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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Georgia/Turkey - 23 September, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Batumi (Intourist Hotel) N4139.168' E04138.106' 6 meters .
Georgia - Turkey border (Sarpi) . . . .
Mas . . . .
Altid Altindere National Park . . . .
-  Sumela Monastery . . . .
Finish Kinali Kopru (camp site) N4045.798' E03935.982' 478 meters

264 km

Total Leg 3:

3,097 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

8,268 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and very hot in the morning.  In the afternoon partly cloudy and warm.  Brief rain shower in the evening.

 

 

We are sad that we will be leaving Georgia today - it has been a great visit with very friendly people.  We have breakfast in the hotel, then load up the truck and are off before 9 AM.  It less than an hour's drive along the Black Sea coast to the border post.  It takes us about an hour to get through the border formalities.  Maybe things are speeded up because we choose the "grease the skids" option of exiting.

 

The immigration officer gave us two chooses of paying our exit tax:  $5 with a receipt or $2 without a receipt.  It is funny, but the lower cost option also speeds things up!!!  The rest of the formalities are a zip - it just takes time to process the whole group.  They make us walk one-by-one across no-mans land to the Turkish side where we are given a very friendly greeting by the guards.  They say welcome to Turkey and wish us a pleasant stay.  What a nice way to arrive to a foreign country.

 

The process at the Turkey side of the border also took about an hour.  Some of us had to purchase visas - a mere formality that seemed more like a money raiser.  Then we were off on our way - at the same time as we arrive at the Georgian side of the border.  We need to set our watches back two hours.  It is a good thing as we still have a long day ahead of us.

 

The first thing that we notice is the quality of the roads - we are now on a four lane dual carriage highway motoring along at high speed with barely a bump.  It almost seems odd not to be bouncing around as we drive along.  They are still working on the highway and we take advantage of one of the cleared areas to stop for lunch shortly after noon.  We are starving - our stomachs think it is after 2 PM.

 

We continue our drive along the coast until we get to Trabzon, where we turn south and head inland and up into the mountains.  We drive until we come to the town of Mas, where we stop to do some cook group shopping.  There are plenty of small family run shops along the main road, and we go and look for what we need.  The shopkeepers are very friendly and helpful.  It is our first day in Turkey and the money confuses us a bit - there are about 1,650,000 (that is right - one million six hundred and fifty thousand) Turkish Lira to a dollar.  And many of the notes are similar, so we spend some time counting all the zeros to make sure we do not pay too much or are short changed.

 

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In one shop, as we are looking at some of their food, we are offered hot tea.  We gladly accept - it is a nice way to make it a bit more personal.  We sip tea as we make our selections and pay for them.  After about an hour of shopping, we head on further up into the mountains.  We enter Altid Altindere National Park and drive a short way to the base of the trail that leads up to the Sumela Monastery.

 

We spend the rest of the afternoon walking up to and exploring this monastery which began as a grotto in the fourth century and grew to its present size by the 14th century.  The monastery was abandoned in 1923 after the Russian occupation of Crimea in 1916-18.  Since then it has been vandalised, only recently being salvaged and restored by the Turkish government.  The monastery clings to a vertical cliff face and we have a long, winding walk up the dirt path to the entrance.

 

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It is an amazing place - the faith and devotion that compels people to build and maintain such places of worship and seclusion can sometimes be hard to fathom.  It is so isolated in such a beautiful mountain valley. We pay our entrance fee and then make our way up the last set of steep, long stairs to the door way, passing by the aqueduct built clinging to the cliff face to bring water to the complex.  Once inside, we head down the main staircase, stopping at various levels to check out the rooms that line each side of the walkway.

 

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The most impressive part of the complex is the chapel that has been carved into the cliff face.  While many of the original frescoes have been damaged and vandalised, they are still very impressive.  Even after so many years and with only the dim light admitted by the small windows carved into the rock, the colors are vibrant and almost alive. All walls and the entire ceiling are covered with them. 

 

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Back out in the main open common area, we slowly make our way back up to the main entrance.  One interesting room to check out was the toilets.  They have carved the cubicles out of the rock and knocked holes in the floor that directly open over the cliff face.  Very simple plumbing - the waste products would just drop down through the hole to the valley hundreds of meters below.

 

Back down at the truck, we slowly gathered together and then headed off back down the valley a short way to a camp site where we will spend the night.  It is a very basic place - we pitch our tents on a small field - and they have two toilets with one having a hot shower.  We decide to take advantage of the shower (we had been told that it was a cold shower so no one was using it, but upon testing we found out that it did produce hot water).  While we were in the shower there was a brief rain shower - we heard all the frantic scrambling outside as the cook group and the rest of the people sought cover.

 

After dinner the sky cleared and we were treated to the night sky in all its glory.  It is just a shame that we did not dare remove our rain fly from our tent in case another rain storm passed through (the problem with camping in the mountains - it is never predictable).

 

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