More people arrive by foot than. . .

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

In the three days we spent in Adishi, one car arrived on average each day. One car brought us to Adishi; one carried food and passengers; and one brought our homestay owner and spouse (their brother operated the homestay in their absence). On the other hand, as many as 40 hikers arrived one evening, and the other evenings at least a half dozen people hiked down the mountain(s) to Adishi. Why? Because it takes 3-5 hours, depending on road conditions, to drive to Adishi from Mestia, the closest big town. “Big” means that Mestia has an ATM, a bank, a place to buy food, a restaurant, and so on. In addition, it costs 150 lari ($90) for the mini-bus ride. In contrast, you can hike from Mestia in one day for free. Moreover, you don’t need to carry food, sleeping bag, tent, and so on because in Mestia you can pay 40 lari ($24) for a bed and three meals, including homemade wine and vodka, but more on that later.

If someone drives you to Adishi, you’ll be bounced all over the vehicle as its tires go over rocks that rise up from the “road.” I put road in quotation marks because it resembles a hiking trail. Like a hiking trail, the road is marked by spray paint so you don’t lose your way. Also like a hiking trail, the road goes through small streams rather than over them. On the other hand, if you hike, and few clouds are blocking your view, you’ll stare at several snow-capped mountains and you’ll smell freshly cut hay. You may meet someone interesting or simply stop, rest, and paint, as one Israeli hiker did.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Many of the hikers had heard about Adishi from a Lonely Planet guide, which describes a 3-day hike from Mestia to Ushgulu. Never underestimate the power of Lonely Planet, a major source of information for the backpackers about hostels for sleeping, cheap food, and fun activities. Without backpackers’ awareness and enthusiasm for this 3-day trip, I don’t think Adishi would attract many tourists.

Nor should you underestimate word-of-mouth advertising. I was surprised when I kept meeting young and older tourists from Israel. I heard, but can’t verify, that 35-40 percent of tourists in Georgia come from Israel. They come for the great hiking, tremendous hospitality of Georgians, the “authentic” experience, and for low prices. Then they return home and tell their friends. No one saw any advertising or other materials promoting Georgia. They just heard it was a great place to visit.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

3 Responses to More people arrive by foot than. . .

  1. sherry says:

    Your Dad is now an official “keith’s blog” fan. He loves the photos, thought the bridge was a thing of
    beauty and stability and found the churches and people fascinating. My favorite photo ( though I love all of them) is the ancient lady in the scarf and navy blue sweater who lives near your apartment. She has such life and character in her face….I just want to hug her. Of course she could be the most wicked person in the village, but I choose to believe the later.

    The singers were wonderful, and although it is somewhat hidden by his arm I think the instrument might be a mandolin. In any case, your Dad and I are fans of your blog.

    Take care and love.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I feel like catching a plane and go hiking right now!

  3. sherry says:

    Your Dad and I figure that you are expected to simply bounce off of the fenders of speeding cars, since you seem to be in a neutral catagory. If I were you I’d grab a cane, tie a babushka on my head and
    thereby have a chance at survival.

    I’ve heard of people becoming addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with fear…….Tiblisi roads could be a great outlet for that.

    Just be careful!!!!

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