Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.