We took a marshrutka from Akhaltsikhe at 10 and got to Adigeni at 10:50. The bus station looked a bit abandoned at first glance but then we noticed there were a few shops, some taxi drivers and stray dogs.
We entered the shop/ticket office/deposit and were somehow told that the marshrutka to Khulo was at 2:30pm…well, not in a hurry 😅 so we decided to take a taxi (10 lari) to the very close monastery of Zarzma and it was a very good idea! Once you cross the little entrance door (just push it, it’s open and the visit is free of charge), you get into a different world made of flowers and silence. The church is full of well-preserved frescos; you will keep your head up for a wee while! The garden and the view on the valley are also very nice.. it’s definitely worth a visit!
On our way back to Adigeni, our taxi broke down in the middle of nowhere.. just fields and cows around us. We looked at each other and started laughing, we got out of the car and waited for..we didn’t know what for.. just the car to work again probably 😅 after a few minutes another taxi arrived and stopped to help us. It was carrying the only other tourist in the area, Philip. He was looking for his trainers as he forgot them in another car. We joined him on the taxi and went back to Adigeni. And there we were, in our lovely bus station waiting to be 2:30pm 😄 we had some food, we wrote down something for this website and chatted with Philip, who told us he was paragliding in the region and who had his shoes back, eventually! At 2:30pm the marshrutka arrived super punctual, it stopped by along the road and we jumped in, ready for 3-hour driving on a bumpy road!!
The road was very bad but the journey super nice! The view of the mountains was stunning and the landscape changed from wood to grass as we got up to 2000mt. That area seemed to be famous for skiing as at one point we saw a kind of ski resort under construction and super modern cable car… we were just wondering how you are supposed to attract tourists up there if you have such uncomfortable and unpaved roads… anyway, we eventually got to Khulo safe!
We didn’t know where to sleep so we asked the girl at the tourist info point and then brainstormed a bit. Eventually, maps.me pointed out a hostel and we decided to go there. Helped by a policeman, we reached Hostel 13, which looked closed. The policeman called the owner and we were told to just get in and get a bed; the price per person would have been 15 lari. There were two doors and we entered the open one, went up the stairs and there we were..in the house of a stranger😂 well, we understood it was the other door with the name of the hostel on top of it (indeed) so we got in and it was actually a pretty cool hostel.
We were tired but Guido and I really wanted to take the cable car to go to Tago, on the other side of the valley, so we had a beer with Philip and then went out. It was 7pm already and the last run was at 8pm so our time on the other side was pretty short but intense! First of all, the Soviet cable car looked abandoned and totally unsafe 😅 anyway, we asked the owner of the minimarket and we didn’t know how someone showed up to run the little faded-red box. Well, he has apparently done since the cable car was built in the eighties and felt totally safe to open the door of the cable car when we were half way, right in the middle of nowhere, suspended at a height of 280 meters above the valley (he might do it with all the tourists, though) After 1,7 km ride (that’s the length of the hanging-with-no-support cable), we got to Tago with it’s cloudy and misty weather. The man who welcomed us was also the owner of the only cafe; we were offered a cucumber from his garden and grab a tea. Unfortunately, we had no time to walk to the viewpoint (well, it was foggy anyway) and then up to the monastery.. next time! Back in Khulo we chilled and had dinner with our friend; then, we gave us a good rest to be ready for another journey the day after.
The following day we left the hostel at about 10:30 and walked down to the main road to catch a marshrutka to Batumi (5 GEL). We were very lucky as one was about to leave; roads are better on that side but still a bit bumpy. Crowded and chaotic, the city welcomed us at lunchtime, after about two-hour driving. We went to our guesthouse, Eka Guesthouse, and then to the beach. On the way there, you can see the contrast which characterizes the city: quite old houses leave the path to big and elegant building in the main square and then to high skyscrapers right in front of the Miami-style park and boulevard on the sea front.
The Black Sea is very rough and quite dirty but we bath anyway and then chilled on the beach. On the way back home we managed to sneak in one of the highest glass building of the city. Apparently, it’s an apartment block as we followed a Chinese guy who was entering with some shopping. We went up to the 42nd floor and enjoyed the view.
The following day, we got up early and walked to the bus station to catch a minibus to Mestia! Our four-day trek was getting closer 😎