Back on the road again

I had said my goodbyes to Spitak on the Saturday allowing me to take my leave unobtrusively on a clear and crisp Sunday morning. Retracing my steps, taken over a month previously, to Vanadazor.

I had to reach the Iranian border by the 6th of December putting a less than welcome time-scale on my progress. Still after some initial wobbles my confidence returned and the going was fine. If I was stopping rather more than previously and feeling a touch discombobulated it wasn't sufficient to prevent me making steady progress.

South of Vanadazor I entered gentle hillsides.

The last of Autumn still hanging on picturesquely in places.

As if emerging from a dream I found the twisty roads through the Oak and Hornbeam forests of a large nature reserve had ended. I had arrived unexpectedly rapidly at the town of Dilijan.

This pack of scamps came and said hello before trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a ciggarette toll.

Dilijan is a town renouwned for it's artistic output where during the Soviet peiod poets and painters would descend in search of inspiration.

Creativity was beyond me and by sundown I was fast asleep in the garden of a local BnB awaking later for a couple of hours to skype the folks before falling greatfully back into bed.

The next morning I began my ascent towards Lake Sevan finding the going slow.

Davide came and introduced himself on one of my many roadside stops and invited me to his house for coffee. Despite a by now very familiar lack of common language we got on well - looking at his wood pile and chainsaw, playing with his friendly pack of dogs and meeting his small familly. His wife even cooked me an impromptu omelette!

Reenergized and grateful I returned to my task with a ring of my bell and a wave of my hand.

The climb proved more challenging than I had anticipated and I was still working away come mid afternoon when a large tunnel came into view.

The sun still shone and the views were good so eschewing this convenience I took the old road up over the top with the path and its innumerable switchbacks entirely to myself.

Reaching the summit in late afternoon I was rewarded with my first glimpse of Lake Sevan; although not with the downhill to the lake which I had been craving.

I shouldn't have been surprised as this is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world according to the tourist information I read. While 'one of' may be pretty vague  at just under 2000m altitude I get what they are trying to say. Once one of the three Great Lakes of Greater Armenia Sevan is the last remaining within Modern Armenia's more modest borders.

With the light beginning to fade I raced along the shore towards Sevan Town and the pretty monestary perched on a peninsuar.

It used to be an island before the Soviets had the bright idea to partially drain the lake. (unlike Aral the negative effects of this are now slowly, but successfully, being rolled back.)

The sun beat me rendering pictures of that striking building useless but suffice to say while pretty it has been surrounded by the Armenian equivilant of Blackpool which on a chilly November night looked exactly as deserted and bedraggled as you might imagine.

Tired and cold I took a room at a suitably depressing road side motel where after a warm shower I fell immedietly to sleep. Awaking to a blanket of drizzle sheeting off the windows and feeling a bit bleak myself I rolled over and spent the day in a semi coma.

Determined to expunge the guilt accruied by having spent the previous day in bed I set off at dawn charging down the lakeside.

Sevan twinkled enigmatically as the clouds and sun duelled overhead but my camera stubbornly refused to capture the subtle hues that entertained me.

In my new found haste I almost missed this small, intriguing church.

Stopping for a poke around I couldn't decide if it was eerie or charming.

Inside I found the religious equivilant of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

But with the sun now shinning I settled on oddly charming.

Soon I reached the end of the lakes and of the clear skies and headed off towards Armenias highest pass.

With snow capped peaks ahead I spared one last look back towards the lake which I had visited out of season and had failed to make the most of.

I soon reached the high plains flanked by mountain streams happily meandering through typical Armenian grey-brown fields.

Nearing the summit the surroundings became increasingly apocalyptic with patches of foggy cloud obscuring the sun.

It also became significantly colder with sharp winds making ice sculptures of roadside vegetation.

Reaching the summit there was no view to reward my revolutions just an imprenetrable fog which made the first few switchbacks down a distinctly tentative affair as I rode the breaks.

But my destination soon emerged from the murk.

A 12th Century Caravansari built to provide shelter to the Silk Road traders heading up into The Armenian mountains.

Here I meet some other travellers. A friendly Armenian familly who beconned me over to join them, for Scnapps and a wind-chilled picnic, within seconds of my arrival.

After a lively 30 minutes of animated chat I said goodbye to my generous new friends

And investigated the interior of the Caravansari.

Cold, dark, hard floored but oh so atmospheric and how could I turn down the chance to rest my head where centuries of wanderers had done so before.

Though I imagine they may have had some fires and wall torches with which to cheer and warm the echoing gloom. Chilled to the  bone I almost immedietly had to retreat to my sleeping bag wearing every piece of warm clothing I had (gloves and all) to combat the -6 cold.


A glorious, soul-stirring, reward awaited as I emerged early the next morning to make water and was instead stopped dead  in my tracks.

Confronted with the grandeur of the view, the glorious loops of the awaiting descent and looking down on the delicate duvet of cloud beneath me the stress and worry that had clouded my trip since falling ill fairly fell away.

I was back.

On the road again. And loving it.

1 comment:

  1. Exhilerating set of blog posts Tom - well worth waiting for. Safe journey to Iran. M & D xx