Having learnt the lesson the day before, I woke up very early this morning (5:45am) to catch the only bus from the hot Tbilisi to the cold Mestia. I was travelling with a couple from Israel who also wanted to go to Svaneti with me.
We arrived at the bus stop at 6:45am, happily got on the minibus (the local name of the minibus is called Marshutka).
After we settled on the bus, we were then told to leave because it was full!!
Yes, you hear me right!
Weren’t we early enough?! Argh!
There were only 16 or so seats on the bus. Also, the bus tickets could not be booked in advance – it’s first come, first served. But we were sitting on the bus already! Why?!
The bus stop was located near the train station so I ran there.
The train had just left.
I went back to the bus stop. There were now more travellers.
The staff at the bus stop called another driver to take us and some other passengers to Zugdidi where we would change to another bus to Mestia. He said it’d cost the same. When the other Marshutka came, we got on but the driver was waiting for the bus to fill up before he drove us to Zugdidi. So, we waited.
Toilet time. There was a casino nearby so we used their washroom there.
Came back to the bus stop.
Toilet time again.
Back to the bus stop.
Waited…, until 9:30am or something.
Finally, the driver started the engine.
And finally, we started to head to Zugdidi.
All the while, we were accompanied by a Georgian girl who could speak good English. She helped to explain / translate things for us, including the old and outdated Russian KTV that the driver played during the trip – she told the driver not to play those songs. I still remember one of the Russian singers because he had an exceptionally deep voice. I was sitting beside some old Georgian ladies. After they heard us laugh at the KTV and the request from the Georgian girl, they requested the driver to play Georgian comedies. But instead, the driver played a boring and serious tragedy. At first, they all booed him but as the drama started, they all watched it with intense concentration and didn’t want to leave the bus even when we arrived at our destination.
We arrived at Zugdidi at around 2:30pm. Then we switched to another car but the driver overcharged us by 5Gel. We were shocked again. The local girl was arguing with the driver but it was all in vain. She said, ‘I am a local. He overcharged me too!’
Anyway, the driver stopped at some scenic spots for us to take photos. I think that’s where the additional 5Gel went.
During the trip, I asked the Georgian girl many questions and she also shared with us what it was like in Georgia many years ago. She told us, sometimes they had no electricity and no water for a few days but now things got much better. I was curious about the use of solar energy in Georgia. According to her, it was quite uncommon. However, when I left Georgia on my last day, I saw many solar panels somewhere near the airport. We also talked about transportation in Georgia especially planes. Actually, one could fly from Tbilisi to Mestia but it would take around one to two hours. The ticket was around 70Gel which was quite expensive for the local people and it was always full because there weren’t too many flights.
Also, international travelling was extremely expensive in Georgia. Hence, not too many people could afford traveling overseas. That’s why local people thought foreign travellers were rich. I won’t blame them for thinking this way. In fact, most people in developing countries tend to think foreign travellers are rich. It’s like we all think that those who fly from another planet to Earth must be very intelligent. 😀
But I explained to her, ‘it isn’t really the case. I am not rich but I travel often because plane tickets are not really that expensive in our country.’
She asked, ‘how can you make the plane tickets cheap?’
‘Competition, in our case.’ I answered, ‘if your country allows more international airlines to fly in, prices may eventually drop.’
As we talked, the couple from Israel and I found that there were many things that Georgia could do to make the country better. I started to come up with some crazy business ideas and then the couple came up with others… we did it so well that we were like an orchestra. The Georgian girl laughed so much.
It was a fun ride even though we got ripped off by the driver.
When we finally arrived at Mestia, it was already late. We went into the information centre to ask about hiking trails but because our trip was delayed, the information centre was closing. The staff asked us to leave. So, the couple and I decided to look for accommodation.
As we got out of the information centre wondering where to go, a young Israeli guy came and said hi to the couple. After their chat, I asked him where he was staying so he took us to his guest house which was way up on the mountain but with a beautiful and tranquil snowy mountain view. The couple didn’t like the hike up because they were carrying suitcases but I was ok with it. So, I stayed. I occupied a female dorm room with 4 proper beds and a dining table all by myself. Haha!! And I only paid 15Gel per night.
I said to the young Israeli guy who turned out to be a postgraduate physics student, ‘I’m going to stick with you’. 😀
Our plan was to start hiking at 8am tomorrow. The guesthouse was located at the entrance of the hike. Perfect. But that would mean I would need to wake up early again tomorrow.
My room was so quiet that I could hear a pin drop.
Loved it. 🙂
13 June 2017