“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”
After coming up and over the pass we ended up passing through a gorgeous valley surrounded by the Caucasus, a mountain range which runs from Russia into Georgia.
After a thirty kilometer descent (I reached over 70km/h!) we reached a very touristic town at the end of the road since just a few kilometers away was the boarder with Russia. Though it sounds a bit strange, we ended up camping in a forest practically in the middle of town, a piece of land that is apparently set aside for picnickers and campers, as well as for the obligatory wandering pigs and cows.
The cows here wander the streets without a care in the world just like they did in India. Though they aren’t holy or protected like they were there they certainly act like they are because they don’t budge an inch for passing cars, trucks, or cyclists.
It was a beautiful place to say the least, especially with the famous Georgian church perched on the hill.
After two nights we decided to head back down because despite it being beautiful, the touristic town didn’t have much to offer us. We have noticed time and time again that it’s the small rural villages in the middle of nowhere which we enjoy, and not the “done up” tourist towns where the locals are much less friendly and where there isn’t much to do if you aren’t drinking expensive coffees in the cafes. In fact, here is a little story which really demonstrates the difference between our experiences in these two types of areas, not just in Georgia, but all over the world.
When we arrived in this town we bought peaches and tomatoes as we always do, and instead of the delicious fruit we are use to receiving, we got handed a bag of unripe or rotten produce at an overcharged price. The shop keepers were also very unfriendly and we almost felt bad for bothering them with our purchases because it was obvious they had no interest in dealing with tourists. Most people who come here are on a two week vacation and want everything to go perfectly, meaning they are often pushy or impatient – something the locals probably hate. A few hours later as we were setting up camp (in the town, remember the forest we were staying in seemed to be set aside for campers so there were other families picnicking and camping in the area as well) a Georgian family (obviously vacationing as well) motioned us to come join their picnic. We spent the next few hours laughing and eating with them before they left, but not before they could give us enough delicious Georgian food to last us throughout the next few days. These picnicking Georgians are not inherently “better,” more hospitable, or friendlier than the Georgian locals who we found rather unpleasant, it’s simply that this family doesn’t depend on tourism for its livelihood, nor do they have to deal with foreigners and the potentially unpleasant business involved with that on a daily basis.
A young man we met a few weeks ago just sent me this picture he took of us and his dad after they invited us to their lovely Georgian picnic. Thanks guys!
And just a few more from our way back down.