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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Georgia - 20 September, 2002



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Shovi (Hotel Crystal Rock) N4242.115' E04340.637' 1,532 meters .
-  Hike into mountains N4240.064' E04339.470' 2,175 meters 12 km (by foot)
Finish Shovi (Hotel Crystal Rock) N4242.115' E04340.637' 1,532 meters


Total Leg 3:

2,400 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

7,571 km


Weather: Mostly clear, sunny and cool (but warm in the sun).  Cold at night.



We wake up at 7 AM and one of us crawls out from under all the blankets into the cold morning air to check on the weather.  Yesterday it was raining and we were not sure if we would be able to go on our hike today.  But we are fortunate and pulling back the curtains reveals a clear blue sky.  It is time to get up and get ready for our hike.  We skip the cold shower and head straight down for breakfast.


But breakfast is not quite ready yet, so we prepare our own pack lunches off the truck.  Simple sandwiches and some fruit.  Once we have finished that, the hotel has gotten breakfast ready for us.  Heading into the dining room, we sit at tables on the other side of the room - they still have not cleared the table from dinner last night.  Hate to think what it would be like if they had a full house.  Breakfast is simple - porridge made from cracked wheat, bread and butter.  This does not take too long to devour and we are back to our rooms to get ready for our walk.


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After slowly gathering everyone together down at the parking lot, we are ready to leave at 10 AM.  We are looking forward to the day's walk - it is supposed to be very beautiful.  But we also have some apprehension after all the stories told us by Lotta and Rick about the trail for the first half of the walk.  It has been described as very steep and when wet it turns into one big, long mud slide.  And it has been raining for many days, so it will certainly be wet.


After a short walk on the dirt road, our local guide turns off to the left into the forest.  And we can see right away what Lotta and Rick were talking about.  The trail went straight up the steep hill and it was all mud with streams of water running down the middle of the trail.  We carefully make our way up the slope and quickly learn that the easiest way to go is to just step in the streams of water on the stones that have been washed clear of the mud.  This stretch of the trail is all within the dense forest, so we are surrounded by trees.


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After about half an hour, however, we come upon a small break in the trees and are rewarded by fantastic views through the trees of the snowed covered mountains in the distance.  This gives us a taste of the views that we can expect when we break out of the forest and get above the tree line.


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It takes a bit more than another half an hour and we finally do break out of the trees and enter into a beautiful grassy meadow with awesome views of the mountains surrounding us on all sides.  There is a fair amount of snow - a result of the recent drop in temperature and the heavy rainfall.  We hang out here for about half an hour and have a light snack.  We also use the opportunity to take a group photo in a spectacular setting.


Then it is back to the trail.  We have largely emerged from the forest and have fantastic views as we walk.  At one point the trail comes very close to the top of a cliff where there has been a landslide.  The trail is now just a foot or so from the edge and we carefully walk by as we get more wonderful views down into the valley below.


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We are now walking through meadows that gently undulate up and down as we walk further up the valley.  The meadows are being tended, with local farmers cutting the tall grass with old style scythes and staking it high in piles with wooden pitchforks.  They are working on steep slopes in several groups.  We pass by one group taking a rest, sitting back leaning against the fresh pile of grass they have stacked up to dry.


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After a bit less than an hour since leaving the meadow, we arrive at our lunch spot on the edge of a rushing river near a mountain cabin occupied by the farmers working up here in the mountains.  We grab a couple of rocks and open our lunch packs - we have worked up quite an appetite during our morning walk up to this spot.  It is a beautiful day - cool, mountain air with the warm rays of the sun taking away the bite of the breeze.  We are now at about 2,200 meters above sea level.


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After we have had something to eat, a few of us walk across the plank bridge and the short distance to the cabin.  But we must walk carefully.  They keep a few cows and they have dropped "landmines" all over the place.  We gingerly step around them and eventually make our way to the cabin.  A middle aged couple are sitting outside the cabin - the man having his own lunch and the women preparing dinner.


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We greet them in Russian and they acknowledge us with a smile.  They do not seem to mind our intrusion and allow us to take photos.  While we are there, the man finished his lunch, picks up his tools and, without a word to us or his wife, heads back into the fields to continue his work.  We follow him, after bidding his wife farewell, and make our way back to the lunch spot.


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At this point we are starting to get ready to head back, but first we will make a stop at the nearby spring to meet up with our local guide who is having lunch there.  It is a short way down the valley near the river.  The guide has laid out his lunch of bread, sausage and vegetables on a cloth.  As we approach, he offers us his plastic cup to take a drink from the spring.  It yields a slightly sparkling water that is quite tasty.  Some of us fill our water bottles from this spring.  The guide then offers us some of his lunch, followed by his vodka.  We all take turns downing double shots of the fire water while making toasts to world friendship and peace.  For some reason, a number of us end up doing this a few times (guess he wants to empty his bottle before the walk down).


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As we walk back down into the valley, the colors of the mountains become very clear to us.  It is green, blue and white with a tinge of yellow.  The green of the forests and meadows, the deep blue of the sky and water and the white of the snow and the few, light clouds brushing the top of the mountains.  The tinge of yellow comes from the leaves on the trees starting to change color in the autumn season.


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We take another short break in the meadow, enjoying the view and the rest before heading back into the forest and the steep muddy trail back down to the hotel.  And this is where the muddy trail becomes a challenge.  The way up was not too difficult - but on the way down, gravity, momentum and the slippery mud are doing all they can to make sure that we slip and make a mess of ourselves.  While there are a few close calls, we make it all the way down with nothing worse than very muddy boots.  We take advantage of a spring at the bottom of the trail to wash that caked mud off of our boots.


We make it back to the hotel around 4:30 PM.  Everyone quickly runs up to their rooms to get their funny hats and then we head off to what some people call Sector X to take a look at the Stalin statue (our third that we have found so far).  Some people have said that this area was a secret, military area called Sector X, but we have heard a more mundane explanation for the many run down buildings - a former spa.  Either way, the Sector X story did make good for a good, well, story.


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The statue is a bigger than life (what else) image of Stalin sitting down staring off into the distance.  It is slowly falling apart from neglect.  Well, we take advantage of the last sun rays of the day to take some individual pictures and group pictures.


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We are not really showing the highly feared former leader of the Soviet Union much respect, sitting atop and around him wearing our silly hats.


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But it is loads of fun.


Then it is back to the hotel for a wash (the water is still cold) and rest before dinner.  Dinner is back in the dining room.  At least they have cleared up from the dinner last night and breakfast this morning (even though there were a few utensils still laying on the floor).  First course is soup and the main course is, well, we can only describe it as soup.  Guess they do not have many ideas or ingredients.  But at least it is hot and, with the plentiful bread, filling.  Well, we finished off all the wine last night, so we decide to make it an early night and head off for a long nights sleep, buried under the many blankets to ward off the cold, night air that rushes through the broken windows and cracks in the walls.


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