From Gnishik to Zangakatun

I climbed back up the mountain to enter the Gnishik Nature Reserve. It was another hot day, and I didn’t bring enough water with me. I hoped to find a spring, but had no such luck. With no water and the heat of the sun beating down, I decided it best to stop and rest. I found a tall tree set among the dry grassland, and set up my tent underneath; tired and thirsty, I decided the best thing to do was just sleep.

I slept the entire night, and when I awoke, it was still early in the day, so I started walking down the trail. To my amazement, I saw two rangers quietly sitting on the edge of a cliff, observing wildlife from afar; I knew they would know where to find a spring. But instead of just explaining, they offer to take me in their jeep all the way to Areni village. After say goodbye, I decided to sample a bit of what makes Areni famous: wine. I stop at every roadside stall to sample the homemade drink, and ten (or so) glasses later, I stumble into the Hin Areni factory, join a tour group and drink some more.

After losing a drinking match, I was awarded some authentic Taraz replica pants. Somehow—piss drunk—I left the factory, put on my “trekh” shoes to complete my outfit, and began heading north.

I woke up under a peach tree along the side of the road. It was still light out, so I followed the vineyard into the village of Rind. Asking for a place to camp led me further past the center toward the football field, but a young man intercepted and sent me to his relatives’ home. There they fed me, gave me cool water and hot coffee to drink, and a place to stay outside. When the rain came at 3 a.m., I moved undercover, and at 6 a.m. was awaken by the grandpa to go water his fields. He showed me a “cross-stone” carved into a boulder, like those in Gomk, and a large rock with a human-sized hole running through it—presumably used to store grain. He talked a lot, mostly about the past and pride and tradition… “Why aren’t I married?” was brought up too many times to count. I was happy to leave his home and his annoying son (my age) who wanted me to model in order to advertise his handmade goods.

From there, it was a long, boring walk through more fields toward the village of Yerpin. I camped at a giant boulder at the center of the village. A rock that had always intrigued me whenever I saw it while driving on the highway in this part of the country caught my eye once again: I thought there was a cave there, but discovered—unfortunately—that I was wrong. Later, I woke up in the cover of clouds and rain again, two straight days, but it still makes for a refreshing change. Reminds me of home in Seattle, the soft pitter-patter collecting over my head and shoulders and drenching my backpack and tent.

When I reached Zangakatun village, I asked for a place to stay to dry off, and was offered a room in the village mayor’s building. I only stayed for a couple hours; then, my stuff dry, the clouds parted, under the sun I continued on. But first, I visited the museum-home of famous Armenian writer Parr Sevag. I had never heard of his work, but in the museum I read an English translation of some of his poetry: heavy, short and full of words I’d never used in my life, but all speaking to the universal human experience. After visiting his grave, I left to reach my favorite camping spot in Armenia, a place where I go rock climbing several times a year: Hell’s Canyon. I set camp under the tall cliffs, collected wild plums, gathered firewood, and promptly fell asleep, knowing that tomorrow I would head there.