|mountain view from our hotel|
|Caucasian Shepherd Dog|
We arrive extremely tired after a very busy and long day. But the hotel we are to stay in for two nights is a fabulous ski resort hotel with huge rooms, many on two levels, and all with varying views of the mountains around. Most people also have a balcony. I don't! There are already 6 coaches parked around the front of the hotel. But the hotel can cope admirably with these numbers. We are strictly too late for the evening meal but they have kept a table for us in the restaurant and there is a large buffet-style spread of what may be described as "international" food. This is the first time on our trip that we have not had traditional Georgian fare, and this is a shame. It is clear that the hotel caters for large groups from Austria, Germany, and the rest of Europe and in trying to please everyone ends up perhaps pleasing very few? Some go so far as to describe the food as "woeful." They certainly cater little for vegetarians. There was never a veggie option among the hot dishes and I always had to make the best I could from the salad buffet range. When I asked the serving staff for a "veggie" option I was offered pasta and potato - in all seriousness!! And they had not heard of gluten free or wheat free diets. I gave up on that one and brought my supply of rice cakes and oat cakes down to the dining room for each meal.
It must be said that I was getting a little tired of my continual diet of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and hard boiled eggs for both breakfast and supper! Never mind. We certainly don't have to go hungry, and the accommodation is superbly comfortable. and we certainly never go hungry.
|appalling litter at the Friendship Monument|
The itinerary for today tells us that "we walk up through beautiful valleys and woodland to Gergeti (or Trinity) Church, at 2170m." This makes it sound like a stroll, and does not in any way adequately prepare us for what lies ahead! Our guide, who is considerably younger and fitter than many of us, tells us to wear comfortable shoes, carry walking poles if we have them and for the ladies to wear skirts as the church/monastery is very traditional and trousers will definitely be frowned upon. It is a 2 1/2 hour climb up, we are told, to the highest Orthodox Church in the world. Coming down will take us just 1 1/2 hours (assuming we have the energy!).
|The Friendship Monument|
|Panoramic mountain view from the Friendship Monument|
|huge flocks of sheep are common here|
The sheep farmers here use horses to control the large flocks. The horses have very colorful saddles and make a pretty picture against the mountain back drop. Today must be sheep market day as we see many different flocks all being shepherded into one large enclosure, presumably in preparation for auction.
|the shepherd with his horse|
Leaving the monument, we climb to 2395 meters, the highest part of the pass we have been over. Our guide is disappointed that we cannot see the Kuzbegi mountain peak, covered in cloud. There can be up to 2 meters of snow up here in the winter and tunnels are built across the roads to help protect the roads from avalanches. The snow melts clearly bring down much debris, seen in the scree and large boulders along the road side. There are some fantastic geological formations, some resembling the basalt Giant Causeway in Eire. And big black birds of prey wheel high above us. We descend again towards Kazbegi and will soon be taking that walk "up through beautiful valleys and woodland to Gergeti (or Trinity) Church, at 2170m"….Many of us are hardly prepared for what is to come! ....