Step 1: Getting to the border – hitchhiking to Armenia
After spending 1 month in Georgia, it was time to start hitchhiking to Armenia. We were sad to leave a country full of friendly people, and unforgettable scenery, but we also had to move out of what was quickly becoming our comfort zone.
Onwards and upwards.
Following the hitchwiki instruction guide, we took a bus to a Georgian town in the outskirts of Tbilisi, where after some negotiations, managed to convince a taxi to take us to the border for a few pennies. We were pretty excited, even though the border looked like any other except there was hardly anyone around.
It was the easiest land border crossing I’ve ever been to. The guard hardly glanced at our passports before giving us a toothy smile, welcoming us to Armenia.
“You are hitchhiking in Armenia?” He asked, staring at our backpacks, “very good”
Step 2: The first hitchhiking experience in a new country
Hitchhiking to Armenia had been successful. Our spirits were high, but not for long. It soon became clear that hitchhiking in Armenia was not the child’s play it had been in Georgia. No one was stopping for us, except the odd taxi. But even after a couple of hours, we were determined to make it work.
After a quick lunch of instant noodles by the side of the road, we got lucky- or so we thought. A man finally stopped for us. In our best Russian-Armenian dialect we tried to convey that we wanted to go on to the next town.
We were therefore confused, when 45 minutes later, we had been dropped off by a beautiful monastery, in a totally abandoned hillside. Before we could say anything, our Mr Driver had driven off. Great. I really needed to work on my language skills. Still, since we were already here, we might as well have a peak at the monastery in front of us. After all, Armenia is the first country to have adopted Christianity as national religion.
As the only travelers (perhaps ever?!) to come into the monastery, the priest gave us a small talk about it. Turns out it was Akhtala Monastery, Armenia’s only monastery (and it does have over 500..) to contain colored frescoes. And they were marvelous.
Outside the church was a monument commemorating the Armenian genocide, where over 800,000 people died.
The genocide has caused severe frictions in the country’s international relations, particularly with Turkey and Azerbaijan who do not recognise it as a genocide. Indeed, the tragedies it endured has been glossed over in history, partly due to its timing with the outbreak of the First World War. However, the Armenians bear the scars of the genocide to this day.
Step 3: Finding a place to camp
After our unexpected introduction to Armenia, we left the monastery and began the walk downhill into the night. After a couple of Km’s under ominous grey skies, we finally managed to hitchhike into the town of Alaverdi. Alaverdi means “city of green”, so we looked upon it in dismay to see it was basically a…. hole. We had no choice but to call it a night, so we pitched by the side of the road just in time before the rain came pouring down.
Hitchhiking to Armenia had been successful, but our first impressions were mixed. What awaited us for the rest of our journey? Stay tuned.