Linda: continuing to build cultural bridges with weapon-loving locals

The night was cool up here- felt my feet getting cold, but was too lazy to get up and look for socks, so continued my strange yoga-dreams of doing gomukh asana. 

Jaba’s alarm rang at 6:00, but did not disturb anybody’s sleep much. Eventually I got up first and went out for toilet- had a choice of a open-air pit toilet open to observation from the hut by missing one wall and the privacy offered by knee-high leafy plants wet with morning dew. 
Watched the sun rising behind clouds tainting them pink.

Marta woke up with desperate cry: “Oh, I am so cold! Linda, put your sleeping bag over me!” My argument that she has to get up anyway did not work, so I wrapped her in the warmth of two sleeping bags and went to fetch water together with Dito freezing our hands in the icy stream. 

We were ready to go after breakfast 7:00 + Georgian factor = around 9:00. Walking and marking was extremely slow- making the marks is a damn hard work especially here high up on the ridges in the howling wind. By observing the marking process and reviewing the left marks, I am still sure that Marta and me and in fact any hiker, who would come here for the first time, would lose the trail anyway. The team was lacking resources for proper marking- they can carry only limited amount of wooden poles and planks and on spot there are no materials useful for leaving marks available- no trees, no stones, just alpine meadows. Nevertheless the path itself was wonderful- through green meadows rich with flowers of all colours- orange, yellow, violet, white, pink. At moments felt unconditional happiness taking me over. Is happiness real only when shared? Then why does it visit me mostly at my solitude with nature? Nothing else ever makes me as happy.

We were singing a lot while walking- each to themselves- in our mother tongues (Dito preferring “we don’t need no education…”) and all together joining in our first Georgian song: “Chrvelo pepelo, caprindi nela, delia auranuli…”.

Started to admire Dito- he was the only one really putting effort in the work of marking and everything he did, he did with care and precision, not leaving anything unfinished and overall he is a most pleasant company with loads of positive energy, although he enjoyed making fun on behalf of us- I found it healthy to have a laugh about ourselves.

Finished marking the trail just above Amarati shelter and were looking for a place to settle for lunch when were met by another inhabitant of the park- shepherd nicknamed Krazana (Mosquito). He brought us some bread and khachapuri and never without it- home-made wine. Our lunch was prolonged by Jaba dutifully taking up the responsibility of park staff to maintain good relations with other park stakeholders and soon getting drunk, while we were layzily lying around in the sun and wind. It was soon obvious that a storm is coming, so the decision was easy- no Atskuri today- we’ll spend one more night in the park at Amarati shelter.

Krazana invited us to his summer home, where he currently lives with his wife- a mud floored wooden hut decorated by pages of Soviet fashion magazine pages from 70s in one room and cigarette block packaging in the other. Krazana’s wife Ljuba was a cute 20 year old girl- 15 years younger than him, from my point of view treated like a slave in this solitary hut of primitive conditions. Krazana boasted to be the ruler of the house and claimed that any work he utters is like an order from God to his wife. I did not interviene or express my diassproval of such an abuse of a woman, as i had no chance to find out how she feels about it or what are the conditions behind their marriage. Marta being more idealistic in her heart bluntly ignored the man and tried to communicate with the girl with short phrases in Georgian. I had sat down on Krazanas bed and at a point was told that I am actually sitting on a shotgun, which is under the blanket, but it is OK for me to continue sitting on it. The fiest of playing cards, eating fried potaoes and drinking wine and cha-cha with lengthy toasts, as always and singing stretched to 4 hours and included all the aray of traditional Georgian toasts: to God, to Georgia, to all the good people, to guests, to all the people that miss us, to all the people, whom we miss, on families and mothers and brothers and sisters and children, on our deceased ancestors, on the beauty of nature, on us getting married etc. 

Finally we were freed to go to the tourist hut, where Dito rushed to chop firewood and Marta delighted in clean toilet “you could eat in that toilet!”, which actually had all walls and a door. Soon heavy rain started so we moved indoors and had a rock-pop-reggea singing evening and when Jaba and Geo came as well- a Georgian language lesson by drunk Jaba.Tried to close the glassless windows letting in gusts of wind carying lots of water along with plastic bags and tape and chose to occupy more dry upper bunks for sleeping. 

Our peace was soon disturbed by loud banging on the door and yelling. Krazana. Marta went to open the door that had been blocked by a chair to keep it from slamming in the wind and was met by this sight: mighty storm raging, Krazana in his raincoat completely soaked with a huge fire in the background (later he explained, that he needed to add “some” wood to our fire, beauce he had needed light) and holding his gun. That did cause some distress in Marta, but Krazana ignored her and came in the hut filling all room with the heavy smell of alcohol and started conversing with Dito. Dito endured the conversation with grace and Krazana left to continue with his strategy of random shooting in the dark to scare wolves and bears away from his herd disoriented by the storm and thick fog. The alternative tool at his disposal was a huge metal bell, used for the same purpose of keeping wild animals away. So we had this concert of howling storm, gunshots and bell-ringing to which jaba added his part of juicy snorring. Try sleeping.
The situation began to seem hilariously absurd to me so I just couldn’t stop laughing while Dito kept singing Bob Marley songs and Geo whistled to the rhythm of Jaba’s snore.

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