Camping Trip to Racha Region

                              May 2-3, 1999

Last week-end I went with four Georgians, an Australian and an Uzbek on a camping trip in a remote river valley in central Georgia. Saturday we drove four hours to Sachkhere and shopped for food at the bazaar. While the Georgians shopped I found some Khachapuri (cheese pastry) and cake for lunch -- Georgians don't eat lunch.

Then we drove up a steadily deteriorating dirt road, crossing several streams as we approached the top of a beautiful canyon. Our goal was to find a small lake where we could camp and some of the party would go fishing. Our directions were failing us and it was at least a half hour drive back to the previous house, but suddenly a man walked by showed us which trail to follow. After a one hour hike we found the lake. Nobody caught any fish but there was a fine campsite on a sandbar where the stream entered the lake. We had a typical Georgian camping meal: tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese, lots of bread and beef and pork barbecued on a stick (like a shiskebab with only meat). Plus lots of wine and vodka.

Sunday morning we went back to the cars to try to find a larger lake created by an earthquake four years which caused massive landslides which killed 45 people in one village but also dammed up a stream and created a large lake.

We followed another road which finally got too bad for the other car to drive on as we went from one village to the next looking for a friend of one of the Georgians who would show us to the lake. Finally we found him. He had a flat tire so we went to a nearby village where somehow he got a spare, then we drove it back to his car then took one volunteer from his group (they were cutting stakes for his grapes that next fall will be wine), returned to the rest of our group and then hiked up a roaring stream. Some of the group crossed the stream on a log but I waded across. We hiked for a couple of miles up the valley, much of the time on land that had obviously slid down from the mountains above us. We got to the lake (again no fish) and marvelled at the mountains surrounding us. They seemed to be made of gravel, but they were as steep as any of the Rocky Mountains. I don't know what holds them up!


We hiked back to the village, arriving just in time to be invited to a typical Georgian "table". We sat and ate and drank for hours. There were many, many toasts, all very serious and heart-felt. To Georgia, to peace, to women, to children, to love, to the dead. And each toast is a lengthy speech. I limited myself to a couple of glasses of wine because I was driving.

At 8:00 I explained to Archili that since we had a six hour drive to get home we should be leaving soon. He pointed to a huge vat of wine on one of the tables and explained that it would be extremely rude to leave before the wine was gone! So at 10:45 we began the six hour drive back to Tbilisi. Nobody could help me drive because they had been drinking so much. I don't think USAID got their money's worth from me on Monday!


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