Another long day traveling as we continue our quest to be captured by the Russians as we hike and photograph the dramatic mountains along the Russian/Georgian border. Ok, we aren’t really concerned about our security, although history has told us that “annexation” by the Russians (as they call it) is not uncommon in this part of the country. The area in the far northwestern portion of the country is under Russian control, yet technically still part of the Republic of Georgia. Our tour guide was born there and she and her family are not permitted to cross into the region! But that’s a history lesson for another time.
Around 9:00am we left our very comfortable hotel (a Best Western) located across the Rioni River from the beautiful old town in Kutaisi, where we had dinner last evening. We first drove up into the hills to visit the Gelato Monastery, one of the first monasteries in Georgia. It was founded in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia as a monastic and educational center, and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
We then headed northwest, then north and eventually east to the town of Zugdidi, where we had lunch. By the time we finished lunch it was about 1:30 and it was lightly raining, as it was for most of the morning. We soon started to gain in elevation as we twisted and turned on the two-lane road that lead to our destination, the ski/ resort town of Metsia, another 5 hours away. Along the way, we stopped at the Enduri Dam, the third largest concrete arch dam in the world, at 272.5 meters high.
From here the terrain became even more dramatic, with very steep, rugged slopes covered in lush green vegetation, a totally different environment than the Colorado Rockies back home. The road switched back and forth from pavement to gravel (and mud in some spots) and looking down into the steep ravines from our outside lane was a little scary at times. We stopped at a point where the river was gushing through the narrow ravine and the enormity of the mountain range and the severe terrain became clear.
Much to our surprise, Mestia turned out to be a lively resort town filled with hikers and others ready to enjoy the weekend festivities and mountain air. We checked into out hotel, the new wing of the Posta Hotel and had dinner a few hours later. I’m not expecting a quiet, peaceful evening, since my very nice modern room is located right above the band playing loud raucous music(?) for who knows how long on this Saturday night.
A 90% chance of rain has required us to switch around our hiking schedules. We will spend time in the morning touring the town and then take a 2-3 hour hike in the afternoon. Hopefully the following two days will reward us with more suitable hiking weather.