The road to Mestia was very very bad and extremely exhausting. But there were some amazing sights and situations on the way there. I stopped at a very old obsolete metal hang bridge and I climbed a defense tower that was under construction. Also there were a lot of stones and snow on the road from recent rock slides and melting snow.
That the ride was exhausting became clear when I wanted to go look for a place to sleep. I drove into a little forest road with snow on it. It was quite hard to get through and at some point Brutus started sliding to the right. I heard a sort of “CRONK” sound and then we stopped. “Oh fuck…” I went out to take a look and it wasn’t good. A big branch made a motherfucker of a dent in my side panel and ripped out my indicator light on the right side. I guess shit happens but I learned that I shouldn’t drive into a forest while having been battered by bad roads anymore. I found a big branch and bent some of the metal back so that the indicator would fit again. The rest of the way was just sitting out the bumpy ride to a hostel I had checked out before. Fuck it, no night in nature this time. The hostel (Ruso and Robi) was ok but the woman who owns it was quite pushy and kept trying to serve me food. I read online that she would do that and ask for a lot more money afterwards so I didn’t accept any. I had a good night sleep. In the morning I got some tea and when I wanted to leave she still wanted 10 more lari than we agreed. She didn’t get it this time.
I went to a restaurant (Laila) in the center of Mestia and had breakfast. This is a very nice relaxed place to hang out for a while. After that I went for a walk up a hill. I wanted to reach a top with a cross on it and tried 2 routes. I didn’t manage to get there. Too much snow and the hill was just too steep. Nice view though. I went back to the restaurant after 5 hours of trying to reach the top. There I had some dinner, and also a few beers after some Australians / English / Irish people joined my table. We had nice talks and they confirmed the owner and crew’s tip that I should drive to Ushguli, even though the roads would probably be snowy and icy. At 12 they closed and I went to my car which stood in the center of town. Too many beers to move it around so I decided I would just sleep on the center square near the police station. It was a really quiet and relaxed night. I kept the car warm by just letting the engine run a few times (the heater is still broken).
Wednesday I woke up, went to the restaurant for some breakfast. There are no small portions in Georgia, so I got half of it wrapped for lunch and started driving towards Ushguli. In the beginning the road was actually quite good, but after 5 kilometers or so the concrete just stopped and it would be 40 km of gravel, sludge and puddles. A very bumpy and slippery ride, but the scenery was just breathtaking. Totally worth busting everything up for. Brutus handled it like a champ!
The village was a mix of extremely old towers and houses mixed with some freshly built guest houses. A lot of cows, horses and a bunch of friendly dogs. It was hard to find a “parking spot” so I asked if I could just place Brutus near a barn and that was ok. I went for a walk through town until I met one of the locals. We had a little chat in reasonable English until I asked who owns the towers in town. She said that the one I was pointing at was her (…family’s) tower and that she would call her brother who could let me in. So 10 minutes later I climbed the tower from around 1200 in the center of town and took a few pictures.
The way back to Mestia was touch again. And near the end of the trip it became pretty late and the road started freezing over again because of the melting water. It was mostly fine because I took it really easy, but still at some point Brutus started beeping and I made a 180 on the road. I didn’t hit anything and stopped sliding quite soon. After this I decided to take it even more easy and made it back without any more incidents.
Again I stayed the evening at the restaurant and went to my car to sleep quite early so I could start driving early in the morning. I managed 8:30 and drove all the way to the Katskhi column, a 50 meter high piece of rock with a monastery on it. iOverlander pointed me to a spot near the monastery which turned out absolutely fantastic to camp. There were stones arranged to make a campfire and I found some ok firewood nearby. Also took a small hike to take a look at the monastery. “Only for monks”. Too bad, but I could make some pictures in the small museum next to it.
The rest in Georgia part III