Welcome again to the story about when I travelled overland to India with a band, funding all our expenses with music. A journey that took 1 year and 8 months, through 32 countries!
It's been a while since I came with an update on this story!
Last time I took you on a crazy ride with the Georgian Police, who left us in Ushguli, in the high Caucasus, which this post will be about!
Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe; 2,100 metres (6,900 ft) above sea level, consisting of 4 small villages.
It lies as a forgotten place in time, between glaciers and snow capped mountains.
It's quite inaccessible - we travelled for 2 days on some roads that were hardly roads anymore, through the tiniest little villages, in the police's 4x4 (read about the journey to Ushguli here), so it was really like stepping into another time to visit this village!
6 months of the year the village lies under snow, and even the roads to the bigger villages are closed.
The ca. 200 inhabitants of Ushguli are really living in an isolated little pocket.
We walked through the village marveling up at all these special towers, which attracted us to go here in the first place. I think we just saw a picture somewhere of these towers and thought we had to go to this place!
The towers has served as a defense, as far as we could understand, but now stands as tall monuments as a memory of a time that is passed, but still feels very present..
I was amazed at how people here survive! Even when we were here in June, the wind was still very cold, and it felt like winter had just let go of its strong grip in the valley!
It is impossible to grow many crops here, as the season is so short, and people here live mostly from animals. Actually this village clearly had more animal inhabitants than people! The roads were more animal-roads, with muds and footprints from cows and goats, and people live together with the animals, sharing their garden and parts of their house with them.
I know I keep saying it, but I really felt completely swept back in time, walking around Ushguli! Because the villages are so authentic, people really live this way, it's not a museum or some well kept ruins, this is life as it has been for so many years, been isolated in this little valley from being seriously influenced from outside.
We didn't meet so many people, but of course we attracted attention, and we met a young girl who spoke a bit of english.
She invited us to her house, as if it was the most obvious thing to do
She lived with her mother and grandmother in a beautiful stone house with a little garden where the baby cows enjoyed the sun
Inside, grandmother Janna is preparing Xatchapuri.
They served us a meal, consisting of cheese and eggs and bread in many different constellations! Egg with warm milk, bread with cheese and raw egg and I wish I could remember more of them...!
signs from the snow
We stayed with this family for a night or two, were they treated us as close friends, and even had guests rooms which they lent us as if they had waited for us to come.
They were such gentle and friendly people, with quiet smiles from quiet hearts, beating with the slow steady heart of the mountains.
Then we left the little village - this time taking the "bigger" road. As almost no cars come in and out of the valley, we had to walk very far to get a ride, and thereby passed by the other 3 villages in the Ushguli Settlement.
We didn't see any people. The wind and the bells of the animals are the voices of this valley.
The other villages we passed by somehow felt a bit colder and less open than the one we stayed in (which i presume was Zhibiani, but they didn't do a big thing out of signs..!)
Maybe it's true, or maybe they just told us that they were not for us. Or sometimes a village or a person looks less welcoming from far away..
After walking for a couple of hours, we got a ride with a truck. It was a mad journey on a road with so many holes and I remember that I swore I would always remember to appreciate good roads, even on long journeys!
I somehow love that there exists places as hidden as this, which really takes an effort to get to (and from), but it's also a tough life for the people living there.
But maybe they keep a treasure that none of us could ever reach...