01.06.2012 - 13.06.2012 32 °C
That's what our guest house owner told us the other night and for a moment we thought we had been walking around noisely. But what she meant was that when we arrived there was no one staying here, but since we arrived more and more people have too. The tourists have been listening and following our loud feet.
We are back in Georgia and have been enjoying a few days of relaxing and drinking wine in Kakheti, the lush, fruit tree rich, wine region of the country. After close to two weeks in Hayastan. That's right, we got one more Stan than we had bargained on, Hayastan aka Armenia.
Armenia was great. We didn't see all of the country, but concentrated our time in the capital and the northeast, a hilly, forested very rural part of the country. Arriving in Yerevan we were struck by how Turkish/Arab the people looked, quite a different look to the Georgians. The country has had a rough history, often occupied by one of its neighbours, as well as the genocide of Armenians living in what is now Eastern Turkey back in 1918, and hence there is a strong hatred for the Turks. But so many similarities between them, for example their looks, their music and particularly the food - plates of herbs are a common addition to both countries meals, and 'Turkish coffee' becomes 'Armenian coffee' - espresso sized cups with the coffee grains creating a think sediment in the bottom. Even similar attitudes - we met an Armenian (Christian man) who said he 'won't let' his wife work because some men might see her and talk to her - not so unlike his Muslim neighbours who have their women cover themselves so men don't have to deal with always being aroused.
Meanwhile, beautiful scenery. Some camping by a river which was freezing but still worth a dip in, many a scenically located monastry - Armenia was the first country to take on Christianity in the 3rd century. While sitting around a small town apparently looking like tourists who like hiking, we were approached by Ando who has a fledgling hiking business based just out of Ijevan. He sold us on a 2 day hike with him, after first staying at his guest house with magical views of the mountains. We walked in intense heat for 2 days, mostly uphill and mostly through grassland covered in wild flowers. The highlights were our encounters with shepherds who take their herds into the hills for the summer to feed on said rich grasslands. We were endlessly invited into their shacks for food, given a pot of fresh hot milk for breakfast, and while staying in one of these little encampments one night were kept awake by ceaseless mooing.
Generally the weather has been hot and clear, roughly 30 degrees, but we have had some really great and intense storms, with crashing thunder, much lightning, and one where the hail stones were as big as golf balls, falling like crazy for at least half an hour, turning the street white and making a racket on the corrugated iron roof. The guest house owner was so excited he came running up to our room yelling, 'New Zealand New Zealand, look!' with several hail stones in his hand.
Today we are off to Lagodeki in northeast Georgia for some hiking with lakes and waterfalls, which I hope we get to swim. Then we head to Azerbaijan, a country for which we had to pay for a ridiculous expensive process to get the visa - hope it's good!
I have added a few extra photos in the photo gallery. I haven't quite figured out how to get the captions to carry over into the blog yet, so if you want to know what's going on in a photo, the gallery is the place where you can read the captions.