Up to Lake Sevan

Armenia225All the walking yesterday exhausted me. I woke up during the night with a dry throat and my body was as heavy as lead. During the night I stayed awake for an hour before I was able to receive more of the sleep I so badly needed. At wake up I slowly ground into gear and soon faced the fact it was a new day and I had to carry on. My goal was Lake Sevan, again not the easiest destination to reach by public transport from Yeghednadzor as there are no route services between the two places. I plodded three kilometres along the road to the junction and there, with all the traffic going the right way, I placed myself at the best spot to hitchhike for a ride.

A first van took me to Shatin. There I was refreshing myself at a fountain when up comes another traveller with a badly sunburnt forehead, carrying a heavy rucksack. He addressed me in French, his only language, and realising I could speak it, he launched into an animated conversation that risked turning into a quasi-monologue. I bet his need of communication was really urgent: what with the lack of a useful language and his lifestyle, he must have been barred from a conversation for long days. He was in fact a hiker, in Armenia for a month and a half, and a walking plan of 1,600 km – enough to wear the soles of his heavy boots as thin as tissue paper. In any case, I turned pale at the memory of my exhaustion this morning.

Jumping from one topic to another, mixing in the tales of his adventures in the Armenian wilderness or past travels elsewhere, he flooded me with a passionate stream of words, until I judged I was letting precious time slip by and I suggested I should stand in wait for another car. Likewise, the man resumed his duty, hoisted his backpack and walked away heading for Noravank, where he would camp for the night. That would be 30 km, plus what he'd already walked that day. His next dialogue with someone might well be as far away, although he could deem himself satisfied after venting a good deal of pent-up thoughts on me.

Another car took me to a village up the valley; then a third one a little further, and then the decisive one: a couple heading for Martuni over the mountain pass took me on their back seat, which was full of sacks with tomatoes and I was invited to help myself.

On the way to Noratus the road borders the wonderfully blue lake that contrasts greatly with the arid hills all around. On our shore stretches of grass added a fresh colour, and a church here and there marked a cultural presence to this already fantastic scenery. The cemetery is replete with khachkars, or steles bearing an elaborately carved cross. Even in their numbers, you can't say that one is like any other. Their variety is infinite and their age, although impossible to guess, varies from decades to centuries old. Their warm coloured stone and intricate designs are sometimes partly hidden under a layer of bright lichen, it also baking in the summer heat.

Armenia203There didn't appear to be a hotel at the village. What I did was then move to Sevan and look for something there. A young man driving a battered vehicle left me at a camping site that also had portacabins, not a dream location next to the highway and not anything fancy. Turning a blind eye to the fact I've always hated camping, I could make do for one night and make an early start the next day. The stout manager showed me the rooms. I wanted to turn on the light and my fingers touched a live wire which electrocuted me. At my startle the man crossed himself. Thanks for his sympathy, but the correct upkeep of the place would have been a thousand times more effective than his prayers.