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Published: August 2nd 2012
Coffee Break While Hitchhiking
Couple of herdsman invited me for a brew while I was thumbing on the side of the road. All day drivers offered me fruit after picking me up too. Nice people.
Tuesday I attempted to summit Mt. Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia with an elevation of 4090 meters. I could only make it to the false summit at 4035 meters because of the clouds that rolled in just as I reached the summit block making the challenging route finding even more difficult. However, I subsequently met some Russians on the descent who read that it is not possible to reach the true summit without rock climbing gear so I may have in fact made it to the highest trekking point. My first five days in Armenia were sunny and insanely hot but as soon as I got to Kari Lich last Sunday (the lake at the start of the trek) the clouds began to appear and I had to wait an extra day before attempting Aragats.
left Kari Lich at 6:17 am
arrived at the saddle between west and south summits at 7:57 am
gained ridge between north and east summits at 9:30 am after a fairly long pit stop at the bottom of the crater
retreated from the false summit at 10:30 am
back at Kari Lich at 1:17 pm
After returning to Kari Lich from the
Third Ride to Here, Summits in the Distance
Herder families living in the highlands. I got a ride here in a new Landcruiser so goat business must be pretty, pretty good.
summit, the caretaker’s friends who were visiting from Yerevan for the day had a huge feast to which I was invited as is frequently the norm in friendly Armenia. Also per the norm, about a liter and a half of Russian vodka was downed by the 7 adults present. Around 3:00 pm I took a taxi to Byurakan, the closest town with regular transport to Yerevan. From Byurankan was slightly more than 1 hour to the capital where I picked up what I’d left behind at the hostel before the climb, returned to the bus station, and boarded a marshrutka
to Vanadzor in Northern Armenia to escape Yerevan’s searing heat. This morning I left Armenia for Tbilisi to spend a couple of weeks in Georgia where it can’t possibly be as hot as it was in Yerevan and Southern Armenia. Ride took ~4½ hours and I am now sitting in a döner
shop on the way to my hostel.
$US ≈ 410 Armenian dram
Aragats Accommodation and food
I spent 2 nights at the Kari Lich meteorological station for 5000 dram/night in my own room. Coffee and tea were provided in copious amounts in addition
Restaurant specialty was cow ankle ligament stew. No lie. I prefer grilled knee ligament myself.
to snacks and a couple of dinners. Bathroom facilities are rustic but pure spring water is available for drinking and cooking. Transport
From Kilikia station in Yerevan there are a few buses per day to Byurakan for 400 dram. I caught the 10:30 am bus, arriving in Byurakan ~11:45 am from where I hitched to Kari Lich in a couple of hours with 4 rides. This was a Sunday when there were bound to be a lot of cars headed to the lake. When I left on a Tuesday there was a dearth of traffic necessitating a 7000 dram taxi back to Byurakan. There are 4:00 pm and 6:30 pm buses from Byurakan back to Yerevan.
Nice cool, compact, little town. Not a whole lot to see but it is a good base for the north as there is regular transport to Alaverdi, Dilijan, and onto Tbilisi, Georgia. As elsewhere in Armenia, knowledge of Russian is very useful. Accommodation and food
I arrived ~9:00 pm Tuesday night without a clue as to where I was going to stay and I was really ragged and ripe from Aragats earlier in the day. Eventually found
Hotel Gugark, a USSR relic, and settled on a room with a shower which was absolutely imperative after 2 nights at Kari Lich. The water situation was intermittent - sometimes no cold water, sometimes no hot water, sometimes no water. Cheaper rooms actually had no shower and there was oddly no communal shower in the hall. In typical Soviet fashion, the hot water is scalding but it felt great to scrub off the grime from the mountain. The room was 8000 dram which was a bit pricey considering that the hotel is quite old, there is no WiFi (available at Tashir Pizza, Oasis Café, and one of the 3 outdoor cafes near the main square), and breakfast is not provided. However, Byela, the hotel administrator, kindly gave me Armenian coffee and watermelon one morning and I rounded out breakfast with a cream filled donut for 70 dram. Not too shabby… Across the street from the central market south side is a great kebab shop where chicken shaurma
is 600 dram. I bought a kilo of mouthwatering peaches in the market for 130 dram. Transport
Until 6:00 pm frequent marshrutkiy
leave from Yerevan’s Kilikia station to the center of Vanadzor
for 1400 dram, taking a little more than 2 hours. From Vanadzor there is hourly service to Alaverdi until 2:00 pm with the last bus returning at 5:45 pm. The 11:00 am bus to Alaverdi was full and it was overcast yesterday so I just decided to chill in Vanadzor for the day. After having already visited 3 monasteries last week I noticed that the monasteries themselves are all somewhat similar in design and appearance. What makes each of them unique is their location and setting. With the cloudy weather becoming a downpour (have hardly seen any rain at all during the last 3 months), I didn’t think it was worth a half day trip. Alternatively, taxi drivers will approach you in the bus station parking lot offering trips to Sanahin and other nearby monasteries. 170 kms for 13500 dram was a decent price for the 4-5 hour trip since 1 km in a taxi normally costs 100 dram. Across the border to Georgia there is an 8:30 am marshrutka
to Tbilisi for 3600 dram arriving a bit before 1:00 pm. I bought the ticket a day early in case it sold out since I’m pretty sure it’s the only
bus. The Yerevan-Tbilisi train passes through Vanadzor but it arrives in Tbilisi around midnight making it rather undesirable.
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