Thurs, Nov 14, 2013
It took a couple hours of driving to the Azerbaijan/Georgia border. The Azeri official recognized the Odyssey Overland group since another group had just passed this border a couple weeks ago. He asked if the group was going to Armenia. Azerbaijan and Armenia hasn’t been on good terms since 1919 and there are some disputed borders between them such that a person can’t cross the border between these two neighbor countries. I was told not to mention that my plan is to jump off the tour at our last stop in Georgia and make a 5-day trip to Armenia on my own. The last week of the tour is alot of driving and 3 nights in Cappadocia where I visited only 2.5 years ago so I’m hopping off the tour in just over a week and will join them via a flight on the last day of the tour (November 30th).
We walked across a bridge to the Georgian border. It took only about half a minute for the official to look at my passport and stamp me into the country as he said “Welcome to Georgia.” Definitely the easiest border crossing of the trip. As we waited for the others to get stamped in, we were joking with one of the officials there and he gave us some tips for visiting Georgia:
* Don’t drink beer. You need to drink wine in Georgia
* Men like white wine and women like red wine. That’s because the red wine is heavy and you can only drink about 1/2 liter of it at one time. With white wine, you can drink 2 liters.
* You should drink 3 shots, not 4, of grappa every morning. The local name for grappa is “Cha-Cha.” This keeps you from getting viruses. (Grappa is a hard liquor made from grapes).
This was a great border. There were a few currency exchanges changing both Azeri Manat and US dollars at good rates. There were also several shops with ice cream bars and fancy wine bottles filled with Georgian wines. Our group created a run on ice cream. There were some huge bottles of wine, as well as ceramic bottles shaped like people. Linc scored a bottle with a picture of Stalin, who was born in Georgia.
We drove a short distance to the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve where we set up camp and had a late lunch of really fresh bread, feta cheese, and salami. Feta and salami is very cheap here so I have a feeling we’ll have alot of it – so yummy.
After lunch, I set off on a walk in the Nature reserve. There was a 7km hike to a waterfall so I tried to get there. However, after the trail narrowed and there was a small river crossing, and I did not have my flashlight/torch I decided not to venture too far. The walk was very nice – lovely fall colors and leaves falling all around me in the sunlight. Bruce and Robbie were on the trail so I joined them for the walk back to camp.
Gift giving is an important part of Georgian culture. Apparently if you tell a person that you like their scarf or hat, they will give it to you and you cannot refuse. Our local guide that joined the trip today, Zaza, gave the group a gift of 10 liters of homemade wine as a joining gift. It was very fruity. Dinner was chicken fajitas and we got some exciting news at dinner – Sam proposed to Mindy along the banks of the river and she said yes! Congratulations to them.
Fri, Nov 15
We didn’t have to leave until 10 am so I met Bruce, Judy, and Barb for an early morning walk into the nearby town to look at the interesting tin trim on the roofs. We picked some grapes at an obviously deserted house that were starting to rot on the vine. The grapes were so sweet and left us with very purple tongues. We had pancakes and stewed apples for breakfast.