I had just written a post about the trip between Kutaisi and Mestia. . . And I think WordPress decided it wasn’t worth saving. Damnit all. Screw it, then.
SO, settled in Mestia, having completed a few day hikes to a nearby glacier, and up to the top of a neighboring mountain, it was time to do the big trek (big for regular hikers/trekkers but likely amateur for you experienced folk).
The route from Mestia to Ushguli takes around three or four days for most, but can be as little as two if you really want to zip through it all. Why people want to do that is beyond me. So I set off alone from Mestia, dying from the heat on the first hill out of town. Great start.
The first climb gives you wonderful views of the valley, on down to the glacier. Cows wander on by, and besides the incline, it’s a great way to get into the hiking mood.
After this I descended into the last bundle of villages before its basically just me and the trail. I passed a couple Israelis who I walked with for an hour or so but they were too slow and went on ahead… I’d see them again at some point.
Around Zabeshi is where most stop for the night. It was only six, so I decided to climb the next mountain and camp with a view! So huffing and puffing I began, singing and talking to myself, as I do. There were so many possible camping spots it was hard to choose, until I almost got to the top at around 2400m. So I chose a location with enough wood for a fire, and settled down for the night. Just me and the mountains. That feeling of being surrounded by primal nature is a powerful one. Invigorating, calming, and just… Feeling right.
Day two I passed a ski hill under construction, and descended to Adishi. On the way I met a Czech and a Slovak, who I ended up meeting while I was collecting water and photographing fee crazy amount of butterflies in the area.
We stopped in Adishi to resupply either bread, cheese, and khachapuri.. The best I have had in Georgia. Again, most people stop here on day two, but it was only 2pm! Onwards to the river crossing.
Rushing from a massive glacier, reminding me of “The Wall” from Game of Thrones, the river was moving fast. Ideally one would cross in the early morning, before the heat for the day caused more water to melt and thus cause the river to be more or less impassable.
After testing out various places for cross, and seeing a couple on the other side also failing, we opted to camp for the night. Dark clouds were also moving in. We hid under some trees, made a nice little fire, and rode out the rain and the night, talking the philosophy talk in the mountain rain.
We crossed the next day at seven. Others crossed while holding hands and wearing all their gear… The water was still fast and high. So we ripped our pants, and I plodded know first, pulling along the heavily-laden Slovak as icy water shrunk my manly bits. It was great. I was laughing as Russians watched us like we were so strange.
As we dressed, we downed a shot of chacha and continued up the next incline, getting the best view of The Wall. The clouds were parting, and we eagerly continued.
Down the next path the clouds came back as quickly as they had left us… A great wall of grey and haze coming up the valley. Luckily there were a few old cottages nearby and we rode out at least some of the storm, while many joined us and others were so wet they just kept on going… There is a point where you get so wet that stopping is meaningless (unless there’s a nice hot fire!)… Of course the rain didn’t stop and we continued anyway. It only took an hour to be soaking wet.
On reaching the main road, we ran into a man who we had all hitched with at one point, and just happened to be resting outside his guesthouse. Funny how that works. Naturally we spent the night there, listening to his stories of finding exotic prostitutes in Dubai.
So, day four had us walking up the main road to Ushguli. They were under time constraints so we parted ways when a local bus came along. On I continued alone, as I do.
I met others on the way, but not long enough to develop such deep relationships! It was only a couple hours to reach Ushguli.
Rain trickled down on the final walk up. Another small village out of sight and out of mind in the mountains. One thing I noticed was how many vehicles were viking and going from here. Tourist vehicles. Hoards of them. Ushguli itself , once you looked at what was there, was a tourist stop. So many cafes, guest houses, horse tours, etc. It didn’t feel right.
I sat up on the highest hill in town, under a black tower (something to do either a queen, I think?), and tried for avoid all these things, and focus on the nature. The hike up to this point was beautiful, and thoroughly enjoyed my time. But the end point, well, wasn’t the highlight!
I hitched on back to Mestia, spending another day there while hiding from the rain. For these couple nights I had the honor of having a street dog spend his nights under my tarp, leaving after breakfast, naturally.
Having felt satisfied in Mestia, I aimed for Gori, to see the friend I had made on my way here… I wrote about him in the previous deleted post, which I hope I can recover.
PS. I’m actually writing this as I freeze in Western Kazakhstan. I’m horribly late with these posts. Most of that is due to doing all of this on a phone. The lack of keyboard, as well as the poor photo uploading to mobile WordPress, makes this more of a chore than a delight. Unfortunately. I will catch up, however . There’s a lot to say between this post and where I actually am now!