As usual, we try to leave early but don’t really succeed. So by the time we leave Yerevan, it’s already getting hot. We planned a short day heading west first to check out Echmiadzin and Zvartnots cathedrals, followed by Garni temple and Geghard monastery east of Yerevan. Our home for the night would be 3Gs B&B and campsite.
First stop is the cathedral, but we can see from the road that it’s being renovated and the exterior is completely covered in scaffolding. The outer gate is impressive though. So after a quick snapshot we ride on.
Zvartnots cathedral is our next stop. It dates back to the 7th century and there’s not much left of it. But the ruins are still quite impressive.
We head back to Yerevan and then further east up into the hills. Garni temple is an ancient Greek style temple built on top of a much older one, overlooking a small, quiet valley. The building itself is not as big as we expected but the setting is just stunning.
Geghard monastery is only a few kilometres down the road at the far end of the valley. When we arrive, David and Eve are just getting ready to leave, so we say one final goodbye and we wish them a safe journey.
We take our time exploring the site. It’s one of the biggest and certainly the most impressive one we have seen so far.
We had already passed the sign for the 3Gs camp site when we rode from Garni to Geghard, so we make our way back. The B&B and camp site are located at the end of a small unpaved road. It looks a bit uninviting at first, but when the gate opens we are welcomed into a little oasis. Lush green grass around a deep blue swimming pool, a large and well-equipped kitchen and very clean showers and toilets with hot water from the sun boiler.
It looks like a thunderstorm is moving in. We make haste to set up our tent and are just finished when we hear a car stop at the gate. Sandra, the owner opens up and we stare in bewilderment at a big red Jeep pulling a huge caravan. Not exactly what we would expect to see on the mostly unmaintained Armenian roads. Our wonderment grows even bigger when we notice the South Korean license plates.
The Kee family has been on the road with their caravan for months now and have already crossed Russia, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, spending winter in Southern Europe. Now they hope to obtain visa for Iran in Yerevan.
We play some with the kids and they invite us for a traditional Korean dinner that Joy spends a lot of time preparing. While enjoying a noodle soup, they tell us about their travels and how they home school the kids for a few hours every day. Yuno and Haigun are very fortunate to learn about the world from experience in stead of just boring books in school.
The thunderstorms keep lingering the next day so we spend the day chilling at the camp site. While Jo does some small maintenance on the bikes, I tackle the laundry. By the end of the day, the temperature drops some more and we gather around the small stove in the kitchen. The Kee family has returned from their wet trip to Yerevan, but without their Iranian visas. So they decide to head north to go and explore Scandinavia!
For us, the Iranian adventure awaits, so the next day we say goodbye to Sandra and her little oasis and continue further south.
On our way to the border, we have a few more monasteries we would like to visit. Noravank, mostly because of it’s setting at the end of an impressive gorge. Tatev on the other hand, has captured our imagination because of the Wings of Tatev cable cart, which is the longest in the world with a span of more than 5kms.
The Noravank monastery itself it quite small, but the bigger of the 2 churches is interesting because of the 2 floors. The upper floor is accessible through a very narrow and steep staircase built along the outer wall.
We started quite late today, so by the time we reach the Wings of Tatev cable cart, we are too late for the last return journey. We missed it by only 10 minutes. Bummer! So we decide to leave and try to get as close to the Iranian border as possible. We pass Goris and ride along the Nagorno Karabach border. Not the safest of regions at the moment, especially along the Azerbajan side, but it certainly is beautiful.
When we reach the city of Kapan, it’s getting dark. We try to find the eco campsite that is supposedly there but without success, so instead we end up in the only decent looking hotel available. Tomorrow Iran!