I’m the kind of person who likes to talk a lot about doing things, rather than actually doing them. I preach about hiking and how wholesome it is, yet every time I’m on a walk, I ask myself why I’m torturing myself.
The mountainous region of Svaneti is a hikers paradise, with plenty of trails to choose from. However the most famous walk, is a 4 day trek from Mestia to Ushguli, which takes you through tiny townlets in the mountains and breathtaking scenery.
They forgot to include in the guidebook the difficulty level for your average lass with a heavy ass backpack: extreme
Because my logic ocassionally fails me, I didn’t think twice about the baggage problem. Leaving my 15Kg backpack behind? Nah, course not. I’ll just take it with me up the mountains. For four days. Straighteners included.
So here goes…
Day 1: Mestia to Zabheshi
Breaking in my boots, and taking it slowly but surely. We met friendly faces of other hikers who we would be meeting up with for four days. (Lots of Israelis.. apparently 70% of tourists in Georgia come from Israel, cause they’ve got some Hebrew Ryanair thing going on).
Despite a few steep climbs, we enjoyed the picturesque streams, and the company of a dog who tagged along with us until the end.
According to the guidebook, at the very end of Day 1 there is a bridge that leads into town. So it was news to us when some passing locals started yelling at us that the bridge had been washed away by floods last week… ideal.
A very gruesome hour and a half later, which involved some rock climbing and a cow pass -meaning narrowly avoiding herds that were trotting through led by Georgian cowboys riding bareback on horses – we arrived at Zabheshi.
Day 2: Zabheshi to Aidishi
Started off by trying to find a market where we could buy food and water. Turns out the “market” was in some woman’s living room, and the “groceries” were a choice between Snickers or Mars bars.
Walk started off by being chased by a stray dog, and being waved off by children.
Eased into the mountain, as usual watching our fellow hikers comment on our bags, with a slightly concerned look on their faces.
When we finally arrived to the town (totally remote and with only 8 families living there), we came across a guesthouse where for a couple of pennies we were cooked the most delicious homemade meal we’ve has to date. We then camped by the river under the star-lit sky.
Day 3: Aidishi to Iprali
The dialogue with the other hikers the night before went something like this:
“Good luck tomorrow, have you already rented your horses?”
“You know, the horses. that you need to cross the glacial water”
“There’s glacial water?”
“Yeah. Your other option is getting to the river just before sun rise, so that the glacier hasn’t melted”
….yet despite our best efforts, we rocked up to the river at 10am. The river was pulsing.
How cold could it be?
I dipped my toes in, and immediately started crying. Chris, who had already crossed it and was nursing his practically frostbitten feet.
In a frenzy to prevent a complete breakdown, he then crossed back over to collect my bags, and then did it once more to collect me.
In total he crossed it 5 times, just to get me across.. til this day I’m making up for it!
Day 4 – Iprali to Ushguli
The point of the whole walk was reaching the UNESCO world heritage townlet called Ushguli, renown for its Svan towers, remote population and surreal landscapes.
The last day was a short and easy 3 hour walk, following a dirt-track.
Although the town was indeed impressive and picturesque, the end was a bit anti-climatic and rather soulless: tourism had taken over its authenticity. Nonetheless it was a meaningful moment, marking the end of a challenging journey with awe-inspiring landscapes.