A week spent in the stunning wine region of Kakheti, helping out at a wine hostel was just fantastic. We had missed the wine harvest by a few weeks so there weren’t any wine-related things to do (aside from drinking the wine) but we kept busy with various other tasks.
Ucha was our host, a young Georgian guy with fantastic English and a relaxed and friendly personality. He opened up his home (which he shared with his father) to many travellers throughout the year and created a very family like atmosphere at his little place in Sanavardo.
When we arrived a Swedish girl who had been staying for a bit was soon out the door hitch-hiking back to Tbilisi. It was her second time visiting Ucha and the wine hostel. There were two other workawayers who had arrived the day before us and were staying for the week too, Polish Paulina who lived in Barcelona and young bubbly Ivona from Slovakia. These two were interesting, intelligent, fun, lovely company and we really had a great week thanks to them.
During the week we all did different tasks, from cooking for the five of us, to cleaning the house, cracking walnuts, painting signs, digging holes and laying pipes.
I did lots of cooking 🙂 The kitchen became the place where everyone hung out too- it was warmer there and there was a table to work at, play cards on, eat dinner and drink wine and chacha at. No guests arrived for the hostel so it was just the 4 of us workawayers, Ucha and his dad. It was like a little family for the week, really nice!
Sanavardo is a small quiet village not far from Kvareli. We often heard the clikclak of horse hooves on the main road outside as horse and carts or people on horseback trundled past. We had to collect water for drinking and cooking from a tap in the street as the pipes for the house were old and couldn’t be trusted. It was pretty cold when we were there (last week of October) so I was happy to spend most of my time in the kitchen cooking. The surrounding mountains were topped with snow.
Antony enjoyed drinking wine, playing cards and hanging out with the others in the evening. I was often too tired so went to bed early. Got into a bit of a routine doing yoga in the morning before the others were up. I was using a 30 days of yoga thing on youtube. Although the place was rather simple the internet was unlimited, high speed and reliable! We watched a movie online one night, all huddled close on the sofa watching Ucha’s laptop. It was a Georgian film which I can highly recommend called Tangerines.
The four of us had an excursion one day to Sighnaghi, a town on a hill with a famous monastery. It turned out to be a bit of an adventure. First the taxi we were in for the last part of the trip stopped several times on the way up the hill. The driver had to get out, lift the bonnet and bang something with a stone to get it going again. Then once we reached the town we asked him to drop us off at the famous monastery just beyond… He didn’t know where it was and despite asking several people and following the road signs we ended up quite a long way down a gravel road that was nowhere near the monastery. He finally let us out. We walked on a bit more in the wrong direction before realising that it wasn’t a good plan and turned and walked all the way back up the hill. We weren’t the only ones who had taken a wrong turn, the two other cars that we saw on the gravel road were both trying to find the monastery too.
Confusing signs aside, the monastery which we finally found, is the resting place of St Nino (ca. 296- 340), the woman who first brought Christianity to Georgia, a most revered Saint who has been given the title of an equal to the apostles. She preached, performed healings and converted the Queen of Georgia. The church where her tomb is had some beautiful frescoes but no photography was allowed of these or her tomb. The larger older building was sparse and there were a number of men working on its restoration. There were great views over the valley and a path (which we didn’t follow) down to a spring which is believed to have healing powers.
One day the four of us workawayers went for a walk through a nearby village, up a hill to a lake which was just beautiful. I enjoyed the village – people sitting outside on benches watching the world go by, horse and carts, kids, ducks, all sorts meandering along the street or waiting by the side of the road for something to capture their attention. We were given some persimmons by some kind older people who also invited us in for wine, but as it was early in the day we took the fruit and passed on the alcohol.
Once off the road and up a 4WD track up a hill, we saw a number of snakes basking in the sun on the side of the path- some really quite big! We were rewarded at the top of the hill with a fantastic view of a lake surrounded by mountains, most shrouded in cloud. We had fun taking pictures and taking in the beauty of the place before walking back down the hill again.
We hitch-hiked once we were on the main road and got the fastest ever ride back to the hostel. I think the young guy was trying to impress with his speed, even when faced with horses on the road he didn’t slow down. I was praying hard out in the back seat that we’d make it home alive!
The week with Ucha at the wine hostel was a fantastic experience. We can recommend workawaying here or just staying at the wine hostel in Sanavardo and experiencing Georgian village life. We explored more of the lovely Kakheti region in the day or two after we left Sanavardo- more on that in the next post.