Tuesday, 9 September 2008

On the road to Chigho and Dartlo

The trail to Chigho and then onto Dartlo is scary to say the least. As Irma our guide had become such a good friend, this year she revealed to us that part of the trail is known as 'the devil's way'. Having traversed it twice now, I can understand why. We did it in 2007 but that was when the trail was intact. This year there had been some dreadful flooding so it was any one's guess how things would turn out.

After a brisk ride up the hill we made it to the last lookout looking towards Shenako and Omalo. The last time we would see this area for a a week and a half.

Melissa's horse had a two month old foal who accompanied us the whole way. Leaping and kicking with joy as she discovered the Tusheti trails for her first time. Not everything was easy for her and she nearly got carried away by the river later in our journey.

Snaking our way down the slopes on the first leg of the journey I wanted to capture the wild flowers and wonderful atmosphere in these mountains. Well you can see it's green and very mountainous but that's about all. Take it from me this is a wonderful place to walk and commune with nature.

Melissa and I lost count of the number of bridges we crossed. Most of them in perpetual decay. Here' one for the record.

Melissa and her horses foal on the same bridge.

After a good mornings ride, well mostly walking because the paths were so steep, we arrived at Chigho. You can just make the village out at the top of the picture. There is an important festival held each summer in Chigho called the Lasharoba. I'm told it's held 100 days after Easter but that seems to go for other festivals in Tusheti and dates for such occasions are subject to all manner of local influences.
There is only one family still living in this crows nest of a settlement. Anywhere else in Europe this would be prime real estate. In Tusheti it's a tough life and Chigho is a long way from anywhere, especially estate agents.
This is a little secret for those of you who have been to the spring at Chigho and I hope it makes you smile with that reassuring feeling when you recognise something special. For those who don't know, this pink plastic thing opens up into a cup, which the tired traveler can take a drink from and rest their weary feet by the cascading waters.

The trail to Dartlo.

Yes a bit steep but hey, who said this was a trip for the faint hearted. The problem is we had to get the horses up the slope to where I was standing taking the picture.

Our trip became nail biting stuff as we discovered the trail had been washed away by the river after the previous weeks storm.
Goggi ,our superman horseman took his horse up the slope in 'Flip Flops' as all true young Tushetian lads do. The idea being the other horses follow - which they do, remarkable!

This is no joke. Goggi slipped as he jumped off his horse which seemed to canter vertically up the mountain. Yes we have the pictures to prove that Tushetian horses can climb mountains .
As always, all was well, despite a large gash in Goggi's hand which he refused antiseptic for.
The girls look on in awe at such skillful and brave horsemanship. Well I told them they were easily impressed.You can see a pile of stones at the bottom of this steep path, which Goggi had to build from riverbed rocks. This enabled the horses to gain a foothold to climb up onto the path - the bottom of which had been washed away in a previous flood.

Last year when we made this trip I used to explain to my friends how scary the trail was and I'm not sure anyone got the picture. This trail goes on for a long way and most of the way the width in no wider than a foot or 30 cm of shale. Well it got me going.

Back on the open trail and not so far to Dartlo, and yes it is as heavenly as it looks.

Our room for the night was with a Tush family who seemed very shy. I don't think they were used to a family of Brits especially our two girls. Their homestead was straight out of the wild west. A tin shed, weather worn, very simple and much appreciated after the long journey from Shenako.
If you are planning to take the Chegho route to Dartlo I do recommend you are accompanied by a local or a guide if you can find one. Local maps are not convincing and one needs to nowhere the trail is currently running. The weather can destroy trails overnight and many are simply goat trails leading know where. This is not to say it will be impossible , just difficult.

Last year we stayed at a Dartlo Guesthouse. You can see it top left of the picture in very new wood.

Provisions from the lowlands by truck were being deposited in Dartlo which is as far as the 4x4 could go arriving from down the valley. The previous storms had destroyed the track further up towards the more remote villages like Pasma.

Our guesthouse on a very misty morning before we set out for Pasma.

Dartlo. A very lonely place which looses the sun early in the afternoon but loved by hikers who camp by the roaring river near by.

A good shave before we start out on the next leg of our journey. I always find a shave sets me up for the day and gives me that extra zip needed when you are getting old and grey.

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