Horseback riding, hiking and camping bring us close to nature. This passed June I went with two friends, to a remote corner of the Caucasus—Tusheti National Park, a place where nature and culture meet. The park’s high mountain terrain is situated along the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus range.
We rented horses and a guide in the village of Shenako and followed the rough trail via Dildo and Dartlo to Girevi and then back via the Pass Nakhle-Kholi (2903 m) to Verkhovani. From here we travelled to Omalo and to the Oreti lake and back to where we started.
The most exiting part of our tour was riding through an amazing old growth pine forest on the way to Dildo and to Oreti Lake. We passed through wide alpine grasslands, filled with beautiful flowers growing along the slopes of the deep valleys carved out by the rapid flowing Pirikita River. We passed wonderful villages, with traditional old buildings, many of them unfortunately in ruins, churches and places for worshiping where religion and old faith meet. Riding along the road to Omalo was less exiting, too many cars and too much dust. Overgrazing by large herds of sheep along the steep slopes caused land slides and is certainly one for parks problems. Most disappointing was that we did not meet any wildlife, the park is famous for, Bezoar goat, Tur, Chamois, roe deer or red deer.
However, I realised that the park is starting to get organised, the basis is there and efforts are under way to get rangers into the field, to get overgrazing and poaching under control and to pay more attention to tourist management. These are major tasks which can be achieved by a motivated team of park managers and with the necessary perseverance.
Hartmut Jungius is on the Advisory Board of the Caucasus Nature Fund