Nino and Pavels wanted to hike from guesthouse to guesthouse in Tusheti for 5 days and asked if I wanted to come along. Since the timing was perfect, I was happy about this opportunity. In Georgia, I didn’t want to walk such distances alone – especially not in Tusheti, which is known for its aggressive dogs.
But where and what actually is Tusheti? It is a small mountainous region of about 1,150 square kilometres in such a small corner northeast of Tbilisi on the border of Chechnya and Dagestan. Surrounded by high mountains, the only access is via the Abano Pass (2,850 m), which is covered with snow for about 8 months of the year. Then you can only get to Tusheti by helicopter. The road is an unpaved track that suffers from landslides and is rather rudimentarily maintained. There are 3 rivers in Tusheti, all called Alazani. That was done back then to confuse the enemies. But we came now as friends. To do this, we took a Marshrutka to Kvemo Alvani in 3 hours. Many people from Tusheti spend the winter here. Only a few people live permanently in Tushetia, most of them have their quarters in the plains.
From Kvemo Alvani it takes a 4WD car. Nino had arranged it in advance and so a nice driver was waiting for us. Since the route is too difficult even for trucks, most of the stuff is brought there in smaller cars. And many drivers get the order to bring something with them. So ours not only filled up his car, but also canisters, which he then sold on the spot – there is no petrol station in Tusheti. At first, we drove through small, flat villages on asphalt, but then the asphalt stopped and a dirt road led upwards.
Tusheti also serves as a summer pasture, so to speak. The sheep spend the winter on the plain and are then driven up over the pass before the roads open. Horses are also moved again, but only after the sheep. And so we encountered a herd.
The road spiralled upwards – first through a lot of forest and then further up there were no more trees.
It were just few cars on the road. Instead we met 2 female cyclists from New Zealand.
The road is considered very dangerous. There were also some memorial stones of people who had accidents. But I actually didn’t find it very scary. The accidents probably happened mostly due to drunkenness or mobile phone while driving. Our driver has been driving the route almost daily during the season for 14 years and knew every stone.
It went higher and higher and the sun didn’t make it through the clouds.
And then the Abano Pass was reached! It was cold at 2,850 m and very cloudy.
But then this other side of the pass – it reminded me so much of Ladakh! Georgian Ladakh…. Oh silly how people always compare so easily, of course it’s unique. But it triggered the same joy in me as some pass rides in Ladakh.
And then we were already back at the altitude where people live and the sun came through again.
Our driver had not only taken petrol with him, but also an order for this gentleman. He wanted a packet of the most expensive supermarket butter! Nothing else.
Our destination was Omalo, the largest and main town of Tusheti. There is Upper and Lower Omalo and we stayed in the second one. There was a nice view from the accommodation and we went for a short walk before going to bed.
What is special about Tusheti is the traditional house construction method – namely slate slab on slate slab. There will be better pictures of this later. And the houses are nicely decorated with wooden balconies and so on. For the most part, it looked as if the people were making a good effort with their living. However, some of the houses were abandoned, i.e. people tended to stay in the valley instead of coming up every summer. On the other hand, there was a house with art.
So I was delighted with my first impression. The pass journey alone was worth it. And what a special region, cut off like this!
I was very curious what we would see on our hike! I can already say afterwards: it was much more varied and eventful than I had suspected. And I will also introduce my companions in the blog later 🙂