Our resting day consisted of walking around town. Just us three. After the tourist information, we walked over to the Svaneti Museum. A place where we learned a lot about the area and its rich history.
Later in the evening, we were invited to go up one of the towers besides the guesthouse. Four of these belonged to the family of the hostess if the guesthouse, Keti. Both defensive structure and storage space. It sheltered children and women during tribal and family disputes. And it is a place where they hid treasure from the capital in case of war in the east. But nowadays it lends itself for an ideal phototaking location!
Waking up at 9am i feel better, but still sore. Painful bruises from my pack on my hips remind me of the last two hard days.
I asked for breakfast at 10am so i could sleep in. and when i walk down the veranda stairs around that time i see the beautiful sight of prepared breakfast in the garden of the guesthouse. I cant wait to sit down and dig in! Vegetables, cheese, bread, tea, cake, pancakes and simple khatchapuri. Its all there. I eat up and wait for Dave and Annoe to arrive.
When they finally arrive around 11:30 we are all happy to see each other. And i meet Dave his fioncee, Annie, for the first time!
After they settle in their room, we hear from Keti the guesthouse host that the horses are ready just outside the fence. This was one of Dave his plans. These horses will take us all the way up to the lakes north and above Mestia.
As we walk to the horses i realize just how medieval these little streets look. This will be a recurring theme in the next few days.
The horses bring us all the way. Although they didnt really listen to our steering inputs, they got us where we wanted to go.
The whole outing took about 6 hours, but i didnt take my phone so i cant put up any photos of this day just yet… Instead i will leave you with a photo of the next day of my friends Dave and Annie…
At the end of the day we decided not to start hiking the next day right away just yet. So we all could rest a bit, plan the walking trip some more and see the sights of Mestia.
Waking up later than the dutch guys i pack my bag and stuff in the breakfast the guesthouse gave me last evening that was included with the dinner. To pay i walk up to the hotel and start my journey. I felt strong enough and packed more water and less food. This was going to be a great hike!
Walking past Omar his house i greet his wife and she comes out through the garden gate to point me in the right direction.
Almost at the abandoned village of Guli i encounter a river without a bridge. This is where i meet Kenzo, from Japan (i learn this later, higher up on the mountain) who appears out of thin air after i looked for a bridge a little further up stream and after putting on my gaiters. I think i scared him a little when he suddenly stood next to me after i got up and almost screamed hello!
I wade through the water, but end up with wet feet anyway. I decide to keep my gaiters on. And watch as Kenzo looks for another way to cross but eventually decides to take off his boots and socks and wade through as well. Probably the smarter decision. And from this point on we pretty much walk together. The next photo looks down from Guli village on to the valley. You can see Kenzo standing down in the field.
Looking down in to the valley towards Mazeri. You can also see my boots took quite a beating yesterday snd the soles are coming loose…
But i wasnt at the top of the Guli Pass yet! Another 15 minutes of steep incline hiking. On my way i met a Czech guy and we exchanged some words and a laugh passing bye. Finslly at the top i was so happy to be ther! It was a great moment! there were two french guys having their lunch there too and a guide with a four person group just came up as i was talking to the french guys about the way to mestia and some other trails. After some water i strapped my bag to my back again and started down the range.
First walking the wrong way towards a high peak i turned back and went down into the valley. But this was not how the trail i was walking was supposed to go. Which was over some ridges. i ended up going sll the way down a valley. Crossing a river. Losing the path. Bushbashing my way through large patches of tall flowers, thistles and stinging netles. Ending up at the top of a scree slope above a glacier. Having to throw my pack dow the slope, slide down the scree and cross the glacier.
More overgrown cow paths and searching for paths followed. And i started to feel weaker and weaker. Looking back though, was beautiful and satisfying.
But walking further the valley didnt seem to end… Almost at the end i met 4 Georgians on horseback and they confirmed Mestia was not far away! One of the girls asked where i was from. I answered Amsterdam and she gor a strange look on her face. Probably wondering if i came walking all the way from the netherlands… I probably looked like it. I felt strangely like i was a bit drunk.
The last part of the journey was over the road. I arrived in thd village just before Mestia and had to walk 2km to Mestia. Walking past a gass station the atendant stood up and offered me his seat outside. But i asked for water and he quickly filled me a cup and handed it to me. I sat down, drank the water, thanked the kind man and continued towards the town.
Dave, my friend who i was going to meet here already booked me a room in the guesthouse, so after some searching i found the place and was welcomed inside and given some water. Taking off my pack, shoes and socks i had to come to my senses. I was finslly there! I left Mazeri at 8:30 and arrived at the guesthouse at 20:30. I walked for 12 hours! 1500 meters ascending. 1300 meters descending.
I went to lay down in my room for 15 minutes. My body was shivering and i was feeling cold while being quite warm. and after i took a shower. And dinner was waiting for me. Brought up by Keti, the girl that runs the guest house.
It was the best melon, sweet bread and wine (they dont hsve beer) i ever tasted. And i went to bed shivering and burnt. But oh so happy. And looking forward to meet Dave, who was going to arrive in the morning with his fioncee Annie.
Awake at 6am i get out of bed and pack my bag. I hear people in the kitchen downstairs, so i go there and find the oven/stove heating up the entire room. Everybody seems awake, except the boys. Omar suggest me to sit on the little wooden bench next to the stove. And while i drink the tea he just gave me i watch his wife make the bread.
After the bread is made they show me to the living room where breakfast is served
After breakfast i pay Omar, who invites me to stay the next night too. I give him 100 Lari, but i only want to pay for one night. This gives some confusion, handsignals help. He tried to make me comit to it, but i want to try another guesthouse tonight. He says: “Omar doma dobro da?”. In a last effort to concince me to come back tonight. And i say; yes, your house is very nice and i enjoyed my stay. I pack my lunch they prepared for me, put my pack on my back, say good bye and start walking towards the start of the trail, which is a bridge over a turbulent mountain river. But before i get there i take a wrong turn and end up on a little path through some trees. I decided to walk back and find the bridge.
Unfortunately i missed the path at one point and went the wrong way. I wasnt alone and talked to some of them. I decided to cut through some bushes and a stream and found the path again. Signaling the other people down a little lower they followed me and were on the right track again. But a little later i completely missed a trail marker and together with the other people (4 Polish tourists) we went a very wrong way. Up very steep, it was more like rock climbing than hiking. But still we continued. Eventually we go at a nice viewpoint where we saw Ushba glacier and the waterfall plateau.
Going down was equally challenging. And having packed too much food, too little water, this being my first hike in over a year and it was a lot harder than i anticipated i ran out of water half way down. With the sun burning my skin and my mouth dry i continued down. And only on the last part that was more flat i felt confident to take a break, to not conpletely break down.
My tshirt marbled with white stripes of salt from my sweat i drank the last bit of liquid i had with me; a few sips of cola and a few of cream lemonade. This and the stream of clear cold water i found later on helped me through. At the stream i clearer my face of salty sweat and cooled my head. It was such an amazing feeling!
After having walked to the beginning of tge trail the first guesthouse was actually a hotel. This was full but the family running it also operated a smaller guesthouse a 3 minute walk away. The view from the second floor, where my room was, was super nice. And the bed was big and soft.
Sitting there, recovering from what i just did, two Dutch guys came up too. Floris and Jan-Willem. We talked a bit and went to dinner and drank some beer together at the hotel. It was a very pleasant evening. The shower, food, good company and beer certainly helped. But feeling soar from the hike/climb i went to bed early, not sure if i would go on the next hike tomorrow.
Walking from the bridge where the minibus (mashrutka) dropped me off, it starts raining.
I asked the driver to drop me off here, so i can walk (an hour) to Mazeri and hike two extra trails in the coming two days. On my way i meet some people that assure me (in the little english and russian they know) i’m going in the right direction. And some even offer me to stay in their guesthouses, but i kindlyrefuse because i want to wake up in Mazeria tomorrow morning so i can start the first hiking trail close to the beginning.
I walk past grazing cows and foraging pigs and chickens. They dont specifically seem to belong to anyone, because they wander freely over the road. The dogs on the fenceless properties beside the road seem friendly, at first, until one sneaks up behind me and starts barking and snarling at my heels without any obvious reason. After this i notice they each follow me for a bit before trailing off. I keep my eye on loose rocks on the ground in case i feel the need to defend myself…
Arriving at the border of the little town called Mazeria, the center about 1km away, a 14 year old boy called Luca asks me if i want to stay at his families guesthouse. I give in to my grumbling stomach (i only ate a small piece of bread that i took from Dave in the morning, a flat bread filled with potato at a rest stop and some m&m’s) and followed the boy to his house. Without any idea what to expect!
Luca leads me to the veranda where i meet hos Father Omar, his wife, the grandmother and Luca his little brother. Omar tries to explain in his best russian that they wil feed me dinner, breakfast and pack me a lunch for tomorrows trip. And i try to make smalltalk in my best russian, showing him my maps and telling him of my plans for the next couple of days. For each trail he gestures with his hand to the specific valley, showing me he understands.
When the food is ready i dig in to a feast. At least, that is what it looks like to me. Cheeses, bread, tomatoes, apples, yoghurt, saucages, apple jam, grape jam, ‘curry salt’?, tea and water. All home made or grown around the house. It was delicious.
After i tried talking to Omar and his wife but my language skills were not sufficient and the rain and thunder that had started stopped the internet from working, which i was using to translate some words. Instead i sat with Luca and hos brother, showing them my paragliding videos and videos from my week in Tbilisi. All the while grandmother was kneading a giant bucket of dough and smiling at the youngens huddled behind a tiny iphone screen.
And at done point the power went out. Because of the rain they said…
After using the outhouse in the garden, i wished them goodnight. Luca helped me carry some of my things to rhe room and he said: goodbye. I laid out all the things i would need for the next day; rainjacket, hiking boots, gaiters, etc. and decided i wanted to write this post.
I think there are animals living in this bedroom wall…
I am in a rickety minibus, driving through 40 degrees celcius weather without airconditioning. on my way to the mountainvillage Mazeri.
Also awesome; i just downloaded the WordPress app and am writing this on my phone!