After an awesome Georgian breakfast we continued our hike towards Shatili. We passed by a few hamlets – Biso and Khakhmati – lying in the valley below the road. Traffic was low (i.e. almost non-existent). Eventually we spotted a marshrutka in the distance and were prepared to flag it down and hitch a ride to Shatili. The van was filled to the brim and didn’t even stop. At that point we realized that we would not make it to Shatili today. The original plan of hiking from there to Tusheti in the East was ditched due to timing constraints. Instead, we decided to keep on walking on the road until after we crossed the main Caucasus range via the Datvisjvarisghele Pass (2676m), then deviate off onto less trodden paths, cross another pass and descent into the Chanchakhistskali valley, then continue to Shatili from there. By now we were too proud of what we had already achieved to negate that achievement by using cars. From Shatili we’d take a marshrutka back to Tbilisi to arrive back there in time.
Datvisjvarisghele Pass was covered in clouds. On the way there we could hear a shepherd shout after his flock of sheep. We even saw him high above the road on a steep slope, until he was swallowed by the fog. We imagined the life these people lead here, always outside, always on the move, no matter what the weather is like, sleeping in tiny and cold huts.
The wind blew coldly across the pass, but as soon as we had descended below the clouds again the view was breath-taking. The valley which the road followed was astoundingly beautiful. Green grassy slopes left and right, bare of any trees, a large flock of sheep grazing just across the valley. We were almost feeling sad about leaving road and valley behind. We walked down to its bottom, left the road, crossed the river Arghuni which has its source near by. Since we had just crossed the water divide, the Arghuni flows in a northish direction, towards Chechnya.
We continued eastish, climbing up to an unnamed (as far as I know) pass, on a narrow footpath, not far from the sheep mentioned above. The shepherd didn’t seem to care much, unlike his dogs. Two of them followed us for quite a while, barking, making sure we didn’t feel like having lamb for dinner. Eventually they decided to let us go scot-free, and we disappeared in the fog.
After crossing the pass, the Chanchakhistskali valley opened up beneath us, again stunningly beautiful. While descending towards the Chanchakhistskali river, we heard gun shots and voices shouting. However much we strained our eyes, though, we didn’t see anyone in the valley below or on the slopes across.
We followed the winding path and when we reached the river at the bottom we decided to call it a day. Fog crawled up the valley and we had just finished pitching the tents when the world around us disappeared.