Sunday, May 22, 2011

Svan road trip

Svaneti. One of the most inaccessible yet beautiful regions of Georgia. It is an area full of rugged mountains, natural springs, and hardy people. Life is very difficult in Svaneti due to the remote isolation, difficult terrain, and long, hard winters.

The village I live in is the only island in the republic. This dam holds back the River Enguiri from completely inundating the village. The dam lies in the river valley at the edge of Svaneti. When water is released from the dam, kayakers ride the river.

The mountains of Svaneti are full of natural springs -- many of them are mineral springs. With so much water coming out of the mountains, there are waterfalls everywhere. We stopped at a couple different ones to walk around and take pictures. Tea and I liked this one -- it came hurtling down the mountain with real purpose!

Zaza (Tea's cousin), Teona (Tea's sister), Tea, and I hiked up along this stream that tumbled over rocks through this lush gorge on its way to the Enguiri. The rock wall on the left called to me..... my hands were sweating as I visually mapped out routes to climb. Boy, do I miss climbing.

We took a picnic lunch with us and had enough food to feed about thirty people (Tea always puts out way more food than is needed.) Koba and Paata (not in the photo) built a fire, cut up some chicken, and roasted shish-ka-bobs while we ladies ate fruit, veggies, and the ever-present khatchapuri. This land where we hung out belongs to Zaza. The cows belong to a neighbor.

Zaza and I went for a hike up the mountain for a couple of hours. There were no trails, only our own choices for which direction to take -- we went up! The view of the river was incredible. The water is low right now, but the demarcation between the rock and the trees is the high-water line when the river is full. Tea and I wondered at the amount of water it would take to fill the valley to that line -- incredible.

We really wanted to see a bear on our hike, so we were constantly looking for signs of where they might be. We did find a den in the rocks at one spot, but it hadn't been slept in for a while. Some of the tracks we found were fresh and a couple of rotten trees had recently been rooted through for bugs. But no bear. Zaza was checking out these rocks for signs.

This massive beetle was so beautiful..... and hungry! It was eating a snail, and no matter how hard we pulled on the body, it wouldn't let go. 

At this moment, the sun was out -- but in the mountains, the weather changed about every ten minutes -- rain, no rain, drizzle, sunshine, then more rain.... When the sun shone, the air itself was green from the moss, ferns, and spring-green leaves on the trees. So much life -- it was tangible in the air (almost as much as in the jungle....).

Zaza estimated this massive evergreen to be about 300 years old.

The forest reminded me of a mixture of the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies -- groves of Aspens, but everything else covered in thick, cushy moss.

Me, Zaza, Tea, Koba (in the front), Paata, and Teona (in the back) -- my fellow-adventurers! I was so glad to be able to go with them someplace other than their normal destinations (the bank or the market or the library). Spending the day out in the beauty of nature was a great experience for all of us.

The mist and clouds rolled in from the Black Sea, bringing humid rain. A cloak of fog shrouded the mountains and forests in layers mystery as thick as the history of this region. The weight of age hung heavily in the air as we headed back home -- tired and very satisfied.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just beginning to comprehend the beauty of this country....