After the disappointment of Mestia, I was worried that all of Svaneti was going to be a let down for me. More than anything, I just wanted to get out of there. But I wasn't quite ready to give up (and wasn't looking forward to another marshutka ride back to Tbilisi), so I decided to go to Ushguli for one night. Ushguli is reportedly the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe at 2100m. Most people go to Ushguli as a day trip from Mestia. You can hire a Jeep for 150-200 lari ($75-100) to take 5-7 people there, wait for several hours while you walk around, and drive you back. Knowing this, I was afraid that Ushguli would turn out to be another half-finished Disney version of a Svan town and set my expectations very low.
The drive is a dusty, bumpy two-hour slog along an unpaved track filled with potholes and mud. I paid 30 lari for my share of a Jeep with 6 other strangers I met in the square, and happily left Mestia in the dust. The farther I got from Mestia, the more I smiled. The sunshine and the cool breeze off the river made it hard to stay in a funk. Even harder when a small dog with short legs (y'all know I love those stumpy-legged dogs) ran alongside our Jeep for a good 20 minutes - I swear he was grinning. Also, that tells you something about how fast we were moving...
|Views of Mt Ushba and some villages along the drive|
My driver helped me call the first guesthouse in the guidebook to see if they had a room, then kindly helped me carry my bag up the hill. As soon as we started climbing away from the bridge where all the Jeeps wait, I could feel the mood of the town change. The pace slowed. Cows ambled happily through the streets. Children yelled "gamarjoba!" as we passed their houses.
At Temraz and Lela's house, I got my own room! This was a pretty big deal - I'd been in hostel dorms for the first week, and at the guesthouse in Mestia they'd been so overrun with guests that they wound up sticking me in the same room as the caretaker of the hotel. (#solotravelerproblems) The window was open and a cool breeze was coming in from the meadow outside my window... I could feel all of the tension from the last few days start to melt away.
|view from my room|
In the morning I woke up thinking, "I should probably leave today," but by the time breakfast was over I was asking Lela if my room was available for another night. One day turned into three, and I might have stayed longer if there had been wifi to let people know where I was!
Those 3 days were spent hiking the trails near town, eating Lela's delicious meals, hanging out with the lovely Canadian and Israeli families that were also at the guesthouse, reading a lot, and soaking in the views of Mt Shkhara at least twice a day from the hill just above the house. It was the perfect place to regain my balance and my confidence.
|A traditional Svan musician|
Even the house dog was blissed out. He'd go out hiking with strangers each day, following them down the trail, and come bounding back through the gate in the afternoon to lay down for a nap in the sun.
If you go: I can't recommend Temraz and Lela's highly enough. It's clean, comfortable, and Lela is a great cook. She speaks a little English, and her daughter Maryam speaks quite well. Try to get a room with a window! 40 lari per person (~$17) with breakfast and dinner included. tel 790209719
Umm - wow! The photos are incredible! What mountain range is that? Also, that dog needs his own Instagram account. @UshguliPooch.ReplyDelete
Hahahaha of course you would think of that. The mountains are the Great Caucasus, which run along the border with Russia from the Black Sea to the Caspian (though Georgia is always trying to push that border further south...)ReplyDelete
Russia, not Georgia trying to move that border. Haven't had caffeine yet.ReplyDelete