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Published: September 24th 2012
Rifles at Lastiver
Rifles are kept behind the bar here - not sure what they are used for.
We had a pretty good nights sleep but I woke early and with the prospect of breakfast at 9.30am - talk about laid back - I had a wander around the site and then back to bed as the sun hadn't reached the gorge and it was chilly outside.
Breakfast was served, prepared by Saro again, we had lavash, cheese, sour cream and jam as well as a tomato omelette. It tasted the same as the one at Haghpat but was more solid but a completely different texture from the ones we have at home. Saro insisted on washing up - apparently this is very unusual for Armenian men.
I was wondering how many people might make it down to Lastiver for the day. We had chatted to someone from Yerevan the day before who had come down with some local children who were his guides. They left quite late - there is no way I would walk along that path at night. Hope they made it.
After breakfast we walked to the caves which is where everyone camps in winter. The walk was up and down with a short section of narrow path next to a sheer
The tunnel to caves
The tunnel is reached by a ladder with a rung missing.
drop. To get to the upper cave you have to climb a ladder and haul yourself through a tunnel. I couldn't manage it but Rod bravely went up even though he hates confined spaces. Apparently Saro spent his birthday here - in the snow. Talk about hardy.
A second cave, up some steps carved in the rock, used to be a pagan shrine but latterly it is used by Christians as there are crosses carved into the rock. They think there are about 21 caves up here, only half explored.
Back at the campsite, Rod and I made another attempt to get to the top of the waterfall. We managed to find a way which involved a bit of bouldering. It was refreshing to plunge our feet into the swirling waters but it was really cold. Rod managed to walk across the top but I think my feet would have frozen before I got to the other side. As we walked back to the campsite we found a snake. Saro had told us that it's too cold for snakes - for cold read 70 degrees - and that they had never seen a snake on the campsite. When
we shouted for Saro, one of the political guys came out with a shovel. I think he thought the snake was a boa constrictor - in reality it was more like a grass snake. Saro had to let it go quickly as the others wanted to kill it.
While we waited for lunch we got talking to some men from Yerevan who work in telecommunications - they were asking us whether it was easy to get a visa and job in the UK. One of them was a trained opera singer. We were disappointed that we wouldn't hear him sing around the campfire that evening. It's sad that so many people want to leave Armenia - apparently there are more Armenians living outside the country than in.
Another lovely lunch prepared by Saro with some tasty fresh bread that must have come down the mountain with the new group. A horse is used to come down when there are a lot of provisions.
We were due to leave at 4pm but once Saro had put hair gel on and said goodbye to all his friends, it was nearer 4.20pm. We weren't looking forward to the steep climb
up to the ridge especially as it was pretty hot. We trudged up and were relieved to get to the top where the path was less steep. Most of the walk is on a broad path through shady woodland, it's just one bit where it gets narrower with a sheer drop. Not pleasant. We met a few family groups at this point making their way to Lastiver but Saro advised them to turn back as they wouldn't have time to do it before dark.
Saro had predicted that it would take us 90 minutes because of the initial steep climb but we made it in an hour which was pretty good going. Before heading to Dilijian where we would be staying overnight, we headed to Goshavank monastery. The village there has a nice cafe so we had a herb tea first - thyme and mint with Gat - which is a type of cake. This was Rod's first visit to Goshavank. We were too late to go into the church but It's an interesting site so we wandered around the other buildings which includes a library that the Mongols set fire to. There is also a really ancient walnut
tree, supposedly planted by Gosh, the founder of the monastery.
By now we were pretty tired and ready for a shower so our next stop was Rasmik's in Dilijian. Les and I stayed there on our visit in 2010, I remember the food was amazing and that Rasmik is a real character. He has a beautiful home - instead of a guest book, he gets people to write on the walls! He's an artist who also works with wood. He has built a lot of the furniture in the house.
Felt so much better after the shower and ready for something to eat. As anticipated, the dishes were fantastic. Cauliflower that had been sautéed and fried, a spinach dish with vermicelli, courgette rissoles, apple salad and tomato & cue salad. We were also going to have yogurt soup but we couldn't have eaten another thing. As this was our first bit of internet for a couple of days it was a chance to check emails, Facebook etc. and get this blog uploaded. I really need to get the rest of our photos on Flickr - between Rod and myself we have taken over 300 photos and that is
in just one week!
Then time for bed!
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