Part I - Discovering your Limitations
Ok, I’ve lived here in Georgia long enough now without filing any real trip reports. I put some pics in a post about a trip we undertook in October, but that doesn’t count, and you know what – the nature here in Georgia deserves better (and to avoid any confusion – that means Georgia, the country in the South Caucasus, not the state in the US)! So here is a report of two overnighters separated by about two months – which allows for some comparative observations of nature awakening.
(Does two one-nighters count as a two-nighter? What if they’re separated by two months – does it make a really long trip, as you can observe nature’s changes? Why are we here on this great big planet?)
I had been doing some research about possibilities to get out and about with my hammock for some time. Georgia hosts the more magnificent part of the Caucasus range, which, to be honest, makes the Alps look like foothills. Ok, that’s not honest, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s just how I express myself. However, that being a bit over the top for short excursions (which is all I have time for with my job), and also not being a mountaineer, I looked for lower-hanging fruits – better described as lower-lying forests. There are a number of national parks in the country, as well as forested areas. Most of which is wholly underdeveloped for hiking or any kind of tourism that involves getting out in nature. At least compared to what one is used to from those Alps or any country where being outdoors is a medium-to-big thing. But the flip side of the coin is that that makes it wilder too!
Given my time budget, I one day started paying special attention to a nature reserve pretty much starting at the edge of town (that town being Tbilisi, the capital). Tbilisi National Park it’s called, and on google maps it seemed to be pretty much a big forest. Playing around with google maps and google earth, I soon discovered a very weird and intriguing formation in the hills. At least from the satellite point of view. Furthermore, I noticed that there was a main road leading up to a village at a pass to the west of it, and what looked like a network of forestry roads criss-crossing the hills, and just maybe making a fairly comfortable hike from that village to the formation possible, to have a look for myself.
Doesn’t that look like something you’d wanna see irl?
A long weekend came up in March, and I decided on the morning of the second day to have a go. Of course, true to my habit, I got up, tinkered, drank coffee, tinkered, had breakfast, tinkered, started packing, tinkered, and then loaded the car up and went. I was a little apprehensive at first, as one of the drivers at work upon hearing of my grand plan got eyes about as big as dinner plates and said, almost whispering “tam volki..” which is Russian for “there are wolves there…”. But putting on a brave face I convinced him (and more importantly myself) that they are more afraid of me than I am of them, so I would be fine.
Reaching the village, I did encounter what indeed could have passed for wolves.. two dogs that were very protective of their houses found holes in the fencing and came after me.. one came within a decimetre of biting my foot until I stood my ground and made as if I was going to hit them. That was something they knew, because that made them shy away instantly… There’s a particular breed of dog here in the region – which is the size of a horse and with a vicious temper – that shepherds use to protect their herds up in the mountains. I think that one of them was at least a cross of this breed.
After that small altercation, I went about my way following a forestry road up into the woods. This connected to an ancient road that once had had asphalt on it, which I followed for about 100 meters, before entering into the bushwhacking.. I had looked at google earth extensively, and come up with a plan that I should follow the southernmost ridge line, and this would bring me to the formation. Easy enough. Behind your desk. I started making my way through young trees, some breed of ground-growing plant that had really long vines with tiny thorns on them, and climbing the hills. Some steeper than others, but relentlessly going upwards. I had, also true to my habit, packed my backpack waaaay too heavy, because I wanted to bring all kinds of luxury items, such as meat to grill in the evening. By the end of the first hour I was already feeling exhausted..
Alright, I might be a weakling, but isn’t that hill STEEP?
In between the most serious bushwhacking, a game trail seemed to follow the ridge line. This was very welcome, as it somehow felt that I wasn’t the only one stupid enough to try to follow it (even though the next smartest animal would be a wolf or a fox), and it also gave some direction through the woods. Not that it would have been possible to go anywhere else though – the sides were steep!
Easy enough to maintain direction..
It was very cool how the south side had no snow, and the north side plenty, with the game trail running through it like a crease in a folded paper. On the south side, spring flowers had started coming out, but at the same time it was clear that winter hadn’t quite let go yet.. and up here, apparently it could be windy too..
Winter fruits (..?)
The view to the side of the crease..
About this time, it started becoming clear to me that days are short. Especially for those of us who tend to sleep in and procrastinate in the mornings.. I realised there wasn’t a chance in hell if my life depended on it that I would make it to that formation this day. The climbing had just been too challenging, together with the bushwhacking and the heavy pack. I guess not all things can be found out before a computer screen! The sun was low in the sky and I decided to look for a camp site. I found one with a decent view, and went about collecting firewood. I enjoyed the fire in the winter sunset, and when it was time to go to bed, I could see the lights of Tbilisi in the distance. Amazing how such places are right around the corner from where you live, and I was absolutely alone up there.
I woke up to a beautiful day after a good night’s sleep. I was slow getting up though, just enjoying the view from the hammock with a cup of coffee.
Well ok, more than a cup.. more like a whole pot.. I realised that it was winter, I was short on supplies, most importantly water, and I wasn’t taking any chances, so I decided to hike back to the car. I would have to find another day to finish the trek to that formation.
I’ll be back..