Svanetti

Mestia Travel Blog

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Wıth Sulıko and medıco ın theır homestay ın Kutaısı

Leaving tiblisi the georgians once again reminded me of why i love this country so much: Their generosity made it impossible for us to by vegetables; Always we were given our bag for free, old men came over almost every day to share their lunch with us or simply to give me sweets and our foodbag was always full of hazel nuts and apples. How could i forget though; This is the country where i can`t fix a puncher without a silent georgian taking over, refusing to let me carry on. They hold doors endlessly, get out of bus seats and last time we were in batumi a big roadworker carried me all the way through a muddy landslide whilst another one carried my bike.

Just as well because Gergia is a hard country to ride in. Already 29 km after Kutaisi the road began disintegrating but spots of tarmac remained until Lentekhi -then it ended for good.

Daren crossing the yet another river.
From here to the pass it is less than 80 km yet jeeps that brave the journey plan 4-5 hours. There are wolfes and bears ın thıs part of georgıa. "Stay by the road" was the local advıce. So we hobbled upwards climbing along a long gorge for some hours, all the while the villages thinned out. I was currıous weather we would hear wolfes again. Last time we heard them i firmly believed they were dogs which obviously changed the experience somehow. İ only learned the day after....

For the whole three days we climbed through the beautifull caucasius, the mountains never failed to impose their superiority over the people here onto us. Villages were dotted amongst flower filled valleys and steep uninhabitable gorges lead from one to another, higher and higher.

Beautıful bear country very hıgh up.
Waterfalls spilled onto the road and we pushed upwards through rivers and along some crazy cliff edges. This place offeres truely unconcerred territory!

But the back side is dark. On our second night of camping we came to an area left lifeless by the spring land slides. Houses were abandoned with tracs of recent torrents that tore through walls and took with them chunks of the buildings. A goat lay rotting away spreading the stench of death and as we looked up we could see the whole mountain side had been abandoned by its inhabitants. As we passed the destruction our track began taking us into a deep gorge. It was getting dark and i refused to carry on in, thinking of how narrow the previous gorge had been, with the result that the only campspot was in the riverbed, on the stones that had been brought by the floods.

Ushgulı
The clouds were gray and it was an idiotic camspot but anything near the track was to steep and awash with tumbled down earth and stones. We had tried to go back to the abandoned village but the dead goat and a lonesome nutter screaming at us from a broken house chased us back towards the gorge.  That evening, in order to reassure myself that i knew the way out of the riverbed, i wandered off alone with my torch. i tried to listen for changes in the weather and for wolfes but all was just still, bar toads and frogs jumping into the large puddles all around me. İ wadded through one to reach the track and as I stood there in the night i knew there was nothing to do but to wander back through the darkness and try to sleep, no reassurance found what so ever.
The better road down.

The night passed, slower than other nights but eventually morning came. The first thing the gorge revealed to us was a series of perfect campspots in little meadows away from the river and a good bit clear of the steep walls as well. İ kicked myself for having refused to carry on into the gorge; Its incredible how darkness can add a useless layer of horror!

But the day was beautifull. The way up is deceptively pretty, covering up its insufficient air and  evil steepness with colourful flower fields, glittering streams and bluish grey glaciers. Stunnig, but it was so hard to reach that all i could find room for in my head was the verse of a danish childrens rhyme that makes no sense and that i couldnt quite remember: "Lirum larum laske, han boede i en flaske.

Back amongst the Georgıans:)
..lirum larum en person fra farum...!?" over and over and over. Its about someone living in a bottle in a village...

Daren had spent the time exactly the same way huming an english childrens song in order to drown out the challenge. All the same because the pass remained round the next corner and we pushed, we rode, we fell into pot holes and lost both our knifes in wary thoughtlessness...."Lirum larum sombody from farum...."

The last 2 km the weather changed and thunder and heavy raindrops forced us to find the last energy we had to get up and over quickly. Finally the vast views over upper svanetti appeared out of the clouds. Screaming with happiness i navigated downwards through boulders and holes, trying to escape a thunder storm that never really came. As the clouds lifted more we saw grass covered mountains, snowcaps and rivers deep below. So beautifull so that after only 7 km we set up camp. The next morning would be a 2 km roll into Ushguli.

The three villages that make up the community are in a sorry staate. The architecture has survived from the early middle ages but now, inspite of  UNESCO, it crumbles. The locals are leaving more and more now that svanetti is open and who are we to say they should stay living in the middle ages looking after the famous towers just because we like to come and look at them once in a lifetime...As i walked along with Anna, a 15 year old girl we meet in a village high up in the mountains she complained in the most dramatic voice: "i am SO sorry to be born in Svanetti!! İ am so so sorry. İ want to go to Europe!! " I told her many europeans were sad to have mostly lost their wildernesses but in reality i completely understood her and wasnt about to argue with her. With glamorous soaps on the television and only cows in the hills its no fun place for a 15 year old girl. She keep repeating "The people are animals. ANIMAL PEOPLE!"

And like in Siam Reap in Cambodia, the riches and the potential is for the allready rich as further down in Mestia the homestays compete with forreign owned restaurents and hotels. İn Ushguli there are still only private owned hotels but inspite of there being barely any tourists we have somehow managed to screw up village life: Most conversations with the locals were about where we stayed, how much we payed, how much the bread i was carrying with me had cost and that we could have gotten it all cheaper from these new competetive friends of no-one.

40 km further down and connected to the outside world through a better dirt track is Mestia which is also in the grip of changes, buildings being renovated everywhere in the centre whilst others are left to ruins. The mafia of black clad widdows approached us as we came to by food: a team of shrewed money making grand mothers. 20 GBP no less. They own the market and if we dont stay with them or Nino, who is allready well established and expensive, it seems we would stay with no-one. That night we camped anyway because it was to late for us to justify a homestay.

The next day, through back ways and inside forreign people we found Mirinda, a 30 year old single girl who was willing to lower her price together with food standarts and smiles. The black clad widdows were lingering in town and there Mirinda rather avoided us.  Somewhat stunned at the damage we can do we left the day after. The downhill was barely any easier than the uphill. More waterfalls, more landslides and more boulders.... Beautifull but we were ready for some easier riding. 

It had been a fantastic loop to make and i would have been gutted to travel through georgia wıthout going into the mountains, but now we were soooo tıred. More than ready for batumi, Georgias black sea resort town full of good moods, beer, wine and smiling people.   

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Wıth Sulıko and medıco ın the…
Wıth Sulıko and medıco ın the…
Daren crossing the yet another riv…
Daren crossing the yet another ri…
Beautıful bear country very hıgh…
Beautıful bear country very hıg…
Ushgulı
Ushgulı
The better road down.
The better road down.
Back amongst the Georgıans:)
Back amongst the Georgıans:)
Mestia
photo by: roadtrampz