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Am I still drunk after yesterday’s party, or is it already a hangover? I don’t know, but I lie on a pile of gear in the bus and try to bring my body to a state of use. There is rescue equipment, tents, solar panels and backpacks around me. It is warm outside, the sun warms mercilessly, and we are waiting for the military CASA plane to fly to Tbilisi. The driver is very upset that he will not make it to Warsaw due to the slide. Life, it happens.

Just a few hours earlier, I was still in the North Jura, jumping at a concert at a mountaineering club party – La Jura Jura. A group of friends from the SAKWA alpine club, a field game in the atmosphere of Caribbean pirates and lemon vodka – a lot of lemon vodka, too much too tasty lemon vodka. I try to catch up shortly but intensively in my acquaintances, talk and laugh together. After the concert of “The Chachors”, I pack my bags and go back to Krakow – take it easy, I’m not driving. There is enough time for 3 hours of sleep, then a quick breakfast and to the airport.

We are still waiting. The Prime Minister has arrived and you have to wait …

We finally get the green light.

Pass, barrier, we’re going to the hangar. There, we quickly drop all the luggage and say goodbye to the driver who has already passed into resignation out of anger – he knows that his car does not have enough horsepower that would be able to get him to Warsaw on time.

Unloading – there is a bit of it – barrels, packages, pelicases – put everything on a pallet and weigh – 1200 kg of equipment – quite some gear.

Our luggage – over a ton of equipment

We sit in a nice conversation in a military hangar, and I lie down on a comfy couch – it’s probably a hangover.

The CASA departure is delayed by an hour, I’m not complaining. The couch is soft and comfortable, nobody wants to sit next to it, so I am happy to unfold it to its full length. I fall into a power nap.

I wake up – around empty – didn’t they flew without me? I quickly put my shoes on and go to the hangar – they sit there and wait. However, the moment of horror right after waking up was very real. The transition from dreams to reality is sometimes blurry.

In two minutes, we get a signal that the military CASA plane is ready.

We walk along the tarmac at the Balice airport towards the steel machine. On the way, we have a quick passport clearance at the customs officer, and we get on the plane.

CASA ready for departure
The Safe Kazbek team flying to Tbilisi and the CASA military plane in the background.

I must admit that this is the first time I am not flying commercial airlines. It is different. We sit almost in the hold, not too much space, but also not cramped. Everyone is wearing headphones or earplugs – the CASA plane is very noisy. I feel almost like in an American movie – only colleagues with rifles, military equipment and red flashing lights are missing.

It’s a bit different here than in traditional airlines.

After a while, we start – the flight will take a while. You will reach Georgia by standard flight in 3 hours. However, the military CASA plane flies at a lower altitude (5,000 m) and at a lower speed – the trip to Tbilisi will take almost 7 hours. On the way, we have a stopover in Bulgarian Varna – we have to refuel.

Varna in Bulgaria

My body has fully coped with alcohol poisoning. I enjoyed my flight by reading Shantaram and taking short naps.

Loud and long, but uncomfortable.
Stafu with a romantic sunset somewhere on the Black Sea.

About 1 AM local time, we land at the Tbilisi airport.

I go out onto the field in the military part of the airport. We are greeted by a classic Georgian view – a belly, a mask under his face, a cigarette in his mouth, waiting for someone to tell him that he has to do something. Day as every day. After a while, a lift arrives and unloads our pallet from the plane. CASA is refueled and in a moment it is going on – to Afghanistan. Several travelers still have 7 hours of flight to go.

We give passports to a Georgian guy. After double-checking if we have two doses of COVID vaccine, the guy disappears. We are waiting at the airport field. Here there is a simple problem – pee. Go to the toilet – not such possibility, pee here, in the middle? It is dark, there is a lot of grass around, the level in the bladder is critical, so why not?

CASA plane at the Tbilisi airport.

After an hour or so, a bus appears, and we board it. The police are also coming soon with stamped passports. We are going to Tbilisi, where we have a day to rest and deal with the issue of transport to the base near Kazbek mountain.

After 3 am I collapse, exhausted, on the bed and immediately fall into the arms of Morpheus.

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