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This rout leads through beautiful, diverse and highest parts of the mountains which are closing the Pankisi gorge. During this trip we will sleep in shepherd’s shelters and also get to know the local cuisine. It is also possible to hire horses for the whole route. The Nakerała pass is our destination, it is situated at the being of the main ridge visible from Duisi, the largest village in Pankisi gorge. Route begins in Omalo, inhabited by Kists, Georgian Chechens. We recommend a walk around the village right before the sunset, when the villagers sit in front of the houses on benches, they chat, tell jokes, comment on the events of the past day and they certainly will notice a group of guests with rucksacks. Omalo village is an example of characteristic Kistinian architecture. There are houses on both sides of road, often ornamented, surrounded with luxuriant gardens. There are small springs in front of many houses, where we can always have a drink. A small mosque is situated in a the central part of village, with somewhat clumsy, dumpy, but picturesque minaret.

We leave the village slowly. We are heading north and moving along the Alazani river maybe on horseback. On the opposite bank we can see a nice wide road, we do not cross the Alazani river but keep on going along the right bank. We are surrounded by hills overgrown with forest. After some time on the right we see Obolabones. The villagers say that 200 years ago there used to be a village where Kists’ ancestors lived after arriving from Chechnya. Nowadays Obolabones is just an overgrown thin forest glade. We can see a stone, a low wall about a dozen or so meters long. It may look like they are remains of a former farm. As we go to the other side of the wall, it turns out that this is cemeterys’ fens. The cemetery is very worn out, there are only several stone plates. One monument distinguishes itself among old tombstones, looking like modern graves. We can read, that a men named Abdullah is buried in this place and he lived between 1924 and 1950. The rest of graves are characteristic stone plates, on one of them we can see the Moslem half-moon with a star as well as the inscription in Arab.

We walk from Obolabones by the left Alazani’s bank (northern direction). Route leads by a forest, several times it crosses few streams joining the river. In some places path becomes rocky and steep (if we are horseback riding we will have to get off).  Our path now leads very near to Alazani. (it is also possible to start from coming here by car and later cross the river on horseback). In early summer it might be hard to cross without help of horses.

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Small lake at Nakerala Pass, http://kozlak.cz/gruzie.html

This is a very characteristic place in which we turn right (going from Omalo). We move along a different, smaller river. A comfortable road leads us though a forest, once a while we can admire more and more beautiful views of mountains overgrown by trees. It is clear, that we are slowly moving away from human residence. We walk about 1h by this road. We cross a stream. A healing spring in situated near this place – mineral water with heavy sulphur concentration ( it has a characteristic smell) – supposedly it helps to cure lung and stomach disease. A path on the left leads to the spring. We go further by our road which slowly transforms in to a mountain path. Here and there it becomes winding and steep. We cross numerous streams on our way, we have to be very careful if we ride on horseback. After about 1,5h we reach a picturesque village – Khorojan (Khorajo) – (about 2.45h from Alazani river). As in all mountain regions populated by people we have to be aware of potentially dangerous dogs.

Khorojan is an old – 200 years old Kistinian settlement. Only one shepherd’s family lives here now, as farmer says he is a representative of fifth generation of Kists living in this place. The hamlet looks like a well kept open-air ethnographic museum. There are seven stone houses with walls made from stone plates put together (coming in side we destroy bats’ peace…).The most important multi-storey house be inhabited. Unusual stairs lead to the first floor, to habitable part – it is a kind of stone pyramid where we climb to a wooden, shadowy bower. All the items in the house have museum value and it is hard to believe, that they are not exhibits, but things used daily. Described farm is situated on the left side from the path. On the right there is a cemetery, with several stone plates put vertically in the ground.

After a stop in Khorojan our path leads further up the mountain. Nearby, on the left side, we notice that long time ago there had to be some buildings here. We go through the forest which thins out again – judging by wild fruit trees, numerous blackberries’ bushes and terrain form, again we can presume, that we are passing an old Kistinian colony. We enter the forest then again, path rises up the mountain, until widespread meadows appear in the end. The valley which we traveled closes slowly behind us. We reach Chkhatana, shepherds village, in which we will stop for the night (about 1,15 h from Khorojan). There is a nice place take a bath by the stream, close to the shelters.

Two Kistinian families from Omalo live in Chxatana from May to September. They raise cattle. Since we stop here for the night we recommend to take a closer look on the buildings. They are shelters made of stone, each consists of one-room living quarter and a kind of a porch.All shelters are really old and full of various tools. Wooden wide benches serving as beds are focal pieces of furniture in the room. Meals are prepared on open fire, outside on the porch. A pot or a kettle with mountain herb tea or coffee is placed on top of wooden logs based directly by a wall of the shelter. Smoked cheeses is hanging over a hearth.

While staying in Chkhatana we can be go on short trips in closest neighborhood. Right behind the village there are two small cemeteries – Georgian and Kistinian. And right in front of Chxatana there is a path leading to a mountain spring – wild mountain goats chose it for a watering place. We can also hike to a ridge from which we can to admire Didgora lake. There is an old Orthodox church nearby the settlement, in which few of Omalo villagers celebrate shepherd’s holiday Peris Cwaleba (19th of August). This Christian holiday is, celebrated also by Moslem Kists. When autumn comes, grasses and lives become yellow and villagers go out to the pastures, they feast together thanking for a good year.
In Chkhatana we can also hear legends about nearby places. There is a cave above the settlement in which one can hear the swoosh of sea. Men say, that there used to be a tunnel linking Chkhatana to the sea. Shepherds used to shout loudly near this place, in order keep to animals from approaching this cave. This is well-known place among shepherds, very recently it was covered up by an avalanche. In other place there is Sakwawizgori lake, where a ram drown trying to have a drink. Shepherds tried to stop the animal, but they fell to the water with him and also drowned. Supposedly they were found dead in the Black Sea. According to other tales Chechen guerrillas hiding in the valley from Russian soldiers hid in local “tunnels”.

Feather walk leads to a shepherd’s shelter situated at the feet of Nakerala pass. Going out from Chxatana we cross a stream and walk in to the forest. Clear path gradually disappears more and more, and we climb steep up the mountain. In one moment we pass the border of the forest and enter in alpine valley and finally make it to the main ridge. We see mountain pastures and the main ridge. After a moment we come up to shelters situated by Nakerala pass (about 3h from Chkhatana).

The scenery of this place is completely different, a lot of more harsh and less diverse. First of all it lacks trees, which is noticeable especially in the late afternoon, when coming back with mountain trip, you can’t hide nowhere from the sun.From shelter we are walking by a path leading to the main ridge (about 5 minutes from the shelter there is a water outlet – further there is no water at all!).

After about 20 minutes we reach Nakerala pass. A splendid view stretches from here over the whole ridge, reaching 3000 meters, Pankisi Valley and its neighborhood to Akhmeta (the centre of the region). After getting to the ridge we turn left and begin hiking by a well noticeable path leading through higher and higher peaks until reaching to the small lake (about 1.5h).

From Nakerala pass, in the opposite way (south – west) return road leads to Omalo. We hike by a path gently traversing the ridge heading to visible pastures. All the time we hold on to a clear path, which falls beautify down from the ridge to the forest. After about 1,5h we approach more shelters, from where a picturesque view stretches over the whole neighborhood. Shepherd’s camp, called Tornażdar is on the border of the forest. straight from shelters we walk by a path down for about 2 hours, till river valley. This rout is not difficult and there is no chance of losing your way. Then next we head together with reaches of the river to Omalo. After several minutes we pass a comfortable place to sit down by a table under an umbrella, we turn left. We cross a stream several times and in about 30 minutes we reach Omalo village.

Approximate Map

Approximate Map of location and return route leading from the small lake

Description of Route Omalo – khorojo -Chxatana – Nakerała was provided by guide Devi Asmadiredja. You can contact her through fb or email. This is Hard Trek which can be done by hiking and/or horseriding. Devi will be happy to guide you to this wild and panoramic route which is untouched by humans. She is Georgian with Indonesian and German origin who lives in Ethnic Chechen (Kist) village of Birkiani in Kakheti region of Georgia. You can read more about her in this article by bbc.

The best time for Trek: From Late June to the second half of September;  You can find Alternate Route from Pankisi Gorge here

From Nakerala pass and the small lake and continue your way to Tusheti through Samkinvrostsveri pass ( 42°17’23.90″N  45°28’53.80″E) 3160m and Ortslistskali valley to village Vestmo. The route from Omalo in Pankisi to Omalo in Tusheti is quite hard and involves lots of elevation gains and losses so I would advise you to rent horses. Cover photo by Georgian Hiker from village Matani of Pankisi Gorge Davit Turashvili. Photos of the continuation of the route to Tusheti by Przygoda w Gruzji – trekking club:

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Samkinvrostsveri pass

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Ortslistskali valley

 

Main Caucasus Range, Tusheti

Main Caucasus Range, Tusheti

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