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28 July 2011 / leggypeggy

Georgian Military Highway

The church at Ananuri.

To get to Kazbegi, we drove about 140 kilometres along the Georgian Military HIghway, which connects Georgia to Russia. This important thoroughfare was a dirt track until the 19th century, when it was properly engineered.

It’s still a very bumpy ride, and we took almost four hours of bouncing to cover the distance.

The highway starts at Zhinvali, where there is a large reservoir fed by two rivers. The water is a surprising shade of green—a sort of garish Paddle Pop colour.

Along the way, we had a brief stop at the Ananuri fortress on the northwest end of the Zhinvali Reservoir. The fortress belonged to the dukes (eristavis) of Aragvi, who ruled the land as far as the Tergi Valley from the 13th century onwards. We visited the two churches within the fortress and I had to pay a lair (the currency of Georgia) to hire a skirt so I could go in. Methinks there’s a skirt racket.

Views of the Georgian Military Highway.

After Ananuri, the scenery becomes breathtaking. We travelled through several villages, including Gudauri, which is Georgia’s ski resort—although I could never spot the reported ski lifts. Then a few kilometres on, we started through the Jvari Pass which is 2379 metres high. Part of the road is known for avalanches, but a series of concrete galleries have been built to protect traffic in winter. I plan to write a little item about those galleries, so stay tuned.

Beyond the pass, we descended into the picturesque Tergi Valley, with the Tergi River at our side, and then through four or five small villages to Kazbegi.

Peering out through one of the long concrete galleries.

We were surprised by the volume of traffic on our summer day, with a continuous stream of trucks, cars and 4WDs. Many were heading to Kazbegi, but others were undoubtedly destined for Russia.

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