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Published: June 29th 2018
Traveled from Sighnaghi to Kazbegi in the Caucasus mountains, via Tblisi. Felt like the whole day was spent in a vehicle. The minibus to Tbilisi was a bit more comfortable than previous ones and pretty much went straight there, around 2 hours. Bus station was in a grubby bit of town, took the metro across town to a different bus station then took a driver (50GEL) to Kazbeghi.
After the church at Ananuri the route was through lovely scenery, steep valleys and high peaks. The road was shockingly busy, mostly trucks – lots from Russia and Armenia. Also lots of cars out, as it was Saturday I guess. Ananuri and a paragliding stop were particularly crowded. Once in Stepantsminda - or Kazbegi, we found that our guest house was way up a cobbled street. Nice enough once there, our host Tamara served us tea when we arrived. Wandered into town, bought a few provisions and then it started raining. Rained hard for a few hours then cleared up in the evening. Had a stroll up to a big hotel that is near us Rooms Hotel from the Soviet era. We were able to just wander
onto their lovely big terrace and hang out there for about an hour watching the evening sun on Kazbegi mountain.
The following morning we did a big hike. Looked out of the window in the morning and the mountain was clear so set off at 6am to hike up to Gargeti and Holy Trinity church which sits in a crazily beautiful location on a ridge high up above the town. We were there by 7:15 after quite a steep last section. Sky was still relatively clear. After breakfast and a wander around the church taking far too many pictures we decided to make the onward walk along a ridge and up to a glacier. It was a lovely walk up valleys filled with spring flowers, lots of azaleas and smaller flowers that smelt like hydrangeas as well as lots of alpine flowers. The first part of the hike is an easy gentle gradient, but that increased and was quite steep in places, easing out again towards the end. Some great views of Kazbegi mountain once over the final ridge. We didn't go quite to the edge of the glacier but had great views of it from above
the hut. Turned around about 11:30 and were back in town by 3pm. The last hour it poured with rain! At least we had most of the day in the dry. We were completely soaked by the time we got back to the room.
The following day was another day in the mountains and another hike. This time we took a minibus from Mountain Treks, with a group to Juta village, higher up than Stepantsminda at 2200m. There’s a lovely walk from the village. The drive up is mostly up a narrow dirt track winding up a valley with a steep drop in one side. The tour we took was a drop off pick up service, we arrived in the village at 10:30 and were picked up at 4. Lovely weather and once up the steep (and very muddy) climb out of Juta, the walk was pleasant and easy . Great views of the mountains, lots of streams and rivers and a lush alpine valley. A surprising number of mountain cafes too. At one point we had to cross an icy cold stream up to my knees! Had a lovely picnic at the foot of the mountain before returning.
Had time to stop at a café on the way back, good strong coffee and a few games of rummy in the warm room with a view.
Whilst waiting the last half hour for the minibus in Juta we watched an extraordinary Caterpillar driver at work, first he had to cross a bridge that barely had an inch either side of space whilst watching out for electrical cables overhead. Then did a tight turn into a farm gate then turned into the river bank where he moved huge boulders out of the water and into the bank to shore up the sides. It entertained us and the villagers for about half an hour!
How to get there: Minibus from Sighnaghi to Tiblisi (6 GEL), metro from Samgori to Didube (0.5 GEL), driver to Kazbegi (50 GEL).Where to stay: 7 Sisters
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