Patrick had diarrhoea and it didn’t get better, so I sat alone on the train to Zugdidi. Theoretically, he could have joined the following day, but that didn’t happen and so I travelled on alone for the time being. Such a train journey is always quite slow, quiet and uneventful. This one was no exception.
Zugdidi is far to the west and the starting point for the onward journey to Svaneti. At the station, 2 Marshrutkas were waiting for travellers, the first one was already full and I got into the second one, which was unfortunately a bit scrap. Instead of a large side window, there was plastic sheeting. After a few kilometres, the vehicle stopped and wouldn’t start again, they looked at the engine, a truck driver stopped and also looked at the engine, they did something, then we pushed and the vehicle started again. After a few more kilometres, the engine started smoking and there was another break. In the third break they took a lot of coolant and in the 4th and 5th break they refilled the tank. After 4 hours we had completed the 135 km and were actually at our destination: Mestia at 1,420 m, surrounded by high mountains.
Mestia is the main town in Svaneti, which is considered the most beautiful region in Georgia. It is in the northwest on the border with Russia with its own culture – there is going to be a separate blog post about that. There are a lot of very high mountains here (up to over 5,000 m), all covered in snow. Unfortunately, the weather was not so good. On the first day I walked around and up to a viewpoint and then it rained, I went to a restaurant and later the sun shone a bit. Visually striking are all the fortified towers from earlier times. I photographed a few of them:
There are still a few old walls in Mestia, but not in such abundance.
Quite a lot was demolished and new buildings erected between 2009 and 2012. As a result, it has more or less lost its face, as some people complain. In any case, it is also a tourist centre – lots of accommodation and restaurants. You can make excursions here and there and go hiking.
In principle, however, it is very rural, whereby I saw many cows but no sheep so far.
So it started raining and I was looking forward to potatoes in a pub, but they were out. They have relatively few vegetables in their dishes here anyway. One of the specialities was melted cheese with millet – one of the strangest dishes I’ve ever had, which made my stomach stick together. The place was quite nice, though.
And then I wanted to do a 4-day trek. Because of the weather, it is good to start early – and so I set off cheerfully at 7:00 in the last sunlight.
I crossed the river and had another view of the village. Rhododendrons and other things were blooming like mad and exuding a wonderful scent. Another German woman with long legs, walking alone, passed me.
The path was not difficult to find, there were signposts and markings and it went up a little over 500 metres in altitude. The landscape was pretty, but unfortunately without sun.
Again, there were no sheep to be seen, but there were cows.
Then some raindrops came down and I thought how lucky I was when I saw this shelter:
On the right is a building shell and a bit further down on the right is a house. Everything was fenced off and there was a gate and two cars in front of it. I squatted there for about 30 minutes. A dog came, looked and disappeared again. Then I shouldered my backpack again, went out of the gate and after about 10 minutes the dog yelped behind me, I turned around and suddenly it jumped at me and bit me hard on the elbow. I fumbled frantically for the pepper spray, which I actually had ready to hand in the small pocket of my rucksack belly belt. But it didn’t work so quickly. The dog came up from behind again, bit above the back of my knee and then I finally had the spray and sprayed. He recoiled and I slowly stumbled backwards down the path. I must have yelled a bit too, but no one came out of the house. Maybe too far away or all out. I walked a little way and then sat down and had to start crying. Had I done something wrong? What? How could I have reacted differently? I walked away and turned my back on him. I took off my thick fleece jacket: uff, full of bite. I hardly wanted to move my arm either. I took a photo and also of the place – further up on the right the shelter, down on the left the house and on the far left a completely different building.
Stupidly, another dog came along, wagging its tail in a friendly manner, but I didn’t want any more dogs and clutched the pepper spray. At first I wanted to go further, but then I thought maybe I should go to the hospital after all and found a way down to the road. There were few cars there, but at least there were some. That was still quite a way and further down there was a village and there was another dog, which wouldn’t let me pass. Fortunately, I had seen him well in advance. I found two simple craftsmen and was able to encourage one of them to walk with me past the dog, at which he was throwing stones. Then I was on the street and luckily enough, after 10-15 min a car came and stopped: 2 German tourists in a taxi! They drove me to the hospital in Mestia.
There was a female doctor, loving looking assistants and two somewhat English speaking gentlemen, one of whom wanted my passport and 150 Lari (55 Euros) afterwards. Fortunately, I got there quickly, the doctor cleaned the wounds (I hadn’t even looked at the bite on the back of my knee yet, but there was blood there too), injected me with anti-rabies and, at my request, with tetanus (it had been a while since my last injection).
Then I went back to the guesthouse, where everyone looked at me sweetly and the owner made me a delicious herbal tea.
I was exhausted. The evening before, I had wondered with Patrick whether the dog problems were maybe exaggerated – in fact, there was only ever talk of nice accompanying dogs. And there weren’t even any sheep here! But there were some dogs here, all quite big. So was the biting dog, its head was at my waist level.
In the meantime it has bled again, I have put on my own bandage, it hurts mainly when I move – and I am thinking about what to do next. I definitely won’t be wandering here alone for much longer, and I’ll probably always have the pepper spray in my hand if I have to.