On The Road Again #3 : Something Happened from Mestia to Usghuli

After some deep research…. aka reading Caucasus-trekking carefully (com’on, i can not find any better resouce at that time), i decided to go on classic Mestia-Usghuli trail. There are many mountain open for hikking in Georgia, they are Svaneti, Kazbegi, Tusheti, Khevsureti , Racha, and Samegrelo. For some reason,  Svaneti is the most popular one. May be it is the easier access? I’m not sure.  I choose Svanesti as well, but i actually choose the route first, later i realized it was Svaneti.

Why Mestia to Usghuli? Because…..
It is marked as moderate, means it is possible for unexperienced-quite confident-kind of fit-person like me.
It is described as : fantastic caucasus view, with true Svaneti life experience!
It is multi day trekking, but we don’t need camp gear, because we can stay in the guess house along the trail.
I got all of these from non other than Jozef of Caucasus-Trekking. And i trust him with my heart! I had love at the first click on his web site, to be honest…..

map stolen from http://www.caucasus-trekking.com/treks/mestiaushguli

I was thinking i could join a guided group easily, it turned up no. The guided tour are easy to get on the high season, while i planned to go on the end of September. The last guided group was on early of September. Having a private tour was really not a good idea. It would feel awkward to spend the whole 4 days just me and the guide, and it would also be a big punch on my budget! So, I posted my travel plan on the forum, trying to find hikking buddies. Thank God I got one!

The first “problem” i had for the trip was…… how much shit i need to carry with me?

mestia village
Mestia Village, small but quite complete. Some cute restaurant, small shops, guesthouse, big stray dogs, cows, and mountain!

We start the trek from Mestia village. I came to the village with all my stuff for my whole trip. After Georgia, I would continue traveling for the next 30 days. It was not a lot, but obviously it would be a ridiculous idea to bring all my stuff with me, as we would back to  Mestia at the end of the trekking days. We would re-pack, and leave most of the stuff at our airbnb in Mestia. Mel, my hikking buddy came with 1 trolley back, and 60/70 ltr backpack. She would use her backpack and leave her trolley. Meanwhile, beside my 80 ltr backpack, all i have with me was trail running backpack. I was thinking, i don’t need to bring sleeping bag and tent, why should i prepare big daypack? I was pretty confident at the beggining, but….. looking at Mel’s packing, it got me anxious. Did i bring enough??

I did hike a bit in tropical mountains in my hometown. Based on my experience, the essentials to pack for multi days hiking are :

-1 pair of dry comfy clothes for sleeping
-1 pair of robust clothing for walking
-1 good rain coat
-1 good jacket
-some pair of undies

That’s all! I can wear the same “walking outfit” for 4 days. Have it wet by rain while walking, i don’t care, as long as i could change into dry undies and slip into my dry “sleeping outfit” before sleeping, i’ll be OK, i mean…..not sick. The bigger portion in the backpack would be dedicated for tent, sleeping back, mattress, cooking tools, food for days, and 5ltr sometimes more, water! So, when i have the luxury of staying in a guesthouse every night, having dinner and breakfast cooked for me, once again….. why do i need to carry lots of stuff, walking ups and down the hills?? I heard there are also plenty of water along the trek, i can re load my bottle often.

I had no choice actually, as much as my insecurities with my packing, i didn’t have any other daypack with me. So…. i did what i have planned:

-1 pair of sleeping outfit
-some pair of undies and pair of socks.
-1 pair of “walking outfit”,  I wore it, of course, it was not go inside my bag. They were shirt and cargo pants, both dry fast fabric.
-1 Jacket. It was 2 layers insulated waterproof jacket, which i could not squeeze them inside my back, that’s how small my bagpack was!

No caption needed, you can tell wich one is me, and which one is Mel 😀

At the end…. was it enough?? Well….. I could say it was enough with exceptions, linked to incident bellow….

So, we were just started walking from Zhabeshi to Adishi. The village just out of view, when my sole fell off!! Yes, my hikking boots for 4 years, decided to let go its sole, in the middle of the Georgia mountain!! What a nice! Thank God, i have my guide – Nati and Mel with me, i still have no idea what would i do if i were end up doing the trek alone.  So, i have no spare shoes, not even sandals, because….. i have no more space inside my tiny backpak! Ha!

Nati called her friend, fellow guide to check in stores in Mestia, for pair of hikking boots. The plan was, her friend would buy the boot, and drive to Tetnuldi service road, meet us there. Mestia, as the starting hikking points, still far away from Kathmandu. Mestia have 1 money exchange, some guesthouse, cute restaurants, some small stores, and as far as i could see, no special outdoor shop. But Nati said, there are stores selling hikking boots, not the good one, of course. Meanwhile, Zhabeshi – the village we just left behind, definetly no shoe store there, and so with the next village-Adishi.  To continue our walk to the Tetnuldi ski resort, Mel kindly lent her sandals. Mel is petite girl, with petite feet, for sure, while i am size 42 feet, i could see the sandals weren’t happy with it!! It would probably gave its owner – Mel – the most disgrace look, as she hand over it to me.   I wore her sandals with mixed feeling – greatful – guilty – pain – all together.

We continued to walk around 30 min to the road, while Nati showed me photos of boots, her friend sent  via Whatsapps. I was impressed, internet are still pretty well in that area. Actually, internet was available trough the whole trek, from Mestia to Usghuli, if you have data plan. I decided not to have data plan, and just rely on Wifi from the guesthouse, i have Nati the guide, after all. Just a few minutes waiting, a car came, and there my new boots arrived!! Yeayyyy!! Mel’s sandals must be happy!!

There, laying the 4 yo hiking boots. “Walking no more…”, it says
“Let me rest here, in this beautiful mauntain…. forever”.
I rolled my eyes furriously!

I paid 50 GEL for the shoes, and 60 GEL for the delivery. Hahahhaa! By the way, that’s the price for transport car (5-6 people) from Mestia to Tutnaldi ski resort. Davit, a travel organizer in Tbilisi told me, the Svaneti people have make some agreement with the transport and guide price in the area. They want it to be fixed, afforable for the travelers, so they would keep coming to the area, and still profitable for the Svaneti people to make the busines sustain. What a nice agreement! So, i spent 110 GEL for my new boot, it was a bang on my budget, but i won’t complain. Seriously, i think that’s the best solution i have, and still kind of affordable. Well, i need to lent some GEL from Mel, becouse i was running out of GEL. In theory, i didn’t really need to spare another GEL for the trekking, becouse the whole trekking expenses, like food, guide, guesthouse and trasports, were included to the tour package, and i have paid it before we started. But yeah…. shit happened….. hahahaha!

Actually, having decent amount of GEL would be so much handy, but i was kind of…… stingy… No…. i just a bit low on budget.  The next day, Mel decided to take a horse from Adishi river to the Chkhunderi pass. She was almost out of GEL, ‘cos i have lent most of hers. So, she bargained to pay it on EUR, luckily the horse owner agree with that. Crossing Adishi river by horse was not mandatory, i saw some people did that on foot. Caucasus-trekking said, the water level is lower on the morning. We have the horse service included on our tour, but Mel decided to extended it to Chkhunderi pass. Initially, she just wanted to load her backpack on the horse, but the price would be the same for backpack only, or with her also on it! So, the decision was easy!

Crossing Adishi river by horse, usually cost 20 GEL. I saw some people crossed it on foot.
After this spot, the path are getting so much tough and muddy, for about 2 hours ’till Chkhunderi pass.









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