We left Batumi early in the morning joined by Sven as he was also going to Svaneti so we offered him a lift. We drove through some quite depressing looking places towards Zugdidi where we bought some snacks and started our climb towards Svaneti. We slowly drove along a narrow road which was getting worse and worse but still it was better than expected. There were a couple of local thunderstorms along the way but we arrived in Mestia late in the afternoon.
We looked for a guesthouse and soon found Rozas on the north side of the village. We soon had amazing dinner with different kinds of khacapuri and salad and later met Max and Cressie who also stayed at the guesthouse. After dinner we went for a beer together with Sven and Cressie. There were a couple of funny looking people around the park in the centre of the village, the beer was good and quite cheap so after a couple of rounds we went back to Rozas.
On sunday we decided to go for a walk towards the lakes on the north slope overlooking the village. The start was pretty steep and we soon realized the walk is going to be quite hard. On the way up we also met Max and Cressie so we continued the hike together. After about 4 hours we arrived to the lakes, where we were amazed by the beautiful scenery surrounding us.
We decided to walk a bit further up towards a big part of snow still battling the summer sun on the mountain. We reached it after about 15 minutes and Grega, Peter and Sven even decided to walk for further 5 minutes to reach an altitude of 3000m.
After some fun on the snow we went down the mountain, stopping in the middle for a nap. The way down was even more tiring than climbing up, especially because we all felt the consequences of sunburns we all got at the high altitude. Beer was as delicious as ever when we arrived back to Mestia and the dinner Roza made was amazing.
After dinner vodka came to the table, we were joined by another english guy and the last few continued until at least 3 or 4 AM.
While others were still asleep Cressie, Max, Nejc, Peter and me woke up and went to meet our driver who took us to Usghuli, supposedly the highest inhabited village in Europe, at 2150m. The road to Usghuli is really bad with rivers running over the road and big holes and bumps all along the way. As there was 5 of us one of us had to ride in the trunk. On the way there we stopped at a small church and the driver told us about some stories in connection with the church, cementary and the people from the village.
After a long and tiring ride we arrived in Usghuli. The village itself really looks like something from the 16th century as there is almost nothing modern in it, people still ride horses and the traditional Svan towers are the most noticeable thing in the village.
Others decided to check out the church and have a short hike, while i hanged around in the village and later took a nap on a small hill at the start of the village, i’ve never had a nap with such an amazing view in my life. When they walked up towards the glacier they first met a cool looking Caucasian shepherd dog and later on some workers who were repairing a bridge, they offered them cheese and some chacha, talked for a bit and then wished good luck.
The way back seemed to take forever, on the way we met Sven who decided to hitchhike to Usghuli and stay there-he was picked up by a german family with a caravan at the back of a 4×4. We are still wondering how they managed to take the caravan along all the anomalies along the road.
We stopped for a half hour hike up to the main Svan church – Kala. We had to wait for the caretaker of the church to come down from the mountains but the wait was worth it, the church was beautiful, situated on a rock about 300m of height above the road. There were numerous religious icons inside and the surroundings were something unique. They even have a building where they slaughter and cook a bull they every year on the 28th of July when there is a big Svan holiday taking place at this church. Another interesting thing is a huge bell, which one is supposed to lift and ring with it-we all tried but failed, it is just too heavy.
It took another 2 hours before arriving back to Mestia, where we almost immediately got some delicious food for dinner and soon went to bed as we had to leave early on the next day towards Tbilisi.