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Got wood?

GEORGIA | Monday, 14 June 2010 | Views [656]

I hear about this place in the mountains when a fellow traveller quips "So I have a question for you, if you're a trekker, why the HELL are you not going to Svaneti?". well, a lack of guidebook sometimes means you need these tips, my friend.  With a ponderous muse I decide to check it out...... and out it is indeed. As the Svan language broke away from Georgian some 4 millenia ago, and with Georgian itself scarcely being related to anything else on the planet, it's enough to give a linguist a hard-on, just for starters. However, even though I do not don my cunning linguist hat for this expedition, Svaneti turns out more than sufficient to give wood to any humble trekker.

With Abkhazia at my back, and the Ruskis doing their Ruski thing just over the mountain range looming from above the horizon, I set off into the mountains again following fabled red-white markings.  A glorious day unfolds through forest, mud and picturesque views of not-too-distant mountaintops. The villages are dotted with the iconic Svan defensive towers. They stand scattered like forgotten Toy Soldiers impossibly guarding the mountains that dominate the horizons.

After finding a suitable place to take residence for the evening, I get to work setting up camp. It's just another typical campsite in this neck of the woods, surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains, a trickling stream tinkering its way through the velvet-green plateau, a sleepy village perched on the mound just behind me and a deep gorge below.  I am quickly greeted by the local Tent Inspectors, the Happy Dolphin and Spider Freak (or so their T-Shirts claim). Standing proud at a mere 8 years old apiece, they are wise beyond their years, slowly poking around the outskirts of my tent with practiced "Old Man" stances, hands behind backs, folded, or at the hips. With innocent fingers, they poke, probe, investigate, hypothesise, and experiment at what all the zips and tags and nooks and crannies may be used for. I have scarcely seen such inquisitive maturity in people thrice their age. Satisfied they understand all there is to understand about my abode, and that I cannot offer them any further useful insights into the necessities of life, they quickly scamper off to do what kids do, giggling and wrestling their merry selves all the way to the bottom of the hill as an electric sound-and-light show rolls in for the evening. I batten down everything remotely resembling a hatch that I can find, listening to my tent whimper at every growl from the blackened sky, and settle in for the show in my front row seat. "Spectacular" just got a run for its money.

As a new field of blue pulls itself from the bowls of night, the mountains are not just getting closer, they're penetrating every square inch of my periphery. It's like I've seen through the glass and face-planted, squashed nose right up against the snow-caps. Closer to reality, the forest clambers all over me as I ogle my way through the day, struggling to keep my jaw from dragging along the ground. Certain the next village should be around here somewhere, I step over a gentle ridge and into the 11th century. After all I've seen in the past months, this still manages to have me grasping for superlatives, as a cluster of Svan towers sprout amongst aged houses and a sense of being lost in time is all too real. Along the river bank, I struggle to choose a campsite purely because I cannot decide where would make the best photograph. I succumb and make camp to another screeching sound and light show (who let the banshees out?), then fall asleep to the roar of the glacier-fed river in front, accompanied by a tinkling snow-fed stream behind.

On the morrow my order for BLUE comes through again, and the day kicks off by wading knee deep across the glacier fed river; I don't know enough rude words to describe how cold this is. The glacier quickly comes into view, as up the pass I go, losing the trail as it turns from path, to personal cascade, to river, mud and snow slush-puppy. Sporadic outbursts of tumbling rock and ice echo through the valley and remind me that just over there the glacier is melting away. I gain the saddle and perform another overzealous outburst of ogling at the stunning majesty of my surroundings. I even dance a jig and ponder that it's a good thing grins are not taxed. A bit of crab-like bum-crawling flings me in semi-control down the thick grass on the other side of the pass, and to the river waiting below. The rest of the trek is a comparatively gentle stroll through deserted villages, and over avalanches.

Got wood?  do i ever

hugs and love from Svaneti


Tags: mestia, svaneti, trekking



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