Sunday 6 June 2010
06.06.2010 - 06.06.2010 80 °F
After a rather hot night we woke up to yet another lovely breakfast. You would think that we are going to return to the UK twice the size but the food is very healthy so we should be OK. Haven't seen a set of scales yet but I don't feel any different! Breakfast in Armenia mainly consists of bread, different types of cheeses, yoghurt and some sort of egg dish. Today it was an omelette with potato. We also had a rather delicious cherry preserve which went well with the yoghurt.
Due to our change in plans we decided to head straight for Goris to have lunch before going off to explore Old Khndzoresk - the cave village.
As we drove we saw a sign to Jermuk - this is where much of Armenia's bottled water comes from. This wasn't in our itinerary but we made a spur of the moment decision to divert and visit the town. We were so glad that we did - its a rather attractive spa town which was very popular in the Soviet era but has seen less visitors. Some of the old Sanitoria have been refurbished and look like good places to stay. There is a tremendous waterfall which tumbles down to the gorge - dipping our hands into the water - it feels like very soft water.
We had a short stroll around by the sanitorium and then continued on our journey. The scenery was very impressive - steep gorges and interesting rock formations. Once we hit the main road we were back on our way to Goris. The roads are so bad in some places it looks as if the cars are waltzing along as they swerve from one side of the road to the other. Apparently road conditions are a result of extreme cold and snow in winter followed by extremely high temperatures in winter. There are places where the tarmac looks buckled and other places where the tarmac has gone completely. The road to Goris is also the road that the Iranian lorries take. We saw a lot of them going north to Yerevan. The crossing point is at the border near a town called Meghri which is the southernmost town in the Syunik region.
The border between the districts of Vyats Dzor and Syunik is marked by two stone edifices on either side of the road. There is also a spring there. We have been drinking roadside spring water to no ill effect - it tastes so pure - no nasty chemicals that we have to endure in the UK. We wound down yet another impressive mountain pass - Voratan Pass - at one point where the tarmac disappeared a car got completely stuck but refused Saro's offer of help. There is a reservoir at the bottom with a lot of fisherman around and in it.
Goris is a very pretty place surrounded by craggy hillsides. Apparently the town was designed by a German architect - certainly from the road above you can see the layout of the town - a very organised grid system. The houses are mostly two storey and built of stone with balconies. We had lunch at the Pheasant hotel - not sure what the armenian name is. We had another spur of the moment change of plan, deciding to spend one night in the hotel rather than two in Sissian. We had a fantastically big room with two king sized double beds. Very luxurious!
After lunch we made our way to Khndzoresk - yet another bumpy ride - shock absorbers must have to be changed very regularly in Armenia. There is a picnic place at the end of the road and a party was in full swing - not sure what they were celebrating but they seemed to be having a good time. To get to the village we had to walk down into the valley and then up the other side. It must have been a huge settlement - some of the cave dwellings had no way of accessing them but Saro thinks it may have been because of earthquakes. There was one in 1931. At the bottom of the valley a woman was cultivating beans and potatoes - she must have had a long walk from her house but Saro thinks she may use a donkey The new village is at the top of the gorge so quite a climb. I can now appreciate how close my allotment is. After we had explored a bit - we made our way back to the car. The heat was making what would normally be a casual walk quite tiring. Back along the bumpy road we went slowly enough to be able to take in the beautiful wild flowers growing in the fields. Some familiar ones like poppies and vetch plus others that we couldn't identify. We are lucky that we have been able to catch the flowers before the hot summer dries everything up.
Back to Goris and our lovely big hotel room. For some reason we had to order our food at least 1 1/2 hours ahead. We discovered that the good thing about this was when we came down at 8pm the food appeared almost instantly. Luckily the hotel had a good computer and fairly fast internet connection so could get some photos up on the blog but I'm still trying to catch up... Saro was brought up in Goris so he stayed with his uncle and caught up with old school friends so we had an evening to ourselves.