Khachkars, Martiros, Matakh

The stay at the lodge was relaxing and much needed. I decided to go out and see the local attractions, the ones that Karen sends all the tourists to. I hiked up to the famous khachkars (crosstones) that are carved into the side of a mountain, a tribute to the craftsmanship and dedication to belief, to food for the soul, much like the carved mountain goats, items of worship, one traded in for the other. From there, I hiked further up to see a waterfall, its waters passing under a natural stone arch, beautiful, strong, defying the laws of gravity. I climbed to the top of the arch, not because I had to, but because I could. My heart was racing as I reached 30-40 meters—one misstep or loose rock, and I’d be dead. I came back to Karen’s, where he was waiting for me with the horses. I rode 8 km toward Martiros, where I planned to stay, but when I reached the church part way through my journey, my legs were killing me. The shorts I was wearing were not a good idea, and my bare legs had been rubbed raw. I also stumbled upon a party, a matagh. The organizer had slaughtered a goat to celebrate the return of his son from the army. And in tradition, the more people the merrier, so he invited me to feast. A full stomach and multiple shots of vodka later, I wanted to make it to Martiros before nightfall. Walking down the hills, I found a secret church built into the side of a cliff. A touristic site, flat ground and a shelter to eat under, I set up my tent and stayed the night, planning to move through the villages tomorrow.