Armenia’s Silk Road: From Tatev to Kajaran

Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
Part Ten

Prologue: How it all started
Part One // Part Two // Part Three // Part Four // Part Five
Part Six // Part Seven // Part Eight // Part Nine

Novermber 20, 2012. The seventh day of our hitchhiking trip along the Silk Road of Armenia. We wake up with the first rings of the church bells of Tatev monastery. The night spent at the oil press of the monastery was rather warm, and despite the fact that camp-bed was short and my feet couldn’t fit normally, my sleep was good. We pack and leave the building. Nothing has changed from the evening. It’s still raining. There is still fog all around. Since Father Mikael, the abbot, and Harutyun, the parish clerk, are busy with the morning service, we walk to the refectory to say goodbye to Ophelia. She invites us in for a cup of tea, and gives us apples and walnuts for the road. “You need to be baptized as soon as possible. Your faith is strong,” says Ophelia to me. Not quite knowing what to answer I smile, and we leave.
A rocky road from Tatev monastery to Goris

It takes us about an hour and a half to walk down the rocky road from the village of Tatev to the Devil’s Bridge, where the paved road starts. Only once a car passes by us, but there are too many people inside. We observe the fog covering the sides of the Vorotan canyon. We hear the birds singing in a drizzle. We come across a herd of sheep that pasture on the hills. We greet the lonely shepherd taking care of the animals.
A shepherd and a herd of sheep from Tatev
As we come down to the Vorotan river, we take our breakfast. Soon a car stops for us, but turns out it’s a taxi. They offer us a ride up to the main road for about $5. Tired and not willing to walk the remaining 20 kilometers to the highway, we agree and get in. After exchanging few words with the driver and his friend, they decide to take us all the way to the city of Goris.
Clouds over Vorotan river gorge in Syunik province of Armenia
They drop us off on the outskirts of the city. Goris looks somewhat gloomy. We take some time to walk around the city to explore its streets. Upon seeing us, the taxi drivers rush in our direction shouting “taxi, taxi, Tatev, cheap” in Russian – the back side of the coin called “tourism development”. We get some potato pies in a local store, then walk out of the city.
A two-storey building in the old part of Goris, Armenia
It takes us about 20 minutes to hitch a ride. The driver named Meruzhan, tells us they can take us as far as to Kajaran. Just as we get in, it starts raining. “You chose a wrong time to travel, the weather is bad, it’s cold,” says Meruzh. He is right in some ways. Because of the bad weather, some historical places in the forests and the mountains are hard to reach. “What is this Silk Road anyway?” asks his wife, Gayane, who sits next to him.
A view from inside the car to the road from Goris to Kajaran, Armenia
The truth is that even now, when we are close to the end of our trip, I don’t have a clear answer to this question: is the route we are following actually a part of historical Silk Road, and if not, then what is it? Historians and archeologists I talked to before starting the trip, made it clear that our route is most likely some part of the Silk Road, but the books they recommended to read gave information only on the historical Silk Road routes that passed through the Armenian cities of Artashat and Dvin and ran to Trabzon, Turkey or Poti, Georgia.
A view of the town of Kajaran, Armenia
We arrive in Kajaran, a town in the southern Syunik Province of Armenia, around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The tops of the mountains surrounding the town are covered with snow. “We live alone with my wife. There’s plenty of space in the flat. Stay with us tonight, we’ll have dinner together, and tomorrow you can continue your road,” says Meruzhan. And it looks like we have no others options, so we gratefully accept the invitation. For the rest of the day, they take good care of us, treating us with delicious dinner, fruits, sweets, and tea.
Several people chatting in a room, Kajaran, Armenia

(photo by Emée)

Sitting on their sofas and drinking tea we talk about life in Kajaran. In every family there’s someone who works at the Kajaran Copper-Molybdenum Plant, because of which the air is very polluted here, and many have health issues. Meruzh himself had a heart attack last year. “That’s why we urged our children to leave Kajaran. We want them to stay healthy, not like us,” says Gayane. Soon their neighbours join our conversation. We spend the rest of the evening in a warm and friendly atmosphere, sharing stories, telling jokes and drinking tea. For the first time after leaving the Russian village of Fioletovo, we are to sleep in comfortable beds with woolen blankets and soft pillows. A luxurious sleep.

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3 thoughts on “Armenia’s Silk Road: From Tatev to Kajaran

  1. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: When Journey Comes to End | On The Road

  2. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: Epilogue | On The Road

  3. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road Trip – 2012 | On The Road

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