what’s ahead. You can’t crutch, either. So I gently put Utopia on the side to think about the situation. To stretch my legs too. Suddenly, down in the valley, I hear an engine roar. So I won’t be the only one up there? I wait, looking, the way below. Soon I see a little blue truck climbing, I was going to say climbing, the mountain. I’ll hold. It goes up, and soon I see it appearing in front of me at the bend of the last bend. He pains, he spits, he blows. Its rear wheels, although equipped with a double axle, slip. He’s empty though, just three men on board. In a final effort, he passes close to me, the wheels jumping on the stones. He stops a little further. Two of the men come out and after the usual greetings, help me turn Utopia around. Then they leave again. And then… I find myself like an idiot: impossible to get back on my mount. The place where Utopia is is still very sloping. She stands on her side stand, and only the engaged speed prevents her from going forward and falling. The only problem is, with this damn yellow bag, I have to lean on the bike to get on it… and I’m afraid that with the slope, it will go forward despite the speed engaged. Given the slope, the fall could be serious and it is in these cases that being two proves useful.

I think about the different possibilities:

1/ Waiting for another vehicle to pass… it seems random to me.

2/ Make a step, in order to get on the bike as gently as possible: the risk of loss of balance during the operation remains significant.

3/ Put a large stone in front of the rear wheel, taking care to tie it with a rope. Once in the saddle, pull the rope to remove it.

4/ Lower the bike by hand using the clutch to brake it (impossible to use the front brake on such a slope: the bike would fall immediately) until the next false flat.

It is this latter option that I ultimately choose. I lose 4 liters of water in the operation. I stop a little further down the slope on a small meadow and decide to stay bivouac there. With the twin, I scan the slope in which I was, and I realize that I was very close to a church. But where I was from, it was impossible to know. On the other hand, by examining my GPS and the map, I understand that I had to pass for some time already the famous fortress. I would understand the next day, that it is only possible to go there on foot.

A little later, I see the small truck loaded with hay this time, carefully descending towards the valley.

The next day, I hesitate: now that I know that this church is shortly after where I stopped, I could try to join it. In the worst case, I can unload Utopia’s luggage and pick it up on the way. But the evening bivouac and the morning coffee ran out of water. Maybe, there’s a fountain upstairs, but no certainty. And being without water in these mountains and in this heat can quickly become dangerous. So I decide to go back down.

I didn’t film this little adventure. I was afraid to explode the camera in case of a fall, or even to hurt myself with it (this is what would have happened to Schumacher,: the camera fixed on the helmet would have damaged the structure). So this morning I thought of an option to film while reasonably protecting the camera on difficult paths: I fixed a clip on the lighthouse. I don’t know if this isn’t going to shake too much. I have to test.

The outcome of this story: a super bivouac, and super impressed by the capabilities of Utopia who managed to climb a steep slope despite its load and inappropriate tires. A real tractor. She would have made it upstairs if her pilot hadn’t deflated. (PS: I’ve been drinking two liters of water since this morning)




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