Published: November 3rd 2010September 30th 2010
Yerevan to Tbilisi minivan took only 5 hours mainly because the mad driver is flying like a race car driver, we felt all the bumps and dibs on the road as we were sat at the back, a brief lunch stop and made it to the border no problems. At the International bus station we took a cab for 10 larIs to the local station for Kazbegi, Tbilisi is nicer than Yerevan and I remember a few sights from my last visit here 3 years ago. At the station it took awhile to find the minivan to Kazbegi and when we did we waited for it to fill up, 2 other gringos in the van. Two Georgian dudes sat behind us next to Juan started drinking wine and offered us all to drink with them but only Juan obliged, the road is winding but spectacular, really nice views of the gorges, different autumn colors, it rained a bit but sun came out pretty quickly too, we passed by some towns that look like ski resort areas in the winter.
arriving in town a woman offered us quickly to see her house and stay there we agreed a price after seeing
the house, 28 lar1s per person. Nice house good toilet and apple trees in the yard. We walked to town to have a look and we met again the 2 gringos from the van drinking with the 2 Georgian dudes! We drank with them for a bit but they started getting too drunk. The 2 gringo dudes turned out to be the same people I met at the Tajik embassy in Bishkek! small world. They left for dinner at their homestay we got stuck with the drunk locals and a swaying Polish dude, he was so drunk he slurs.
Somehow we managed to get free from the mayhem of drunkards and had dinner at our place, kachapuris and tomaotes and cucumber, simple but filling, it is a cold night so we all bundled up and slept. Juan snored during the night after complaining that I snore a lot when we were in Yerevan. Early morning I woke up to the beautiful view of the sun casting its light on Mount Kazbek. 8am breakfast was served, very big heavy meal, then we walked down to town and met our gringo friends again, we have to wait around for the tourist
office to open at 10am so we walked around, exchanged money at one store and tried to ignore all taxi drivers as they try to get us to hire them to go to the monastery. 10:15am finally a girl opens the tourist office which is also a hostel but is empty. She sold us a hiking map which is crappy, for 10 laris! She was no help does not even know the routes of most trails, no use at all but she probably is the only one who speaks decent English in town so she got the job.
Today we decided to go as far as the the border with Russia, we followed a road, and it was around 13 kms of walking! The scenery is gorgeous, deep gorge separates 2 sides of the town, river flowing below the gorge, we passed by people repairing roads and a few shepherds, cows and other farm animals, then we encountered a tunnel which we decided to walk through, it was eerie but made it safe to the other side, it was a long walk on paved roads and sun is beating down on us, we arrived finally at a sign that
shows the route to a waterfall and a panoramic viewpoint of Dadivank glacier, we opted to walk further up the road to get near the border as there was supposed to be a church there but after long tedious walk it was just a church being renovated nothing much to see, we tried to hitch back to the trail head towards the glacier but no one stopped! So we have to walk back again 3 kms. Juan was very tired he opted to return back to town while me and Till walk some more.
We decided to skip the waterfall and try the viewpoint of the glacier, the dirt roads served as our trail but we got confused on where to go as the road goes around and not towards the glacier, but in the end we decided to follow it, a lada loaded with military guys passed us as we hike up the winding road and we got to a checkpoint, 2 army guys came to us and asked for passport, I did not bring mine so Till gave his, but as he took it he told us we can't go pass this area, I explained to the
soldier I just want to take photos of the glacier, no, off limits he said. Till was furious and started spitting words in German and I calmly beg the guy for a quick peek at the glaciers, after 15 minutes of discussion they relented and we were told to go up one hill and take photos and then come back. Meanwhile the other dude is wreaking of alcohol with binoculars pointed at us as we walk up this hill, there was a hyper active dog who keeps nipping us and jumping on both of us, but stopped following when we hiked up the hill.
At the top of the hill we cant see nothing so when we lost sight of the soldiers we walked a little bit more and then more until we can see a tad bit, quick photos and walked back down, the soldiers were eyeing us all the way down, we shook their hands and we left, it's a long walk back to town at first we tried to hitch no one stopped so we decided to just walk all the way back to town about 15 kms total, my feet were achy but we kept
on and it drizzled when we got to the tunnel but stopped, what a relief. All the while cars passing but not stopping, we rested a few times and finally we are back in town very sore and exhausted. We had early dinner at 6pm, after 8 hours of walking we were hungry, then a cold shower, Juan came home, he bought some provisions for our next hike tomorrow while I picked a few apples from the trees for snacks while on the hike the next day, we thought another meal will be served but that's i, t a meager soup and bread and tomatoes, no more, we went to bed exhausted and hungry.
Waking up to a beautiful sunshine our aim is to hike up the Sameba church and then to the Gergeti glacier. After breakfast headed down to town center to sort out taxi, we saw the same greedy taxi driver from yesterday who did not stop for us on the road near the Russian border so we made it a point to bypass him, we asked the other taxi driver how much one way to the church, 50 laris he said we got it down to
20 and tried to 15 but he declined, I don't know why we did not take it and we ended up walking up the hill past a small village, we followed the dirt road and it split when we arrived inside the villlage we chose the left road and we found ourselves scrambling up on what we think is a short cut, it maybe is but its quite difficult hike up, very steep, we found the main road again and we kept cutting by going through bushes and pine trees, the road is winding we decided to keep following the "short cut" but is quiet difficult, very very steep, we ended up on the side of the monastery next to the fountain, we beat the other tourists who were also walking but we were exhausted. A brief rest and visit to the monastery, nice and simple altar inside the church no fotos allowed.
From there we followed the dirt road trail towards Mt. Kazbek, there were bunch of elderly tourists with a guide, we followed them and we ended up on the backbone of this small mountain, gorgeous views, the tourists are from Britain and speaks with a posh
accent, we thought if the grannies can make it so can we so we stopped complaining and tried to keep up with them, we eventually passed them and we found the trail go around the bend into a semi open field full of grazing horses, we rested here and played with the horses, one was nipping me, biting really playfully, we had lunch here as well. Then back to task, keep clambering up, this part was more difficult as it keeps going up and up, when I finally made it to the top it was a bit cloudy but gorgeous view of the glacier, we stayed there for a bit to have lunch and enjoy the view, quite cold though as it was windy, Till thought of going towards the glacier but changed his mind and we all walked down together slowly, some tourists are coming from the hut past the glacier it looks dangerous to me as I have no crampons but it seems doable with ordinary shoes, anyway we headed down.
Tough to climb down the steep hills my knees were sore we stopped at the same place we found the horses earlier and we took a
siesta, apparently I snored, I was very tired. Then back down to the same path towards the monastery had to fill my water bottle from the church springs then back down again, all in all took us 8 hours round trip including long breaks. Thunder and lightning started as we head back to our GH but did not rain until late at night, had a very good hot shower and then had a very good dinner, and washed it down with good beer. Earlier in the eve, a couple of Israeli tourists came to our GH and asked Juan to interpret for them in Juan's ciut ciut Russian he did not succeed to convey what these girls were trying to say, they wanted a place where they can leave their stuff as they leave tomorrow at 7pm and some requests from the landlady, some requirements they need pertaining to their religious practices, we all thought they were crazy but then again we don't understand their customs, must be quite difficult travelling with so many requirements, I think in the end the GH owner told them no, and after that we did not see them again.
There are more photos below