We visited Georgia in September the previous year. The plan was to be 2 weeks in the mountains crossing various mountain ranges. Similar group of people I was with in Tajikistan. This time, we were a bigger group as each one of us took on one more person. There were a total of 8 people.
There is a good flight connection from Prague or Memmingen, so we decided to fly from Prague as most of the people were coming from Slovakia. Initially, we were worried about covid situation but it turned out to be just worries. We were required to be tested to board the plane, same for entering Georgia. We had no problems getting to Georgia or on our way back.
Day 1 - Hikes around Mestia
The initial hike was from the Chubedishi viewpoint. Our friends continued, but not us. Why? As we landed in Kutaisi, Danka found out her shoe soles were broken. They were looking good when we were waxing shoes a few days back. Our day guest was to find new shoes in Mestia. We thought there would be at least one shop having outdoor gear. We couldn’t find one. We found a few stores with second hand shoes, one had leather hiking boots in dankas size. They also had north face clones but without any membrane, maybe good for city walk only? We decided to buy the leather ones. As it was only early afternoon, we went for a second hike to try new old shoes. All went well, we traversed forest north from Mestia and returned via the city back to our accommodation.
Day 2 - Zuruldi massif hike (from Mestia to Zageni village)
First, we bought fresh bread and withdrew money as we were leaving civilization for some time. We continued to the ski lift. Only the first part of the lift is in use. They are building the new upper part as we saw construction going on. It took us only one hour to reach the top. The bar was closed, I guess they are open only during the winter season. We continued hiking through the ridge. The trail goes through the forest most of the way. We did a short break at the Metashi, the peak has 3 tall transceivers. Now the tricky part. The steep descent, slightly technical. It’s better to be on the right path. There are meadows with cows where we enjoyed the sun and started going down to Tsvirmi. We had to go lower down to Bogreshi. The trail is tricky to find first as the maps show paths that have fences installed. We crossed one and just passed through the meadow to a stream and then further traversed down to the village.
There are two markets at Bogreshi, but only one was opened. It is run by a local lady who has few things at home like bread, beer, coke, honey.
The last ascent led us to Zageni. A lady was greeting us and she offered us her home. We agreed to spend a night there. It was quite a unique experience, the house is built from rocks, and there is a local oven in the main room where we had dinner with them. Her husband was very talkative (only Russian language). They offered us their local spirit as well. The food was great, no meat, only cheese, bread and a variety of processed Vegetables and fresh salad. They baked fresh bread for breakfast, made fresh cheese. We asked for a snack to go, of course they packed us with a few things.
Day 3 - From Zageni to Lasil pass
The trail starts as a road, probably the first 5 km. There are 3 newly built. After the last bridge, the trail becomes more narrow.
We had to cross the river here as the path is on another side. As the river splits it is easier to find a few stones to jump on. We stayed on the left side until the pass. There is a trail on the right side but looks tricky due to erosion. As it was getting dark soon, we started looking for a campsite. There is one good spot on the right side but it’s at 2000 masl. We were convinced there is a better spot higher. We found one at 2700masl, directly below the Lasil saddle. There is a river closeby, and a few good spots for tents. We found old canisters left here so people camped here. Also cows go up here.
It started heavily during the night. Two storms passed by. The day was the same. We experienced around 5 storms. Two were quite close to us.
Day 4-5 - Stuck below Lasil pass for 2 days
We were still trapped below the Lasil saddle. It rains and rains the entire day. We managed to have breakfast at 10am, when it stopped raining for a couple of minutes. Same for dinner. We got a weather forecast, and it should improve tomorrow.
There has been no rain since 3pm. We decided to have a late lunch and explore the saddle. Few of us stayed at the camp. We could not find any path leading to the saddle, just finding our own trail. The last few hundred meters are more challenging, the slope is around 32 degrees. It was wet, snow patches sometimes, full of small rocks. For me, it was better to go left and then return to the right side. We had poor visibility at the saddle so could not explore what the ridge looks like or the way down. We returned by dark to the camp. It started raining again during the night.
We were able to get some weak signals here, so we fetched the weather forecast. It was looking better in the next 2 days.
Day 6 - Lasil pass to Latpari pass (2 different ways)
We decided to split into two groups. One will go down and the other one will continue.
Our group went down the valley in the morning. The river got more wild but we still were able to jump via stones. The weather was still awful. Foggy and rainy everywhere around us. As we were approaching the Zigandi village there were 2 young boys riding horses. As they saw us, they called their father. He went to greet us and offer their accomodation. As we only needed a ride to Lakhori, we tried to bargain the price. He first said 150 Lori, too much for a 10 km ride. We were able to reduce it to 80, but it still could get lower.
We got into their car. It was an old Opel with a cracked windshield and non functional drivers panel. The road was muddy at first. It later became a concrete panel road. Sometimes just one line, some road work blocking both directions.
The first guest house we tried was closed due to covid. The second house was opened and they had free rooms. We agreed quickly as we wanted food. Later the wake up call. First, they did not have any wifi (data usage problem?) but the most we needed was a furnace with fire - to quickly dry their shoes. They said they don’t have one. We saw a chimney outside so after some arguments (we were going to leave), they agreed. There were no guests, just us.
The young lady was speaking fluent English so we were able to negotiate and agree on everything. After all, it was fine to stay over.
Day 7 - Latpari pass
The agreement was to start early in the morning. Although they usually serve breakfast at 8, they made it earlier by half an hour. The ascent to Latpari pass was quite quick, as we followed the gravel road. The pass was ours by early afternoon. We finally made contact with our friends. The meeting point was set to be Mishura peak. 3120m peak east from the pass. It is an easy hike up. There are a couple of options we chose for the ascent from the north.
We met our friends after 2 days of no contact. They were exhausted and we all wanted to get down to Usghuli the same day, So after a short break, we continued hiking towards Usghuli.
The last break was at Gvinari. We saw another hiker coming from the Ushguli to take pictures. He was accompanied by a dog, of course the dog came to us and he spent the rest of the day. The descent was long as we were already tired and slowly it was getting dark. We arrived down to the valley when it was already dark. It is now the time to find an accomodation. We tried first the village across the river, Murkmeli. No luck finding something, one local just sent us to Usghuli. We continue on the road and try to use google to find accomodation. We found a few tips and as we are approaching the Ushguli village, we see some buildings that could be guesthouses. We turn right to cross the river (the bridge itself is an adventure. Being dark, it was quite a crossing as there were a lot of holes). We found 2 accomodation after all, and chose the first one as we were already in. They offered us dinner (it was already late for dinner).
Day 8 - Crossing Khlade valley via Karetta pass
We were initially thinking about taking a day off. But due to the weather forecast, we decided to just rest in the morning and continue hiking in the afternoon. The plan was to sleep close to Bezengi wall and continue to Mestia the next day (2 quite long days ahead with promising weather).
We wanted to buy bread and some cakes. There was almost no shop, we stopped by at one bar on the way. Bought the bread, beers and continued to the mountains again.
The descent from Karetta pass looks tricky from above. There are steep parts but we went more to the right and were traversing with descending. After all, it was fine to descend. What was waiting for us later was the difficult part. Again Rhododendron fields everywhere. We gave up with going somehow all around it and were just fighting with them. After a couple of minutes, we found some old tracks. We just followed them. They helped us to get out of this field and down to the Khalde valley.
The Bezengi wall is impressive. We saw it a few days back from a distance. But having this wall in front of you just a few hundred meters is something else! We were looking for a camping spot closer to the wall when the sun was behind the horizon. We quickly built our tents, prepared dinner and watched the wall.
Day 9 - From Zaresho-Khalde glacier to Zhabeshi
Another long day ahead. We have to cross the glacier (nothing fancy, just need to be careful and watch where you step). It is quite thick still, we were quite surprised once 2 of us went down to see it.
We continued further as we had to climb Chkhunderi pass via the ridge.
The taxi waited for us at Zhabeshi (the lady from the hotel helped us to book one). We arrived down the village very late again. We returned to Mestia, to the same hotel as we were accommodated previously. The shashlik is so delicious and practically it is everything here!
Mestia & Kutaisi: 2 resting days
The morning started at the Svaneti museum. We found a small cinema on the way to the museum (DEDE movie movie is played there every day): Pub & Cinema DEDE. Worth visiting and watching the movie! We also experienced a power cut. Mestia village was affected. We were in the bar at that time, we could not later withdraw money or get coffee. It lasted about 3-4 hours.
We visited the Svaneti museum and one Svaneti tower at the end of the Mestia.
After one rest day in Mestia, we were going back to Kutaisi. There was a rockfall on the road. One truck had to stop and check if they could come through.
On the way back, we wanted to see and possibly swim in the Black sea (Anaklia Beach). It was completely ghosted. As there were big waves, only a couple of Baywatch were there. They warned us not to swim due to waves and strong currents. We were given a very good recommendation for the restaurant near Zugdidi: Restaurant “Kingdom of Kolkheti”.
We wanted to do wine tasting, visit some museums and the city center. But we found out there is a cave outside of the city (Metheus cave). The trip to the cave was interesting via the local transport. Also on the way back, we stopped in the village for the great wine tasting (Mate’s Wine Cellar). The experience was splendid! We learned how they make wine, chacha. We bought a lot of presents.
We flew in the early morning (the road to the Kutaisi airport is another experience, it is not that far but the road itself is just a dirty road without asphalt).
We had a great time together in Georgia and we happily came back. Thank you for all who we met there, we want to thank them for their hospitality.
- Russian language is handy in remote places. Not a problem in Mestia
- Withdraw money when you can. We experienced power cuts for a couple of hours. As a result, everything was closed (some had generators but did not have systems running). Or another problem you might face - some ATMs had limits like 500 Gel
- gas cylinders can be bought in Mestia in a couple of shops
- we did not find hiking equipment shops in Mestia (a lot of second hand shops or fake shops with regular clothing). Some shops were just closed (or rentals)
- worth buying the local sim card. There is one shop in Mestia selling sim cards, or just buy at Kutaisi airport. The cellular coverage is quite good even in mountains (not that remote though). So you can get a weather forecast at least from time to time
- people in remote villages will come to you and invite you to their homes - negotiate first before you go, and avoid surprises. Most people are nice but there are people who ask for unreasonable prices or you might not get what you need (our story with the furnace)
- food shops are marked on mapy.cz. As we tried a few in different places, they might be closed or limited supply (you can always buy bread, coke or beer, but the rest is questionable). Mestia has few supermarkets where you can buy a lot of things
- trails might exist on the map but due to landslides, they might not exist anymore. We lost trails couple of times, and finding a new way is experience on it’s own (slippery steep terrain or streams to jump over/cross)
- Zhabeshi (taxi back to Mestia)
- 8 days