Encounters of a Special Kind

Signaghi, most beautiful town in Georgia:

A water tank for a one family house
An old woman opens the church for us
Maya – our host in Sighnagi

On the next day we want to go to the beautiful national park Vashlowani. We have already bought everything for our first wild camping. In the Visitor’s Center in Dedoplistskaro, fifty kilometers before the park entrance, we want to register, including the Boarder Permit, which allows us to ride and walk around near the border to Azerbaijan, through beautiful landscapes, a bird species richness similar to Botswana or Namibia. Too dangerous for us cyclists, the lady at the Visitor’s Center tells us, because of the shepherd dogs that are currently running around there, guarding the sheeps. In four weeks, when the lush meadows have turned into yellow semi-desert and the flocks of sheep have moved elsewhere.
What a disappointment!!! We decide against the dangerous shepherd dogs. We have dodged or ridden away from too many aggressive dogs in the last four days.

So, with a heavy heart, we change our plan and head north towards the ‘Great Caucasus’.

Post-socialist charm – view from Dedoplistskaro
On the way we meet many flocks of sheeps – when the shepherd is present, the dogs are peaceful.
These nomads are traveling with everything that a farm has to offer: sheep, goats, cows, horses, dogs, donkeys
In the background you can already see the Caucasus and its up to 5000m high mountains. Behind it lies the Russian Republic of Dagestan. On the right is Azerbaijan.

Thanks to the Park4Night App we find Jeff who likes to meet travelers. Jeff has an open house, meets us 30 kilometers from his house to show us the way. He employs his neighbor as a cook so that he does not drink himself to death and has been hosting globetrotter Norbert (just turned 76 years old) for months.

Jeff invites us for dinner
His friend Vitali (2nd from left) has cooked – in the background sits Norbert
Breakfast the next day. We slept upstairs in the balcony room.

Bird-wise it is a dream: a pair of golden orioles seen in the morning and a colony of bee-eaters in the evening. What an exciting and crazy day!

Bee-eater: forgot to zoom because of excitement.

In fact, we decide to stay one more day with Jeff. In the border triangle of Georgia-Russia-Azerbaichan we visit the Lagodekhi National Park with the supposedly most beautiful waterfall in Georgia. 16 km and 500 height meters. And all this in best weather.

Unfortunately, we do not see the bee-eaters again. In the evening we enjoy Norbert’s monologues and drink beer from a 2,5l bottle. It is full moon.

As almost every day, departure is at 10am. We travel direction west along the foot of the Great Caucasus. Again and again the snow-covered peaks appear between the green hills.

We have a campsite in mind. After 80 kilometers we stand in front of a metal gate. The welcome beer is already bought. Everything is locked and barricaded. Nobody answers the door opener or the phone. It is already half past 4pm. Astrid would like to put up the tent hidden on the adjacent piece. Rolf has found another campsite nearby. We cycle there. Dog barking welcomes us. Two dogs almost jump towards us from the balcony, three yap along the fence. We open the first beer a little further on. The area invites to wild camping. Cows are standing around and it is very idyllic. We try to call the owners – finally someone answers the phone: ‘No, we are not at home today. But you are welcome to come to our place. It’s all there and open.’ Only, how do we get past the dogs, onto the property?

‘Talk to the black dog …’

is the recommendation. The black dog is one of the five. First we think it is a joke. Then we gather all our courage, speak to the dogs and open the metal gate. The magnificent place is ours. The dogs are peaceful.

No photo from the black dog

We pitch the tent and get a warm shower. The birds are chirping and the snow-covered peaks of the Caucasus shine in the alpenglow. We have pasta with tomato sauce. What a happiness!

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