Mar 24

Holy Hill (Destination: Stepantsminda, Georgia)

Wed, Nov 20, 2013

It was hard to get up early after a late night last night, but we had breakfast and departed Tbilisi. We were driving north towards the Russia (Chechnya) border. First, we stopped at Ananuri monetary, which was on the shores of a large reservoir.

There were so many dogs hanging out there and chasing around anyone that had a bag. We also saw a big Georgian country traffic jam – there were dozens of cows and sheep, a few donkeys, a couple shepherds, a cop car, and a couple semi-trucks all on the same bridge.

We continued our drive with spectacular mountain scenery and drove thru a large ski resort town which is currently devoid of snow. The temps are cool enough but the first big storm of the season hasn’t hit yet.

Just after the ski town, we stopped at a circular mural overlooking the mountains and a waterfall. It is Overlanding tradition to drive the truck into the circle and get a group photo of everyone in or on the truck.

Over half of the group were on the roof of the truck and after the photos were taken, tragedy struck. I heard a scream and a thud on the cement. Helen, one of our driver/guides, had slid off the top of the truck and landed on the cement. I was one of the first ones there and it was a scary scene – she was moaning and seizing and there was a small amount of blood coming out of her ear. Luckily, we had our doctor and three nurses on board that provided emergency assistance as our local guide called the ambulance. Before the ambulance could arrive, she had been warmed up and given oxygen. She was walking and talking. The doctor had inspected her and determined there were no broken bones but she was still in need of observation at a hospital. The ambulance took her away to a small hospital in the small city we were heading to for the night, about 30 Km away. Everyone was so happy that it wasn’t worse and we were all shaken. With the fall being over 12 feet onto cement it could have been very bad. We are hoping for good news soon.

As we continued towards town, there was a huge white calcium deposit on one of the mountain sides. It looked like icicles.

We arrived into the town of Kazbegi and checked into our interesting accommodation for the night. We were staying at a University’s “Alpine Ecology Institute”. The ground floor had a kitchen, dining hall, conference rooms, and labs while the 2nd and 3rd floor were dorm rooms. I’m not sure why the students aren’t here right now, but it’s a good place to stay for the night.

After checking in, I set off to hike up the big hill to the Gergeti Trinity Holy Church. The hike was very steep. This was my most strenuous hike since Kyrgyzstan, over a month ago. We’re around 2000 meters elevation so the altitude also impacted me. I was glad I had my hiking poles – the first time they’ve been out since Kyrgyz too. It was a good hike with great views and the reward was the beautiful church with the snow of the mountains behind. I then hiked down the hill. I took the shortcut walking path half of the way but tired of the steep gravel so I took the car road the rest of the way, arriving back at the dorms after dark.


We had dinner provided in the accommodation and there we heard news about Helen. She was doing OK but her back was sore. She is being transferred to a larger hospital in Tbilisi where she can have brain and spinal scans. There’s no news on if or when she will rejoin the trip.

Steps: 23,578

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