Georgia travelogue Part 2:
Itinerary: Zhinvali, Ananuri, Gudauri, Kazbegi
It is still raining today. If it is like this every day, the trip will be a disaster. Anyway, we were ready by 9 o’clock. Omar’s message came. He has reached outside the hotel. After breakfast, we came out. He is waiting there. He greeted us with a smile. We started our journey in his Nissan Tiana car. We liked him in no time. Moderate speech and slow driving. There are occasional messages on the phone. Customers are. Chatting with them while driving. Other than that the car drives well. After traversing the streets of Tbilisi, we headed toward Kasbegi. Kazbegi is an old name. (Stepantsminda) The new name is Stepantsminda. The same name can be seen on the signboards along the way. Stepantsminda is a small town in the Caucasus Mountains in the northeastern part of Georgia. It is 155 km from Tbilisi. The border check post with Russia is nearby. The road there is called the Georgian Military Highway. The details of Kazbegi can be told later. There are many places to see on the way there.
Kazbegi town Georgia
It’s raining outside. After traveling for about an hour we reached the first place. A dam, Zhinvali dam. It is a dam built across the Aragvi River. The blue and green water between the mountains is a very beautiful sight. Little snow and rain added to its beauty. Got back in the car and reached the next place after a short distance. Ananuri castle (Ananuri castle). The fort was built by the Aragvi dynasty in the 16th century on the banks of the Aragvi river. There are two mosques inside it. Georgia is a Christian country. Such ancient mosques can be found all over the country. All these are carefully preserved. Photographs can be taken inside churches without using flash. The board will see that entrants are required to dress modestly. No cap should be placed on the head. After seeing the historical remains at Ananuri, we continued our journey along the Aragvi River in Omar’s car towards Kasbegi.
Georgian military highway
When we reached a short distance ahead, Omar stopped the car saying that he will show me a view. It is the place where the two tributaries of the Aragvi River merge. One is black and one is white. The black and white river flows forward for a long distance without mixing. The scene was captured on camera and the journey continued. The road is winding and meandering through the beautiful green hills. There are signs for white water rafting camps at various points along the river. Being the main road to Russia, many Russian vehicles pass through. Tourists. Hitchhikers asking for a lift can also be seen across the road. Giant trucks parked in rows could also be seen in many places.
Georgia-Russia Friendship Monument.
These are vehicles going back and forth from neighboring countries like Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia with goods. Traversing the hills, we reached Gudauri, a relatively high point on this road. Gudauri is an important ski resort in Georgia during the winter. The skiing season is from December to April. Omar said that the road would be very busy and congested at that time. Room rents in hotels will also be higher. A major attraction here is the Georgia-Russia Friendship Monument. This arch-shaped building was established in 1983. I asked Omar why it was called the Friendship Monument. It was established when there was friendship in the past. But today the two countries are not very friendly. Russia has occupied many parts of Georgia. The monument is situated on the edge of a gorge.
Surrounded by green hills. The history of both countries is depicted in the wall paintings created with tiles inside. In front of this is a deep gorge, Devil’s Valley. But due to rain and snow, we could not see any of the sights below. Didn’t stay there for long because it was windy and cold. We proceeded to our destination Kazbegi. About three and a half hours after leaving Tbilisi, we reached Kazbegi. A small town full of tourists. One should go to Gergeti Trinity church which is located on top of a nearby mountain.
Gergeti trinity church
A picture of this church can be found on most tourist information websites about Georgia. This place can only be reached by a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Specially modified Mitsubishi Delica model cars were seen in abundance. If you see, our old high-roof Omni is heavy. They are the ones doing the service there. Like our high-range Jeep. 50 lari for going and coming. Omar arranged for a driver he knew. His name is Chacko. The rain has stopped. Without it, it would not have been possible to go up. Due to the high ground clearance, getting into the car is difficult. Chacko’s carriage took us and left for Gergeti Church. It was a good off-roading experience.
Gergeti trinity church off-road journey
Chacko drove the car with the ease of driving on a flat road through a mountain road covered with mud and potholes after the rain. But there is no significant shaking inside the vehicle. It was a pleasant trip. We reached the top in about fifteen minutes. Gergeti Church is a beautiful sight located outside the Pachakunn in front of the Kasbegi mountain. A location that really reminds me of song scenes from Bollywood films. While dropping us there, Chacko told us in English and sign language to visit the church and come back in 30 minutes. We walked towards the church to see the sights and return. It is very windy and very cold. You can reach here by trekking instead of by car. Adventure lovers can try this route. By the time I was able to capture his beautiful views on the camera and turn it around, I saw the sun. That’s when you come to Georgia and see the sun.
When we got down, Omar was waiting for us. Went to a nearby hotel to eat. Must eat Georgian food. Omar was asked for his opinion on what was good. His favorite food is a dish called oysters. Beef curry with bread, this is Austry. Also ordered an item called Khachapuri. It is a dish made with cheese. It looks like a pizza. It was delicious food. Now the return trip. After leaving the restaurant, Omar took us to show us a nearby resort. The name of the resort is Rooms and it is a very busy resort during the skiing season. The views from here are very beautiful.
On the way back, Omar stopped the car when he saw one of his friends near the Friendship Monument. He is also a tour guide. Name is Dato. Omar’s childhood friend. When he came to know that we are from Kerala, he said in Malayalam what about me? How are you? asked that. Essential Malayalam words are learned from tourists. There is paragliding here. He came with two guests for that. The charge is 250 lari, which is around 7000 INR. They will fly in ten to fifteen minutes. So after seeing that too, I decided to go. Now the dignity is clear and the snow is standing. With that, the views of Devil’s valley can be seen clearly.
Herds of sheep graze in the distant meadows. A beautiful blue water body was seen in the valley. Beyond these mountains lies part of Russia. Paragliders, pilots, and helpers arrived in no time. The parachute was spread and the hooks were attached and ready to fly. They are Indians. A male and a female. There is a good wind. The pilot and the flyers must run together to the mountain and fly. Running is a bit difficult due to the strong wind. Together with two assistants, they are pushed down the steep hill. If they didn’t brake properly after taking off, they would have gone down. One by one they flew down. We said goodbye to Dato and Gudauri and returned to Tbilisi.
Had a light dinner like yesterday and went to bed. Tomorrow Mitskheta, Stone City. It’s features in the next part.