Friday, 5 September 2008

Gogrulta and Lily's family

After an exceptional ride from Verkhovani to Gogrulta we had at last arrived in the little hamlet we had spied upon the horizon a year ago from Docho. Our journey to Gogrulta had been fraught with problems. The previous bad weather had washed away what little trail there was, although Goggi and Irma managed to pick our way across ravines and make our way via an assortment of goat trails and dodgy advice from passing shepherds. The eventual journey we did take was spectacular. Passing through magnificent birch forests with glades of wild flowers from another world. Every so often we would break out from the forest onto soft dreamy pastures looking out over the Tusheti Mountains. This part of Tusheti is possibly the most untouched and unspoilt we have ever seen although goodness knows how on earth one would find it again.

The following selection of images are some of those we took while staying with Lily and her husband Socrat . Their farmhouse stood perched on the side of the cliff looking out across Tusheti. A great place to stay with a brand new guest house all made by Socrat. I strongly recommend it.

Lily's new guest house can be seen in the group of buildings top right in this image.

This shrine, like many others ,is off limits for women and sits at the entrance to the village close by the water trough. Such shrines play a complex role for the villages. First taking the role as a holy place, representing Christian beliefs. Secondly the ram is represented on the shrine , harking back to early beliefs where the ram was ( and still is to some degree) the embodiment of the world that surrounds the Tush . The ram is sacrificed on festival days with its blood cast over the shrine when slaughted. On such occasions bread, cheese and Chacha (local vodka) are eaten and drunk as part of the ritual. Such a combination of beliefs might appear contradictory to the outsider. To me it's the fusion between the new and old ways of life in the mountains and in many ways the symbolism of the ram holds a stronger grip than the established church.

Here is Socrat toasting Tusheti, our family and the world we all live in. Socrat is one of the most accomplished people I have ever come across. He has made nearly everything on his small holding . From the stools we sat on to the ladle and wooden bowls used to make their cheese. He made the saddle for his horse and shod his horse with shoes he made himself. For that matter he restored the guest house we stayed in making all the furniture.

Socrat takes his materials from the landscape he lives in and using his a smithy and a joiners yard he is able to be totally independent of the outside world ,supporting his small dairy farm run by Lily. Socrat is also very generous with his Chacha.

Lily making Khinkali with her grandson at her side.

Butter making barrels made by Socrat.

Lily's fireplace and the very best place to cook her delicious food.

One night a group of French travellers arrived. I don't think they knew how to party and certainly looked at us with disdain as we knocked back the Chacha. However I'm sure they loosened up later in their travels.

We had an exceptional party in Gogrulta although many of our pictures didn't come out.

Zocrat, me and some of the men from the village. This was the beginning of a long session ending with dancing over the fire.

In no particular order, the following images represent Lily and Socrat's life in Gogrulta

During our stay in Gogurlta India ,Iona and Goggi decided to walk down into the valley to visit the river where we had been the year before while visiting Docho . A very hard walk back up  the mountain. This is an idyllic mountain river but very chilly due to the nature of snow melt water. Last year we went from Docho and swam in the river while our horse guide (Zora) who ,while we splashing about and making fools of ourselves ,caught the best tasting trout I've ever eaten. 

This year the girls were keen to light a fire by the river . Perhaps this was to keep the bears away that were worrying the cattle up the mountain. Melissa's imagination got carried away with her and she was convinced that if it wasn't bears it must be blood thirsty wolves who might whisk her daughters away into the deep dark forest of Tusheti. Well neither the wolves or the bears could be bothered to turn up so we don't have any pictures of Goggi protecting my daughters from fierce beasts ,although based on previous experience we would have seen them off given half a chance with his Flip flops - Goggi traveled everywhere with his Flip Flops, as a result they took on a mythical dimension.


Jozef Antala said...

Hello, I have website about trekking in Georgia ( and would like to upload precise description of trail between Omalo and Gogrulta. I have gpx log and trail description, however, I am missing some good photos. So I would like to ask if I could use some of yours (to be exact, view from the village).
Website is free and for me its just a hobby

Thank you, Jozef

Chris Wills said...

Hi Jozef,
Good of you to ask and as it is a hobby please use. The trail from Omalo to Gogrulta is one of my favourites and not often used . The best way is from Gogrulta to Omalo.
Best of luck and have fun.