Gonio Memories


Now, where were we before writing about school interrupted? Oh yes, still on the Black Sea coast in August.

My wife and I continued from our favorite camping spot south once our friends left us for Tbilisi, and ended up going all the way to the Turkish border looking for a place as good. Nothing seemed to be evident right on or near the beach, combining close sea access with trees for shade from the then still considerable heat. We ended up at Gonio as evening approached, setting up the tent (which needs no pegs to anchor it, although you can use them if able) right on the cement of the local boulevard. My wife had wanted this, but I told her it would likely have soaked up the whole day’s worth of sun and remain hot most of the night. We tried it anyway, without the tent’s flysheet, and indeed it was too hot. So we moved the tent onto the local small smooth rocks, and there were more comfortable.

This location, however, seemed to be much more popular, and populated, than where we had come from. Late into the night, joggers and walkers traversed the boulevard, and kept us awake. Then it started again early next morning. The water here was nice and clear, though the beach angle in the sea was considerably steeper than at Ureki, which is both murkier and much shallower. Give and take. But the heat and noise of where we were persuaded us to look further, even if it meant abandoning easy beach access. We were entirely mobile, after all, and could pack everything up in less than half an hour!

Some locals suggested the road going up directly behind the huge Gonio Fortress. What’s a 4x4 for?! The road presented no problems to ascend, and we found a few likely spots for the night, although everywhere around were summer homes and farm spots. Here, they grow grapes, cucumbers, pecans, figs, and many other subtropical or semi-temperate crops, right up into the surrounding mountains. Descending again for our day at the beach, we knew where to return to for the night.

This kind of completely movable holiday turned out very much to our taste: cheap, flexible and with plenty of options. We were comfortable enough in sleeping bags on air mattresses, with a gas bottle for cooking on, and a folding table and chairs, all of which fitted quickly back into the car for the next drive. The occasional restaurant meal also gave variety and meant that we were not tied to buying only fresh food to cook, not having refrigeration. Note to self: think about a portable shower unit to make, with a water container on the car’s roof, a tarpaulin and poles, so it’s not just salt water the whole time… This was also, as our first such jaunt, very much a time of noting what to improve or change. We were patient enough to do this without frustration, knowing that future trips would benefit greatly from this experiment.

That night above Gonio, I heard jackals howling to each other for the first time in Georgia, an eerily wonderful sound which I even managed to record on my cell phone. It brought back memories of coyotes in Canada, and further back, of lions roaring in the night on camps in Rhodesia… tying these experiences all together for me.

Our next leg would be into upper Adjara, towards Khulo, so after some research into what to see en route, off we went again. That I will cover in another article soon.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer and photographer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

By Tony Hanmer

24 September 2020 17:15