Friday, May 18, 2018

Mt. Kazbek Yes, Ushguli No.

I swear I didn't want to go on that so-called "exciting" jeep ride, via treacherous terrain, all rocks and mud, up the mountain, just to see a monastery. Oh, and a breathtaking view of the Caucasian mountains. But I did, and lived to tell the tale, so here I am.

Destination: Gergety Trinity Church (and monastery)
I think I was nervous because of several horror stories (i.e., news items) within the past few years that told of Israelis who were badly injured, or even killed, on that or other treacherous roads in Georgia. One woman fell off a horse. One family's ATV overturned and crashed; and I was sure I read about one young woman who went flying out of the rock-bouncing jeep; but I googled it and couldn't find any evidence of such a story.

Be that as it may, when the moment came, and I saw the laid-back, been-around-the-block (or around-the-mountain) driver, not to mention the line of muddy vehicles that were on their way back from the top of the mountain, I just got on board. And tightened my seat-belt. Despite Mr. Driver's assurance that "it wasn't necessary".

It was a very rocky ride, to put it mildly. As the so-called "road" climbed higher, the mud got deeper, and scattered ATVs around us were furiously changing gears and attempting to make way. My Fitbit can attest that my pulse was far higher than normal.
But eventually we reached the top of the mountain. It was darn cold. Low, grey clouds and mist enveloped everything. Freezing rain welcomed us. Our shoes were soon wet and muddy. It took me a good while before I remembered I had an Outdoor Research hat in my backpack...Though meant as a sun-hat, it did a good job of protecting my head from the rain:
Nina on top of Ol' Kazbek
As you can see above, I am more-or-less dressed for hiking. There were girls around me, though, who were shivering in their fashionably-torn-to-shreds jeans, stylish shoes with cutesie ankle socks, with neither a hat nor a scarf.

View from the top of the mountain

Scattered ATVs beneath
To be honest, I have only a foggy memory of the significance of this Trinity Church. But nothing can take away from me the memory of that mountain. Also, looking back, I don't think that ATV ride was any more dangerous than several other roads we've been on. The winding road from Zugdidi to Mestia, say, is much longer, requires super-concentration on the part of the driver, and strong nerves... And the road from Mestia to Ushguli, too, is known for its intimidating nature. But two such bumpy rides were enough for me; especially since I do not intend to stay more than 2 days in Mestia and cannot afford a private helicopter to get me out of here :-) 
So I'm leaving the wondrous Ushguli to you guys! One last tip:
Do not adopt a macho attitude, do not attempt to drive that route yourselves, do not even think of using anything but a reliable 4x4. 

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