After the historic Silk Road towns in Southern Anatolia and the shores of Lake Van we moved further east – to Mount Ararat and then on to the Kaçkar Mountains.
The road follows Lake Van – the biggest lake in Turkey. Unfortunately polluted to a degree that we were definitely not motivated to have a swim – maybe a stroll at the beach covered with an enormous collection of all kind of plastic.
We passed through the city of Van – after the earthquake in 2011 still a construction site, and finally reached Dogubayazit. Never heard of it? Don’t worry we even don’t know how to spell it. It’s neither a town winning a beauty contest or characterized by its posh nightlife.
We stayed at Boutique Hotel Ertur (nobody knows where the “Boutique” comes from), where everybody too lazy for camping stays. A little bit like Motel 6 but breakfast without bacon on the eggs.
Dogu… is also famous for the Ishak Pasha Palace – definitely a mystical place high up in the mountains.
Behind the palace we climbed the mountain – just for the view …
Please click on the arrow 2c the Panorama
1st the meteor crater: we moved to the Iranian border – the same border Martin crossed nearly 40 years ago on his “study tour” to India and Nepal. We by-passed the extremely long queue of trucks waiting for some admin. stamps before entering Iran. Just meters before the border gate we found the small dirt road parallel to the border. We had a small chat with some Turkish army guys defending their all beloved country against the bad neighbouring girls and they let us pass. Finally we found a fenced hole in the soil with Mount Ararat in the background: the CRATER.
Then to the real sight of the area: The ark of Noah. You know this guy who was on a boat loaded with all kind of creatures surrounding the world until he wrecked his ship somewhere at a mountainside. Some believe it might be Mount Ararat. As far as we know, he and a great number of mice, rats, cockroaches and mozzies survived.
After this incredible sight a road back to Dogubayazit high up in the mountains.
After that adventure on to the town of Kars, near the border to Armenia. A good road over the highland – a landscape that could be the Mongolian steppe.
Kars, a rather characterless city except for the houses built during the Russian occupation more than 100 years ago. We stayed at the Konagi Hotel offering a secured parking for Prado.
Of course, the real reason to go to Kars was not to see these few old stones the Russians used to build their houses. Rather the famous churches of Ani motivate the odd tourist to come to this region.
Ani built some 1700 years ago, changing hands every few decades over the centuries. In the 20th century its destiny was to be an all-important outpost of NATO against the Soviet Union. After the fall of the great Soviet empire just the watch towers remain. They’re still manned with some poor Armenian guys who surely don’t understand what the hell they should protect. And tourists return again to visit the historic churches of Ani.
We even found the proof that we’re really on the Silk Road.
After all these old stones – enough, we needed some real mountains for a hike. The Kaçkar Mountains still pretty far away made us cross some more highlands. We entered the famous Coruh valley with its newly built dams for power production.
Then following the Coruh valley, taking a small side road up the mountains – and we arrived in the afternoon in Olgunlar. A village at 2100m altitude in the Kaçkar National Park with 50 inhabitants and the nice Kaçkar Guesthouse.
In the afternoon a chance for a short hike towards the base camp of Mount Kaçkar.
It was clear we aimed to hike up to Nalatleme Pass the divide between the Black Sea and continental Turkey at an elevation of 3200m. Weather was definitely not perfect. But we took a chance. At 2700m we were in the thickest clouds you could imagine. Time to return, spend the afternoon drinking tea and the evening reducing our old stock of Greek beer.
Next morning – the nicest weather you could imagine. As nobody climbs the same stupid hill twice we were determined to move on. Until a certain time during breakfast when we decided to give Nalatleme Pass a 2nd chance. Quickly packing our stuff and off we were. 8h up’n’down, mostly steep, rarely flat.
At the beginning meadows with lots of flowers, …
… then just stony, then a nice snowfield. But finally we did it.
Kutaisi, Georgia, 18th July
Next morning. Old bones recovered – at least a little bit. Full of energy we moved on towards the Black Sea, approaching the Georgian border. Of course, we took the narrow road south of the Kaçkar Mountains still following Coruh Valley to reach in the evening Firtina Valley in the North of the mountains. Beautiful landscape, a road partly in urgent need of repair, partly under construction.
We stayed at Tosi’s – a guesthouse in Catköy in Firtina Valley. It’s ok and we had a first chance to speak some Russian with the Georgian cook – at least some words we haven´t forgotten.
The next day – the day before the end of Ramadan – we decided to cross into Georgia by the border near Batumi. One the way a short look at the famous historic bridges in the Firtina valley …
… and finally arrived near the border to Georgia. A queue of kilometres of cars and busses – all waiting to cross and to enjoy the parties in Batumi.
We quickly counted the cars, estimates the clearing time at the border to 2,265 minutes per car and finally calculated our waiting time to 4 days 6 hours 26 minutes and 56 seconds. Motivation enough to drive to the second border post, Posof, further to the south.
New country, new money. In the 1st sizable town we searched for an ATM. Even before we found one the police already stated that Martin is driving without belts. Penalty of 40 Lari (15 Euros), to be paid within 30 days with any bank in Georgia.
More about Georgian adventures in the next post.