Friday, May 22, 2015

Wining and Dining in Kakheti

After leaving Armenia, we drove straight to Tbilisi for 3 days. Boris needed some routine maintenance done, so we stayed in a hostel. The weather was dismal. Rain, rain, more rain. The old city is interesting enough but 3 days was plenty.

Boris continues to attract interest everywhere in these parts. A customer at the Toyota dealership came over and said “I know it’s not polite, but may we look inside?”. We are happy to show people as they are genuinely  interested. The Toyota service workshop was brilliant. Let us know if you want more info.

On leaving Tbilisi we headed towards Kakheti – the wine growing region and a national park. The driving continues to be insane and we both have to drive. Me from the left-hand seat and Lawrence at the wheel. I keep an eye on the side mirror “maniac about to pass!”. The favourite manoeuvre is passing a car passing us!! Preferably on a bend. Lawrence thinks it’s a spatial awareness thing, I think it’s a death wish thing.

The sheep on are the move. Great mobs of them are being herded along the roads up to the high country for the summer, along with the stock horses and dogs that just amble about aimlessly. Not that you can buy lamb anywhere!!
Sheep! - and a few goats.
Dogs are everywhere, most of look fairly well fed, but some are definitely malnourished. I save all my meat scraps and leftovers for them. They are very grateful and mostly sweet natured. I of course want to adopt them all but, for some unfathomable reason, Lawrence doesn’t want a camper full of stray dogs.

We were camped near Telavi one night on the edge of the wine region when a car pulled up with people wanting to chat. Off they went, but returned with home made wine, homemade chacha (grappa) and some fruit juice stuff - just for the pleasure of being neighbourly. We drank the rosé style wine (from a cucumber jar) and it wasn’t bad!!
Cucumber Wine
Georgians are lovely, friendly, generous people (except behind the wheel of a car).

We spent 3 sunny, sunny days camped in the beautiful Lagodekhi national park. The weather was divine – at last. We did some walking and generally enjoyed being in the sun. The walk up to the waterfall was thwarted because the bridge had been washed away and the river was too fast and deep for me the brave (not to mention freezing). THAT’S how much rain there has been. I can’t tell what a pleasure it is to get up in the morning and put on shorts and a T-shirt, rather than the usual 4 layers. – sheer bliss.
Man vs Wild

This where the bridge was meant to be

We are currently staying in a winery hotel in Kakheti and managed to do some tasting. The wine is really interesting. Much of it is still fermented in Qvevry (no I can’t pronounce it either) - basically clay amphoras. They make a white wine that is fermented on the skins and left for 6 months. Most unusual.
Schuchman Winery
Our haul from Schuchman Winery

Shopping is an adventure here. There are lots of roadside stalls selling produce straight from the garden. Mainly it’s cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplant. Sometimes old ladies have been foraging in the forest and sell tree mushrooms either outside the market or at the roadside. They are absolutely delicious and make great mushroom soup with the thick lightly soured cream you can buy here. Eggs come in plastic bag – and they are FRESH. The meat is all free range – we know this as the damn animals are all over the road. It’s not the most tender meat but it is certainly tasty.

Butcher shops are scary and we avoid them. Meat is slaughtered by the roadside and refrigeration is rare. Today we braved one in the market before we head off to Tusheti tomorrow. We thought we saw something that looked like it could be cut into chops. No worries. Butcher gets out the axe and hacks it, so now we have 2 huge pieces of pork and no idea how to cook them!

We have just found out that the road to remote Tusheti is open. This is an area where time stands still, so remote that even the Soviets left them alone. Closed most of the year due to snow, they rarely see outsiders and not much changes. Should be an adventure. Road will be terrible of course.

If you don’t hear from us for a while – send out the search party!!

6th century Basilica - Kekheti

11th century Cathedral - Kakheti

Tips for would-be travellers.

Camping in Tbilisi is virtually impossible so a hostel is recommended.

I’m sure you can easily wild camp in the Kakheti wine region, we just chose to stay at Twins Old Winery Hotel. 48 euros per night including breakfast and free, fast WiFi. Dinner here is simple and cheap. Rooms are large and comfortable, and have a balcony. They also have a cheaper option.

The Lagodekhi National park is a fab place to camp. Secure and cheap. 5 lari per person per night.


Camping in Lagodekhi

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