Drinking from the river and eating from the trees I

Short preliminary tip: If you want to see the slide show in a somewhat chronological order (a few photos are out of order though), please scroll, wait for the slide show to be loaded and pause it until you have finished reading.

For a few weeks I already heard rumors saying that a group of us would be going to Svaneti soon and I was asked if I would come. Of course, I said, of course I will. Svaneti is this mighty region in the Georgian Upper Caucasus that everybody says is amazingly beautiful.

Long story short, last Thursday I hopped on the Marshutka to Zugdidi. To my surprise I only had to wait 20 minutes before it departed. In Zugdidi, a town close to the Abkhaz territory, I met up with nine fellow Americans, grabbed some food and a few minutes later all of us were sitting in our private marshutka to Mestia, the capital of the Svaneti region.

View on the mountains from the Street coming from Zugdidi

Our marshutka driver was a hilarious guy. Not only wore he a shirt stating “I find this humerus.” but also he stopped at several locations to show us around and told us all kinds of stories on our way, which the one guy of our group, who originally is from Belorussia, kindly translated. So we happened to see a dam, were told where this one marshutka fell down the cliff, learned where the driver’s cousin survived the other marshutka falling down the cliffs, seen the place where this Ukrainian guy died water rafting, were shown the ruins of a bridge that this one guy, who is dead already, tried to build over the river, which did not exactly work out as the snow melted and the bridge got completely destroyed. To be honest, it was SCARY.

The lake behind the dam

There were no barriers beside the street and it rained a lot the previous days. A few places were so muddy, that the driver requested us guys sitting in the back of the marshutka for “weight distribution”. Otherwise we would have gone stuck in the mud. And mud is not exactly the best material to brake on. Especially when you are driving only a good 30 cm from the edge of the cliff. Only the wine we had with us and the upcoming darkness of the night made us kind of ignore the fact, that we probably faced death a few times. And those two Svan guys our driver all of a sudden picked up that were loudly singing while their 30 minute ride with us. It was great fun though.

Photo of our driver in front of the hotel, especially requested by him. He was crazy about us taking photos of him.

As we only hit the town when it was already dark, we had to wait another night to see the stunning landscape. After waking up the next day (not to kill one bottle of ChaCha with the group the driver brought from his home before going to bed), the first thing I did was looking out of the window and I was excited to see this:

View out of the window the first morning in Mestia

After getting the tasty Svan bread in the “Hot Bread” Store, purchasing cheese and a few sausages, we met our contact person at the central square of this town in the mountains close to the Russian border (and no, this is not a superagent story, but I couldn’t resist to write it this way) and went with her to the tourist centre to talk about Fridays tour.

Bread from Mestia. Super tasty, even after 2 days of storing. That photo was actually taken at home in Batumi.

The main square in Mestia, obviously under construction...

...to turn Mestia and Svaneti into a tourist resort.

Friday’s tour turned out to be a walk to a close glacier, the Chaladi Glacier. We were supposed to walk down a dusty street along the river until we can see a hanging bridge, crossing it and from there to walk up to the glacier. And I can say the landscape was so worth all the travelling the previous day. We hadn’t left the town when we already saw this:

View from a bridge down the river in Mestia and ...

up the river into the mountains, the direction we would hike this day.

View on Mestia with its characteristic towers after a bit of walking

We walked pretty slow, so soon we wondered if the time by when we were supposed to reach the hanging bridge would be correct or if the way would be longer then expected actually. It didn’t take long until somebody of us came up with the idea of hitchhiking with a dump truck. Two of us mounted into the drivers cabin while the other eight of us mounted onto the – luckily empty, but apparently dirty – dump.

In the drivers cabin

Unmounting.

After unmounting the truck, trying to catch fish in the river by building a small dam, Raughley crossing the river, eventually ending up seeing no way to come back staying dry and another 1h walk, we finally reached the hanging bridge.

At the bridge. And yes, they really still use those WW2 style cars.

The bridge itself.

Then we walked through the woods and later over a stony field up to the tongue of the glacier.

View on a river coming from the glacier joining the Mestiachala river

The glacier with a huge mountain in the background. Probably Chatintau, 4411m high.

The valley of the glacier/river

The glacier turned out to be the the source of the one river from which we filled our bottles up – the water turned out to be really clean and tasty and in contrast to the water from the tap, it didn’t give me any trouble with the stomach.

Raughley being impressed by the glaciers hole.

The way back was basically the same. This time we divided into 2 groups hopping into dump trucks drivers cabins, while me and Raughley walked until our marshutka driver came to pick us up.

What the heck happened here? Is everybody ok?!

I took a few more photos of Mestia, a town of around 2.500 inhabitants at the altitude of around 1.500 meters above sea level before we went back to the hotel. In the hotel we did not have elecricity which lead to me having a shower with only my mobile phones flashlight on which was surprisingly nice. For more showering with only flashlights. Ok, it’s not as romantic as a bath with candles, but anyway.

Church in Mestia

View down the main street of Mestia.

Old style dump trucks

At round 10 pm everybody went to bed as everybody was really tired and we wanted to do a longer tour the next day. I will write about Saturdays tour in a separate post so you are not getting bored by the amount of the pictures and text. Attached again a slide show with stunning pictures from that day. As usual, if you want certain pictures in a higher resolution, let me know and I will send them.

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About Paul

Hey, my name is Paul and I will be going to Georgia for one year to assist English language teachers in public schools through the "Teach and Learn with Georgia" program.
This entry was posted in Caucasus, Georgia. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Drinking from the river and eating from the trees I

  1. Muddi says:

    Paul, ich finde Deinen Beitrag zum Gebirgsausflug einfach nur klasse! Bist auch ein toller Fotograf!
    Mach weiter so!
    Alles Gute
    Mutti

  2. stranger says:

    I’m jealous, because i never visited Svaneti and I’m Georgian (shame on me 😛 ). It seems like you guys have had a nice trip.. btw are you German Paul? 🙂

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