Sunday, May 31, 2015

River Deep, Mountain High

After leaving the wine region, as promised we headed towards Tusheti. The road started out OK, then as expected it got worse. Then it got BAD, really BAD. The next 6km took an hour and was a bit scary. We finally got to a point where we both thought ‘this is getting ridiculous’ and dangerous.

A 15 point turn saw us heading back down the mountain.
Letting air out in preparation for the rough road

Along the road

This is where turned around!!

We stopped at an idyllic looking spot by the river, but the sheep arrived along with the flies and the miasma of pee and poo. We moved.

Luckily a bit further on was a picnic spot, which was idyllic. A local turned up and was so pleased to see us there, as he was responsible for developing the picnic area. He was excited that we were the first people to use it. We really made his day when we found we were from Australia. We had have to publicity shots taken.
Picnic Spot along the Tusheti Road
Later some more locals turned up for a BBQ with the inevitable invitation to join them for drinks. The usual 10 litre plastic bottle of wine and homemade chacha. A fun bunch of guys. They amused me by munching of raw veggies whilst throwing copious amounts of wine down. One of them was a previous Olympic Judo champion – good person to have on your side.
Our new friends!
We also found out that the damn road isn’t fully open yet anyway!

After 2 nights and more bloody rain we headed to the Georgian Military Highway and Kazbegi near the Russian border.
Along the Georgian Military Highway - High Caucasus
The highway is brilliant, beautiful scenery, good road, sunshine! We found a fantastic spot to camp before heading to Sno Valley off the highway. Another fab spot. Georgia is so beautiful with high high mountains, gushing rivers and wonderful forests. We have loved every minute of it. It's really worth visiting, so book your trip.
Monastery along the highway
Sno valley

Next stop Kazbegi where we camped at Nunu’s Guesthouse. Great food, but Nunu complained that we didn’t eat enough!

We paid a guide to take us to look for Lammergeier Vultures and eagles. Everyone said the place is thick with them, but they must have been having day off. Just saw a few griffon vultures and eagle chick high up on a cliff face.
Iconic Monastery in Kazbegi
On Saturday we headed to Russia. The border crossing was much easier than anticipated and the whole thing took one hour and 20 mins, including buying duty free gin. We had been expecting hours of hanging about, but there was virtually no queue (we arrived early – about 7.30am). The queues of trucks waiting to get through was something else however - 2km one way and 4km the other getting into Georgia. It must take them days.

So now we are in Pyatigorsk and having a luxury weekend at a swank hotel. We got a real bargain on and have a suite at the Bristol Spa. We are going to be roughing it pretty much from here on in, so we are having a treat. I think we deserve it!
Slumming it in Pyatigorsk

The weather is warm. We’ve had a few cracking thunderstorms, but so long as it’s warm we don’t care. Next stop Elista and 30 degrees. Can’t wait.

Tips for Travellers

The road to Tusheti is only for serious off-roaders. A Bimobil is not the vehicle for it with its high centre of gravity. The road is not usually open until June. Leave it unit late June, so you can avoid the big mobs of sheep. However if you start the road there is a wonderful picnic area where you can camp (no sheep), about 20 kms or so from the main road. The road that far is fine.

There is a wonderful spot along the Georgian Military Highway just north of Gudauri near an abandoned building. Just behind the building is an old airstrip, so you have hard standing and amazing views. A peaceful spot.
N 42.4928
E 44.4627

Juta in Sno Valley has a small carpark you can park for the night.

Nunu’s guesthouse in Kazbegi has a grass yard you can park in. We slept in our camper, but of course she has beds. Basic but good.

Camping along the highway

A common modification in Georgia

This car just gave up - we saw this a few times!

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