Sunday, 7 September 2008

Over the top to Verkhovani via the Nakie-Khol pass

This year I opted to leave the girls to make their way over the pass on their own with Goggi and Irma. I didn't feel fit enough and as things turned out I had my own adventures.

Iona making her way up to the pass. Most of this trip is on foot since it's to steep for the horses.

For the record This is the last part of the trail as we ride up on to the top of the pass in 2007. Just proof I made it over the top during our previous trip. I'm the fat one in the middle with the white hat and blue shirt.

I don't have many pictures of the climb up to the pass but golly this is a magnificent place at the top of the pass with swifts, golden eagles and the girls tell me they even saw one of the extremely rare wild goats.

The girls on what feels like the roof of the world. OK its not but hey, who can tell?

Coming down off the pass the main village is Verkhovani where Patti has the very best guest house with hot running water! Patti is also one of the most hard working wonderful people I have ever met.

Patti's guest house. Clean comfortable and the end of the line.

With the girls trekking over the pass I found myself making my way up the valley driving over another pass near Shenako. However, the guys driving found they needed to change shock absorbers on the pass. No mean feat since we didn't have any tools to speak of. These guys were the best . Think for a moment, how would you change the shocks. With a pocket knife and a whittled branch from a tree, they made a tool to compress the shock rubber into the shock bar. Amazing and after an hour we were on our way.
I always feel guilty for not showing my appreciation more .

On the way to Verkhovani and the races .

On arrival at Patti's I had a swift lunch and then off to the summer festival where the horse racing and general partying is something else. The problem was I had some Chacha that could layout an Ox. The girls at this time were still climbing the pass - sober.

Patti our host in Verkhovani is in the centre sitting with her neighbours and friends.

This is the main Shrine where the race ends and offerings are made. Home of the killer Chacha.

As with all the festival races it's difficult, as a foreigner, to understand when the great event is to occur. This race started to take shape after the local lads had been testing the course at spectacular speed and agility for about an hour after lunch. The moment arrived and off in the distance the blur of activity set alight the crowd with a roar of excitement. These lads ride bareback through rivers and rough land at breathtaking speed.Have a look at this link to see the action

This lad has just won the horse race. He later rode off up the mountain to display his banner with pride and golly he deserved it.

The girls like to take their brothers or boyfriends horses and show off their own horsemanship.

What grips me about these Tusheti festivals is the total lack of health and safety, which is a good thing. Horses are galloping at breakneck speed around the crowds, and the girls and boys are all having great run. Parents are drinking copious quantities of Chacha and life is led to the full.

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