Tag: Mestia

Magical Mestia and Unique Ushguli

Mestia, a small village in the Svaneti, is a welcoming place. Ultra friendly people, lovely Cafes every where. Queen Tamar stands proudly in the main square, a statue that is not particularly liked by most locals!

A great art gallery with a
wonderful display of contemporary and historical works of art. Scattered through out the city are the famous Svan towers. These towers were built in ancient times to defend families and live stock against invaders. Food was stored in there as well. The concrete mixture was so strong that invading armies could not break them down. They add an interesting aspect to the already gorgeous little mountain town.

Surrounded by the magnificent Caucuses mountains, whose high tops are still covered in snow in the middle of their hot summer, adds atmosphere and an impressive backdrop for this gorgeous little village. It is ideal for hikers, mountaineers and people who like to take risks in their lives. The famous Ushba mountain peak dominates the landscape. I took the ski lift up, I was incredibly fortunate that Merian decided to come with me as well, I would not have been able to do this on my own! When I reached the top and climbed out on wobbly legs, I found out that I was only half way! I had to go even steeper and higher! Mind you, the view from the top was just absolutely unbelievably beautiful. I was totally in awe. Magical!

Of course what goes up must go down, eventually! I have to be honest, going down was so much worse! So steep, such a wobbly ski lift, here is me breathing in courage, breathing out fear, except I am sure I muddled it up! Half way, Merian took pity on me, told me to wait, and went to fetch his car! I literally felt sick. I have promised myself that I don’t ever have to do this again!

However, I quickly recovered and walked to the Svan tower museum, which was just an empty shell, with very wobbly, wonky bamboo ladders inside. It said it was a museum, but the insides were just empty! I climbed up two and a half ladders, when I remembered promising myself that I don’t have to do this any more! Two German tourists told me that the view was great from the top! I told them I took their word for it, and climbed down!

Ushguli is the hiking end destination of many tourists. People walk for four day to this lovely little mountain village, with stunning Svan towers. The village is much poorer than Mestia, and not at all developed. I had understood, that we would have four hours there, only to find out we had less than two hours before we would have to return. I met some lovely Polish people on the bus, who started their hiking in Ushguli. I also met Reiner, from Germany, with his gorgeous son, Felix. Felix spoke three languages fluently (German,French and English) and was now studying Russian.He was twelve years old, very smart, intelligent lad!

I walked back for a while to get a good look of the first lot of Svan towers. The lighting in the middle of the day was not ideal. I had thought about staying here I. The village, so I could hike, and take late afternoon or early morning photographs. I am so glad I didn’t. After about an hour and a half I sat down in the newly build restaurant, where I bumped in to Reiner and Felix again. We had a pleasant chat, with a magnificent backdrop. I can kick myself that I didn’t take a photograph of them.

It took over two hours to get back to Mestia. At one stage there was a traffic jam, as the road was being fixed, nobody placed a man with a stop sign at the beginning and the end. So all the cars tried to beat each other to get past the road works! This was impossible and cars were forced to reverse. Georgian drivers are completely crazy, every single one is a potential Peter Schumacher, and not one of them wants to give up their first place!! This resulted in complete chaos! It was interesting to watch! Kept us amused! Not enough to take photos of the traffic jam, however the road workers appreciated all the tourists attention and felt like celebrities, while the “paparazzi” were clicking away!!

The Svaneti area is a stunningly beautiful part of Georgia and I am looking forward coming back one day and just painting my life away!

Super Svaneti

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!

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