September 14: Tbilisi, Georgia
8:10. We have an easy four hour drive today that should see us in Kasbegi (population: 300) in time for lunch.
11:30. We stop at a crumbling concrete monument that is perched high atop a cliff. According to our Georgian guide, “It was built to honour the friendship if the Soviet peoples.” Nobody is quite sure what that means as the Soviet era isn’t remembered that fondly around here. Did the Soviets build it to honor themselves? Don’t ask the guide. If it’s not a church, she’ll have little to say about it.
12:00. Before we get back on the road a birthday cake magically appears in celebration of Rodney’s 59th. He’s the veteran overlander on the truck and he keeps threatening that this will be his last overland trip. Apparently Sopo, our Georgian guide, found the cake in Tbilisi. I’ll have to cut her some slack as it really is delicious.12:30. Another photo stop at something Sopo calls a glacier. One of the passengers is a gro-physicist and geologist. She points out that glaciers are made of snow and ice. This comes as a surprise to the guide. This formation is made of calcite from a spring halfway up the mountain and it most definite is not a glacier.
13:50. It’s starting to rain as we leave the local cafe and make our way to the guesthouse where we still stay the night. The combination of a rain and lower back pain dampens my enthusiasm for a planned hike to the top of Mount Kasbegi (5769 m). I decide to stick around guesthouse and read. The church at the top of the mountain can wait until tomorrow when we have a free morning.
19:00. Dinner at the Archil’s Guesthouse is the same as every dinner we’ve had in Georgia: vegetable soup, roasted eggplant salad, tomato and cucumber with dill, hard and very salty goat’s milk cheese, chachapuri (cheese bread) an big platters of watermelon for desert. All of this is washed down with several bottles of Georgian ‘Champagne’ courtesy of the birthday boy.