... Is it true, that traffic offenses are pretty expensive in Armenia? In principle yes, but as a tourist you mainly get a tourist discount!! Just keep on reading...
After having done everything in Tbilisi, we packed Emma and drove to the south. In the capital we were sweating at 37 degrees and now we were looking forward to the Armenian mountains. After 2 hours we were at the boarder and the Georgian part we passed really fast. The Armenians treated us like a truck, so we had to pass as well the x-ray. They didn't find a thing and after paying the monthly fee for using the roads and a last check of Emma, we were in Armenia. We had to pay for an insurance, which only cost us 17 Euros for one month and then we were free to drive. After around two hours, a car stopped us and two men invited us to a yummy watermelon. In the end they wanted to have some of our diesel, but unfortunately our additional tank was too empty and their hose too thick. We drove to Acharkut, where we parked in a village, at the beginning of a valley, where many years ago passed the silk road. We went for a walk to a ruin of a church from the 9th century and next to it were still some parts of an old wall visible. At the bottom of the valley was a river, where we saw an old stone bridge. Next to it was a spring with fresh, cold water and some fireplaces.
The next day we drove to Dilijan, where we found a spot for two nights in the centre, next to an artificial lake. We strolled through the centre, bought fresh vegetables, visited different shops and marvelled at the many different Ladas driving through town.
The nice thing about Dilijan is that the centre is laying in a forest, and it is even build on a hill, so there was no problem walking around having 30 degrees. One day we started early in the morning for a bike tour and had a beautiful view over the whole area. Some parts looked like the Appenzellerland in Switzerland.
After Dilijan we drove towards the south, through a tunnel we reached lake Sevan and the vegetation changed immediately. Bare, grassy hills and then this huge lake. Lake Sevan is one of the biggest alpine lakes in the world (1900 m.a.s.l.) with an area of around 940 km2. During the Sovjet Union, the water level sank since 1936 for 22 m because of the irrigation for the agriculture and the power plants. We noticed it, when we were in the town of Sevan, which lays around 5 km away from the shore. Because of several projects, the level raised again for around 2.5 m, but more would not be possible, as meanwhile many hotels and houses have been built directly on the shore.
Two nights we spent on a sandy beach on the north shore and because of all the Armenians visiting the beach, we were never alone. The first day we spent with some families, which used the Sunday for swimming, barbecuing and partying. They invited us and we cooked for them unknown German Kartoffelpuffer and Guacamole. Johannes got invited to drink Vodka with the men, so he had no problems to fall asleep that night.
n the afternoon of the following day, two brothers (businessmen) parked close to us with their full cars (melons, corn and garlic) and in the evening they invited us to eat some grilled corn. The conversation was pretty hard, as they hardly spoke Russian, but with the help of the internet, we were even able to explain them the partial lunar eclipse, which was just taking place.
The next day we drove further south and found a nice place next to a forest, where we stayed for three nights. To a refreshing bath in the lake it took us just a few metres and we enjoyed the silence, the birdsong and the noise of the lake. We had plenty of time doing what we love: sewing, cooking and working on the truck.
The next place was directly in the reed, many birds were around, but because of the seagrass, we didn't feel like swimming. Early in the morning, we woke up because of the passing fishermen. After a few hours they came back and offered us their help. We didn't need it but we enjoyed looking what they caught, bags filled up with crabs.
The waste is another topic. Like in the previous countries, there is no concept for it. Where many people are gathering on the beach, most of the waste stays there. Along the road are a few deposits for it, but this mostly means that a big area is covered with garbage and from time to time gets burnt. We always try to produce as less garbage as possible and every time we have to throw a bag away, it hurts in our hearts, knowing that it only serves for “decorating” the nature and the groundwater gets polluted.
The next morning we drove another few kilometres along the coast and again found a nice spot between some trees, next to the lake. During the two days we had a lot of visit, from the shepherd and his son, which convinced Johannes for swimming together in the lake and from the owner of the land, which sometimes passed with the tractor and sometimes with his horse. With him, we had long conversation and we never got bored staying there.
After two days we drove to the main town in the region, Martuni, where we went on the market to get some fresh stuff and filled as well diesel in our tanks. Then we drove up to the Selim Pass, where we spent on the top a windy night.
The following day we drove down the pass through an incredible landscape to the bottom of the valley, where we stayed for two nights on a camping ground (the first since Montenegro), so that we had the chance to get all our stuff washed. The owner of the camping were very kind and as we helped them several times translating for the guests, they offered us some delicious wine from the region. During the time we were there, the temperatures sank a bit and some thunderstorms passed by. On the second day we explored the surrounding with our bikes. We met an elderly couple, who wanted to invite us for lunch, but we were just happy about a coffee. Full of proud they showed us their property, the newly built house, the huge garden and all the baby animals being around.
Afterwards we drove to the small town of Yeghegnadzor, where Johannes loaned his bike to a young guy, which nearly didn't want to bring it back.
The evening we spent together with the French girl Delfine with a nice dinner, wine and chatting.
The following day we were not in a hurry, having breakfast, filling up our water tanks and then we drove to Areni, where we had a big variety of fresh tomatoes and peaches; unfortunately we were not able to find onions or any other kind of vegetables. We then drove to the Noravank Canyon, on which end there is a beautiful, old monastery. Many tourists were around, but nevertheless we enjoyed the ambiance.
Towards the evening we drove back into the canyon, where we had planned to stay for some days for climbing. Directly next to the climbing area we found a place for our truck. The same evening we met Mkhitar (Armenian guide) and Thibaud (french climber). The following evenings we spent all together and enjoyed having good company. The climbing area itself is a canyon, where the sun shone for 4 hours around midday, but in the morning and evening it was no problem to go climbing on the beautiful limestone. We even climbed a trad route and the rest was sport climbing. It was great, doing again something for our arms.
After that we drove to Yerevan. On the way we stopped to buy sweet watermelons and then drove directly through the centre. Next to the big stadium we found a place and after parking got ready to explore the city. In the centre were many restaurants and thousands of Armenians and tourists were around on the streets. The next evening we went again to the centre, when it was a bit cooler, as during the day the temperatures rose up to 37 degrees. Unfortunately Johannes got a bug, so he spent the whole night emptying his stomach. Because of that, we had to stay another hot day there, as he absolutely didn't feel like moving on.
The next day we visited the genocide memorial and then drove towards Mount Aragat. Shortly before taking the road to the mountains, the Armenian police stopped us for the second time, as they saw a foreign licence number. The firs price was 30'000 Drams, after some bargaining they offered us 10'000 Drams, as we were tourists. After Theres started arguing with one of the policemen, they let us go without fee...
On 3200 m.a.s.l. we found a nice place next to a small lake and the temperatures were nice again.
Two shepherds visited us daily, for loading up their cell phones in our truck. We talked a bit to them and they told us that the are Jesides. On the third day their sister came as well with the cellphone and she brought us 1 kg of fresh cheese. On the last day, shortly before we wanted to leave, the girl came with her mother and brought us 3 litres of fresh milk. As a thank-you we gave her a cream for her face.
After 2 days Johannes felt better, so we took the chance and climbed the west peak of Mount Aragat. The Mountain is a volcano, whose most famous and easiest to reach peak is the South one, then the West Peak 4001 m.a.s.l. and the North Peak, with 4090 m.a.s.l. the highest peak of Armenia. The hiking was pretty easy, only on the last part we had to walk carefully. And finally Johannes was on his first peak over 4000 m.a.s.l.!!!! The panorama was tremendous and the colours around were impressive because of the volcanic subsoil. After having enjoyed the view, we started descending and hiked up to the South Peak. After a short break we walked along the ridge, without meeting anybody, back to Emma.
After 4 nights we drove towards the north and at lunchtime stopped in the small town of Aparan. Directly next to the road was a big bakery (more than 50 employees), producing huge amounts of Lavash, salty and sweety things. Theres was all happy and would have loved to try everything... After that we passed next to Spitak and found a nice place next to a river, where spent another 2 nights because of the nice temperatures. After that we drove to Gyumri, the second biggest town of Armenia. The temperatures were again at 35 degrees, that is why we just visited the market and then kept on driving to the next place.
It was the Arpi lake, close to the boarders of Armenia, Turkey and Georgia. On 2000 m above sea level we spent another 2 relaxed days. With our mountain bikes we drove around the lake, which lays in a natural park, enjoying the view and the fresh air.
On the next day we passed around midday the small boarder in the north west of the country and all the custom officers where happy when we told them, that we loved our time in Armenia.