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Megrelia - wild nature and hospitable people!!!

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Author: Tatiana Yermolinskaya, Belarus, Minsk
Teamleader: Maryna Ruban
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I decided to begin my acquaintance with Georgia with a hike in the mountains, having long dreamed of seeing the pristine, amazing beauty of this region. After purchasing the tickets, I was a little apprehensive about the list of necessary equipment. But with the help of the manager and another hike participant, Elena, I gathered the essentials.

My acquaintance with Georgia began immediately upon my arrival in Kutaisi. The noisy and obtrusive Georgians immediately plunged me into an atmosphere of cordiality, openness, and hospitality. Late arrival at the hostel was amusing and foreshadowed a lot of adventures in this country. In the morning we decided with Elena not to waste time and enjoy the views of Kutaisi before meeting our guide.

The mountain river and the view from the temple of Bagrat was impressive and breathtaking!  Already here it was clear that the mountain landscapes and views of mountain rivers in Mingrelia will be such that the head will go around, but about that later.

After meeting with the guide, we went to a village of Muhuri by bus, changing in Zugdidi.  During the 1.5 hour ride in the bus local Georgians gave us a detailed tour of Muhuri, surprising us with their knowledge of the Russian language and history of their native land, and their stories were filled with love for their country.

Arriving in Mukhuri at Lanzira and Mamuka's family home for the night - we were welcomed as if we were close relatives.  The view from the house on the mountain and the mountain river nearby... it was simply marvelous.

The cleanness of air, birds' singing made us feel dizzy. After swimming in the mountain river, having cooled down from the road, we went to dinner.  I had heard about Georgian hospitality and cuisine before, but this exceeded my expectations.  There were so many dishes of Georgian cuisine on the table that it was too difficult to try them all - khachapuri, salad, adjika, shish kebabs, mamaliga, and more. Everything was so delicious, homemade. During a heart-to-heart talk with the hostess Lamzira and other participants of the expedition Svetlana and Elena, I was enjoying Georgian national dishes, and I caught myself thinking that I was with very sincere and hospitable people, despite the fact that I met them quite recently. In such places everything is real - emotions, people, conversations. It is real psychotherapy!

After lunch we strolled through the village of Mukhuri, enjoying the mountain scenery, sunny weather and clean air. Upon arrival of the guide with the last participant of the hike Alexei - we sat down for dinner. The homemade wine, delicious food absolutely relaxed me and I felt a complete harmony with nature and relaxation.  The night sky in this place deserves a separate admiration. Going out into the courtyard and looking up - there are more stars than the sky!!!  The stars are so close and they just strewn the space!!!   I just froze with delight!!!!

The next morning - a heavy breakfast and packing for the road.  My equipment was no good.  Lack of time and frivolity in preparing for the hike. I realized this, looking at the other participants. Responsive guide solved my fears - he replaced my backpack, gave his own sneakers on hard soles and a personal rain cape with a pocket for a backpack (special thanks to him for his responsiveness!) Unpacking, the backpack was somewhat heavier than I expected (about 20 kg), but full of energy and enthusiasm, the hope for good weather, I have not lost optimism and anticipation of an unforgettable experience.  By a mutual decision of the participants we took the opportunity to save energy and drive up the alpine trail in a truck.  The road turned out to be very rocky, but enjoying the excellent views and the flowers it went unnoticeable (we drove about 5 hours).  

Further on, we go on a picturesque mountain trail and stop for the night in a clearing where there is a lodge where there were hunters.  My shoulders were sore from the backpack and I was staggering from the weight of it.  But the hiking part was small, I made it!  The campfire, sleeping in tents really brought us closer to the group. In the morning, enjoying the rising sun, I inhaled the sun's energy in anticipation of further adventures. The rocky, pointed peaks, the morning sun, the abundance of colorful rhododendrons - I wanted to capture it all in photos, and I didn't part with my phone.

Heading toward Lake Ohoja, we encountered an abundance of snowfields, on one of which I failed to keep my balance and rolled down, getting small bruises from a collision with a rock while stopping. It didn't hurt as much as it scared me and made me realize the possible danger of the snow. We had no ropes with us. We were in an abnormal year - there had not been this much snow in June before. Moving on, we were on an absolutely snowy pass. The sun was scorching our skin, our shoes were wet, but we could not turn back. Only forward!!! From the pass to the lake Ohoja there was a great desire to go backpacking, but the fear of the previous fall stopped me.  So I took off my backpack and just rolled it beside me. Lake Okhodje turned out to be in ice - there was only snow all around. It was unbelievable! 

With difficulty, we found a small area without snow to pitch our tents. It was very cold, and I had two pairs of shoes and four pairs of socks soaked.   Svetlana came to the rescue - lending me dry ones, I tried to keep warm in my sleeping bag, waiting for the first rays of sunshine with the hope of warmth.  Indeed, hiking in the mountains is for the strong of spirit, especially in snowy passes.

Лагерь на берегу озера

The next day we had a long hike to Lake Tobavarchili, so we had to get up early and get ready quickly. The crossing was very difficult, sometimes I fell through the snow, from tiredness I felt neither the weight of my backpack, nor hunger, nor the cold. We supported each other and helped each other along the way, our sense of humor and good humor gave us strength to go on. An abundance of shallow springs and streams from melting snow made it possible to constantly replenish the water in the bottle. The water tasted "snowy" but was surprisingly tasty.  When I got to the top of the Toba Eastern Pass (elevation 2880 m), I enjoyed the view of the frozen lake and took a picture barefoot in the snow for contrast.  It was not my fate on this trek to bathe in a mountain lake!  To speed up from the pass I drove down to the lake on my backpack like a snow tubing, remembering my childhood and skiing. Positive emotions and unforgettable impressions moved me, opened my "second breath". Determination, strong character, will to conquer the summit, and blind faith and trust in our guide helped me to reach the next shelter.

By a mutual decision we decided to go ahead as we had no desire to spend the night in the snow near Lake Tobavarchili.

 Going around the lake, we came down to the fabulous place - the valley of waterfalls. I couldn't believe my eyes - plenty of colors, waterfalls, greenery. Just a miracle!!!  This place is amazing, surrounded by mountains and tumbling waterfalls! This is where we decided to stay for two nights. Without waiting for dinner, I ran for a swim in the mountain river. It was a real treat!!! The refreshing water relieved the fatigue and stress from the snow and difficult hikes.

долина

Dinner cooked in a cauldron was especially delicious (the food on the hike was varied, including snacks - a huge thanks to the organizers and the guide!). The jokes and games from Sergey's guide defused the atmosphere, and I began to forget about the snowfields and the two-day hike in the snow. My body was getting rid of stress, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the waterfalls, the majesty of the mountains, and the wild beauty of these places.
Ordinary things like warm water, clean hair, a cup of coffee gave me a lot of pleasure and I began to perceive situations from my past life in a new way. There was too much condensed milk in our food so we made ice cream out of snow and condensed milk (according to Svetlana's recipe). Unusual feeling and taste! A sea of positivity and emotion!!!
The mighty waterfall, collecting water from the melted snow, amazed by its power, unruly and mesmerizing sound and view. I counted 9 waterfalls in the valley of waterfalls, each of which was beautiful in its own way. The unique, magical, mystical atmosphere of this place will always remain in my memory, a piece of my soul remained in the valley of waterfalls!

The next day is the descent to the Magana River valley. High humidity from evaporation and clouds prevented me from fully enjoying the magnificent scenery. Nettles and thickets my height scratched my skin. There were many mountain rivers and streams along the way that were very difficult to cross. The water was just above my knee, the current was sweeping and my legs were cramping. Crossing icy streams gave us another dose of adrenaline, stirring the blood and emotions. When we reached the next crossing point we saw a group of people on the other shore. It turned out that the bridge across the river had been swept away. And it was great luck that the two groups met at the same time on different banks. While the men in our group helped to repair the bridge, I restored my strength in the shade of the trees, enjoying the colorful Georgian language and the sound of the raging water.

Next we found ourselves in a real jungle - moss-covered trees and rocks, thickets of ferns and vines hanging from the trees, an abundance of mighty beech trees and slender boxwoods. When I saw one mighty and huge beech - I offered to embrace it, asking for energy from this strong tree. Only the five of us were able to embrace it!  The power of nature is very great, it nourishes us, it opens new possibilities for the human body.  In the dark we got to the parking place, where we made a huge fire, the fire of which soothed and warmed me, put me to sleep before dinner. 

On the final day of the hike we had to do a 20 km march. The road downhill was loose, my feet were sticky in the mud, and sometimes it rained. But against the background of the previous tests of fortitude and willpower the way to the village of Skuri was easy and fun for me. Upon arrival in Mukhuri I was warmed by the hospitality of Lamzira, the sincerity of Mamuka's toasts, the warmth and sincerity of those around me.

The whole trekking route through wild Megrelia was quite extreme, combining ascent and descent over rocks, overcoming snowy passes, backpacking in the snow, crossing mountain rivers, walking through brush and forest. Impressions from each day of the hike were different and unique. It was difficult, but at the same time overcoming difficulties made the experience stronger and brighter, like walking on the edge of a precipice. We were lucky with the responsive guide, with all the participants of the tour, because only together we were able to go along the wild route in the little-explored Mingrelia, visiting the kingdom of snow, lakes, waterfalls and rivers. Thank you all!!!

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