Day 38. Tuesday, September 5. Rest Day – Lagodheki
The social life of the tour means a lot to all of us. It’s a vital source of encouragement and entertainment, friendship and advice. We particularly enjoy celebrating rider and crew birthdays…as we did yesterday evening over dinner with Moniek, our tour doctor from Holland via New Zealand. Indeed, she hopes to resume work in the Hutt Valley late this year.
Seventeen of us gathered at dusk at a long table outdoors with the mountains as the splendid backdrop. Moniek is third from the left on the far side of the table.
While the hotel restaurant’s food was excellent, its wine list was a bit bewildering. Handily, one of our riders, Rob, works in his family’s wine business in NYC. He texted a photo of the wine list to his brother – who happens to be an expert in and importer of Georgian wines – and he chose for us. What a ludicrously, but wonderfully, connected world we live in.
While we were dining well alfresco, Michaela from Newfoundland and Nick from Colorado, two of our crew, were up in the high mountains behind us. They’d left early afternoon yesterday, overnighted at a mountain hut, then pressed on early this morning to a peak overlooking Black Cliffs’ Lake I mentioned yesterday.
Thus, I was wrong in yesterday’s blog about none of us getting up to alpine heights. Even more impressively, they were back down here in time for lunch today. A testament to their mountaineering experience. Michaela’s speciality is avalanche control in the Canadian Rockies, which allows her to indulge her passion for dropping explosives from helicopters. She is also a mountain ultra-marathoner; while Nick is a climber and wilderness photographer. They said the terrain and vegetation were glorious and unlike anything they’ve seen before both in the broadleaf forest then up on alpine slopes.
I had a far more relaxed rest day. I wandered around this small town this morning. Here’s some of the local produce…
….followed by a visit to the National Park information centre, which is next door to our hotel.
There I met Zaza, its director. Thanks to his excellent English he learnt working in the UK some years ago, I heard lots more about the park’s history and its challenges today. In the photo below we’re standing next to a plaque commemorating the instigator of the park, Ludwik Młokosiewicz.
Please excuse this shortcut, but here’s Wikipedia’s succinct description of his role:
“The reserves originated with the Polish army officer and amateur naturalist Ludwik Młokosiewicz, who established a regimental park at the settlement of Lagodekhi while stationed with the garrison there. After resigning from the army out of pacifism in 1861, he was ultimately arrested on returning to Tiflis and sent back to Poland, but returned in 1867 and spent the rest of his life living with his family on a cottage farm in the forest, studying the flora and fauna of the area as Inspector of Forests for the Signakhi District. He discovered more than 60 species and supplied specimens to collections in other countries. Beginning in 1889, Młokosiewicz urged that the area be protected, but this did not occur until 1912 [three years after his death] after advocacy by the Imperial Russian Geographical Society and by Nikolai Ivanovich Kuznetsov, a professor of geobotany at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu).”
Thank you, Ludwig! This restful haven these past two nights and a day was just the preparation I needed for the challenges ahead. Over the next 24 days, we’ve 19 more days of riding to get us the 2,250km left to Istanbul. Only a few days are less than 100km, with some over 150km; and many of them involve far more climbing than we’ve done so far.
So, after a very cruisey past week, at 7.30am tomorrow morning we’re back in the saddle for serious riding.