The road from Armenia to Georgia through the Debed Canyon.
It was at this moment that Ashot appeared on the bus station. Large, noisy, gray-haired Ashot in sports pants and with a large gold finger ring. Ashot was an experienced taxi driver. With a philosophical glance, he took in a bunch of our backpacks and offered to go to Tbilisi for his & laquo; Volga, “because according to him, the minibus will not come. Then we still waited and hoped to get hooked on the passing bus from Gyumri.
Ashot left us alone. He went, smoked and returned. Began again to persuade to go with him and even dropped for us a thousand drams (two euros). I did not want to agree to a taxi. In the end, we came to Vanadzor on the roads, and we wanted to continue to keep the budget and adventurous movements. The next half an hour we waited for the minibus from Gyumri, which for lack of passengers that day also did not leave. In the end, we had no choice but to agree to offer Ashot and go to Tbilisi by taxi. International taxi!
We traveled to Tbilisi for 3.5 hours. During this time, Ashot told us a dozen Armenian anecdotes (most of them were simply indecent), told about his work, about tourists who come from America, Germany, Japan and Poland and only Polish tourists, according to Ashot, are stingy. All the others leave a good “laquo; gratuity & raquo ;. About the tip Ashot spoke up to the finish in Tbilisi. He told me about militzer Larisku from Nikolayev, with whom Ashot plays backgammon on Skype. Along the way he told the legendary story about & laquo; smelly Japanese & raquo ;, who wandered the Caucasus mountains for a week without bathing, and then sat in the gray & laquo; the Volga & raquo; to Ashot and asked him to take him down the canyon Debed. Was paid out & laquo; smelly Japanese & raquo; money, which was hidden under the insole sneakers. This story Ashot showed especially colorful, while keeping track of the road.
Ashot entertained us with bearded anecdotes and stories from life while we rode the canyon Debed.
If Ashot knew in advance, he would cook for us a real shish kebab. We talked for a long time about how to make good meat on a spit & ndash; Until that time in Armenia we have not tried the wonderful Caucasian shish kebab. While Ashot was talking about meat, his mouth was drooling. It was possible to turn off the road and eat, but we wanted to get to Tbilisi.
In Vanadzor we picked up a fellow traveler. The elderly man needed to get to Alaverdi, the city on our way. In the past, Alaverdi was a prosperous city with a high specific gravity of heavy metallurgy. Of the former factories, only one works today. The director of this plant was the brother of our fellow traveler. Dear person, then. In Alaverdi we changed the balance of drams on lari. Changing all the money, we guessed the reason for Ashot’s stories about the generous & laquo; gratuity & raquo ;.
In an atmosphere of jokes and tobacco smoke on the 25-year-old Volga we reached the Georgian border. Ashot went out to buy his favorite cigarettes, which can not be bought in Georgia. In the meantime, we took a few photographs of the border area. In the booth of the one who opens the barrier for the entrance to the border post, there was a noise. Ashot returned to shouting and defended us: & laquo; If you can not take pictures, let the table hang! & raquo; We left Armenia.
The Armenian border passed quickly. The bridge over the river Debed, and we come to Georgia. Here everything is done so modern, even if the appearance of the checkpoint is intended to entice people into Georgia. The border bridge is framed by curved railings, a new flag of Georgia flutters above the border terminal. The terminal looks like it was opened yesterday. In the window at the border all is severe: a serious young Georgian in military uniform is armed with a computer, a scanner and a web camera. Each visitor is photographed and stored in a database.
Ashot tried to joke around here too. Asked & laquo; Are you a Georgian? & raquo; at the frontier guard, but he did not react. Then Ashot gave out the crown: & laquo; And where did he serve? & raquo ;, but on this remark the border guard was left cold. The Georgian looked at my passport for a long time before letting me into the country. We drove past the border and rushed to Tbilisi.
To explain the contrast between the quality of roads in Georgia and Armenia, it is necessary to imagine that the Armenian roads, if they are subject to repair, are exclusively in the form of patches, which after the next winter again fall under the ground. In Georgia, all roads have been renovated in the last five years. With new, smooth, accurate markings, Georgian highways can literally fly, which, unfortunately, is used by routeers and dzhigits. The first impression of a beautiful flat road was quickly replaced by the scene of the accident: an inverted minibus and a dump into the ditch & laquo; Zhiguli & raquo ;. On good new roads Georgian jigits are dispersed much faster than they can afford in Armenia, hence the risk of accidents increases.
The region through which the road to Tbilisi passes is mostly populated by Azerbaijanis. Georgia & ndash; The only one of the three Caucasian countries that managed to maintain multiethnicity. In Georgia, Armenians and Azeris live peacefully, despite ethnic hostility between these two peoples outside of Georgia. Here, for the first time, I encountered the reluctance of people to be photographed. And roadside traders, and auto mechanics & ndash; all turned away at the sight of the camera and angrily asked to remove the camera. This was the only case in two and a half weeks in the Caucasus, when people reacted aggressively to the camera.
On the way to Tbilisi we passed several military radio stations, and at some stage, as we drove along the military unit, over our & quot; volga & quot; flew two fighters.
The last hour of the road we hardly talked. Fatigue was felt, and Ashot was concentrated on overtaking any vehicle that we found on the way, while rolling from the mountain to “la” Neutral & raquo ;. The remaining 75 km to Tbilisi we drove in just an hour & ndash; much faster than any site within Armenia.