Another perfect day awaited us at the Vashlovani National Park. We had spent the night at a ranger station, not that it would have been required, but it was the first even ground we had spotted and a nice place too. After exploring the area on foot, we were looking for an ancient pistachio tree, we continued our way along the cliff and further south to Mijniskure.
To give you some dimensions of the national park: from Deoplistskaro to Mijniskure it is a 70 kilometres off-road route, maps.me calculates 9,5 hours for that. In total the national park extends over 251 square kilometres of different landscape from the flood plains of the river Alzani, over hills with different kind of vegetation, to the badlands around Mijniskure. In parts the national park can be used as pastures and for agriculture, but 84 square kilometres are strict nature reserve, where species like golden jackals, red foxes, wolves, Eurasian lynxes, brown bears, Jungle cats and porcupines live. In 2003, a Caucasian leopard was spotted in this area, as his favourite food, gazelles, live here too.
Finally we reached the station of the border police, where we had to show our permit. We were now close to the border to Azerbaijan.
After driving through an endless landscape scattered with trees, we finally reached the badlands, where erosion had formed a huge area with washed out ravines.
The last kilometres to the Usakhelo viewpoint, the road follows a narrow riverbed, zigzaging through the bush. The road was not really bad, but a little challenging with our big car. We saw the road further down to Mijniskure, and decided against it, as it was steep and there wouldn’t have been any other way back than going up again. Instead we walked into the valley, enjoying the landscape even more. The road would have been manageable, but nothing we really wanted to drive. We decided to spend the night at the Usakhelo viewpoint, in the middle of nowhere, just the moon, the stars and us.
We had spent a beautiful evening and night at this view point. It was great to watch the different light at the ridges, which were so wonderfully formed by erosion.
The next day, we drove back north in direction of the ranger station at the entrance to the park and then turned east to Shavi Mountain (41.2644 46.6346). The route was climbing over many mountains, going up and down through endless, grass covered hills. From the crest we had an incredible view in every direction.
Finally we took the route down to the plain, where the black soil is used for agriculture. We found our way through the fields until we finally reached the first village. For navigation we used MapFactor Navigator, since we are in Georgia where there was no map available for our Alpine Navigation. And the Navigator works with auto play on the Alpine screen in our car, maps.me doesn’t. For the Vashlovani National Park, we bought a TomTom map, as the free maps didn’t have the tracks in the National Park. This way we managed to find our way, even though the navigation was not always accurate. A paper map wouldn’t have helped much I would say, as it might be difficult to know where you are.
In this area of endless gras hills, we spotted a lynx, we are quite sure, as its short tail distinguishes it from any other similar animal, which lives here. We also saw a beautiful fox, with its long bushy tail.
Finally we reached the first village and tarmac again! Something we appreciated after 3 days on mud tracks. Soon we were back in Dedoplistskaro, where we used the internet – we didn’t have any reception at Vashlovani – before we wanted to visit a different area the next day, called Thakti-Tepa, where mud vulcanos await us.
We spent the night at Dedoplistskaro at a lovely lake, with the 2 peaks reflected in the water. A great view all day long. Tomorrow we will drive 50 km to see some mud volcanos – more on our next post!