"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Edge of the Wild

Two weeks ago, Julie, Mark, and I once again packed our bags and boarded a dilapidated minibus, bound for one of the wildest and most beautiful parts of Georgia -- Svaneti.

Friday, October 14th is a Georgian holiday, so we left Poti on the evening of the 13th with a plan to stay over in Zugdidi Thursday night and leave early from Zugdidi for Mestia on Friday morning.  An evening in Zugdidi meant that we got to check out Amerikidan ("From America"), an American-style bar and grill that two veterans from our Program had recently opened.  Amerikidan is awesome -- excellent vibe and atmosphere, an actual bar with barstools (this is really rare in Georgia), and a comfortingly American menu of pizzas (real mozzarella cheese!!), hamburgers, cheesy fries, chicken strips, and the like.  Their dink menu includes proper cocktails -- with ICE!  We met co-owners Lucas and Damon, and they are very cool people.  I highly recommend checking out their place if you should find yourself in Zugdidi.

Due to the long weekend, it seemed like pretty much every single Program volunteer in the region had decided this was the weekend for visiting Svaneti.  So Amerikidan quickly got packed with expats, and we had a lot of fun meeting some cool new people.  Introducing the Davids!

That's David One in the plaid shirt and David Two in the sweatervest.  They would end up featuring quite prominently in our weekend. :)  We got in some good American dancing and I chatted for a long while with owner Damon.  Eventually Mark and I were ready to go.  Julie was still going strong... so we agreed to meet up the next day and Mark and I left in search of lodgings.  In typical Georgian fashion, earlier that evening a random Georgian man stopped us and asked if we had a place to stay that night.  (I guess our backpacks were a clue.)  He'd given us his number, so Mark gave him a call.  Despite it being after 1:00 in the morning, he met us along the way and escorted us to his guesthouse.  A very... interesting dormitory schoolroom-style room.

Due to the festivities of the evening, a superearly start did not end up happening.  But that didn't matter in any case, as Mark and I ended up waiting about an hour and a half for the Mestia marshutka to fill up so the driver would leave.  To help fill the time, our guesthouse host invited us into his cafe for tea and beer, very cool.  We touched base with Julie, who said she would come with the Davids on a later marshutka.

And then, finally... we were off!  It used to take five hours to bus from Zugdidi to Mestia, but Georgia recently completed construction on a new road that cut the time down to about three hours.  The weather wasn't the greatest, but being as we had waited the longest, the driver let us sit up front which is a marshutka honor. :)  The ride to Mestia passes through some of the most breathtaking countryside I have ever seen.  Our trip was perfectly timed just as the leaves were starting to turn, and the mountainsides were all deep alpine green spotted here and there with bright orange and yellow.  Behind the green hills were the real mountains, impossibly high and already covered with snow.  And waterfalls everywhere, thin as a thread or big as your imagination, snaking down the impossibly steep slopes.  I tried to take photos through the bus window, but due to rain, window glass, and speed, they did not come out well sadly.

Finally around mid-afternoon, we made it to Mestia.

Svan towers in the distance
Incredible mountains through the clouds

The bus let us off in the town center, and Mark and I began our wanderings looking for the hostel he had found online.  This proved harder than we thought, but eventually (with help), we successfully unloaded our gear at Nest Hostel.

Without a doubt, one of the most basic places I have ever stayed.  Camping, basically.  But there was hot water, which gave it points over both our Borjomi guesthouse and crappy Trabzon hotel.  The staff were really cool as well, and as an extra bonus, we met James, a British backpacker currently living in Latvia, and taking some extended time off from his own business to explore some of the less traveled regions of the world.  James was instantly a fantastic companion, and we started having fun together right away.

James with Mark
Mark, James, and I got food and wandered around Mestia for a while.  Mestia is undergoing a lot of construction, and in a way I am sad I couldn't get to see it a year or even six months ago.  I think it's excellent that their economy is going to get a boost from more and more people discovering how spectacular this part of Georgia truly is, but of course the inevitable downside of that is that, given enough time and enough rope, tourists tend to turn places into tourist traps.  But I trust the Svans (indomitable, generous, friendly, and slightly scary fierce) to lay the smack down before things go to far.

Downtown Mestia
Serious construction efforts
 We took a walk just outside of town that included walking up a stream for a while.  Thank you expensive waterproof hiking boots.  I knew I'd need you eventually.

Eventually, James took his leave and Julie called to say that she and the Davids had finally arrived.  So we walked back into town and met them for dinner.

After dinner, it was back to the hostel for drinks and cards on the balcony.  Mestia gets COLD.

I took my leave at maybe 2:00, with the party still going strong.  Early start tomorrow?  You know what they say about best-laid plans...

1 comment:

  1. Very beautiful scenery.I am in love with this place.Also the weather is very romantic.I intend to visit this place in next years summer holidays.