Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ushguli Village at the foot of Mt. Shkara

In the morning we awake to a picture perfect, clear and sunny day. The Caucasus mountains are covered with fresh snow and shine in the morning light. Farmers are leading their cows to high pastures as we drive out of Mestia. One cowbell has a different sound than the others. As the cow passes, I notice it is an old automobile piston instead of a bell. Tea has fed us a big breakfast of cheese, bread, tomatoes, and cucumbers and has packed us each a picnic lunch. She says we can pay her when we return, as everyone goes back the same way through Mestia. I know that we will not be coming back and pay her for the room and the meals and thank her for her hospitality.

As Vako’s 4x4 climbs the ridge above Mestia, we get beautiful views of the medieval stone towers and the twin peaks of Mt. Ushba. We pass several small villages and meadows full of cows and sheep. The road is heavily potholed and it is noon before we arrive at Ushguli. We pass the two lower villages and cross the narrow stone bridge to the uppermost Ushguli village and pull in to Eleanor’s Ushguli Guesthouse. The farm houses are so close together that only a muddy foot trail goes through the center of the village. The green valley rises behind the tiny village and points the way to the huge massive of the 17,000 foot high Mt. Shkara.

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