Zugdidi was a wash out! It rained for the day and a half that I was there. I visited the Dadiani Museum, the highlight was the bronze death mask of Napoleons Bonaparte ( there are only three in the world!) and the little old church. Not having a scarf and wearing shorts was a problem! So I put my rain coat hat on and had two scarves wrapped around my knees! Apparently knees and hair is really offensive to God! I am not sure WHY, since is is part of being human.
I walked in the rain all the way to the cathedral only to find that it was closed for renovations. The gate was unlocked and I would have gone in, except a police car parked under a tree was watching me! So I declined.
I had a lovely guest house with Nana, who tried to convince me I needed to do tours with her. I couldn’t go to Mestia because of the rains, the roads had washed away. I e -mailed my guest house in Mestia and received a reply that, yes, the rains had done a lot of damage, but NOT on the road to Mestia or Mestia itself.
The bus trip took four hours. A crazy driver, who wanted to be Schumacher! Taking hairpin corners so fast, while on his mobile and drinking with his other hand! Who the hell held the steering wheel? I don’t know! I just looked out at the most amazing landscape. There were five people on board from Mestia, who asked the driver to stop so we could take photos. This was a bonus. On top of the mountain we had lunch. I was ever so glad to arrive, emotionally and physically exhausted. The road was full of huge rocks that had fallen of the mountains, there were so many potholes and then of course the cows. I arrived at Roza’s guest house, showered and slept for over seventeen hours!
Roza’s guest house was an incredibly beautiful place. Rather high on the mountain, out of town, a beautiful view, gorgeous people. It was a shame Roza only had a room for three nights. The first day I walked to the Svaneti museum, where again the view was spectacular, the coffee fabulous and the people ever so friendly. The museum was excellent. Well laid out, English explanations and totally enjoyable. It was suggested I climb onto the roof to see the spectacular view. This is easily done! I can go up! Going down however is a different story! Luckily I met two gorgeous women, who helped me down!
Afterwards I walked to the Mikhail Khergiani museum. Misha, as he is known, was a very famous Georgian Alpinist, who died at the age of thirty seven, in the Dolomites, Italy, when rocks fell down the mountain and killed him. It was a beautiful exhibition. Afterwards I wanted to go to the tower museum, but I met two lovely girls who wanted to practice their English and I missed the turn of to the museum. I was too hot and bothered to walk back. The next day I had planned to go to Ushgeli, but I missed the bus by ten minutes. What to do? The travel agent suggested I go to a waterfall and a glazier. Merian, the guide, offered to take me for a reasonable price, Hm! Okay! Seemed like a good idea.
We managed to speak a little German, English and Russian. When we arrived at this little place, Merian explained that I would have to walk the rest of the way! 17 kilometres to the waterfall and 24kikometers to the glacier! Are you kidding me? Nobody said anything about having to hike for that long! I refused to go on my own, which, by the way I would not have managed! After a lot of hassling, me refusing to go on, Merian decided to come with me, albeit very reluctant. The first three kilometres wasn’t too bad. Not too steep, nor rocky.
We stopped at a natural mineral water well. It looked rather un inviting, but the water was cold and delicious. A tad salty, and you could taste the iron.There was a small cafe where we had a rest and then it went straight up, and I mean up as in very, very steep! Not just steep! Steep and very rocky! Not just very steep and rocky, very steep, rocky and slippery! Crossing over wild flowing waters, on rackety little wooden bridges, slippery as! And to top all of it, horse flies the size of helicopters biting and annoying us all the way!
Now I know, I walked 880 kilometres on the Camino, but not once, and I am telling the truth here, not once did I have to walk like this! After two kilometres straight up, I had had more than enough. No more! Enough! Stuff that waterfall, and certainly stuff that glacier! I don’t mean to brag here, but I have seen Iguacu, in three different countries! I have been soaked by the Victoria Falls. This little waterfall was not going to impress me! Also the glacier, I have stood on Fox Glacier, and the Perrito Moreno glacier, I really didn’t need to do any more of this horrid walking! Enough!
My guide got my drift! Merian was a retired border police man, who rode horses through the mountains, and he had a reason to climb on. He wanted to catch up with his friends and old workmates! He kept saying around the corner we can stop! This corner went on for another three kilometres!
In the mean time we taught each other words in English, Russian and Georgian. Well I taught him the English words, he did all the other languages. Svaneti has it’s own language as well! Great! Do I remember any of the words? Of course not, but it seemed to amuse us, so we kept on going. Finally we arrived at the police post at the border with Russia. His friends were pleased to see him. All I could do was think of the way back! It was horrendous going up, it was even going to be worse going down! I suggested that we steal the police horses to go down with! They all thought that that was very funny! I mean, they were police men!
As I am a very lucky person, this was shown again today by Pedria, Merian’s cousin who showed up with his horse! I was loaded onto it’s back and down we went! I was offered the horse to go and see the waterfall and the glazier, but it was after four o’clock and I was totally exhausted! I wanted to go down! And down we went! If you are thinking, like I did, that being on horseback going down a steep decline with lots of rocks is easier than walking, you are, like I was, very mistaken! I had to hang on with both hands, scared shitless on the very narrow path, with a deep drop just next to me! Several time the horse lost it’s footing and believe me, when I tell you that it was terribly scary!
At one stage I had to cross a small, very fast flowing creek. Pedria jumped onto the back of the horse to get us through it. The water came to my feet, the very strong current swept the horse away, Pedria fell off, the horse panicked, and all I could think of was the my iPad was going to fall in the water and become useless! I already have a broken camera!! These were very silly thoughts as the horse was being dragged to the enormously fast flowing river, which was full of rocks and debris from last weeks storms! Great place to go white water rafting!!
Luck was with us, Pedria never let go of the reins, and the horse in panic, clambered upon the very slippery bank. Pedria was wet up to his waist, Merian had used the very small wooden bridge and was laughing his head off, I was shaken, but not stirred, just wondering how the hell I get myself into these situations without any planning whatsoever! It was all good. After five kilometres we reached the plateau, where I had the photo of me on the horse taken. Sorry people, no photos on the steep decline, neither going up, when all my energy went into walking upwards, nor on the way down, when all my energy was spend holding on to the saddle and my panic!
After two hours we finally reached the car. Pedria had to drag me off the horse as my legs, especially my knees, had gone into frozen mode. Merian had brought a picnic, except that the chacha had turned boiling hot in the car! Even Pedria wouldn’t drink it!! I offered to pay for the horse ride, but money was refused, he is family was the explanation given. Still soaking wet, Pedria jumped upon the horse and rode off into the sunset. We stopped on the way home in the village of Merian’s birth, where he visited his siblings. I was dropped off at Roza’s guest house at eight pm, completely knackered, a very, very hot shower, and in bed by nine o’clock! What an amazing day!