Georgia

Carry On Camping in the Rain…

Another weekend, another trip…we were with Adrenalin Hiking Club again. But there wasn’t to be much hiking. We went to the Algeti National Park, 60 km South West of Tbilisi, where a number of hiking clubs were celebrating the beginning of the hiking season. Our transport was a mix of Ford Transit Minibus over the roads, then a Mitsubishi Delica for the off road part.

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Mitsubishi Delica…ideal for transporting a lot of people off road

We made a brief stop en route for those who wished to pick daisies, before heading to the campsite.

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in the daisy field

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camping

I hadn’t camped since my first honeymoon in Norway, way back in 1992. This would be interesting. The clouds, when we arrived looked grey and ominous. As the tents went up the rain started to come down slowly at first, then more heavily. The campsite felt a bit like a music festival, plenty of mud and a bass beat could be heard in the background but the only live music I saw was from singing and acoustic guitars.

The first task was to fetch wood, a reminder of my scouting days, where one of the prime duties at camp was “wood and water”,

The Algeti National Park stretches over the woody southern slopes of the eastern Trialeti range. There was plenty of wood mostly Caucasian Spruce and Nordmann Fir. The rain did look pretty on the pine leaves.

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raindrops on pine leaves

Club Adrenalin trips are known for impressive supras and group photos. Three new members were welcomed to Club Adrenalin: Natali, Mariam and my wife, Khato. The new members were given badges and a T Shirt and had their photo taken with other members.

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Adrenalin Members in club T Shirts

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Khato with Adrenalin flag, T Shirt and badge

The rain didn’t deter the fire makers. The fire was essential for the requisite Mtsvadi (Sashlik). The smell of woodsmoke reminded me very much of Scout Camps a few decades ago.

The rain got heavier, the thunder rumbled, the lightning flashed. We went to bed. The tent walls were damp, a lot of our stuff got wet. In the morning the sun shone and we hung out our wet stuff to dry.

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strange fruit

More feasting this time including grilled mushrooms with sulguni cheese.

There wasn’t much hiking but I did wander about having a look in the forest and at the views.

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in the forest

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a bee seeking nectar and pollen

We left for Tbilisi, early in the afternoon in our trusted Delica.

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off road view through the Delica windscreen

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge : Heritage

Georgia, my adopted country, has a rich religious heritage. Georgia was the second country to adopt Christianity as the official religion, after Armenia. Religion is important for the majority of the population, despite Stalin and the communists attempts to eradicate religious practices in the Soviet years.
For more interpretations of the theme, click the link: Heritage

An Excursion to Dashbashi Canyon

route to Dashbashi

We assemble at 8am by Marjanshvili Metro, a group of 29 of us with Hiking Club Adrenalin, too big for one minibus, so we will ride out in an additional vehicle, a seven seater Honda Stream. On the map Dashbashi Canyon doesn’t look too far but the roads are twisty and uneven.

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Banners unfurled

It will be a long day. First stop along the route is Manglisi Sioni, an important Georgian architectural monument and one of the oldest Christian centres in Georgia. The first church was built in the 4th Century, today’s cathedral dates back to the seventh century, renovated in 1002.

Arriving around 11am, there was a church service being celebrated but in Georgian churches it is not unusual for people to amble in and out of the church during a service.

Next stop on the journey was Lake Tsalka.

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Lake Tsalka

Near Tsalka lake we visited “Fathers Region a Monastery of Three Priests” with its trout and holy water.

A second lake, Paravani Lake is located 2,073 m (6,801 ft) above sea level and has a surface area of 37.5 km2.

Near to the lake was the Convent of St Nino in Phoka village with a small shop selling artisanal cheese, jam and liquor.

Finally at 6pm we reached our main destination, Dashbashi Canyon. A canyon carved in the volcanic rock by the river Ktsia.

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Dashbashi Canyon

We descended to the river where we gaped at the waterfall and had some fun splashing about in the river.

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waterfall

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No Georgian excursion is complete without a supra (Georgian feast). Having climbed out of the canyon, we gathered around a fire, where Georgian Mtsvadi (Sashlik) was grilled and consumed.

We got home at 1.45 am!

Bakuriani 2017

This might become an annual trip, last year we visited Bakuriani (A Trip to Bakuriani ) and this year too.

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Bakuriani 2017akuriani

Bakuriani is one of three Georgian ski resorts (the others are Gudauri and Mestia). We left Tbilisi on Friday morning  with some of Khato’s colleagues and 3 children, in a Mitsubishi Delica dependably driven by Dato.  I don’t ski, but I can still enjoy the snowy landscape of Bakuriani.

We took Ana, our granddaughter; Bakuriani has a park with numerous activities, Ana liked being flung into the air on an aero-bungy maxi trampoline thingy…

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Ana in the air

Bakuriani has three ski lifts, last year we went up to the first level, this year we went to the top for the inevitable photo opportunity.

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Group photo

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at the top

Back in Bakuriani, Ana had a lot of fun descending a small slope on a snow sled.

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We had fun walking in the snow, breathing the fresh mountain air and taking lots of wintry photos.

On the return to Tbilisi on Sunday, we made a detour to visit Zedazeni Monastery, located on the Zedazeni mountain in the hills of Saguramo overlooking Tbilisi. The monastery dates back to the 6th century.

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Zedazeni Monastery

It was a pleasant break, a chance to see some snowy vistas and have some rest, away from the daily hustle and bustle.

Sunday in the Village

“Sopelshi” (in the village) is a word I hear a lot. Many of the residents of Tbilisi have a village in the country, where they rest and have their roots. My wife’s mother came from a small village near Gori and some of her relatives are still there. In early autumn there is an abundance of fruit: tomatoes, apples, plums, pumpkins, grapes etc… ready for picking. We are driven out of Tbilisi by Khato’s brother for a day in the  village.

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Aunt Gulo’s yard, a hen wandering about

In the village even lunch is a feast.

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lunch

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Married to Khato, I am now part of a big Georgian family

Georgian tomato fields; the tomatoes might not look as attractive as the intensively farmed Turkish tomatoes in the supermarkets, but the taste is far superior.

In the evening we have a supra with barbecue. Eating a lot of local produce, washed down with homemade wine from local grapes and the inevitable Georgian toasts to everyone and everything.

After the supra we head back to Tbilisi, just over an hour away.

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sunset in the village

 

A trip to Racha: Day 2

This post follows on from A trip to Racha: Day 1

Because some of our group were enjoying the previous night’s supra (Georgian feast) until 3am, Sunday didn’t get off to an early start. After we’d breakfasted and got everything ready,  we finally left the guest house at 1pm. The weather on the Saturday had been hot and dry, on the Sunday it was cooler and  more overcast with some rain.

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Khvanchkara, a rich red wine said to be Stalin’s favourite

Stalin’s first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, was born in Racha, tragically she died of typhus at the age of just 22. Stalin reputedly said ‘This creature softened my heart of stone. She’s died and with her have died my last warm feelings for humanity.’  Stalin allowed her funeral to take place in an Orthodox church despite his atheism.

Our first visit would be to another church, the chapel of the Virgin at Barakoni in the village of Tsesi built in 1753.

The grass around the church is still cut with a scythe.

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gardener

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Barakoni Chapel (Interior)

The church was closed and desecrated under the Bolshevik rule. It suffered further damage, though not serious, in the 1991 Racha earthquake, but was quickly repaired.

After Barakoni we took a long unpaved muddy track up into the Khikhata range to the church of St George in the mountain village of Mravaldzali. The views over to the peaks of Svaneti were awesome. We passed another vehicle, whose driver suggested we had just another 2km to travel, half an hour later we finally reached Mravaldzali church. Nika’s driving was exemplary.

The interior of the church felt holy. A sanctuary from the outside world.

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Khato prays at an icon in Mravaldzali Church.

We didn’t stay long at the church and returned along the muddy track admiring the view until we came out by the River Rioni.

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River Rioni

Then, as is the Georgian custom another supra, I sat out most of this feast, my stomach is not Georgian.

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Supra by the roadside sheltered from the rain.

We finally got on the road home at 9pm, arriving in Tbilisi around 1 am.