Silk Road of Armenia: Road to Kajaran
We wake up with the first rings of the church bells of Tatev monastery. The night spent at the oil press of the monastery was rather warm, and even though the camp-bed was short and my feet couldn’t fit normally, my sleep was good. We pack and leave the building. Nothing has changed from last evening. It’s still raining and there is fog all around. Since Father Mikael and Harutyun are busy with the morning service, we walk to the refectory to say goodbye to Ophelia. She invites us in for a cup of tea, and gives us apples and walnuts for the road. “Your faith is strong,” says Ophelia to me, when we are about to leave. Not quite knowing what to answer I smile, and we slowly walk away, turning back from time to time to look at the monastery walls disappearing in the fog.
It takes us about an hour and a half to walk down the muddy road from the village of Tatev to the Devil’s Bridge, where the paved road starts. Only once a car passes by us, but there are too many people inside. We observe the fog covering the sides of the Vorotan canyon and listen to the birds singing in the drizzle. We come across a herd of sheep that graze on the hills. We greet the lonely shepherd.
As we come down to the Vorotan river, we take our breakfast. Soon a car stops for us, but turns out it’s a taxi. They offer us a ride up to the main road for about $5. Tired and not willing to walk the remaining 20 kilometers to the highway, we agree and get in. After exchanging a few words with the driver and his friend, they decide to take us all the way to the city of Goris.
Goris looks somewhat gloomy. We take some time to walk around the city to explore its streets. Upon seeing us, the taxi drivers rush in our direction shouting “taxi, taxi, Tatev, cheap” in Russian. We get some potato pies in a local store, then walk out of the city. It takes us about 20 minutes to hitch a ride. The driver named Meruzhan, tells us they can take us as far as to Kajaran. Just as we get in, it starts raining. “You chose a wrong time to travel, the weather is bad, it’s cold,” says our driver. He is right, of course. Because of the bad weather, some historical sites that are located in the forests and in the mountains are hard to reach.
We arrive in Kajaran, a town in the southern Syunik Province of Armenia, around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The tops of the mountains surrounding the town are covered with snow. “We live alone with my wife. There’s plenty of space in our apartment. So why don’t you stay with us tonight? We’ll have dinner together, and tomorrow you can continue your road and go wherever you wish,” says Meruzhan. We gratefully accept the invitation. We spend the rest of the day together, enjoying a delicious dinner and lively conversations.
Over a cup of tea, we talk about the life in Kajaran. In every family there’s someone who works at the Kajaran Copper-Molybdenum Plant, because of which the air is very polluted here, and many have health issues. Meruzh himself had a heart attack last year. “That’s why we urged our children to leave Kajaran. We want them to stay healthy, not like us,” says Gayane. Soon their neighbours join our conversation. We spend the rest of the evening in a warm and friendly atmosphere, sharing stories, telling jokes. For the first time after leaving the Russian village of Fioletovo, we are to sleep in comfortable beds with woolen blankets and soft pillows. A luxurious sleep.