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Pete and Elaine's Travels

Hello all,
Welcome to our Travel page.
This is where we will try to keep a record of our travels beginning in 2011
-we will update it as often as we have time! Of course we are not continuously travelling, we come home after each journey!!!

Our first itinerary ;-
20th January to 23rd January, San Francisco
23rd January to 19th February, touring north and south islands of New Zealand
19th February fly to Sydney, Australia where we will be staying until 25th February,
26th February, land at Heathrow airport

Second journey;-
We took the caravan through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, when we did lots of walking, sight seeing, painting and reading.

Third itinerary;-
To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary, on Wednesday September 7th 2011, we fly direct to China, with a short stopover in Dubai. On arrival in Beijing, we join the tour with Wendy Wu, spending the next month travelling the length and breadth of China.
We finish off the holiday with a couple of days in Dubai, returning home on October 7th.

Fourth journey;-
29th January to 16th February, South Africa
16th February to 20th February, Zambia

fifth journey:-
USA, September 4th to October 7th 2012

sixth journey:-
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flying January 19th 2013

Seventh journey:-
India and Nepal, flying November 21st and returning December 5th

Eighth journey
Chile, flying January 22nd and returning 4th February

Ninth journey
Namibia, flying on July 24th and returning on August 11th

10th journey
would you believe it, the 10th and off to Western Australia on July 6th finishing off in Singapore on the way back

And so to the 11th adventure, Secret Lapland, January 20th to Monday 25th January 2016

Well unbelievably the twelfth journey, we fly 18th March to Myanmar via Bangkok, and cruise on the Irrawaddy until April 3rd

And onto journey 13, from October 7th to October 18th, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Journey 14 begins on Monday 6th March, 2017 when we travel to Southern India.

Now Journey 15, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,
May 14th to May 22nd 2017

Journey 16, Copenhagen and Stockholm, September 6th to September 14 th 2017

Journey 17. Peru and the Amazon

Journey 18. Russia, September 29th to October 14th 2018

Journey 19, Armenia and Georgia, May 8th to May 21st, 2019

Diary Entries

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Location: Tbilisi, Georgia

A different are to explore on our last day, the affluent province of Kakheti in the east, famous for its wine. A variety of grapes are found growing here because of the microclimates.

But wine is not the only produce from this area. The semi arid desert along the border with Azerbajahn is quite rich with oil, harvested by a subsidiary of BP who have set up nodding donkeys to pump the oil from 5 kms down.

The area is also rich in walnut trees, and by the side of the road locals sell their own produce of homemade bread, cheese from cows, goats and sheep, and joints of pork.

Our first stop was at the convent of St Nina where we witnessed the Sunday mass before going onto the hilltop village of Signagi. This is a picturesque little place with tourism being its only industry. In the centre of the village is a memorial wall with thousands of the war dead listed on it, apparently one out of every two Georgian soldiers died in the war, probably because the Russians sent them into battle first.

Our lunch destination was at a couple of winerys. The first was Chelti, one of the most well known, and it was from here that Prince Harry ordered some wine for his wedding!!
This winery employs an ancient and a modern method in its wine making. A small number of expensive wines like the Qverva, are sealed in clay pots buried in brick pits for six months. Other wines follow the more trdaitional method because they have to comply with EU rules otherwise it cannot be exported!

The neighbouring winery of Shilda provided us with a feast of a lunch following a session showing a baker making us our bread, a walnut sweet maker making the dessert and tasting the wine with which we were served!

The Fortress of Gremi was next and was fabulous before going onto Tsinandali, a large ancestral home now owned by the government. It was once owned by Garsevan Chavchavadze who participated in the annexation of Georgia to Russia. I suppose it would now be with the National Trust if in England! More wine tasting in the cellars where we were shown a bottle worth £600, there had been only eight ordered, four sold to Russians. This wasn't offered to us to taste!

The journey back was via a picturesque mountain road. The mountains are the border with Russia. At least here they can't keep moving the border fence to gain more land as they do every so often in the high Caucasus!

Tomorrow we have time to wander through the streets of the city again before being picked up at 1.30 to take us to the airport to begin our journey home.

And so will end another tour... home again...for now!

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Location: Tbilisi , Georgia

We have been so lucky with the weather, one hot sunny day after another. The first group to come out here couldn't get up to the high Caucasus as when they reached the mountain pass it was blocked with snow, so,they had no option but to turn back to Tbilisi. What a place to miss.

Today we are on our way down to spend our last two and a half days in the capital city...

But first some factual knowledge about the country .....

How did Georgia get its name?
There is a legend .....the Georgians are very proud of their homeland. Their name for the country is Sakartvello.
On the day that God divided up the lands between the nations, Georgia was late as it had been feasting and drinking. There was no land left other than a small piece of the best that God had left for himself. When asked why they were late, the Georgians answered that they had been toasting God's health and well being. He was so pleased that he gave them this 'paradise'

Originally Georgia was made up of many tribelands. In the 8th century, AD the powerful people of central Georgia were the Karti and as they began to expand , the country was eventually united.

Several generations of families lived together particularly in rural parts.
Marriage was usually between 20 and 23. Generally the men took their wives back to their family home mostly for economic reasons when everyone had to work. The average monthly income today is about the equivalent of 270 euros.
In modern cities today, the young often can afford to move out and rent an appartment.

This is still a patriarchal society. Although men acknowledge that they are proud of women and that it was a woman, St Mary who founded Christianity here, there is still a male dominance. The leader of the house is a male no matter how well educated the women may be. They are only accomplished once they are married and have produced children.

There is a negative attitude to gay people and it is taboo to speak of them because of religion.

As for the economy.....
In soviet times, Georgia was well off because of agriculture and industry.
Since independence, war lords plundered and controlled the country between 1991 and 1992. The economy collapsed and only began to revive after 2003 when the BP pipeline brought international investment.

There is a free trade movement with Europe but because of the strict regulations, exporting goods is very difficult.

There is an insurance policy but it only covers the basic and people have to pay for examinations and operations. At 60 for women and 65 for men, there is a basic government pension.
Life expectancy is 75-76.

Theebis a free school education from 6 to -8. University entrance is by exam and has to be paid for.
English is taught from grade 1 with Russian from grade 5. This is slowly changing since the current president is pro Russian and is encouraging trade with Russia, so businesses are seeking to employ Russian speaking individuals.
This is encouraging an increased number of Russian tourists much to the dislike of the people.

Military service..
This is compulsory for men for one year.

And onto our day....
Two main stops...
The first at the large semi circular Friendship Memorial erected on the side of the mountain to show Georgia and Russia as one nation after the Treaty. However the Russians didn't keep to their side of the bargain so it was two hundred years of occupation and the Georgians refer to it as the Occupation Memorial.
It is in a stunning place overlooking the valley leading to Russia.
The inner wall of the memorial is full of mosaics with the figure of the motherland in the centre and characters from Georgia on one side and those from Russia on the other. Two Georgians designed this detailed design and it is quite poigant but the more you look the more you think that there is a lot of hidden meaning, some tongue in cheek.

The second stop....
The Ananuri Fortress and church on the edge of a reservoir. It was originally built by a rich noble family as one of the thousand watch towers in this valley. But they put a toll on the road and with their encruing riches were soon able to expand the building until it became a large fortress!

Arrival in Tbilisi was mid afternoon. Tonight, dinner is at the top of the holy mountain in the city reached by a funicular rIlway. So the views should be stunning.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Location: Kazbegi, Georgia

Not much to say about today other than spectacular!

We were taken by four by four out to the Gereti Sameba Monastery in an incredible hilltop setting. Nearby the church are the start of many tracks which lead up and across Mount. It takes four days from here.

Lunch for us was in a family home which gave some of us fuel to travel by four by four along a dead end Dirt track along the Sno Valley. It was a fabulous ride. We passed along the river and melt snow through several small settlements which were all derelict due to rural migration. There is a sign however that some development is beginning to take place. The end of the road is a small settlement called Jura where some wealthy individual is building a very nice hotel and is renovating the little church. The hotel will be ready for the summer....a huge improvement on the b and b we saw mainly for the workers, unbelievable squalor!

From Juta we walked up and across the mountain side for about two hours, a long steep arduous process but well worth it for the spectacular views. And the cost of the four hour excursion....was five pounds per person. What a bargain!

We are really lucky to have had such glorious weather to enable us to visit all of these places and see the country at its best. The first tour before ours could not get up here, having to turn back at the mountain pass which was blocked by snow.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Location: Caucasus mountains, Georgia

Tbilisi is surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the other by a river so it is an excellent strategic position. Today we have setboff to explore these mountains and there was quite an air of excitement as we set off.

First stop,was the Church of the holy cross high at Jvari, above the town of Mtskheta, which is the most holy city in Georgia. Between 500 BC and 500 AD this was the country's capital. The highlight of the town built on the confluence of two rivers is the dominant cathedral of Svetitskhoveli which was built on the spot where Christian's believe that a fragment of Christ's crucifixtion robe is buried. Although it has never been excavated to prove it....

So how did it come to be here and establish Christianity?
EnstorynThe story goes that 100,000 plus Jews came here in exile after being forced out of Israel. Two Jewish brothers heard that Jesus was being tried so they set off wanting to participate in the proceedings to see that justice was served, only they were too late, he was already dead when they arrived. The soldiers were given the clothes and possessions of the criminals crucified and the brothers found that the one who had thenrobe of Jesus. They paid him for it and then took it back to,their sister in,Georgia. She however died just after being given it andnso it was buried along with her. A lemon cedar tree was planted on her grave in the fourth century and from hereon several miracles were recorded.

The then king, George 1, ordered a church to be built on the site. The building needed seven wooden pillars, the seventh kept falling down and was impossible to erect, when an angel appeared and put it in place.
Once upright, it began to blossom and secrete oil which was found to have healing properties.
And so the present church was built on the site inside a large compound surrounded by a high defensive wall tomward off enemies.

Last stop in the valley was in Gori at the house museum of Joseph Stalin. We know no more about him now than we did before as the guide was terrible and we dubbed her Rosa Kleb .....

But what followed was spectacular. We turned off along the road known as the Military road which leads to the only border crossing with Russia high up,in the mountains, passing disconcerting signs like 1300 Kim's to Tehran!
We drove up through lush meadows and forest stopping briefly at Ananus reservoir until,we passed through a ski resort to reach the high snow capped alpine mountain tops.
This road has quite a history. It was built by locals forced by Russian troops as an important transit route. So many died in the harsh conditions that eventually there was a rebellion which was crushed by the Russian troops. There was evidence of a gas pipeline butbthis ismto,provide gas supply to,Armenia as Georgia gets its supplies from other neighbouring countries.
In a few months the snow will have melted and the shepherds will return their sheep,to graze on the grass for the five months until November. There used to be small villages up and were called the Canyon People having their own strong dialect and traditions. Now they have fallen derelict.,in the early 1990s the Russians cut off the gas supply making it impossible for anyone to live here.
Today tourism is the main industry.
Our destination was the town of Stepanaska, near the Russian border. It was named after a hermit named Stephen who had a vision about an avalanche which would envelope the settlement. Because his warning saved the lives of all who live here they named the town after him.

Today the government provides the town with gas supply for five months of the year enabling the current population of 2000 to survive the temperatures of below minus fifteen.

The hotel is very busy and full of tourists, dinner was a bit of a bun fight buffet
But we are looking forward to exploring the mountain hills by 4x4 tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Location: Tbilisi, Georgia

We weren't sure what to expect of Georgia but the sky is clear and the temperature is 28 degrees so it all looked promising.
Our hotel is in the Old Quater so it is very convenient. It is a much bigger city than Yerevan and the traffic moves at a much greater speed. It is obviously a much wealthier country and seems more cosmopolitan.

Interestingly we thought that this was a Muslim country but Christianity has a strong hold. The city however is divided into religious quarters..there is only one mosque so Sunnis and Shias live side by side and share the same mosque!

Today has been largely a,walking tour, the broad avenues of Yerevan are here lined with chestnut and plane trees. Thentournstarted with the Domed Turkish Bath Houses which are only five minutes walk from the hotel. The natural temperature of the water is 47 degrees with the water from the ridge behind the domes known as Tabor Mountain feeding the baths.
We walked across the river, through Europe Square where the flag of the EU is flying as a symbol of their desire to join the Union!!!
Here you can also find a sample of the Berlin Wall. We took a cable car from here up,to the Narikala Foryress originally built by the Persians in the fourth century and then reconstructed several times following various invasions and earthquakes.
From the top,are lovely views over the river to the Presidential,House and beyond to the city landmarks. It is here that the Mother of Georgia stands to dominate the skyline.

We walked down to where the Silk Roads crossed and then to the heavily decorated Eastern Orthodox Church of St Mary with its separate bell tower. Gone are the simple structures of the Armenian monasteries.
The altar is hidden by a screen of icons to keep it hidden from the worshippers.

The Old Town is a lovely. Ibrantbplace to wander through, lots of old overhanging houses, markets of produce and art and crafts. We walked across the halls Peace bridge and eventually found our lunch stop at a fabulous restaurant called the Old City Wall for obvious reasons.

Lastly was a visit to the National Museum to,seetwo exhibitions. The first to the Treasury was fabulous as it housed the most exquisite and intricately carved jewellery from BC.
The second visit was more sober to learn of the reign of Terror in the Red Terror Room. Here are expositions of the Soviet Occupation and the systematic extermination of the noble families and the dynasties between 1920 and 1923. Horrific tales but also some of extreme bravery. The Russian excuse for the invasion was to protect its Russian nationals living in Georgia. Nothing to do of course with the gold mines which were pillaged and the loot sent to the motherland!

To end the day we went out to a restaurant serving authentic Georgian food..... mmmmm

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Recent Messages

From sister
Hope you have arrived safely and I look forward to reading the blog. I always enjoy my vicarious travelling. xx
Response: We are here and safe and sound, with lovely blue skies and a very pleasant place to be.xx
From Little babbie
Hello Parents,

Have you tried guinea pig yet. They were displayed on all the market stalls when I went. Usually with a red pepper or apple stuffed in their mouths. Sounds like you’re having a great time.

Have emailed several times but they are all bouncing back xx
Response: Hello babbie, we have seen several roasted and live guinea pigs, we plan to taste one before we leave, we have had alpaca, found that a bit tough!
From Sister
Glad you are safely there and look forward to reading your blog. XX
Response: A week gone already!!
From Your sister
Enjoying the vicarious travel, as usual. XX
Response: From inside of your dry home we presume
From Mike and Anne
Hi glad your holiday is going well. Enjoying reading your blog interesting as ever. Looking on the bright side a 'dry' March will help with the medication xx
Response: Dry and searing heat, but much better than rain although there was a terrific downpour in the night. Hope all,is well
From Sister
Maybe it is really me, accompanying you surreptitiously to keep an eye on you. I have never been called 'scary' before, even by students. X
Response: Mmm, how do you know that!!
From sister
Looking forward, as always, to accompanying you on your journey. XX
Response: We have an Aunty Dotty look alike with us in the group, mannerisms the lot! How scary is that!!!!!!
From Sister
Delighted to be back on my vicarious travels. Sounds fascinating already. XX
Response: It all seems a bit surreal to be standing in these historic places dating back to the first century BC!
From Kathy & Ken
So jealous - looks like you had another amazing adventure x
Response: Keep stashing away the money whilst you work!!!!!
From Angela and Gilbert
What an experience, can't wait to view the pictures
Response: It was indeed! Now waiting at Bangkok airport for the flight home
From KB
Hola parents,

You look like are having a fab time. Just catching up on your blog. Keep safe xx
Response: Hello babbie
Am trying to get blog up to date, wifi very iffy, hope you had a good easter
From Sue Brockwell
Happy Easter. Sounds a fascinating hol. Now in Isle of Man. House with lovely views out to sea. Drive across island and lunch out next plan. X
Response: Ooh, we liked the Isle of Man, it was like going back in timehope the sun shines for you. It has been forty plus degrees here and feels hotter!
From Sister
Fascinating. Look forward to seeing the photographs. I think I would have been annoyed at being kept back because I was a girl, though. That would have gone against the grain. However, we have to respect cultural differences if we are visitors! XX
Response: Fascinating is the right word to use. Something to see at every turn
From Sue and Les
We are having a BBQ tonight a bit nearer home in the illustrious Padstow. We now have full family complement so not a dull moment. Glad you are having a great time. We are enjoying reading the updates.
Response: I hope it's Aussie style BBQ with plenty of steak and fish. Hope the weather is staying kind for you all, you must be well into the school holidays by now, looking forward to seeing you when we get home.
From JB
Brilliant story on 29th July Mother; did Nana never teach you not to get in cars with strangers (particularly naked ones)!
Response: Nan never knew any naked men I am sure!! I can just imaging her comment!!!! And
Well, I wouldn't have minded but he was over seventy and every inch of skin was a chocolate brown colour! When he got out of the car when we got to dad, his comment' I hope you don't mind your wife travelling in a car with a naked man' Father's comment..'No'
You will be pleased to know that your father has tried to outdo you with the hobo look, as he refused to shave, except he didn't look suave, just a slim version of Santa Claus in the making. Once it got hot, it started to itch and it all came off!!!!'no staying power
From Sandra/Dave
Pleased to read you are enjoying yourselves. Nipped round to yours, everything fine, lawn green and neatly trimmed. Weather here not good at the moment, rained most of yesterday, slightly better today. X
Response: Ouch, rain not good, we are now in the heat, 35 degrees, this has been quite an adventure with lots of stories to tell!!! Off,East tomorrow, we are finding that Australia doen't like yahoo so we are finding it difficult to get and send emails. Thank you so much for popping round to the house.
From Anne & Mike
Enjoying your blog. Glad your having a good time xx
Response: Hello both, tried to ring you before we came away but I guess you had not returned from your travels..hope you had a great time. We are now in Exmouth, wifi very difficult, am sitting in the visitors centre with 30 mins free wifi, will try to update blog when I can, all good here, have had a problem with a broken windscreen, stone from a road train didn't like us, all taped up, trying to get to Broome to sort it out...britz tried to send us to the nearest repair place which was 500 miles from here in the other direction! Just going to book a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, they are trying to get us to go snorkelling but we wouldn't look cool with the woggle under our arms as we are not that confident swimmers
From Lynne
Looks like you are having a great time. It all sounds amazing. We look forward to reading some more! Continue to enjoy x it was lovely to see Christine and Charles We had a good catch up xx
Response: Are your jaws aching then???
You would also like it here! Just finished the first leg of the holiday, now for the northern bit and the heat. Ironic to be away in the British heatwave!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating. Interesting that Elaine's ancestors may have been among the earliest emigrants-albeit compulsory ones. XX
Response: I think compulsory might have been right, dodgy stock as Pete says!!
From Clare & Mart
Enjoy!! xx
Response: A fab place, you would both love this lifestyle. We'll let you know what the Motorhome holds in store for us!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating! Hope you find a woolly jumper shop! XX
Response: Yep, entrance to fish river canyon sold a fleece, weather now much warmer!!!!!!
From sister
Was there no room in your luggage allowance for me to curl up in a suitcase? Lovely to follow your travels again, anyway. XX
Response: Sorry, no room. It looks as if we shall have some splendid places to visit in the coming days.
From Mollie and Lindsay
Congratulations Elaine and Pete.
What a marvellous account of our wonderful holiday in India and Nepal. Greatly appreciated.
Tummy back to normal at last.
Many thanks for your hard work.
Mollie and Lindsay
Response: Nice to know that it brought back memories, mostly good ones I hope
From Doris
Glad to be back to my vicarious travelling-always fascinating and instructive. XX
Response: Vicarious might be the right word, this is a fascinating place...and tomorrow we leave India and are off to Nepal
From Barbara Keen
Hi Elaine& Pete

Read your log today, and it is a very good reminder of all we did and what we saw during our adventure.

Best Wishes Barbara&Reg Keen.xx
hope I got it right then!