Traveling isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. After two guided weekend trips to explore the mountains of Georgia were canceled, Courtney and I decided to take matters into our own hands. Without any real plans, we arrived early in the morning to Tbilisi’s Didube bus station. For 15 GLE each, we purchased bus tickets for Oni, which is part of the historic highland province of Racha in western Georgia.
We crammed into a bus with no leg room that was filled with locals (27 to be exact) and headed for the hills. Luggage was strapped to the top of the bus that I was certain would fly off after each sharp turn. Luckily, no bags were left behind.
The ride was over 5 hours through the winding hills with loud Georgian music keeping the bus driver (and passengers) awake. I must say the funniest moment of the trip to Oni was when we stopped for a bathroom break. Courtney and I paid the WC attendant for a wad of toilet paper and access to a filthy Eastern-style toilet (ahem, hole in the floor). Thank goodness we weren’t nauseous because the smell of the bathroom was enough to make you lose your breakfast. After we attempted to wash off the bathroom grime, we made a run back to the bus and Courtney exclaimed, “They should pay ME 30 cents to use that bathroom!” Preach it girl.
After our horrible bathroom experience, we finally made it to Oni and walked to a cozy guest house, Famili Hotel Gallery. The owners greeted us by offering a home cooked meal and wine. We even sat by the wood burning stove to warm up as we discussed plans for our trip in Oni.
Temur, the owner and incredible handyman, took Courtney and me on an adventure after we warmed up and relaxed from the bus ride. Without any clue as to where we were going, we trusted Temur as he handed us tall rubber boots and spoke in broken English, “Tall mountains and waterfall. Go!” We followed him along a rocky path covered in rust colored leaves and I had a feeling we were in for quite the experience. After hiking through Racha’s gorgeous mountains, sliding down rocks and wading through mud, we stumbled upon two magical waterfalls thanks to our incredible Georgian host. The waterfalls were breathtaking and I appreciate the cool drops of water that danced on my skin after a long, strenuous hike.
Temur is 61 years old and trekking just isn’t a problem for him. We were so impressed by his physical strength! He literally hops around the hills like a rabbit. He’s lived in Oni for the majority of his life and navigating the mountains is like second nature to Temur.
During our hike, he also taught us basic lessons in foraging, like how to find walnuts and which berries were edible. Temur even introduced us to local villagers from cattle herders to beekeepers. Everyone lives off the land, including Temur. It was fascinating to meet these people who live many miles away from the nearest town and on the tops of mountains.
When plans don’t go your way, don’t freak out. It sounds cliche but everything happens for a reason. Being spontaneous usually works out for me, especially when traveling. These moments spent in Oni with our wonderful host Temur allowed me to truly appreciate that there really are good hearted people out there in the world.