Armenia’s Silk Road: Hitchhiking from Vayk to Tatev

Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
Part Nine

Prologue: How it all started
Part One // Part Two // Part Three // Part Four
Part Five // Part Six // Part Seven // Part Eight

Despite all the noise made by the machines at the TV station, I sleep well, and wake up around 7 AM just as Azat comes out of his room to start his new working day. We drink coffee, then walk around the station. As Nairi arrives at 9.30 AM he cancels our plans for the morning, telling that he has to stay at the station because of some unexpected problems that need to be fixed. “But don’t worry, Azat will take you to Moz and will show you arround,” he adds. Moz, a famous trading center in medieval times, is our next stop along the Silk Road of Armenia. We thank him warmly, get in Azat’s car and slowly drive down the mountain.
A rocky road in the mountains above Vayk

Originating in the Bronze Age, the settlement of Moz was a famous medieval commercial and craft center with a population of several thousand people in the 7th-8th centuries. Unfortunately, almost nothing is left of Moz today. Once a major stop on the Silk Road network, Moz was destroyed in a massive volcanic eruption and earthquake in 735 AD. What we see as we arrive is a deserted terrain, and only few information signs indicate that the area was a thriving metropolis back in old times. We wander around, take photographs, while Azat tells us the history of the place. “You see that mountain? That’s the volcano that destroyed Moz,” he says.
A deserted terrain of ancient settlement of Moz
We then return back to Vayk. Azat invites us over to his home, where we meet his family. They treat us with coffee and sweets. While I talk to Azat’s wife, Emée is having a conversation in German with his daughter, who works at Vayk’s social centre. As Azat leaves the room, his wife starts asking questions about my travel companion that make me feel quite uncomfortable. “Is she a missionary from Europe? Has she got a lot of money and wants to spend some here? Can she give us some money anyway? They are rich in their Europes.” I give negative answers to all of her questions, and soon we leave.
A portrait of a French traveller and an Armenian woman
We take our breakfast on the outskirts of Vayk by the river Arpa, then hitchhike up to Syunik province to visit an ancient archeological site called Zorats Karer (also known as Carahunge, or “Armenian Stonehenge”) – a megalithic composition of Bronze Age tombs and over 230 standing stones. The driver who pick us up from Vayk, jokes and asks questions about hitchhiking all the way.
The road from Vayk to Goris
As they drop us off at the turn to the historical complex, we walk along the rocky road until another car stops by us. Turns out that the driver, a young guy named Andranik, works at the little souvenir shop here. Together with his friend Samvel they invite us in, and we get another cup of coffee. Andranik takes us on a tour around the stones of Carahunge. We enjoy his company and stories about the place and its history.
The ancient observatory of Carahunge
The weather gets colder. We walk back to the road through a vast field, exposed to all the strong winds. Soon we get a lift from two friends who are on their way to Nagorno-Karabakh. “You are the third today. We picked up other hitchhikers two times already since we left Yerevan in the morning,” tells us the driver as we get in. “It feels good to help people. And if we can help even by just offering a ride, why not to do it?” his friend adds. They drop us off at the crossroad to Tatev into thick fog that swallows everything around, and we barely can see what’s few meters ahead of us. We drink tea in a dirty cafe at a gas refilling station, then walk towards Tatev. A cute little dog watches us disappearing in the fog.
White little dog on the road in the fog
It’s a bit of a trouble to hitchhike in the fog when you don’t really see if a car is coming your way or not. And when you finally see it, you don’t have time to raise your thumb. But the luck is on our side, and as we slowly walk along the edge of the road, a Lada Niva stops by us. “It’s a long way to Tatev, come on get in, the weather is bad today,” says the driver. We drive down the gorge of the Vorotan river, and then up the muddy road to the village. When we arrive in the village, our driver, Gago, offers us to stay overnight at his place. And just as I am to thank the Road once again for saving us from another cold night, we find out the Gago’s place is actually a guesthouse, and the rate is about $10/person per night. We thank him for his help and offer, and walk away.
A lonesome shepherd in the gorge of Vorotan river
The village looks gloomy in the drizzle. We pass by an old lady who suggests us to stay at the guesthouse we just left. As we reach the gates of the Tatev monastery, few people walk out, and upon seeing us, they give us some fruits. Their faces look somewhat sad. They get to their car, and while me and Emée are trying to decide what to do, they come back to us and give us bread, cheese and a tomato. They offer us to go with them, but the car is full, and they live far away. Besides, we learn they are coming back from a funeral. We thank them. Before leaving, they ask if we intend to spend the night in the monastery. That would be awesome, but we have no ideas of what to expect. As we are to find out later, the Road had prepared another great experience for us.

4 thoughts on “Armenia’s Silk Road: Hitchhiking from Vayk to Tatev

  1. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: From Tatev to Kajaran | On The Road

  2. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: When Journey Comes to End | On The Road

  3. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: Epilogue | On The Road

  4. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road Trip – 2012 | On The Road

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