Georgia, a country where the police always have your back when you’re a hitchhiker! Read this awesome story by Taylor Beckwith – Ferguson about his police encounters while hitchhiking in Georgia.
Imagine a place in which police genuinely want to help the people. Where police don’t shoot you because of the color of your skin, arrest you because they’re bored, or harass you just because they can. Imagine a place in which police are paid to help you enjoy your time safely and comfortably, and are just normal people who don’t feel the addiction to exercise their power over others. This place exists; it’s a small country in the Caucasus mountains called Georgia.
One of the best things about hitchhiking in Georgia is that the police always have your back. Unlike other countries (ahem, USA) where the police view hitchhikers as dirty criminals, Georgian cops genuinely want to help. My first Georgian police experience was last year when I was hitchhiking from Stepantsminda to Gudauri in the night with two friends. The police drove by a few times and then stopped and offered us a ride to a police station halfway to our destination. After talking and joking around in the car for 20 minutes, they decided they didn’t want to let us back out into the cold night, so instead began to pull over every passing vehicle until they found one with space for three hitchhikers. The three of us got in a truck with only one passenger seat after a couple of minutes.
Assuming this was just an anomaly, I didn’t really expect any more police help until just a few days ago. Hitchhiking out of Mestia, two of us stopped a police truck. When they asked where we’re going, I explained that we’re looking for a nice place to hike and camp. They moved the machine gun out of the back seat to make space for us and took us to the next village, recommending a trail for us and said that we could put the tent up anywhere (free camping? An American cop would arrest us just for the thought of putting up our tent outside of a private campground).
That afternoon we went on a beautiful hike and camped in an empty valley, and the next day headed back to the road to hitchhike south. A van dropped us off a ways further, on a road that would take us to the coast. After a minute, a police car drove by with 2 policemen inside, slowly turning their heads as they passed us and staring intently. After 100 meters, they stopped, turned around, and drove slowly back past us, saying “hi” in the loudspeaker as they passed. And again. And again. And again. As they were coming back towards us for the sixth time, they turned on their siren and flashed the lights at a passing truck who pulled over. The police car pulled up to us and asked where we’re going. We replied “Poti” and they nodded, seemingly satisfied with our answer, and drove off. A minute later they drove back and told us to get in the truck, he would take us to Poti!
After spending an extremely windy night camping by an abandoned house in Poti, we were excited to have beautiful weather the next day and got some bread and knockoff nutella for a breakfast picnic. While eating on a bench by the street, a policeman approached us and asked if we speak Russian. My American instincts kicked in, assuming he was there to give us trouble, so I pretended not to understand, but quickly realized I was totally wrong. He continued in very slow and clear Russian,
“I am a policeman, is there any way that I can help you? Are you hitchhiking? Where are you going?”
“We’re going to Batumi once we finish eating breakfast,” I answered.
“OK, we can take you to the main road to a good hitchhiking spot,” he replied.
He got back in his car as we finished our breakfast. After a few minutes, another police car pulled up. He waved us in and we threw our backpacks in the back. Vroom! We were off. Through the city and out to the main highway, he maintained a speed of at least 100km/hr. Lights flashing, siren wailing, the other cars on the road pulled aside to make space for us. When a car didn’t pull over fast enough, he would jokingly yell into the loudspeaker in Georgian, something which we could only imagine to be “Hey! Pull over! Important police business! I’ve got hitchhikers!” And he took us several kilometers down the road to a beautiful sunny spot to wait for our next ride.
Hopefully the rest of the world will be able to follow the role model of Georgia’s police some day.
Read more about Taylor’s (hitchhiking) stories on his blog: taylorbf.com.
You can also follow him on Instagram: @tbfinstagram.