200 km to Goris in the southern Caucasus

Today we head south. The road crosses the flat, barren plain outdide Yerevan sandwiched between parallel lines of well maintained orchards of fruit – apricots, apples, plums, all displayed on the road-side stalls of the farmers. At one point rectangular lakes of water appear on one side. Strangely this is a big fish farming area and the signs over the stalls depict a range of similar looking fish.

We divert to spend time at Khor Virap Monastery. This was built in 1662 around the remains of a 6th century chapel where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 14 years.

You can climb down a set of scary steps to visit the cave where he was imprisoned…as long as claustrophobia is not one of your conditions. The hole is 40cms in diameter!

The further south we go is like heading further back in time. The strip of orchards continues on either side, only its character changes. Soon we are in the wine producing area. Very good reds. Whites are a bit sweet. Irrigation pipes have been constructed alongside the road, like complicated, open Marble-Run systems running all the way from Lake Sevan.

The roads are very basic. In places only they are just passable and in places construction crews are laying new tarmac. The vehicles are also varied. New Mercedes lorries and coaches share the road with rusty trucks, Ladas and old Opel, many held together with wire and a smile. Ask your parents what a Lada is.The road starts to climb out of the valley and into the high rolling landscape of the mountains. It realy is layers of mountains, in front of layers of mountains against a backdrop of layers of mountains. Not the peaks of Europe but a more gentle, grass covered landscape of rolling bands of ridges and undulating folds of expansive green-tufted blankets and rugged rugs.

Meandering around the lines of valleys & high ranges, the road enters passes and climbs gorges and descends high canyons. Noravank Monastery, built in the 13th century, is set at the head of one of these gorges.

The road twists and turns following the tight contours of the land, up and down the curves and courses of the peaks and troughs. It goes on for miles upon miles with the only changes in the roll of the gradient and the changing lines of different types of electricity pylons.

Occasionally the road descends into a village where underground springs nourish summer trees or some basic crops on which to feed a few cattle and sheep and goats. It might provide a bit of energy to produce cement or other building materials. With no timber out clay in evidence corrugated iron takes its place as an essential pay of the building process. The motorway services….

Goris is our overnight stop.

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