We had a quick breakfast this morning of khachapuri and coffee, what every good Georgian has for breakfast I branched out into double cheese khachapuri, while Claire had the Georgian heart attack version with egg and butter. They bake these fresh and the dough is so light and fluffy it makes a great meal, even if mine had a lot of cheese on it and inside it.
We had arranged our driver from the airport to take us to a place called Davit Gareji (David or Davit seem to be used interchangeably). We knew it wasn’t far from Tbilisi as every person was offering us tours there, but have a private vehicle seemed a better way to go. The drive took around 2 hrs, through lush green pastures with cows, goats and sheep frequently on the road. We then hit the rougher bit of road closer to our destination and spent an hour avoiding potholes while taking in the stunning scenery.
We arrived at Davit Gareji Monastery, which apparently is the region and there are monasteries and rock caves all over the place. The only working monastery was Lavra, which was a traditionally built monastery with rooms also carved into the rock. The real treat though was the steep walk up the hill to see some more cave monasteries. We headed up the really steep route as walking down that would have been difficult. We took out time and stopped a few times, the going was slow and steady.
Now as we walked up the final part of the hill, Claire noticed a man at the top with a gun in camouflaged attire. I immediately thought of the only Georgian film I’ve ever seen and it was the 2011 snore fest The Loneliest Planet. As I think only my friend Leanne and I saw the film I’m going to spoil the entire plot for you. The plot is a Spanish couple was trekking in Georgia with a guide and they came across the army who pointed guns at the man who then grabbed his girlfriend and used her as a shield. Yep wrong move buddy and that opened the door for the guide to get some action. That’s the whole plot of the movie, but the couple get back together and live happily ever after. The movie was visually stunning but boring. Fortunately for Claire, there was no gun pointing and thus no need for a human shield.
The military guy is there for good measure. Lets just say the border with Azerbaijan is ambiguous at best. The Lavra monastry is in Georgia, but the caves on the other side of the hill are probably not in Georgia. As we walked along the trail to see the caves with frescoes inside, Claire’s phone gave her a welcome to Azerbaijan message! Her iPhone also tagged the photos as Azerbaijan. After the caves we got to the top of the hill and a small church resides up here. A rest was taken in the shade of the church, which was not open to visit.
We walked back down the less steep path but passed many people coming up, some grossly miscalculating their footwear choice for the day and probably their own level of fitness. I managed it with ease, all the gym training on the wind bike has paid off.
The drive back to Tbilisi had us both nodding off a little, exhausted and having missed lunch entirely. A picnic lunch on the top would have been ideal. That said we retired to a bar in the canyon for happy hour beverages and cake.
Dinner was less exciting tonight and also expensive but at least one dog benefited from my dry inedible chicken. Tomorrow we plan to do a less strenuous hike to the fortress above the city and to explore the rest of Tbilisi before we head up into the Caucasus on Wednesday.