An exciting, packed day of adventure

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September 25th 2012
Published: September 27th 2012
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We had a big day ahead of us with three different places to visit. But first we had to go to the Foreign ministry to sort out our visas, then we were off to the market to get some lunch as there wouldn't be anywhere to eat in the area where we were heading.

A speciality of the area is Jingalov Hats, a flat bread cooked with seven herbs - one of which is compulsory - no idea which one. We also bought tomatoes, cucumber and fruit. Perfect. Saro also bought himself a head torch for the cave that we would be visiting later.

The roads in Karabakh are pretty good. Lots of money has been donated by the Armenian diaspora who are living all over the world. The All Hayastan fund have also donated a lot of money.

Our first stop was the Platan tree - this is meant to be thousands of years old and has become a sacred site. Gruesomely, there were animal heads hanging from the tree which was probably a result of animal sacrifice. Having seen a lamb being led to church for that purpose only the other day, it made me feel that it seems to be a vestige of old pagan practice rather than a Christian one. I have no idea what a Platan tree is and whether it has an English equivalent. There was a large pond next to the tree which was full of frogs. We are certainly seeing a lot of animals here.

We were then off to the Amaras Monastery. We were able to go underground to view St Grigori's burial place. Apparently Meshrob Mashtots, inventor of the Armenian alphabet (why did he make it so difficult to learn?) started the first school there. It was ver peaceful there we found a picnic table outside the monastery and had our rather delicious picnic there.

Our next stop was the Azokh cave. Rod and I imagined a little cavern that you could just walk into and out again. We both had our torches and Saro Had his newly acquired head torch. To get to the caves you have to climb up quite a steep path. When we finally got to the top we found some of the hotel guests waiting for us. They had forgotten to bring their torches and were hoping that we had some. They were in luck so off we went growing to a party of six. We soon discovered when we got into the caves that we weren't just going in and out again. And it wasn't like Cheddar caves, either, we were completely reliant on our torches. Soon we became aware that the caves were full of bats. Rod had read that a woman had died of rabies after being bitten by one which didn't fill us with confidence. I used to do a lot of caving in my younger days and I don't remember seeing so many of them. We seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into the cave, sometimes having to nearly crawl through. At last, we came to the other end and I breathed a sigh of relief! It was quite an experience.

We then set off back to the hotel but on the way saw a sign to the gorge that we had been standing at the top off, the day before. Saro had heard about a waterfall at the bottom of the gorge and wondered if we should try and find it. After a few false starts we managed to locate where the path began. There were signs to guide us but we had no idea how far they were. It was a lovely walk down the gorge where we found a very old bridge and some ruined buildings. We must have walked for half an hour. We had to be careful that we didn't find ourselves in the gorge after dark. Just when we were nearly giving up, we found the Umbrella waterfall. It was absolutely beautiful. We all got wet as the pathway was across the waterfall and I got even wetter as i slid down the slippery rocks. It was worth it though.

After we clambered back up the gorge, we were beginning to dry out a bit though Rod's shoes completely disintegrated. At least the water got the bat poo off my boots. After a quick shower at the hotel we were back out again heading to the Ureni restaurant for something to eat. Another delicious meal - the pilaf and pickles were fantastic. I will have to try and recreate some of these meals when I get back home. Once we had strolled back to the hotel we were all pretty exhausted and the prodpect of going to bed was a very welcome one.


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