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GEORGIA

“Happiness is continuing to want what you have.”

Saint Augustin

Here, we are like at home. The big rocky peaks and huge mountains remind us a bit of Switzerland.

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Mazeri Waterfalls

In the valley that leads from Jvari to Mestia, during the summer there are plenty of possibilities for hiking. In winter, the region becomes a real paradise to starve them for white powder. The valley is surrounded by many high peaks which have been attracting travelers of all kinds for many years now. This is how the Meastia region has become a must-see place in Georgia.

 

Going up this valley, we decided to stop near Mazeri to leave, on foot, to discover the waterfalls of Shdugra. It is a very nice hike to do over 4 hours, which suits us perfectly after a morning of driving on roads whose condition leaves something to be desired.

Chaladi Glacier

The Chaladi Glacier is a few kilometers from Mestia. We imagine being able to take out our crampons and ice axes to do a glacier walk there, but we could not find any information as to its condition and do not know if it is practicable. It is therefore with the intention of examining the surface of the glacier that we do the relatively easy hike that leads from the Mestiachala River to the foot of the Mer de Glace.

 

The hike runs along a river. On the first kilometers of walking, we cross a magnificent luxuriant forest then a rocky plain. Arriving at the glacier, the view is magnificent. However, we note that its surface is very crevassed and that there is a risk of falling rocks. We therefore find it wiser not to venture there.

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Koruldi Lakes

The excursion to the Koruldi lakes is one of those outings that should not be missed. Despite the existence of a track, it is nevertheless impossible to get there with a standard vehicle. Only "real" well-raised 4x4s can hope to cross the climb that leads to the lakes. With our van, it's a waste of time and we don't even try to get started.

 

In Mestia it is possible to find taxi drivers with adapted vehicles. After some negotiations, we find one who agrees to take us there tomorrow morning, at sunrise, for 250 Leva, the equivalent of CHF 80.-. For that price, it will also wait for us while we hike above the lakes.

Stunning view of the mountains

From the Koruldi lakes, our goal is to climb to the top of a ridge from where we will have a breathtaking view of the Chalaadi glacier. From there we will climb to a 3325m peak which is just below the famous Ushba peaks which are 4710m above sea level.

 

The view there is breathtaking. The glacier is partially hidden by the clouds which makes the atmosphere magical.

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Murkmeli and Ushguli

These two typical villages of the Georgian Caucasus mountains are located at an altitude of 2100m. The easiest way to get there is to take a 13 km motorable road, starting from Mestia.

 

Historically, to participate in the defense of the villages, the houses are equipped with a stone tower. While strolling there, we see an old lady milking her cows by hand and locals who ride horses, because it is their main means of transport. We also see a gentleman butchering one of his sheep right in his garden. These are completely normal scenes here, but which for us would come out of another era.

Georgia's Famous Roads

In Georgia, if you have to remember one thing, it is that the roads are in poor condition and to be able to drive there, it is advantageous to have a 4x4. Between the bumps, the holes, the gays to cross, where even bits of road which fall, it is not an easy task to circulate in the country.

 

However, these roads provide access to regions offering breathtaking views of glaciers, peaks over 5000m, expanses of green forests and rivers.

 

We took different tracks including the Shkhara pass and the Zagaro pass, sporty roads, but passable with our vehicle. We still wanted to try the trails in the Tusheti valley, but it is, it seems, even more technical.

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The great luxury at the Hotel Stamba

We arrive in the capital of Tbilisi, which is a capital that strongly resembles European cities. It is very lively with its trendy bars, numerous restaurants and countless tourist attractions. There are some really cool hostels, including one we would highly recommend, the Fabrika.

 

If there is a hotel not to be missed, it is the Stamba hotel. As we visit the city, it's my birthday and Sevan offers me a night in this very special hotel. It is a former publishing house transformed into a hotel. All over the building there are vestiges of its past, including presses, newspaper rails and more than 80,000 books scattered throughout the hotel. The styles chosen for the renovation and redevelopment of the former printing house are a mix between the industrial minimalism of the building and vintage furnishings from the 70s.

 

Our room is incredible with its atypical style, its huge library and above all its large golden bathtub which sits in the middle of the room. It's high class.

Trinity Church of Guérguetie

Upon our arrival in Stephansminda, we drive to the Trinity Church of Guergetia (one of the most visited sites in the country). We hope to be able to go on a mountain bike trip there. Unfortunately, contrary to the information found on the internet, the route we want to take is not possible by mountain bike.

 

Up there, the view is nevertheless just splendid and there are many hikes starting from this church.

Chaukhi Pass (Juta)

Upon our arrival in the small village of Juta, we discover a green and wild valley. Apart from loose horses, cows and a few hikers, we are alone in the world.

 

It is not a valley with high snow-capped peaks like we have seen in other places in Georgia. Here there are large rocky peaks that clearly stare at us. They call them the Dolomites of Georgia.

 

Walking along the chaukhi river, we admire these magnificent landscapes which lead us to the foot of a lake which is just in front of the famous peaks that we want to climb.

The chaouki stop

This stop race had been eyeing me for a long time. We had the chance to meet Lukas, a traveler friend who agreed to dog-sit us during our outing.

 

We all wake up around 6am to go up the Chaukhistskali river. Lukas goes his own way with Lucky and his dog. We are attacking the climb in the corridor that will take us to the top of the ridge. The latter turns out to be extremely rough with fairly disintegrated rock.

 

Arrived at the stop, the situation improves very strongly and we can again move forward at a "normal" pace. The landscape and sublime and we really take our foot.

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Mount Kazbek 5047 m

It's the big day, we are going to climb to the top of Mount Kazbek which is 5047 m above sea level. Lukas our German friend joins us for the outing. His girlfriend, she prefers to stay in the vans and can keep our lulu.

 

Until the base camp, we have to climb about 1800 m of unevenness with well loaded bags. We arrive at a first glacial tongue which is at an altitude of 3250 m. To cross it, we have to put on our crampons, our helmet, take our ice ax and rope ourselves.

 

Once the glacier has been crossed, we still have a few kilometers to go to the base camp at 3850 m altitude. We install our tent and we do not delay before going to bed.

 

The next morning, we start the climb at 3 am. Headlamps on,  we equip ourselves for the glacier and we leave for 1200 m of altitude difference to the summit.

 

Our last meters before arriving are rough. It's cold, but we keep the rhythm and we arrive at the top, the first!! We ring the bell that marks our arrival at the top of Kazbek. We take advantage of our solitude before the next groups arrive.

Turso valley

The Truso valley is a magnificent and wild valley. It is accessible only by a 4x4 road. As is often the case in Georgia, cows, horses and other livestock roam freely here. With a little imagination, the landscapes give us the impression of being in a western or in a Mongolian step. Here live mainly herders and Orthodox monks. With the exception of a campsite and a restaurant run by these monks, there is no infrastructure for visitors.

 

We decide to take out our mountain bikes and continue exploring the valley by pedal. The more we sink into it, the more the landscapes that are offered to us fascinate us.

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Rainbow Mountain

Near the capital Tbilisi, in the Kakheti region, it is possible to discover some famous colorful mountains. In the company of other traveling friends, we land at the edge of a lake surrounded by these magnificent rainbow hills.

Urbex de Chiatura

Urbex, or urban exploration, is an activity which consists of visiting built but abandoned places. The town of Chiatura, like many other sites in the rest of Georgia, is very suitable for this exploration of another kind. Indeed, in this mining town, there is a magnificent train station, with its old locomotives, an old football field, a gondola and even an abandoned cable car that you can “visit”. Even if these places are no longer in use today, we still feel all the energy linked to their function in the past.

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Urbex of Tskaltubo

The town of Tskaltubo is another of those places in Georgia that lends itself perfectly to the practice of Urbex. Indeed, following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1993, many hotels and sanatoriums were abandoned there. They form a sort of open-air museum. These buildings no longer have any tenants, with the exception of a few refugees from Abkazia who came to take refuge there following the conflicts that broke out in their region. 

 

In this photo you can see  the Médée sanatorium which, during its best years, served as a balneotherapy center welcoming patients suffering from circulatory, nervous, musculoskeletal, gynecological and skin diseases.

Gelati Monastery

Not far from the town of Kutaissi, we discover the Ghélati monastery which is located above the town. When we arrive there, the sun is slowly setting and the light is just magnificent. The monastery has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994.

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