Caucasus Challenge: Day 1
Sep 16, 2012
15 September | Route: Yerevan - Ararat - Tatev - Goris | Distance: 288 km
Today was meant to be an easy day as some folks arrived from the States at 6 am. Except for the most-seasoned-by-far traveler among us not making a connection, travel was long but uneventful. There was the momentary confusion in London when looking for our departure we read the word “Tehran” by our flight number.
And of course, learning to embrace our wonderful cultural differences started right at the airport. While looking to meet up, the Americans indicated they were hanging out at the café…the Brits who had just arrived, were already completing their first round and invited us to the pub.
We started late giving the 6 am-ers a chance for a few hours of sleep. We proceeded to spend 2 hours completing paperwork, and were reminded of the virtues of patience with bureaucracy. Funny enough this may have been directed at yours truly who was still shifting mental gears to adjust to a new environment. One of the points of the challenge is to embrace how things are done within a country and adapt to it quickly to get things done faster, better, cheaper. Seems, I am learning all the time!
We were then given waypoints and sent on our merry way with instructions to take our time, smell the roses and simply adjust to driving in our new environment. We were to meet in Goris around 7 pm and dinner at 8 pm. We all split up and drove away. At 8 pm all 10 teams were still out on mountain roads in the dark.
Paul and Kim arrived first after having made some of the waypoints. Followed by John and Shelley. I stood in for Tim as he was still making his way through airports. Trish and I managed to see a great little chapel, but essentially gave up on the waypoints and headed straight to the hotel concentrating on driving in the dark. Even by skipping the waypoint, we arrived in the middle of the pack close to 9 pm. Marc and Dave were second to last arriving close to 10 pm. To their credit they befriended a donkey, descended into some hidden vaults of a 14th century monastery, and even made it to the local version of Stonehenge in the dark.
Eric and Mark true to their team name of Driving with the Stars brought up the rear and arrived at 11 pm. Apparently it took them 3 hours to find their way out of Yerevan. Undeterred, they made the most of it, even stopping at some of the way points, and when only a km away from the hotel they took a good long time befriending some local folks while asking for directions.