In recent days, Stig has raced through the stunning mountain range on his journey through the Caucasus. From the coastal resort on the Black Sea, Stig has driven southeast into Armenia. Armenia is considered to be part of the World’s oldest land mass, the cradle of civilization. The proud people of Armenia have a history dating back more than 10,000 years and filled with legends, myths and stories.
The unique geographic location of the country has resulted in frequent wars and disputes from both the east and the west. Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Ottomans, the World Wars and the dissolution of the Soviet Union have all left their mark on this region.
Armenia is a small country with less than 3 million inhabitants. The currency is the Armenian Dram and the capital city is Yerevan. Interestingly, Yerevan is the world’s oldest city to have documented the exact date of its foundation. The official language spoken is Armenian. It belongs to a separate branch of the Indo-European languages and is thus unique.
Caucasus; What can I say? The pictures in Batumi yesterday do not reflect the true image presented by the majority of this part of the world. It reminds of how rural life would have been in the years preceding the 1st World War. Our plan was to leave Batumi in the morning, head over 2 mountains and arrive in Yerevan in the afternoon. After 7 miles of tarmac came the gravel roads. The next 5 hours would be driven at speeds only marginally faster than a walking pace.
These roads wound their ways between farms perched perilously on the hillside. It was easy to tell when the next farm was approaching as the frequency of having to avoid chickens and cows increased dramatically. Between farms, one could focus of avoiding the large collection of boulders and pot holes that littered the track.
This utterly fascinating land then jumped into the 21st century at 2000m above sea level. From nowhere a brand new gondola and chairlift system appeared on the mountain. There are obviously plans to build hotels and bring tourists to this undiscovered mountain. As we reached the plateau, a ghost-town of summer farms lay derelict for the approaching winter. On our descent towards the border crossing we pass by a wonderfully restored fortress.
At the border into Armenia things got complicated: First there was customs control. Next we had to exchange money, go over our visa paperwork and arrange insurance for the van. Whilst this was taking place, the customary search of the vehicle and all of our equipment took place. All of this happened in 6 different offices without a word of English being spoken.
At 2000m altitude, it didn’t take long for the temperature to fall below 0 degrees, The constant rain soon became an icy sleet. Although we had finally completed paperwork at the border crossing, Yerevan was now too far away for us to reach safely. We parked up and camped down inside the vehicle for a night.
Nagorno Karabakh is an enclave inside Azerbaijan where a large majority of the population is Armenian. Despite having no border with Armenia, the area offered a way out of the Soviet Union. Disputes escalated in 1991 and war ensued before a peace agreement was signed between the 2 nations in 1994. Oddly, Azerbaijan also has a region that falls between Armenia and Iran, but is not connected the rest of the country. It is easy to see why this is a troubled area.
We drove from Yerevan to Tblisi, Georgia. The most direct route would take us through part of Azerbaijan. Just before the border crossing we could see that a new route into Georgia had been built. The roads, railways and power lines into the Azeri region had been shut down. The stern nature of the guards at the border ensured that we kept out cameras in our bags.
On the way, we passed one of the highest lakes in the word, Sevan, where we stopped to buy fruit. This area was lush and green with a lot of farming and animal husbandry. From what I can see, this area of the world has all of the resources required to be self sufficient. As long as good relations are maintained between neighbours, they can become good friends.
Do you have tips and advice for the Stig? Maybe you know places he should visit, restaurants he should eat at or experiences to try along the way. If so, you can send us an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to follow Stig's route in Google maps