The sun shone. The sky sparkled its blue smile. He met us in the lobby and gave me a coy grin. I had a feeling that this trip from Tbilisi to Tazbegi would be an enjoyable one.
But, there was one slight problem...he didn't know much English and my Georgian was limited to:
'Didi Madloba'- thank you.
We put our seatbelts on and settled for a day of adventure on the road. He offered us chewing gum. We declined politely.
The road stretched in front of us sans traffic.
The colours of Georgia played 'rangrez' - colouring my soul. The autumnal concert of oranges, russets, yellows and ochres rang out a symphony so beautiful, I can still hear the melody when I close my eyes.
Suddenly, he stopped.
The place looked deserted. My Indian instinct kicked in. What's going on?
He came back loaded with bread- fresh from the oven.
"Puri", he said..handed one to my husband and one to me to share...it was delicious- like salty sour bread. All those images from my childhood (when the USSR and India were close political 'friends') of heavily braided Russian girls offering salt and bread to Indian visitors came alive.
We drove on.
We stocked up on hard boiled candies and gummy bears at a store called 'Smart' in Gudauri. He liked gummy bears.
The rattling road and the steep climb from Kazbegi town to Gergeti Trinity Church earned my husband and I some street credit in our teenage children's eyes. For the duration of the climb, at least, we were cool. The 4X4 was rocking like a cradle to the rhythm of the rough road- scary and exhilarating.
Gergeti Trinity Church had the serenity of a spiritual place where many have come in the past to connect with the spirit of the universe. My daughter and I had to wear skirts and scarves to enter. We lit candles and stepped out feeling light with love and heavy with happiness.
'India'? 'Christian'? asked a rosy cheeked, robust looking Georgian grandmother as we were hurtling down the hill and she was climbing up.
Almost involuntarily, I nodded yes to both her questions.
Her face broadened into a beaming smile and she gave me a look that said- God Bless you. I think we communicated in the 'universal language of love' that Paulo Coelho talks about in 'The Alchemist'.
Religion, gender, age, nationality- became redundant.
If time had been no object, I would have stayed on for much longer but hunger kicked in.
We were all set to find a restaurant to eat when he parked the car in a sort of a car park. Imagine a patch of plane treees with healthy looking cows grazing and a flock of turkeys creating a lot of noise.
He got out of the car - opened the boot. There were quite a few bags with the 'Smart' logo on them in the boot. He dug out a sausage, used his swiss knife to cut it. My husband and I decided to look for a hot cup of coffee at a nearby kiosk while our children wandered towards the cows- the cutest amongst them was referred to as 'Daisy' by our daughter for the rest of our stay there.
He said something in Georgian which we didn't understand but we grinned and nodded anyway and carried on.
We came back to find our children chomping away on wholesome looking sandwiches- stuffed with meet and oozing ketchup.
"Russian ketchup is awesome Mum." said my son.
David kept slicing the bread and the meat and fixed another mouth-watering treat.
His sandwich was ready. He offered it to my husband who willingly accepted it. I offered to help.
As if by magic, a cut out plastic cup appeared in front of me (he had cut out the bottom of a mineral water bottle to make it). He poured hot steaming coffee from his flask into it. He continued in Georgian and now I could comprehend his gestures. According to him, why would we want to waste our money on shop bought coffee when he had brought it from home for us?
I have no words to describe how good that lunch tasted. There we were- four Indians and one Georgian - standing among cows and turkeys, eating lunch from the back of a car and basking in human kindness. Who needs language to communicate?
Yes, for me- David's lunch is the essence of Georgia.
Our children have become fans of Georgia. It only takes one person to be the ambassador of his people.
I wanted to share the kindness of the Georgian people without the distrcation of its natural beauty. So here are the pictures of our road trip with David as our guide who didn't need to speak our language, nor we his.
|The church at Ananuri|
|David guided us down these steep steps....|
|to see the closed off church through a loose brick in the wall.|
|The view from the fortress wall.|
|The Zhinvali Reservoir|
|David stopped at a surphur spring on the way...it smelled like Sulphur Springs (Sahastradhara) in Dehradun.|
|On our way to Gudauri.|
|Gudauri turns into a ski resort in the winter months.|
|Sharing puri with the animals of Gudauri|
|The rugged road to Gergeti Trinity Church|
|Gergeti Trinity Church- Mount Kazbegi in the background|
|camera shy Daisy|
|The autumnal concert...|