More near death experiences

Kobayr Travel Blog

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People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

There was one monastery that we had missed in the Debed Canyon the previous day, so we decided to make the effort to pay it a visit today, even though it was going out of our way. Kobayr was supposedly located 33kms North of Vanadzor and i say 'supposedly', because this is what the LP alleges. Aboard the bus we watched the kilometre signs pass by that were located on the roadside, and when it came to 33kms, we made a move to get off. Thankfully we asked some locals before we disembarked and they assured us that we had to remain on the bus for longer. 'Supposedly' we should also be looking out for a small white train station when we got off the bus, but once again this was non-existent when we exited around 40kms from Vanadzor.

An old man was keen to lead us up a narrow path that led into the village of Kobayr and whilst he stopped at his house, he told us to pay him a visit on the way back for some coffee and snacks, and also offered for us to leave our bags in his house. The climb up the leaf filled stone steps was a nice little workout and it took 10 minutes to reach the Church ruins. I was surprised to find a Church there in all honesty, as i half expected to find a shopping mall and the LP to have mistaken it for a Church!

Kobayr Church was a real gem, collapsing in parts with plants growing from the ruins and restored in other areas, although i personally find this less charming. There were some nice frescoes in the main Church and much of the rubble that lay on the ground had ornate carvings on it.
We clambered up to the top of the site for some nice panoramas of the canyon and then made our way back to the main road. On route the old guy invited us into his house, but sadly we just didn't have time, so had to politely decline his kind invitation.

Lousy Planet said the last bus from Alaverdi to Vanadzor was at 13.00, which was as usual incorrect, as there was a bus scheduled at 16.00 as well. It was 15.30 when we got to the road, so we decided that rather than just waiting, we would try to flag down a passing car. A dog joined us for company, so we fed it some food and this kept it happy, although it refused to paw down a lift for us!

Screeeeeeeech, was followed by a high whining as the car reversed back to us at full throttle.
I jokingly commented to Julia that if the guy drove like this then maybe we were better waiting for the bus. We agreed to pay the driver 500 Dram each for the ride to Vanadzor, which was the same as the bus and in we hopped. I got the front seat, whilst Julia was stuck in the back on a pile of cabbages. The reason for this was that the old Zhighuly had no back seat, but this had made the car lighter and thus much faster.

Wheels spinning and we were off. Now i always had the misconception that such shitty old cars were designed to move at snails pace, but this guy must have been tinkering with his engine, as it really was quite a nifty little mobile. Whatever knowledge he may have had about his car, sadly hadn't transferred into an understanding of how to drive it. The road passed through a canyon, which obviously meant that it was winding for the best part, but somehow he seemed to maintain a speed of 100kms for much of the journey.

Now i like fast drivers, but only as long as they are safe with it and this guy was certainly not the latter. As Julia skidded across the cabbages, i clung for dear life to the door as Schumacher slid his car round the corners and often drifted way out and into the opposite lane. I was starting to become a little scared that my lunch was going to reappear at any second and as one truck came flashing past and within a whisker of us, i hoped he would ease off the gas a little. This thrill merely served to heighten the guys psychotic tendencies, as pedal was firmly pushed to the metal.

One Lada Niva began to slow our progress and this was clearly infuriating our driver, as he swerved left and right, trying to find the smallest opening that he could force his way through. I'd seen driving like this at gaming arcades, but was he aware that you couldn't put a new coin into the machine and begin again if you crashed? The crowning moment of this horrific journey came when he decided that he was going to begin overtaking on blind corners.
We were at the mercy of the Gods, as he overtook a minivan whilst going uphill and around a blind corner, with the maneuver lasting the best part of 10 seconds. When we finally pulled back to our side of the road it felt like a lifetime had passed and i was beginning to wish that i was back in the wilderness been hunted by savage animals.

It took less than 30 minutes to arrive back into Vanadzor, even though the bus had taken more than an hour and my legs were like jelly when i stepped from the car. The driver apologised that he had to drop us 500m from the bus station, but he didn't have time to take us there as he was in a rush - no shit sherlock! I handed the money over and we breathed a sigh of relief to still be alive, as the car shot off in a puff of smoke. Wanker. Having picked our bags up from the train station, we hopped on a marshrutka heading to Yerevan and whilst this driver was by no means safe, anything had to be better than the previous guy!

Deats says:
Thats true! There were several times on this trip where i was literally thinking i was going to die - mainly in cars/buses. I remember getting out of this car and my legs were jelly and i was honestly thankful to be alive - my guess is the driver is dead if he carried on like that for much longer
Posted on: Sep 01, 2009
almond72 says:
Whoa ! What a great ride you had ! You should be a talent scout for the F1 circuit, bet Benneton/Ferrari/McLaren would pay good money for getting such drivers.
Posted on: Sep 01, 2009
Deats says:
Haha, the last bıt ıs rıght, the fırst bıt ısnt. He was just a random guy, ıt often works lıke thıs that anyone can be a taxı ıf they feel lıke ıt and need the money! Sayıng that lıcense taxıs are often no better!
Posted on: Dec 06, 2008
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photo by: Deats