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Day Nine - Sissian to Yerevan

Tues 8 June 2010

sunny 86 °F

Saro joined us for breakfast - he had been staying at his uncle's house in Goris. We had a good night's sleep at the hotel - it was very quiet and a lot cooler than in other places that we have stayed at. I had felt chilly for the first time the previous evening when we had gone for a stroll. I asked Saro if he knew where I could buy bean seeds - the beans we have been eating are very different than English beans. Although we were too late to buy them in a shop, Nina who works at the hotel had some seeds which she gave to me. I was so pleased to get them - they are really tasty beans - much nicer than runner beans. Can't wait to grow them - if I'm not too late.

Our plan for the day was to head back to Yerevan with a few stops on the way - Karahunj and Khor Virap monastery. As the journey was just a few hours long, we decided to eat lunch when we got to Yerevan rather than on the road. Armenia is quite a small country and most places are quite a short distance from Yerevan - what slows journeys down are the roads which can be really difficult in places.

Karahunj is compared to Stonehenge in the information but it is really quite different and more comparable to places like Avebury and other smaller scale ancient sites. There was a bit of erroneous information about this at the site. The stones aren't very big but are arranged in a circle and one long line. Some of them have holes in them but no-one can agree what these were used for. It could be astronomical or for worship. There are some burial mounds there - the site was very peaceful and the wildflowers around the site were very beautiful. From here we retraced the journey we had taken on the way to Goris - through the Voratan Pass and the fisherman by the side of the reservoir and along the dramatic gorge to Vaik. All along the river there are picnic places and cafes which look very tempting. One cafe has built platforms over the river so the diners have the river rushing underneath them as they eat. I like the private dining idea - lots of space instead of a crowded restaurant with lots of tables pushed close together. We bypassed Yeghegnadzor where we had stayed a few nights before, past the turn off to the lovely cave cafe - that is where we departed from the road that we were familiar with. Instead of going back north to the Selim pass we headed west towards the Tukh Manuk pass. When we went through a place called Areni it looked as if all the street vendors at the side of the road were selling huge containers of coca cola. Apparently the contents aren't coke at all but the local wine. The reason for the coke bottles is to allow Iranian lorry drivers and day trippers to buy it so they can take it back over the border to 'dry' Iran. Everyone seems to know about this so I'm surprised they aren't all confiscated at the border.

We crossed the whole of the Vayots Dzor province without stopping and soon we were rolling down towards the Ararat Valley. This was the first bit of lowland that we have come across apart from the narrow gorge bottoms. It seemed very dry and dusty down in the valley - although a lot of vegetables and fruit are grown in the area. There are fish ponds in the area which attract storks which nest on the telegraph poles and electricity pylons. This is the area which has had cases of malaria but going though it in the day we were fine. At Khor Virap monastery we were very close to Ararat - apparently its about 20 miles from there to the top of the mountain. Someone was trying to sell us a dove to send to Mount Ararat with a wish. As it's probably a homing pigeon it's quite a good business as the dove flies straight back to the owner to sell onto another gullible tourist.

Before we had hit the valley we were quite close to the closed Azerbajian border and from Khor Virap we could see the River Arax which marks the border with Turkey - also closed. There are watch towers on each side making sure no-one tries to cross over. The road started to improve as we got closer to Yerevan and soon we were back in the city and back to our homestay. After a short rest we had lunch at the Caucausus as they do the best dolma - peppers stuffed with either carrot or cabbage - very good. Not so easy to get veggie dolma in the restaurants and because we can't speak Armenian it isn't so easy to make it clear that we don't get meat - particularly when chicken is not considered to be meat! After a very tasty lunch we spent some time in the dark and dingy internet place round the corner from where we were staying. What we would have really liked to do was find a park and lounge around reading our books but the parks don't have nice grass like we do in the UK so we decided to lounge about on our beds instead waiting for it to cool down before going out to the Club restaurant as recommended by Saro. We had the best Baba ganoush ever there - really tasty! I expect people will be thinking that we are twice the size when we come back to the UK as we do quite a lot of eating here! However, the food we are eating is very healthy (if you don't count the ice-cream and baklava!) and according to everyone is all organic.

Posted by Cath_Greig 13:11 Archived in Armenia

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