One family's diary, journeys and thoughts

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mountain climbing

Aragats mountain is the highest peak of modern Armenia. In the past Ararat was the highest (5,137 metres or 16,854 ft) but now it is in Turkey. Aragats is 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) high and towers over the landscape north of the capital. It is an extinct volcano, and is split into 4 peaks, surrounding the crater. Below is the satellite picture of it (I didn't take that one :) ).

Last Sunday, Roxy and I joined a group bound for the southern summit of Aragats. It is the lowest of the four, only 12000 feet above the sea level.
I must say that with all the hiking we have done in the past, none of us has ever gone that high up, so even though I heard about the difficulties caused by high altitudes, I never imagined it would be that hard! Roxy summed it all up by calling the experience breathtaking - and she meant literally. But it was so worth it!
We started by driving up the slopes to this beautiful Kari lake (you can see on the bottom right of the satellite image). The mountain in the background is our destination.
From the lake, we set on foot up the slope. Higher and higher...

until we hit patches of snow.

From there, the going got really tough.

So when we reached the ridge, we were out of breath and our lungs were about to pop.

After resting for a while at the ridge, we followed it to the top. Back there on the right is the lake, our starting point.

The last several hundred feet were the hardest. Every couple steps I had to stop and gasp for breath. Even younger, more athletic members of the group were having a hard time.

Finally, we are at the top. That, across from us, is the northern peak, the highest of all.

Roxy 12 000 feet above the sea level...

and forget-me-nots at about the same altitude.

The crater, located between the four peaks, is a perfect wind corridor, and clouds and fog zoom through it with an amazing speed. Now you see it - now you don't.

Western summit on the left, northern - on the right.

A view between two peaks. Back there is the city of Aparan.

Western summit. Can you visualize the lava streaming down?

After resting, eating, dancing and enjoying the views, we set back. This wasn't easy, either - most of the time were jumping from one boulder to another or trudging through snow.

This was a very physically demanding hike, but one of the most enjoyable ones we had so far. I am sure Roxy will have some details to share soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Conversations at the market

So we go to the farmer’s market, right? Well, we want to buy some lavash (Armenian flat bread). The woman says they are 70 Armenian drams each. My mom asks for 5. The woman says, “How about you take enough for 1000 drams?”
“No thanks, just five.”
“Here, I’ll give you ten” *starts counting out twenty*
In the end, we got seven for 500 drams. Hmm.
Then we go to the sour lavash section. (Here I should pause and explain what sour lavash is before you all think we’re crazy. Sour lavash is like regular lavash, but it’s made of rolled out dried fruit instead. Got it?) We ask the lady for one each of five or six varieties.
“How about you take ten?”
“No, just five, thanks”
“Okay, I’ll give you twelve.”
Hmmm. Ya know, I guess it’s the “end of the day” syndrome. They throw all they can at you and will NOT, under ANY circumstances take no for an answer.
It’s like fly tape. They stick and don’t come off. If you peel them off, they take half your money with them. But it doesn’t only happen when we actually buy something.
For instance, we went to buy potatoes. The seller saw that my mom had large bills and he offered to exchange them for smaller bills. He was eager to get rid of his many bills.
So she gives him a 10,000 bill in exchange for ten 1,000 bills. (You like math, right?) So he’s in the middle of counting thousands when he says, “give me the 20,000. I’ll exchange it, too.”
“No thanks, just exchange that one.”
“Give it here, I’ll exchange it.”
“No thanks, just give me my change!”
“Give me the 20000, I’ll exchange it!”
“No thanks” *mom takes change*
“Come on, I’ll exchange it!”
“Bug off!”