Sunday, March 17, 2013

Juta, Georgia. Altitude: 2250m, Population in winter: 18.

We woke up to the sound of water hitting the roof.

Actually, it was the kind of downpour that makes you wish you had something else than skiing plan for the day!

It was raining so much that we even cancelled the idea of walking around in the village to stretch our legs! We guessed that probably around 50mm+ of rainfall throughout the day!
We (almost) stayed in bed all days waiting for the day to pass….

After a quite tiring down day, we woke up to a great day full of sunshine! That was quite great since we had planned to hike up to the village of Juta perched at 2250m.

Located about 30minutes southeast of Kazbegi (or Stepansminda as it is also called), Juta (or Dzhuta as it appear on Google Map) is one of the highest year-round habited places. With only 10 families (or 18 peoples) surrounded by alpine terrain, it sounded as a great place.

We had our host, Nazi called us a taxi to drop us at the end of the road just pass the village of Karkucha. From there, it is a 9km and 400m hike up to our final destination. The skin up is easy, as you only need to follow the road that is open during the summer.
The snow hasn’t really started to melt so we had really nice fast traveling conditions. There wasn’t much snow left on the south facing side on which to road was gently climbing up, but fortunately, we were almost good to skin all the way up, since we had to take our skis off only once.
There were a lot of signs of recent avalanche activity. Looks like the rain from yesterday has hitted hard around here as well!!

We were welcomed just as we got to the village by 3 fellows resident, including our host, Soso Arabuli (phone: 555-69-00-45). I guess that when you don't see much different people than your 15-18 neighbors the visitors become and attraction! 
After dropping a few things in our really clean and tidy room, we head out for a little tour up from the village.
The snow already started to warmed up and melt.
On our way up, we had a few fairly big ‘’whumpf’’ that kept us from venturing too far out. We stayed in the not too high and not too steep terrain to get our first taste of Juta!

We spend the evening chatting with Soso and his wife Katuna using our Georgian-English dictionary. Even though we weren’t able to have some really deep conversation, it was certainly quite an interesting experience. You’ll have much better chance to exchange with them and to learn more about Juta and the others surrounding villages if you speak Georgian, Russian or German.
Those (like Babiche) who are used to get smoothies out of fresh fruit would find quite disappointing to get serve some kind of sauerkraut, pickles and pasta and cheese for breakfast. But if you try not to remember that you’ve been up for only 15 minutes, it was certainly quite delicious!
We hiked a bit higher up just to get some deeper and sounder ‘’whumpf’’. 

With some new natural activity, we again stayed in the more mellow terrain just above the village to get some nice 400-500m run. 

That was really bad that we weren’t able to climb higher up to enjoy the nice steep terrain, but we all agreed that it would be quite a catastrophe to trigger an avalanche that would run down to one of the house in the village!
Soso, told us that the village is much nicer in the summer and since spring was already started, there was much cow drops on every small trail that was open!
We were again welcomed with some great homemade food including homemade cheese, bread, butter and cha-cha. This time, Soso had dinner with us and we drank about a liter of his cha-cha in less than an hour!
This time, we were really able to communicate and it was easier to understand each other!
We had plan to have a little tour before hiking down, but since the temperature was already at +5Celcius as we woke up; we were warned that it wasn’t a good idea to leave too late and that we should make our way down as soon as possible.
We followed the locals’ advice and started to make our way down just after breakfast. Before leaving, we asked Soso to call our host in Kazbegi (Nazi) to call a taxi driver to arrange a meeting. We left a great village with terrific hosts. This is certainly an experience I highly recommend to anyone who would come around Gudauri for skiing. I don't know for how long there will be people living in Juta in the winter, but this certainly a great experience!

There weren’t much new avalanches but there were certainly some hanging fires that were only waiting a bit more sun to drop on the road.

This time, the snow was really wet and soft and traveling was much slower. We eventually hiked out a fair bit of the distance since there wasn’t any snow on the road for quite some time.
Our taxi driver, Mikhail, was there waiting for us at the time we asked!
After strapping our skis on top of its Lada Niva, we were all in and back towards Kazbegi where we were welcomed back by Nazi.
We had some wine on her porch while enjoying the really view you can have of the surrounding mountains.
To spend a bit of time, we headed out for the afternoon with Mikhail who drove us to check out the Dardali gorge and a monastery that they are building just next from the Russia border.
I guess the spring is arrived in the valley since the flowers are started to grow and since we have seen multiples butterfly!
For dinner, Nazi showed us who to make khinkhali (a Georgian national meal) and one of my favorite!!!

We feasted with too many of those dumplings to another great journey!

We are now looking at going back towards Gudauri for more skiing in and around the resort!

One more week of Georgian adventure to come!!!

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