Day 44 - 48: Mestia – Ushguli
Almost sober again, we then planned a hiking tour for the next day: above Mestia, there are some trails going green peaks and lakes, and we wanted to hike up, checking if anything was rideable with a bicycle. Unfortunately, the weather became cloudy, and at about 2500m, thick clouds were passing through - we did not see much of the lakes. But whenever the clouds moved aside for some seconds, absolutely thrilling views on the 5000- and almost-5000-mountains were possible.
And more, we had the chance to deeply interact with the local fauna – Svaneti is heavily used for cattle, horse and pig breeding, and the green meadows above the villages are perfect places for doing so.
|the more we went up, the more clouds we saw.|
|summit view, anyone?|
|cows or something.|
After this quilte long and cold hike we became lazy and luxury, and stayed at a local campground to get a warm shower. Not a bad decision, as the next day was completely clouded. We visited the newly renovated Svanetian Museum, which bears remarkable items of this area – from bronze age over 10th century golden icons (many of them of St. George) to medieval furniture and weapons. Although we are not Museum fanatics, this one is absolutely worth a visit.
|the typical Svantian defense towers|
Mestia is not the end of the valley – a small road/path/mudtrack leads up further 40km to Ushguli, which is said to be the main reason for the Svanetian culture to become UNESCO world cultural heritage. It had heavily rained few days ago, so the road there was quite an adventure – but Kalimero climbed up the 1000 meters like a young mountain goat – even overtaking local jeeps, and earning compliments from Defender drivers!
|going up to Ushguli|
|Kalimero being proud and dirty.|
|and then, just when you think you are going a rough track up the hill.|
|A Georgian cemetery.|
|Eventually, the road became muddier and bumpier.|
|Better keep the grip on the steering wheel...|
Up on almost 2200m, Ushguli is a little picturesque and rustic village, consisting of 50% guesthouses and 50% farms – you can't tell the difference except for the little painted signs outside. And, much more impressive, it is at the feet of the 5000+ range of the Shkhara peak, Georgia's 3rd highest mountain. When we arrived, clouds prevented his sight, but in the evening the sky became blue and we could hardly stop looking. Near the only road possible to use by car a small sign said tent place, we asked if we could stay there and were waved into a little garden. The place was run by a old couple and their two sons and it looked like they turned their family home into a guest house and now live in a makeshift hut right next to it. After a longer conversation in Svaneti from their site and hand-and-foot-German from our site we found out that they do not have food for their guests, so we took a litte excursion around the small village - again all kinds of farm animals walking along with us. We soon found a small cafe were we could sit in the sun looking at the pink mountains in the downing sun. This time Ostria, a rich soup with all kinds of meat and Kubdali, meat and onions in a bread.
|our overnight place in Ushguli.|
|clouds covered the mountains when we arrived.|
On a stroll through Ushguli, a guy walked straight towards us and it turned out to be Niklas, the biker who spent a night at our camping ground in Göreme and who we met again in front of the Iranian Consulat in Trabzon. What a madman! Although we were traveling almost at the speed of light with Kalimero, he seriously matched it with his bike and luggage.
We had a beer together, but soon went to bed to rest for the walk to the glacier we planned for the next day. The next morning we just had our coffe, when the old couple carried a pig with its head missing past our doorstep. As the garden was not very big we had a perfect view watching them getting rid of the pigs fur and taking it apart. The old lady even found time to prepare some Katchapuri for us to take with us for a Brotzeit at the mountains.
|Our landlord, going to work.|
|Grandma, Pig, Grandpa.|
|lots of old soviet technique in Georgia. This one was used for log transport.|
|The interior of the family house, which was converted into the Guest House.|
The walk to the glacier took us through a valley right next to the river coming down. Herds of cows again „paved“ our way but soon the local flora took over and we disappeared in hundreds of different flowers. After two hours walk towards a breathtaking view we climbed over some stones for another hour to arrive at the „calf“ of the glacier. The ice grumbled and stones were rolling down all the time, so we decided to turn around and walk down to the village again.
|The local dogs are quite well trained to accompany tourists - hoping for food.|
|HUGE cows on the way up.|
As soon as we finished the Katchapuri we got curious if our host will have some dinner for us today, thinking of the piggy. We dwelled around next to Kalimero for some time, but as we took a little walk around the village again we saw the old couple making hay. Obviously they already have a full time job and were not keen on the extra money they could make by serving us food.
Two french, who walked to Ushguli from Mestia joined us for dinner this evening. The next morning we were woken up a bit early by someone pounding on our door. We opened and were asked for some Diesel to get the chachamobil running. The french told us the evening before that they hitchhiked the last few kilometers to the village and were picked up by some guys in a van who sold wine and chacha supposedly for only one lari per liter (50 cent). To get the attention of their customers they played a melody as we know it from the icecream van. Exactly these guys now needed and of course got our help. As we were awake already and we did not know what the pass to Lentechi had to offer we sayed goodbye to our guest family, decided to skip the chacha and set off to the Zagari-pass.
|road up to Zagar pass|
|almost up there|