Mt. Kazbegi and the Truso Valley

We rent a car for the next eighteen days. A Toyota Prius. It’s great on gas.

This is Uncle Joe. (The car, not me.)

Of course, driving here has its challenges. Like three quarters of the world, Georgians drive like crazed maniacs. Not to mention the hazard of animals roaming the road.

We take the Georgian Military Highway up to Stepantsminda.

Down below is a Soviet-era memorial to eternal Russian-Georgian friendship

Stepantsminda is dominated by Mt. Kazbegi, This is the view from our balcony.

That’s our balcony in the middle.

A more dramatic zoomed-in shot of Mt. Kasbegi. Gergeti Trinity Church sits in the foreground.

Prometheus was here (maybe)

We go for a stroll through town.

Next day, we hike into the Truso Valley, about twenty kilometres away.

Semi-abandoned villages are everywhere.

We begin walking at Kvemo Okrokana village, after driving a few kilometres down a shitty road from the highway.

‘Kvemo Okrokana’ means ‘Lower Golden Field’

I recently read Independent People, by Halldór Laxness. It’s about the hard life of peasants in early 20th-century Iceland. A large part of the book takes place in their ‘croft’, a turf-covered shack with a single tiny window and farm animals living in the bottom part.

This structure looks similar. Strange that peasant societies thousands of kilometres apart would share the same sort of habitation.

A bee and a butterfly share a thistle flower.

The walk starts out high above the river.

You can see snowy peaks in the distance.

Every now and then we come across decorative grave markers.

We stay hydrated.

How Deep in the Valley

We arrive at the mostly-abandoned village of Kitrisi.

This would sell for a few million in Toronto

We’re not sure exactly why so many of these villages are abandoned. Information can be hard to come by in Georgia.

This too

A convent lies further down the valley.

The convent has solid-looking buildings, in comparison to the ruins elsewhere in the valley.

These nuns have several streams of income. They run a cafe and a guest house.

The turnaround point is the Zakagori fortress. Beyond this is the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia.

Approaching Zakagori

On the way, I can’t resist petting this very tame, very pregnant donkey.

A good little burrito

Maria hams it up on the way to the Zakagori fortress.

We have a picnic lunch up here.

Zakagori fortress

On the return trip, we stop for a cup of tea in a rustic establishment.

Café Society

The tea is from Azerbaijan.

Maria poses with the proprietor

A view of the proprietor’s house across the way.

Note the pig to the left of the house

By late afternoon, we approach the place where we left the car. The changed light gives the valley a whole new aspect.

Then it’s back to Stepantsminda.

Sight or Insight of the Day

A sign of the times: about 15 KMs from the Russian border, the road is lined for several kilometres with heavy trucks stranded by sanctions against Russia.

CORRECTION: We learn that these trucks aren’t being turned back because of sanctions; in fact, there are thousands of trucks on their way to Russia with goods from all over in spite of sanctions. So many that there’s no room at the border crossing. Drivers have to camp for days at the side of the road.

Boycott Boycott-busting goes to great lengths

Which also explains why so many of these trucks are from Turkey. Turkey is in dire need of US dollars to fund Mr. Erdogan’s bizarre economic plan (it’s a long story) and has lots of stuff to sell. Russia has lots of US dollars (thanks to the sale of oceans of oil) and wants to buy lots of stuff. Voila!