Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adventures in Dilijan (Դիլիջան) & Sevan (Սեւան) Part 1/2!


Part one of two.

One of the many reasons it is amazing when a sibling visits you (care-packages from the parents, woo!), is having a legitimate excuse to get into tour-guide mode and get out of the hot and busy city.

My sister's name is Laura and she is one year older than me. My parents preferred me even before I was born:
In my parent's defense, I was born with a mohawk \m/
She came to Armenia in for a few weeks in 2007 when it was just a wee baby and finally decided to see what that baby was up to and come for just under 2 weeks. We made a cute schedule and included "HIKE" dramatically for a Friday. We settled on doing this in Dilijan and then heading to Sevan and Lake Sevan before going back to Yerevan. We set our alarm clocks and wrote down some options for the Dilijan hike before becoming overwhelmed and sleeping instead with a "we will figure it all out tomorrow" attitude.

We woke up late, became hectic and opted for a taxi to get to the bus station rather than take the 259 bus. My sister kept pestering me about getting there "on time" and I had to keep reminding her that we would only leave once the mashootka was full, which she wasn't understanding. She was imagining organized schedules where there were set times, enough seats for everyone, where people would just open the windows automatically and all that bourgeoisie nonsense. We got there at 9:53 and there were about 6 empty seats left and some of the people had been there for about 30 minutes more than us, so I gave my sister a condescending "told ya" eyebrow raise and I hope she understood VS thinking I was being creepy. An older woman on the bus complained to everyone on the mashootka about it not leaving except to the driver and I felt like this was symbolic of the human condition.

After a nice drive we arrived in Dilijan about an hour and 20 minutes later. We decided to do a short hike so that we could still have enough time to enjoy Lake Sevan. After once taking 6 hours to complete a 4 hour hike in Dilijan with a group of friends, we decided not to take any chances: The red marker arrows had suddenly stopped and the trail split in two. We chose left when we should have chose right. Made me think of how I always put a USB the wrong side up. Not this time. We confirmed that the last mashootka left Dilijan at 4pm, and then confirmed it again just to be safe.

Garegin introduced himself shortly after we arrived and right away let us know a few hours in Dilijan wouldn't suffice and that we should stay overnight in his family home. I told him that I once stayed overnight in a tent (post-failed hike) and woke up due to a duck fight. He kept pushing for us to go to a tour agency and we kept telling him we were not interested. We asked him about the mini-hike up to Matosavank (Մաթոսավանք) monastery and he agreed to drive us to the bottom of the hill so that we could hike up. It was the best option for us since we wanted to be back before 4pm to make sure we would get a seat on the last mashootka. He kept insisting to drive us the entire way up the hike and we kept reminding him that although it will be short, we want to hike. Garegin lets us know he would be back in an hour or so to pick us up and take us back to the station. As we arrived, we saw a mashootka at the bottom of a hill and Aram introduced himself. He brings people from Vanadzor every weekend in the summer to pick mushrooms in Dilijan. He says he will wait at the bottom until we are finished as well.

Right away we notice the bright red arrow markers on the trees and feel confident that the "wrong-turn" syndrome will not happen this time. A fly starts to follow Laura and she names him Samvel. The hike gets a little steep and we start worrying about how we will head down. We become too spoiled by the clear red arrows and start taking them for granted, because then we see this:
The dreaded double-sided arrow. Why? 50/50 USB stick decision time again. I begin to have flashbacks of the previous hike where we just kept on heading up, further and further through the thick forest, being too stubborn to acknowledge it was the wrong way.
Our stubbornness documented by me
My sister and I make a choice based on nothing and commit to one way. Shortly after, a villager hanging out asks us if we are trying to go to the monastery and lets us know we are going the wrong way. Every damn time. Soon after heading up the way we should have gone, we see it in the distance and hoped it wasn't a cruel mirage. We document it:
We decide that climbing on top of it first rather than going inside is the ultimate sign of victory and I soon realize that there is a "where's Waldo" aspect to me when I am on top:
Camouflage skills
There is a gate blocking the entrance of the monastery but we lift it out of the way with a no-nonsense attitude we hope would make Patrik the German-Armenian vegan body builder proud somewhere. Being in Armenia for almost 3 years you would think I would be sick of seeing old monasteries by now but I was glad we went inside - it was beautiful from in and out. I tried to do the Jean-Claude Van Damme pose below but it hurt and I thought maybe it was inappropriate so I opted for appropriate:
On the way out I noticed a wonderfully familiar scent. Mint. Everywhere. I became very excited since I had been meaning to plan a herb-picking event in the spring but then forgot or became busy and lost my nettle and dandelion window of opportunity. Not this time. I picked many leaves but avoided pulling the entire plant out and decided a lemon/mint water infusion would be had by all when we returned home.
Laura thought I looked creepy
We decided to have a quick carrot break before heading back down and of course right outside of the monastery were tree trunks meant to be chairs and a rock table between them.
I noticed the villager walking near-by and when we made eye contact he nodded and headed a different way. He came to make sure we got to our destination. We began the descend downwards which was less tiring but much more difficult. We tried to do it crab or penguin style before just deciding to run past the very steep areas. I was extra careful because if my knees get any more scars they will all just connect and become my own personal Quebec (love you Celine).

...TO BE CONTINUED!!!

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