Camping in Tedzami Canyon Ė May, 1998

I saw an advertisement in the newspaper from a travel agent offering week-end camping trips to various parts of Georgia. I called them up and said that I would like to go on one of their trips. They asked me where I would like to go and described three trips and I chose one not far from Tbilisi that would explore a gorge and a monastery. I didnít realize that I would be their only customer that week-end!

Starting on our Way
Tenth Century Bridge
Seventh Century Rkoni Monastery

On Saturday morning I was met at my apartment by my guide, his interpreter and a driver. We headed on the highway west from Tbilisi for almost an hour then started up some dirt roads through very small villages. As we got further from the highway the road deteriorated. Several times we had to drive across streams and the driver wasn't overly confident, but we made it.

Eventually we arrived at a clearing by the side of the road where there was a small footbridge to cross the river. I had my tent, sleeping bag and clothes in my small backpack while the guide and the interpreter stuffed plastic bags filled with food, cooking gear and who knows what else into their rucksacks. I took some food, but they were still carrying gear in plastic bags.

We walked along a very clear path until we came to an arched stone bridge that was built in the tenth century. It was a long way down to the river and the bridge had no sides. It was probably six feet wide but it sure seemed narrower than that as I crossed it.

After about an hour we came to the Rkoni monastery. There was a small chapel built in the seventh century and the ruins of many other buildings scattered around. Inside were candles that recent visitors had left behind.

After the monastery the trail gradually became less distinct until it disappeared. We kept hiking through the woods on the side of the river until the walls of the gorge closed in on it and there was no room left on either side. Then we started walking on the rocks in the river or climbing along the rock walls of the gorge. Somehow I stayed dry and we got to a spot where the valley widened a bit and our guide announced that this was our campsite.

We put up the tents. I was happy to have my little nylon tent. Theirs was made of heavy canvas and required them to cut poles from small trees. Their blankets also weighed a ton. Now I understood why their packs were so bulky and heavy. Then we explored the canyon for a while. They built a huge campfire. After it had burned down they used the coals to barbecue some very tender pork. We also had tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cheese, bread and wine. I didnít realize then that this is the standard Georgian picnic, whether camping out or stopping by the side of the road in your car.

The next morning after breakfast we took off to explore some of the hills surrounding the canyon. First we had to hike back downstream a bit, then we went steeply up the side of the valley. We saw lots of woods before there was any sign of civilization at all. It was cloudy and misty, so the views were limited, but it was very pretty country. My guide knew the way to one spectacular waterfall that didnít even have a trail going to it.

Trying to Stay Dry in Tedzami Canyon Waterfall

After lunch we were circling back toward our campsite when we came across some men watching a few sheep and then we saw the ruins of some stone houses. Suddenly we heard thunder and it started to pour rain. Fortunately it was a warm afternoon because we were very wet by the time we got back to our campsite.

Just Before the Rain Came
The Guide Succeded in Building a Fire in the Rain

The wood was all very wet but the guide was able to get a fine fire started. We had a repeat of yesterdayís dinner before we packed up to hike back to the road. We met the drive on the trail and he was pleased to report that he had borrowed a four-wheel drive car so that we would have an easier ride home. It was a fine introduction to camping in Georgia.