Borjomi is a small resort town situated in a scenic canyon in the Kura river. As the name reveals, it is also the homecity of Borjomi mineral water, which you can taste straight from the spring there – it is salty and warm and definitely not something you usually drink. If you are looking for a day of relaxation, a visit to the charming city park and chilling in the pool filled with natural hot volcanic spring water would be a great idea. But what we had in mind was a little bit more adventurous.
We took a marshrutka from Tbilisi to Borjomi for 10 Lari each, got off in the town center and asked locals for directions to the Borjomi-Kharagauli national park. We reached an administration building on foot (it’s not that far from the center, you don’t really need to take a taxi or wait for the bus) and got ourselves a free permission to visit the park. We informed the lady working there that we didn’t have the whole day for hiking as we needed to get back to Tbilisi in the evening, so she suggested we took the black-signed trail, which could be done in around 6 hours (strangely, there is no information about this trail in an official park website). She didn’t tell us about the difficulty of the trail and we didn’t ask as we figured that it would be easy to average. The only warning we got was to bring plenty of water as there are no possibilities to fill the bottles with drinkable water once you are inside the park.
As soon as we walked through the door a taxi driver caught us and tried to convince to take a ride to Likani (the trail starts from there) as the road leading to the place is very hilly, long and we would lose a lot of precious time if we tried going on foot. All of that wasn’t exactly true, Likani wasn’t far from the office at all, but the losing time argument left us 8 Lari short and we were riding in a taxi. We overpaid greatly, but in such touristy places taxi drivers are really good persuaders, we often had very hard time refusing their offers.
And so we reached Likani comfortably, chatting with the driver about economic situation in both Georgia and Lithuania as Georgians are always interested how the countries tourists are coming from are doing.
Borjomi – Kharagauli National Park
The beginning of our hike was easy and the park’s nature seemed very familiar – like we were taking a walk in Lithuania’s forest. As always, we sat down in a gorgeous location at the river and admiring the view we had lunch to gather the strength for the upcoming hike. By then we didn’t know how much strength we actually needed to gather. As we followed the signs, trail got increasingly difficult to hike, the mountain slopes and paths got steeper and steeper. Everytime we thought we already reached a flat segment of the path, it would only last for a few meters and then become even steeper than before. We were not prepared for this kind of challenging hike as we weren’t well rested that day and to tell the truth, there were a few times along the way we thought we couldn’t make it and wanted to give up and turn back.
We looked for a few wooden sticks to help us climb and after quite a bit of struggling we finally reached the top. And as one can expect in such places, the views were amazing. We felt utterly happy drinking in the scenery, feeling glad we were so greatly rewarded for our efforts. And, of course, we were glad that the hardest part of the hike was over. Except that it wasn’t.
As we were sitting on top of the mountain admiring the views, it started to rain. We didn’t want to wait until the storm began so we started hiking and soon realized that the path leading down the mountain was as steep as the ones climbing up and, to make matters worse, rain made the ground very slippery. We didn’t have our wooden sticks anymore, the grass around the path was very short and there were no bushes we could hold on to while sliding down. And it was literally sliding down, I’m not exaggerating here. We were actually terrified. It is a miracle how we didn’t break our legs and necks there. Anyway, once we reached some trees along the way we felt more secure as we could slide straight to the tree, slam down to it and it would stop us.
As I hit one tree it made me smile for a moment as I felt a complete and utter desperation. It was quite a new feeling for me, but then again, I had never found myself in such situation before in my life. And what made me smile was a sign left on that tree: “↑ Hell”. As if we weren’t in hell already, someone was trying to warn us that we should expect the trail to become even more severe. And it was actually true. The path was not only steep and slippery from that moment but also strongly winding, which meant falling down the slope if we were not able to stop sliding in time of the turn.
Sure, we have trekking, climbing experience but it was a dumb luck that we reached the bottom of the mountain without any injuries. It was a great lesson not to go hiking without knowing the difficulty of the trail and without considering the weather conditions as for such hike we should have had gear and should have worn different boots. And even then I’m not sure if I considered hiking this trail while the ground is wet.
Anyway, before I could relax, there was one more challenge to meet. Thankfully, the last one as my legs were already shaking because of the fatigue and the shocking experience I had. To reach the village and the bus, which eventually brought us to our well deserved rest in a lovely, warm and dry bed in Tbilisi, we had to cross a “bridge” over the river. If you read my previously posted story about hiking in Ushguli, you remember a picture of a completely broken bridge we had to cross and like I wrote, it was kind of scary. But hey, it was still a bridge. And now what we had to cross were two logs dropped over the river in around two or three meters height. As a person who can’t swim I have a general distrust of bridges but this was on a completely different level and there was plenty of panicking on my part. But I managed. So I guess saying “sky is the limit” is kind of true speaking of human capabilities but I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to prove it again. Not in such circumstances, at least.
P.S. The purpose of sharing my experience isn’t to keep you from hiking in the wonderful Borjomi park. If you have an opportunity, you definitely should. Just make sure you know the trail conditions and prepare well!