The decision to go to Javakheti was very spontaneous and I didn’t even manage to check on the map where exactly I was going. Southeast, the border with Armenia – that is what I knew. We took the tent, tea, warm sleeping bags and hope that everything will be allright. As always in Georgia.
With the first hitchhiked car, accompanied by Niaz Diasamidze music, we reached Paravani Lake which appears unexpectedly at 2000 meters above sea level. Several humble villages were built on its banks. Old cottages, fishing nets, pile of kiziak (dried cows dung used here as a heating fuel, due to the lack of trees) Armenians, Russians, Ukrainians. Only a few people speak Georgian here. Life is harsh, demanding and uncomplicated, as well as forestless, steppe landscape.
The harsh beauty of the village and its surroundings attracts us for a few hours. We have been immediately noticed by the locals so invitations for coffee/ cheese/vodka are endless. Katia invites us to a modest, two hundred years old hut. She is a teacher in the school nearby. A tiny, stray kitten is playing around on hard earthen floor while we drink hot coffee and chat in russian. Katia’s children are already grown up so she would like to move out of here, preferably to Russia. Her husband doesn’t want to, but when Katia will have enough, she will pack her suitcases and her husband won’t have any other choice, he will follow her.
Slavic lives several houses further away. He speaks Georgian as one of the few in the village. His family graze 50 cows on nearby pastures. They make a delicious blue cheese which they sell at the Tbilisi market. This is the first time I have eaten a local blue cheese and it is really tasty. From spring to autumn the whole family lives here, for the winter they move to Tbilisi, because the winter in Paravani is not easy. When there is snowbound the whole village could be cut off from the rest of the world for weeks. Slavic loves this place and would not change it to any other. Where else you can find such a void, silence and dependence on nature? I understand him a little bit, our decision to go further is driven only by a good sense and approaching dusk.
We reach Troitskoye, a small village on the border with Armenia, in the evening. We are going to the Madatapa lake. It is quite cold and moderately pleasant. After an hour’s walk I start to plan the future.
Listen, we must decide something. Are we putting out a tent here, on the shore, or are we going to the next village 2 kilometers away, to see what is happening there and be closer to people?
Exactly at this very moment, the car appears out of nowhere.
Massis will not let us freeze this evening. He is the host of this part of the Javakheti National Park and feels responsible for all creatures in this area. In this case, for us. With the accompaniment of our weak protests, he takes us to his home. We watch the Bollywood series translated into Armenian, listen to the stories of a former poacher and today keen animal defender and enjoy the pleasant warmth of a stove which is, of course, filled with kiziak. It turns out that Massis has not only shared friends with Andrey (my travel companion) but also a common passion – birds. Throughout my whole life I have not learned so much about migration, nests, breeding seasons, species and populations as this evening. I was most pleased with the news that you can meet flamingos and pelicans on the Madatapa lake! There is a reason to come back again.