Following a simple “come with us” from the two Czechs, I set off for Tbilisi yet again. I walked and metro’ed my way to the south edge of town where I met them on the highway out. Linda was a little sick, but managed to survive some hours in the sun, breathing in the lovely smell of vehicle fumes… At one point they convinced me to pay a little for a lift 200km or so into Armenia. Grudgingly I accepted… For the sake of the sick one!
Crammed into the back of a van, we crossed into Armenia… After I filled out paperwork for a visa I didn’t know I needed (research properly, kids!) I think it took us six hours to get to Gyumri… Not only do it take us a long time, the guy didn’t even stop at the road to Yerevan for us! We all agreed that this guy was a bit of a dick.
At 11 we got dropped off outside Gyumri, ready to find a spot to camp for the night. But why not try half an hour hitching, eh? I couldn’t just… Not try. So I waddled on up to the road, stuck my thumb out, and the first car stopped. It was a guy driving a big van to Yerevan! He even told us to sleep if we wanted. Of course I splayed myself out on the seat and, well, attempted sleep. I failed. I always fail.
Being driven to our couchsurfers door, we were more than grateful. A good counter experience to out first Armenian experience.
Yerevan became our base for exploring the surrounding areas of the country. First off was Khor Virap, a little monastery off the Turkish border, with a perfect view of Ararat. Ararat being the supposed place where Noah’s Ark finally landed. Khor Virap is like any other monastery (in my eyes) with one extra feature – two pits underneath the complex that supposedly housed a well non monk for many years. Kinda cool.
Next up, on the tourist route, we made our way to Geghard monastery. Cool monastery, but of course the best times are made off the beaten track… Which is what we did next!
On the outskirts of Garni, sits an old pagan temple. We set up camp across the river from there. A starlit sky, silhouette of an ancient temple, and a little fire for some ambience. Behind us was the Khosrov nature reserve, and our target for the next day.
We arent the type to take taxis, so we walk to the reserve. Hours in the boiling sun, down roads literally no cars are using, we made it to a gate. A sleepy guard awoke, probably not expecting a few backpackers to this quiet place. The price per person was something like $10, which covered your entire stay I believe… After checking out maps and figuring it would be wasted time to simply turn around, we decided to go for it.
The pictures promised us so much green. What we had was mostly desert-like conditions for some hours as we made our way along empty old roads, in search of waterfalls. Here and there were old empty houses, a couple apparently active farms, but no wildlife and barely any green.
It came to the point where we were going from water source to water source as the sub beat down on us, and the road got more and more desolate. We began questioning our choices, because it seemed like we were just hiking into oblivion. Of course, “just a little farther,” became our thing.
The girls had it dead set in their minds to cross over a mountain to a waterfall, and my maps app that had so far proven very useful and accurate for me told us we were on the right path. It was late afternoon, and maybe it wasn’t the wisest choice, but we kept going.
Around 3/4 up from this mountain, we ran into a Shepard, heading on home with his sheep. His puzzled look and erratic hand movements likewise puzzled us… We soon got it that apparently this was no way to a waterfall, and in fact it would be many many kms before we reached anything at all… Alright. Only wolves and bears and death awaited us. I’m not the type to argue with a man of the land, so after he invited us back to his farm for the night, we slowly agreed.
Before long we were setting up our beds on a stack of hay bales and eating fresh cheese, bread, milk, and some kind of pasta. The Czechs spoke Russian, so for a large part of the evening I was off in my own world, trying to read people’s faces, or just eating while everyone else talked. Language barriers can be a bitch. Being an introvert, however, I don’t want to always be chatting up a storm anyway. Sometimes I like how conversations are impossible, truth be told.
The next day we were woken up at the break of dawn by our friend, making sure we had time to go see the local waterfalls before he would drive us back to town. His son would show us the way… Sounds like a nice little morning stroll, right?
Two hours of bushwacking later, two pissed off Czech girls, and we had arrived at a rather nice waterfall. Freezing water, but I tore off my clothes and got in ASAP. Two hours of up and down thick bushy hills wouldn’t end in simply turning back. After hardship, a good thing feels a lot better.
With only half an hour to spare, we scrambled back towards the farm. Of course we were invited to breakfast at another. Can’t say no, right? Riiiight? So we stuffed our faces with coffee, bread, cheese, and this really tasty cream, before catching the Shepard man’s truck as he was starting off down the road.
As we rumbled away in the back of this old farm truck, watching light touch the valley we were descending into, we couldn’t hide big dumb smiles. These are the moments you spend lonely or somewhat miserable moments whirl traveling for. These are the times that make it all worthwhile. These are times that I’ll remember many years from now.
But things would get weirder on Armenia. I began to think these girls had some strange magic about them that attracted such situations…