From the hard work in
Diary 4, it is now time to explore the last bit of Georgia.|
9/10 I'm up early, as it have been bothering me; Carribian Airways have changed my flight to Panama City by six hours, but only the connecting flight by four minutes - and the other way. I got minus four hours to connect! Writing them is not possible, calling them immensely expensive. Skype must be the answer. But my account have gone dormant?
When I wake-up the receptionist, she have a car-key for me, delivered by Levans crew some time during the night: Thanks! It is my dirty and very reliable Toyota, and I have plans for it. Levan recommended Shatili; an ancient village, build in slate-rocks. It is on the other side of the Atsunta Pass, and should make a perfect expedition for the day. It is sunny and warm, and I look forward for adventure.
First, I have to escape Tbilisi, but before nine, it is quite easy. I gas the car, stock water and warm cloths, and count on a restaurant in the end. The first 60 kilometres are by the smooth highway, then I turn into the former sealed country road.
It start to be hilly, and the road follow a long lake. A sign say "Happy Journey" and on the next bridge, and old Soviet military car is left with three wheels. The hills are dominated by trees and bushes, quite familiar to Denmark and in fantastic autumn colours.
After additional 60 kilometres of scatted buildings, low mountains and a few people around, it turn into something different. Significantly more rough, no settlements, no humans but absolutely breathtaking nature. Barren rocks, waterfalls, pines, rivers, distant snow, meadows with yellow grass and endless bends on the narrow trail. At first, the gorge is narrow, so narrow, the sun only touches down a few places.
Despite its isolation and minor status, the gravel road is in good state. I pass several huge bulldozers, and it seems like the layout changes from year to year, all after where the river decides to deposit some gravel. A few places, ancient tall towers are overseeing their own valley. A few ruins show previous human activity, but not much.
Ants, on the other hand, are extreme active in some of the flat meadows. Red ants build tall nests, covered in grass. Here, they can get a sunny side and escape the flooding.
Near the top, I meet a group of large dogs and two herdsmen. They have a huge group sheep and goats higher up, and I give them a lift to the top. Here, they eat lunch, looking down on the thousands of animals.
I have been looking down on the snow for quite some time, but it is first here, on the 2680 meter high Atsunta Pass, I get to it. Despite the snow, I do fine in a T-shirt, due to the strong sun. Up here, there are no trees and bushes, but a bit further down, I find four kinds of succulents and some small lizards.
On the way down towards Shatili, the landscape is first dominated by soft mountains with yellow grass. A single herdsman's camp, some ruins but else, I seems to be the only one here. The road seems to go on forever, and fine with me, here are so beautiful. As I decent into the bushes, especially the birch have bright yellow colours, and the rocks get rougher.
Then, without any warning, I reach the city-limit-sign of Shatili. Besides from the ancient and truly different village, a few sheets, huts and shelters are found in the area, occupied by farmers and tourist-based business. Except, it must be so much out of season. Not even a single "market"; a sheet with cigarettes, booze and candy can be found.
I pass the stone-village slowly, then head further out the road. Besides from a house-size water-powered electric plant, only cows and lizards are found here. It have taken me six hours to get here - mainly because of the photo-stops, but also the 160 kilometres. I figure; I better head back, but not without a stroll in the village.
It seems empty, but recently restored. The doors are sheep-sized, the layout a maze. I can't tell if it is a restored 1000 year old settlement or a present summer residence. The only person I meet, is the Farther, who walks to the small chapel. The villagers in the new sheets, are not really seeking my attention, and I give op on lunch here.
The way back offers again so many motives. Dripping water, distend mountains, the light through the red and yellow leaves, the serpentined road, sheep and goats, snow and vastness. I give one of the shepherds a lift down the road to his flock. I guess he had a bit too much cha-cha for lunch?
I do a stop at the first Market I see, and stock water and biscuits. A short shot-eye at a river in the sun feels great, but it is getting late. After 320 kilometres, documented in 380 photos, I am back in Tbilisi, just before the most intense traffic. I have deserved a pizza, and then a stroll in the areas small shops and a market with cheep Chinese stuff after dusk.
Back in the room with a mug of tea, wishing I haven't made that many photos. Tagging is in huge clusters, as I want to sleep tonight. I will head on adventure tomorrow, but have to be at the airport at two in the night: No hotel.
No way, I can avoid to make a slideshow with this fantastic day's photos on their own: Atsunta Pass Path & Shatili.
10/10 I'm about ready to leave the hotel, when the rain starts - that was not my idea! I ought to be able to dodge it by driving to Gori and nearby Uplistsikhe. I choose the shorter, but slower scenic route through the low hills, as I have seen the highway. On the way out of the city, I passes what must be one of the oldest vertical gardens: The road have been cut into the rock, and the dripping make room for a large number of mosses, ferns and alike. And it is graffiti-safe!
The road leads through small villages, yellow fields,
wine and maize plantations and some kind of wasteland - or cattle
grassing. I avoid most cars and people, but I can't shake the rain.
I do a breath stop at a previous Soviet factory
to document the mosaic, glorifying industrial prosper. It seems to
last significantly longer than the factory and ideal.
The GPS have found a doubtful back-road, but it leads through the strange rock formations and the ancient village of Uplistsikhe, cut into them. The rain continues, and I call for an early lunch. The traditional bean-bread; lubiana and a cup of tea. It does not help on the rain, but at least I'm not hungry anymore.
A bit further down the road, tourists are found - that is a new! As it still drizzles, I catch up on accounting and diary, hoping for a break in the downfall. I have a raincoat, but deep in the suitcase. And I have no rush at all: My flight is in 16 hours, and it is only a two hour drive there. And seeing Gori in the rain are not that appealing either. I get loured by a short stop in the rain, and then, while I'm inside the area, it pick-up again.
This sandstone hillside have been carved out, almost hollow. Some houses have decayed, others are still near intact, and some even have decorations left. The only new building is a church, although it is old. I try to find some good angles while I walk around, but the lack of sun and abundance of rain make it hard to appreciate it properly.
It is too early to return to Tbilisi, and Gori is only eight kilometres away. I find the raincoat and head into town. I think I hit the centre, but here is not really that much to see. A few streets with small shops, a modern and weird building, looking a bit like a PH-lamp and ofcause the huge fortress.
The city of Gori is located in a huge valley, and convenient enough, a single huge boulder is found in the middle. I walk a bit of the way around it, and fine some huge bronze statues. The look like crusaders, but lack a few pieces here and there. I can't help thinking of Monty Python's knight: "Come back, I can still bite!".
I find some sort of market with cloths, spices, plastic, household, vegetables and stuff. The back-alleys are even more affected by time - and bad Soviet concrete. Never the less, and despite the rain, people smile back. I fail to find a single place to have a cup of tea, and figure it is time to head back. On the way, I pass a soaked donkey, looking miserable like only a donkey can.
I have to drop-of the car at the factory before they head home, and the massive rain on the highway along with the congested capital do take some time to penetrate. Then I can't find the place, although I know I'm within a few hundred metres. I get Levan to send a guide. It turned up I have forgotten two corners.
I get a lift to the airport, and start with supper at the only restaurant, before checking-in. Then I start on the last photos, diary and quite some other projects, like the Panama tickets, that have been altered. It turns out, I can get my original - no explanation given by Copa Air. (It actually happens once more!).
But I have 10 hours to spend in total in the airport. I could have taken a hotel, but only to one o'clock. And I sit better here, than in a hotelbed anyway. I have hoped, I could check-in the suitcase and go to the lounge, but NO. And finding a power source is not easy. A German/Austrian couple, packing down their bikes, get to watch my suitcase - even while they sleep.
I end up with two more slideshows; Uplistsikhe & Gori and of cause the THE HIGHLIGHTS which is not necessarily technical good photos, just describing. I have only taken 2582 photos in one month! An all-time low, since the negative-era.
As I have worked for another company, some of the expenses have been paid by them. However, I had some myself: