Three weeks in the “other” Georgia

IMG_0636.jpgSo, I am nearly over jet lag from 23 hours of travel home from the Republic of Georgia via Istanbul airport where I got body searched multiple times and began to wonder if cavity searches might be next. (I’m surmising that Turks sought revenge for bad relations between Herr Trump and their guy).

Regardless, the real story is that I traveled with a group of friends from the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club to be led expertly across that lovely, diverse nation in a jammed-full Mitsubishi high-clearance, four-wheel-drive minivan. We traveled from city to city, village to village, mountain to mountain and up hiking paths so steep one wondered if it was possible not to blow out one’s achilles tendon (happily, no one did).

Our expert guide, Koba, steered us over what the BBC calls one of the five most dangerous roads in the world. Many times I looked out the window and saw nothing between moi and a 3,500-foot abyss. Not that I was nervous or anything.

So much to learn over there, not only about wildlife, geography and gorgeous mountains, but also about how people feel about their recent years of freedom being threatened by Russians hovering around their northern borders. Georgians are stoically philosophical about their history of being overrun by one conquering legion after another — Russians, Turks, Mongols and a host of others. That’s just how it is, and they all know they probably will have to take up arms again someday.

As for me, I enjoyed the hiking through wilderness, past villages and up to glaciers. I appreciated being able to dine in a fine restaurant and enjoy a superb meal for under $10. We stayed at a guest house in Omala where we got a huge breakfast, a trail lunch, a sumptuous supper, and a rudimentary but serviceable shower for about $25 per day. It gets a little more expensive in the metro areas, but what the heck?

I have spent a lot of time traveling in Eastern Europe over the past few years. I love the landscape, the cities, the people, the history, the culture and the food. But what I bring home with me is a brimming over feeling of gratitude for the freedom we Americans truly take for granted. I’m sure I’ll be jaded again in a few weeks as I get back into a normal day-to-day routine.

Anyway, read THRU, stay vertical and keep walkin’!


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