usheti (June 27 – July 3)
Horses will be carrying our packs up through the high passes of Tusheti on a 35 km day trek midway through this trip – just to set the tone of Tusheti as a little hardcore. Tusheti is a national Park bordering Dagestan and Chechnya – with former Russian territories, but with diverse populations that include very few actual Russians.
In the 1980’s, surveyors discovered medieval villagers living in watch towers wearing chain mail . Tusheti ( like Svanetti) is the land of watch towers, villages where every house traditionally fortified itself with a tower to spot bandits and pour boiling oil and night soil on the heads of unwanted visitors. The high Caucasus is proud that they were never prey to the Mongols, or anyone else for that matter.
Tusheti is famous as having one of the worlds most exciting switchback decents…awesome fun on a mountain bike… but you need to be strong, experienced and confident as a rider to join in this adventure. The Grand Georgian Traverse setting off two weeks before will be the easier ride. That said – its all fully supported with four wheel drives to get us up the big hills, and even horses if necessary
From the snow, we descend d to lush green meadows of the kind that make you think of milk and honey, wine and cheesey bread. Georgia is a true oasis of the Silk Road… though more euro-identifying Georgians would suggest perhaps that Georgia was a last stop, before leaving Europe for the Silk Road ( which people tend to associate as being Asia…people here are sensitive on national identity issues . It’s no wonder the Mongols loved it so much with it’s lush pastures – not to mention the worlds oldest wine culture centred on the nearby Kaheti Vineyards. Even common-as- muck wineries have shards from 8000 year old amphorae just scattered along the driveways of their welcoming bodegas.
Day 1 -Tbilisi
Day 2 We depart early for Pshaveli 130km away to the start of the infamous Abano Pass. Another 42 km brings us to the saddle at 2960 meter (a hairy ride ) then its on bikes for a riding descent off 35 km along jeep roads , down to Omalo – one of the principal watch tower villages in the Tusheti Region. These areas were only Christianised 300-400 years ago, so many pagan rites still remain. The old town is rustic and picturesque with bright orange lichen growing through the stonework in vibrant contrast to the lush upland meadows. We overnight in a traditional guest house and enjoy the exuberant hospitality (think horns of wine and melted cheese on everything) of the high Caucasus.
Day 3 – Rise early and watch the sun rising over the the Hills in Dagestan (formerly the most ethnically diverse part of Russia, now an independent country.) The morning ride is 17km on jeep tracks along the border of Dagestan, then on to Shenako, the summer pastures of the Tusheti sheppards. A little further on is the village of Diklo where we overnight n a traditional guest house backdropped by an impressive mountain of the same name .
Day 4 – We start with a 7km descent, transfer by car to Omalo, hike to Keselo then ride 30km on a jeep road to Dartlo, a UNESCO listed village, with both Pagan and Christian traditions and architecture, still considered as sacred. Dartlo is abandoned in the winter, when the Shepards take their sheep back to Kakheti. Swim in the river , or relax in the afternoon sun in another one of Georgias pretty highland villages.
Overnight in traditional Dartlo Guesthouse.
Day 5 – Explore the neighbouring villages Kvavlo and Dano several kilometres on the from Dartlo. Web then ascend on bikes – 17 km along a jeep road to Girevi and the 6th Century stone village Parsma. We recommend an early night in Girevi as the next day we next day we have a long hike, up to the Atsunta pass.
Day 6 – Using packhorses to carry our gear, we hike 35km and 1100 meters in height to experience the true wilderness of Tusheti national Park. The views are stunning, often rated the most beautiful in Georgia. We pass through abandoned villages and camp under the Atsunta pass.
Day 7 – We cross the Atsunta Pass, and, if weather allows, view the beautiful Mount Kazbegi in the distance. Hiking through the Khevsureti Mountains we reach 3500 meters altitude before descending to Mutso (15km) where our bikes and jeep await us. Its then an exhilarating 15 km descent to Shatili, along the Chechnia border. We overnight in Shatili guest house, enjoying hot showers and a family cooked meal. Shatili is another UNESCO world heritage site – famous for the fortress architecture.
Day 8 – The ride from Shatili is an undulating 35km ascent to the Datvis Jvari pass at an elevation of 2800 meters and a 25km downhill to Roshka through beautiful alpine meadows. We overnight in Chaukhi staying in a traditional mountain guest house.
Day 9 – In the morning we hike to the Abudelauri lakes – a series of multihued lakes surrounded by snowy mountains (12km) , then its a 50 km ride downhill on a jeep road till Jinvali where we pack up the bikes and jump in the jeep to Tbilisia.
This is our final night together and we celebrate our trip with a dinner in one of Tbilisi’s finest restaurants…Mtskheta, or Meow. Soothe those tired muscles soaking in one of the Turkish style Hammams, or another glass of Georgian Champagne and become nostalgic for the old Caravanserai, that is Tblisi.
Day 10 – Departure day. Check out at your leisure , anytime before 12.
Cost and inclusions
As an all inclusive, fully supported trip – this trip is going to be budgeted at between USD 265 – USD 300 per day. There will be a discount offered for people who do both rides.
You need to be an experienced rider to join Tusheti