The crazy time begins

Of course, you may ask when is it not “crazy time” for us. Perhaps I should have called it “the busy time”.

Shearing all of our alpacas started last week. (12 down, about 40 to go) We will be shearing every free evening and weekend for the next 2 weeks to get them finished. And when that is done, we get to shear almost every other camelid in the Wellington region. Every other shearer who used to work in the area has either moved away, become to busy, or is fully booked with shearing closer to home.

So, basically from now until mid December (at least) every evening and weekend is booked. We are trying to fit in some social stuff in the cracks in the schedule, just to make sure we are extra-exhausted.

Oh, and did I mention that cria are due to start dropping, and we need to start getting matings going again. And delivering animals we have sold. Plus other stuff I am sure I am forgetting right now.

Busy indeed. Crazy even.

11.b photos

These are from the trip to Ushguli, up to the part where we actually make it to Ushguli.

Mount Ushba, very distinctive with its double peak, watches over Mestia. In our broken Russian, we had a conversation with Gia comparing the heights of Ushba and New Zealand’s Aoraki/Mt. Cook.
Mount Ushba is Mestia's mountain, and one of the most difficult to climb anywhere.

Some assorted scenery shots.
Scenery on the road to Ushguli We paused to stretch our legs and take photos here.

It was wildflower season in Georgia, too.
The meadow was full of these orchids.  Those flower spikes are about seven inches long, just the purple parts

This is a section of the road, where it perches above the gorge, and the German motorcyclist we ran into a couple times. The river is way, way, way below the road on left.
For scale.

Not all of the moutains were slate like this, but a lot of them were. Many of the older sheds in the villages used slabs of slate for roofing, as you would expect. Some buildings had iron roofs, and the newest, wealthiest ones had sheet aluminum.
Slate, we has it.

There’s a person — Stephen, in fact — on the road, to give you some idea of the scale.
Road and river.

And our first glimpse of Ushguli (or, one of the several little village-ettes that are collectively referred to by outsiders under the umbrella of Ushguli). Very broody.

11.a Photos

This is going to be easier if I just stick the photos for this part in a separate post or two, or three.

First, some establishing shots. The first is taken through the window of the marshrutka, which is why it’s a little washed out and spotty. I was lucky enough to have a seat at this point — I’d started the trip sitting on one of our backpacks, but managed to upgrade when a couple people got off at Zugdidi (and one of the new guys got stuck on the backpack). There was another fellow next to me who spent most of the trip with his right shoulder hunched into the curve of the window.

Svaneti, from the marshrutka window

The second was taken in one of the villages we paused in on the way. Once we got up into mountains, we started shedding passengers. Some got off in one or another village. Others would ge let off apparently just by the side of the road — until we saw the four wheel drive that was waiting to pick them up and take them farther on. We shed baggage as well, as most everyone was bringing stuff up from town — boxes of beer, a carpet bag full of home-made cheeses, sacks of… something. The driver took a short detour into one of the little hamlets, where he stopped to fill up water bottles from a spring by the side of the road. It was tidy little thing, like a square wooden well, only a couple of feet deep, and with a roof over it. The water was clear and cold, with a sandy bottom. I filled one of our bottles out of curiosity. Svaneti is dotted with mineral water springs like this one — there were two or three in Mestia where we stayed. The Svans call them “sour water”, and so they are.

One of the villages we passed through

And this one is just of a random door. This sort of wood carving, with the circular solar symbols, is pure Svan.

A random door

Here is the party we were invited to. It was just as Stephen described: we were just wandering the streets, looking at the houses, when these people called to us from the porch & sat us down to dinner. The lady just behind Stephen is the school teacher. The gentleman next to her is the tamada (toastmaster). The tamada role will be taken either by the male head of the household, or the man present who has the greatest mana, effectively. I never heard a Georgian use the expression mana, but that’s basically how it works. Just out of shot to the left is the guy who was squashed in next to me in the marshrutka, and the guy in the grey shirt is the one from Novosibirsk.

The Svan supra

Here’s Giorgi, leading the way up his tower. These towers are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We need to sit down at some point and tally up how many UNESCO sites we visited on this trip.

Up a Svan tower

And here’s the view from the top:

Mestia, from Girogi's tower

And I think that about catches me up to the beginning of Stephen’s last post…