I woke up at 07:00, showered, dressed, packed my bags, and then exited the hostel just after 08:00. I walked down to the Rioni River and found a taxi to take me to the bus station, nearly four kilometers away; we agreed on a price and he drove me to the station, behind the one McDonalds in town and right across the street from where I had first stepped off the marshrutka that had brought me from Gori, in to Kutaisi. Once at the bus station, I was told that the marshrutka to Mestia would not leave until 10:00; this gave me an hour and a half to have some breakfast. So, I walked in to the McDonalds (which does not have a breakfast menu) and ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a Sprite. After this meal, I returned outside, bought my bus ticket, and waited for the marshrutka to arrive; when it did, the other passengers and I loaded inside and we drove off at 10:20. Not long after leaving Kutaisi, we pulled to the side of the road and waited for a taxi to arrive with one last passenger; since this was the last marshrutka to Mestia for the day, the driver was kind enough to wait for one last passenger who should’ve been on time at the station in the first place. The late passenger finally arrived, climbed aboard our marshrutka, and then we drove off to the town of Zugdidi. We drove through dreary-looking countryside, covered in clouds and mist, and with mostly leafless trees. During the ride, I talked with a young Polish couple on vacation and he told me about a chacha fountain in Batumi, where at 19:00 each day, for ten minutes, free chacha is given to everyone who congregates around this fountain; unfortunately, this not being tourist season, I may not get to experience the chacha fountain. At 12:00, we reached Zugdidi and our marshrutka stopped for forty minutes while the driver gathered additional passengers and some freshly baked bread to take the rest of the way to Mestia; one of these passengers happened to be the Californian woman that had stayed in the same hostel that I did while in Tbilisi; we talked for some time as our marshrutka continued its journey northward, in to the Caucasus Mountains. As we drove deeper and higher in to the mountains, I noticed an abundance of rocks on the road, rockslide areas, and even one portion of the road that was actively being cleared. Also, at one point, our marshrutka got a flat tire. This held us up for about twenty minutes while our driver replaced the flat. We then drove a little bit longer before stopping at a roadside restaurant; the driver and six others ate inside, while the Polish couple, Californian woman, two other women, and I waited inside the marshrutka. Once they finished their lunch, we continued on through the mountains to Mestia. One of our passengers, a young man with magenta-coloring on his cheeks, became car sick and we pulled over four or five times so that he could relieve himself of his stomach’s contents. We also picked up one old woman by the side of the road and drove her a short distance to her destination. As we neared Mestia, the driver began to drop each passenger off where they so desired.
Once the marshrutka reached Seti Square in the center of Mestia, near the hotel I wished to lodge at, I exited the vehicle and said goodbye to the Polish couple and Californian woman. I then walked around trying to find the hotel; after stopping at one hotel (that actually had signs, though no one inside) with an angry and – luckily – chained dog; I walked back to where I thought it should be (according to the map from booking.com) and asked a man on the balcony of this unmarked guesthouse-looking structure if the building was the correct hotel I was looking for; he replied yes and I entered inside, frustrated that so few people in this world believe in signs – honestly, I know damn well that almost everyone on this planet wants to make money and nothing else, but almost no one has any clue how to do so; a sign would bring in more customers and increase their wealth . . . idiots! Oh well. I then checked in to this unmarked hotel, got my room, paid for my lodging, and then went out to explore the town before sundown. I wandered around Mestia, passing by many of the town’s medieval towers, that this village and many others in the Svaneti region (the high-land area of northwest Georgia) are known for; many of the surviving towers date back to the twelfth-century AD, but the oldest Svanian towers are dated to the first-millennium BC – although, I’m certain that these and the others have probably been restored over and over again as time inevitably wore them down. I then crossed one of the bridges over the Mestiachala River, but decided not to explore further. While walking to the bridge, a friendly dog followed and jumped up at me; this has happened throughout my travels in Georgia (more so than anywhere else thus far) and I’m not sure if the dogs have been conditioned to show affection to foreigners, knowing we’re more likely to give treats (like in other parts of the world where locals treat them horribly), or if it’s an extension of the very friendly and generous nature of the Georgians themselves (dogs imitating their masters) – I assume it’s the latter since I have not witnessed any Georgians mistreating their animals. Next, I walked to a restaurant to have some dinner and ended up eating aubergine slices with a walnut paste, khachapuri filled with cheese and millet, and beer. After dinner, I returned to my hotel room. Instead of working and typing out journal entries like I should have, I fell asleep around 20:00 – which gave me about thirteen hours of sleep total during the night. I’m not sure why I’ve felt so exhausted lately, but sleeping for such a long time sure feels great.