Religious Survivor - Hiking on the Georgia / Azerbaijan Border
Davit Gareji Travel Blog› entry 4 of 6 › view all entries
Rob was up and ready before the alarm went off. He went out and found yogurt and cereal for my breakfast. While I got ready he went to breakfast downstairs. He had a political conversation with Jerry and Olga, the collage professors form the night before. They were joined by Judith a broadcast journalist from
Our “guide”, Beka arrived and we headed out to Davit (David) Garedji. It is a holy site that is very sacred to Georgians. It is on the boarder of
It is a good thing we hired Beka. The place is in the middle of NO WHERE!! We made it out of Tibilisi and discovered that driving here is a defensive game of chicken. We started winding our way through the kakheti (wine region). The roads went from paved to barely paved to gravel to dirt and back again. The pot holes were AWFUL!!! SOmeof them could have been recreational swimming pools. The roads here rival
Along the way were the most breath taking views of the countryside. There is green a far as the eye can see, a consistent green. I felt as like I was a child being shown the color green for the first time.. There is a gently undulating landscape that creeps up to the lower mountains with the majestic, snow capped Caucasian mountain ranges behind them. In fields we saw animals grazing. The further into the rural area the more we saw. At first it was mostly cows with an occasional donkey or horse. A couple of herds of goats and sheep began to appear accompanied by their shepherds and their dogs. Some of the shepherds were on horseback like cowboys.
In the north they have large bears and wolves in the wild. Apparently they have a problem with the wolves.
The geography gradually became more barren and the trees got smaller and then disappeared along with the green of the fields. We had transitioned to a more dessert like typography. As we approached the Davit Garedja site we were able to overlook the valley we have come from. They land had dramatic canyons with stripes of red and gray rock running along and jutting. It was a spectacular and such a contrast.
Once at the site Rob put his pants on over his shorts so he could go into the church. Beka asked if he had other shoes to wear that were closed. Rob said he didn’t and Beka said he would go in from and watch for snakes.
We were out of the car and started up the hill to see what this place was all about. We got to the top of a hill and looking down saw the monastery and church that make up the Davit Garedja complex. It was nestled in at the base of the mountain. Beka explained that we had to go up to the top and around to get to the caves and then back into the complex. No problem, so we thought.
Beka was up the hill like a mountain goat at a brisk trot. Just to be a 22 year old basketball player again, the energy and stamina.
We walked across the peak to the south eastern facing view. There is a steep drop several thousand feet to red and brown desert like terrain for quite a distance. This view is
We climbed along the rock face literally clinging to rock and praying at points that my shoe wouldn’t slip. We climbed up and down along the Azeri facing cliffs to the many caves created for the monks to live in. There worn frescoes 1600 years old that still make their impact on the devoted that come here in this modern time. Beka, several times, took a moment to pay his religious respects to these most holy of places. It was very moving to see the devotion from someone so young. Oh, just to remind you …..Beka told us to watch for snakes…..poisonous ones. Also, he mentioned scorpions too. I felt like the journey was part survivor and part holy pilgrimage. Hey, I like to spice things up. No granny tours for us!!! Anyway….I move on, after several spine tingling, hair raising hours of crawling and climbing along the mountain we reached the eastern end of our journey and climbed to the peak to go back down the other side. We briefly stopped at the mini Georgian military station (They keep their eyes on the Azeri military.
We finally made back to the monastery and the church where Davit Garedja (the man, the myth, the legend) is buried. It was a lovely little chapel with some fascinating elements. We took photos while Beka prayed and kissed all the icons. At this point we were ready to go. A quick stop in the gift shop (yes even in the middle of nowhere at the boarder of
Back on the road we once again did the swerve, break, dodge, and Georgian drive for your life routine. We also encounter more animal on the road. At one point we were coming up on a large flock of sheep so fast I though we would plow into them and have mutton. Thank God for good breaks. We thought Beka would never stop for food, but he finally did at a country roadside restaurant. We had our own little house to eat in. Instead of a large dinning room they just had individual cottages. The bathroom was smelly and if you had to anything other than urinate you were squatting. The food was good and we discovered that lemonade is not lemonade but a brand.
Once back in the car it seemed like he was hell bent on getting us back as fast as possible. I thin it was a really smart thing we still owed him half the money. He really terrified us a couple of times on the final portion of the drive. But we made it back safe and sound.
We relaxed at the hotel for a little bit and then wondered into the other part of old town.