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The last of the Georgian hikes

Six weeks we spent in Georgia, six weeks that felt like a dream. But before we definitely said goodbye, we had some unfinished business to take care of.

We left Tbilisi and drove to Borjomi, which was an easy and relaxing ride. Borjomi is known for its sparkling water. You can find it everywhere in Georgia.
But the main reason we went there is, that it’s a perfect place to start a hike in the Borjomi National Park, one of the biggest parks in Europe.
It would also be the last chance to see bear, lynx and/or wolf in Georgia

The first three days the weather was shit, so we waited for the air to clear, which happened eventually. In the mean time we had enough to do to kill the time. The children had their schoolwork (and so did I), I wrote a new blog piece and Katrien did some work. It was quite relaxing to sit inside while rain poured down.

Sunday would be the day to start our two-day hike. We left early in the morning and took a taxi to Likani, which is one of the official gateways to the park. We left our car and trailer (free of charge) at the guesthouse where we would stay for another two nights.
The first 3k of the trip were easy peasy, just a simple walk through the forest to get the blood flowing.
The next part, on the contrary, was quite hefty and took us a whole lot higher up the mountain. It was a very rewarding climb though. When we got up there the sun was high up in the sky and we had a lovely view while picnicking.
The third and last part took us to the cabin where we would spend the night. It was easy to hike and the elevation was quite mellow.
Still, we were all very happy to see the cabin lying in the sun with another astonishing view to enjoy.
We were not alone there, which was to be expected, but believe it or not… Of the seven people up there, six of them were Belgians and there was one German (“Do not mention…”) who has a Belgian girlfriend. How big can coincidences be?
It was nice to have a conversation without using all your body parts.

The cabin was equipped with twelve wooden, bring your own mattress, bunk beds and a wood burning stove which was very welcome because the temperatures would go below zero.
After a simple, adventure food out of a bag, meal it was time to go to sleep. We knew it would be cold so we prepared ourselves the best we could. Especially for the children this was a challenge. They never slept in these cold temperatures before as we did and we were to find out if their new sleeping bags would be sufficient enough to keep them warm and cosy.
They did.

After a good night sleep we woke up, ready for another beautiful day of sunshine and clear blue skies. We had breakfast and packed our backpacks. But before we went down the mountain again, we left our stuff at the cabin and went further up. A one-hour climb took us up to the top and to the best view we had in all of Georgia. We had a 360-view of mountains. In the north we saw the same mountains we saw in Mestia, Ushguli and Kasbegi but also all the other 5000+ mountains elsewhere in the Caucasian mountains. In the south we saw the Turkish mountains of which we knew, we would drive across them while heading back west to our future destination. The past, the present and the future came together on that mountaintop.

From there we walked back to the cabin and started to make our way down again. It was already late so we didn’t have loads of time left. The first part turned out to be heavier than predicted. The uphill parts came in hard and my backpack felt way too heavy. After a compact lunch things got better and we made it back down just before dark after a beautiful, less painful descent. We spotted a beautiful doe and a pack of wild boar. But no…

We called for a taxi and before we knew it we were back at the guesthouse. We dropped of our gear and immediately went out to have another delicious Georgian meal. Trust me, a shkmeruli after a two day hike of 30k and 1400 metres of elevation feels like heaven.

things to pack:

permit to enter the park and map

good, leather shoes and warm clothes, don’t forget extra (woollen) socks

Fjallraven Kaika backpack (try to keep things light)

Thermarest mattress and a down Mammut sleeping bag (feel free to ad an extra liner for extra warmth)

enough food: adventure food (in a bag), Georgian flatbread, bananas, cheese, sausage, choco, jam, instant noodles, oatmeal, powdered milk, sugar, minute soup, coffee, thee, cookies, Pringles, soda or other things you like (make sure there’s sweet AND salt)

plenty of water, but don’t overdo it, remember 1L = 1kg

multi-fuel MSR burner

kettle, pot and 4 spoons

4 Klean Kanteen steel pints

knife; one Opinel and one F1 Falkniven

retractable Fiskars saw

EHBO

toothbrush

toilet paper

trash bag

The children carried each a small Deuter backpack with their own mattress and sleeping bag. We think it’s important that they learn to carry some of their stuff but don’t overdo it. Keep it light and fun.

tips and tricks we learned over the years:

Georgian bread, choco and banana combined, make a mean snack. Your energy level will be back to normal instantly.

A pot of Pringles and a soda for when you arrive at your destination, get’s everyone in a festive mood. Keep it fun!

Take time for a tasty lunch and to relax a bit. Boil some water and make a nice cup of hot, instant soup. If you ad some instant noodles, it gets even better.

Do not under-estimate the importance of hot, boiling water.

Use a kettle to boil water. It’s quicker (read less fuel burned) and you can use the kettle as a lid for the pot. There’s nothing better than a nice, hot cup of soup, thee, coffee, hot chocolate while hiking or when you have breakfast.

Adventure food bags make an easy and calorie-rich meal. After a long day of hiking it’s a luxury to just open the bag and to ad some hot water. After you removed that water absorbing thingy, that is.

There’s a lot of difference between brands and not all of them make a quality meal. Some of them are expensive and others are just impractical to prepare.

Make a pot of oatmeal for breakfast. Just mix some water, powdered milk and ad the oats. When ready ad some sugar or honey. 4 people, 4 spoons and 1 pot = almost no dishes

Use the kettle as a lid for the pot.

Pack salt AND sweet food. A lot of people only think of sugary things to eat. You need the salt to keep you hydrated.

The MSR multi-fuel burner is an easy-to-use and powerful burner. It’s light and you can use white gas or euro 98 which you can find anywhere. And, unlike propane or butane, it doesn’t freeze when temperatures drop below zero. It doesn’t take long to boil some water, especially when you use a kettle. (Did I mention the kettle before?)

A retractable, Fiskars, saw is an extra luxury you can pack when you’re sure it’s ok to build a fire. It’s light, sharp and perfect to carry inside a backpack. It’s a great tool to cut down, dead, not-to-big trees.

The F1 Falkniven is a great knife to cut things with, but it can also be used to split wood.

Thanks to those who made our trip even better.

  • Guesthouse On Erekle
    A simple, small but convenient studio at the end of a narrow street. We thank them a lot for letting us park the car while hiking (for free) and for their kind reception.
  • restaurant Pesvebi
    Delicious food in a rustic decor. Jummie!
  • Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park Administration
    They provided us with the necessary information and map to plan our two day hike. A very friendly reception and an english speaking ranger.
    You also have to go there to buy your permit to enter the park.
  • Jolien, Thomas and Oliver
    Thanks for the great company at the cabin.

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