Posting almost in real time!
Armenia, our camp on a hill in Khosrov national park. I’m sitting under a walnut tree (on which a flashlight hangs and shines on the table), and drinking whiskey from a thermos — so schoolboys wouldn’t suspect anything.
Three days ago M. called me and said “do you want to visit Armenia? Say YES! The tickets are already paid”. I jumped out of the car that was carrying me from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod and a little more than a day later was going to the airport in company of several students and their teachers (M. among them).
Yerevan met us with the sun, a very nice small airport, and the store looked suspiciously like duty-free. Taxi drivers attacked us right after we left the airport, attacked so futiously that is was difficult to get rid of them. They asked a lot of money, and for the question “where is your famous Armenian hospitality”, answered “we have no hospitality! A busling we have, do you want busling? Affordable!” (here and further all the conversations were originally in Russian, of course — as Armenians usually speak good or even perfect Russian). There was no pulic buses from the airport to the city, but (as we were suggested by a policeman) there was regular vans from around the corner of the building nearby, so we leaked past the taxi drivers, we went through the parking lot to the corner of the building, which turned out to be sunlit dusty wasteland, with a pair of bushes of some indistinct grass, lots of debris and view to the airport. Young locals sitting nearby in a battered Volga suggested that yes, buses rides here, and we need #108. Bus arrived soon, and although it was traveling in the opposite direction, seeing our merry company (12 people not counting the baby, and don’t forget the backpacks) turned around and stopped in front of us. We filled up to the top the standard Gazelle, nevertheless the driver picked up a couple of Armenian girls on the way.
We landed in front of (former) cinema “Russia”, and we are all good things have settled on the boulevard, on the shore of the pond, on the other side of which stood rows of cozy cafes, smelling of coffee and a delicious meal. After leaving Moscow with backpacks, I went looking for a minibus to Harney / Gegarta. The survey of local residents showed that the buses runs “off the array”; four different people asked how to get there gave me four different answers, so I just caught a taxi. The taxi driver immediately explained that the “array” is a huge residential area, a significant part of Yerevan.
There were no buses at the bus stop, but it turned out that the last van will come soon. A short bargain, and we’re going to pick up the rest of the team. As we drove back in the empty car, we spoke a bit with the driver. The standard story: brother in Moscow, there are some jobs in Armenia, but the salaries are barely sufficient for living, and it’s good, if one have even such job, and those who don’t work, take loans and in the end remain homeless. “It was good to live in Soviet Union,” he said, “as we lived at the expense of Russia”.
Bus took us straight to the monastery, the guy picked up along the road has worked at the monastery, so he showed us around a little bit. We arrived in darkness, so it was important, but a place for our tents we had to find ourselves, as he did not quite understand what we want, and believed that the first available flat area we find (and there are not many of such sites in the mountains). When asked what he do in the monastery, he replied, “I slaughter sheep”, and then, in much softer voice said, “also I’m a gardener.”