Ülle-Riin disappears during the night.
The weather is... well, nothing extraordinary. Misty. David has got some things for picnic for me. Since it's not possible to thank him enough for all his trouble, I don't even bother to try.
Car rental is really a costly affair, 85$ for a day. We sign the contract and I discover a mistake in it. Unhealthy professionalism. 200$ will remain in deposit. I get a white Pathfinder. It's probably the biggest thing I have ever driven, if you don't count in a tractor.
Car rental guy shows me where are the tools for changing a tyre and obviously thinks that I'm completely capable of doing that. Once we changed a tyre with grandpa. It was in last century but yes, basically I know how it's done. One big scratch is written down. Small scratches bother no-one because everyone knows it's a used car, explains the guy. Reasonable.
To get out of town, I have to follow a black Hyundai Sonata in Tbilisi traffic which isn't the easiest task especially if the air conditioner communicates in Fahrenheit and there's a fly in the car. "Check engine soon" says the control panel.
I get used to the local driving style fast. It's far more complicated to get rid of it once I'm back home.
Somehow I manage to get into Mtskheta but it doesn't take long to find the right way again. It's clouded so there are far less photo-stops than expected. The road seems better than with the bus for some reason. There's almost no traffic, except for cows and dogs. By the road sit knitting women who are selling hats and socks. Here and there one can notice old signal towers. Notification of approaching enemy was given from these. From one tower you had to see the next one. Now some towers are missing.
By the monstrument sun starts to peak between the clouds. The hawks above and below the road are still flying there. Monstrument was constructed in 1983 to celebrate 200 years from Gurgijevski contract. What ever that is.
The pass that I have to cross next has at some point in history been a problem for Lermontov and Dumas. On the other side the sky is clear. I hit the gas. Maybe I am lucky to see Mount Kazbek. It's the third highest mountain of Georgia, 5033 meters. On the only part of the road where there's no asphalt, suddenly traffic appears. I leave them all in a cloud of dust. Rear-wheel drive is a tricky business, in curves it makes the wheels slide quite a bit.
There are a lot of Zhigulis and other Russian cars on the roads. They get the most in the way.
Here and there one can see gas pipes. These come from Russia and houses in the area are allowed to attach themselves to these.
Having arrived in Kazbegi, I switch the car to 4wheel drive and head up the mountain towards the church to make the maximum use of sunlight. Already a lot of time has been wasted because the car rental company wasn't open earlier than at 10:30.
The only cloud is glued in front of Mount Kazbek.
Steep ascent. First I meet a shepherd with a young dog. He asks where I come from and offers to give me the dog. It has no owner, goes around looking for one. Sad story indeed but I don't take the dog. Some other tourists come down the mountain. Russians don't say hello.
Ülle-Riin sends a message that the others have arrived home and their luggage has probably arrived in Istanbul.
The pass moves further and further away. I reach it after two hours of climbing. On the other side there's tremendous noise of wind and water as if a train was on it's way. You can see Gergeti glacier. It's very cold up there. I miss my Ladakhi gloves.
I record all there is to see and rush back down where it should be warmer again. Half way down I make a picnic but it's not much warmer. In the car it shows 5 degrees. Well, that explains why it's so damn cold. I discover a window in the roof of the car and a compass. How a compass works when it's placed on a huge metal thing, remains beyond my comprehension. But it shows in the right direction.
When I'm back on the central square of Kazbegi, the mountaintop looks down on me. It has a collar made of clouds around it. Amazing!
Kagha arrives and takes me to the guest house. From the yard there's superb view to the mountain. Kagha wanders around in the house a bit aimlessly and probably looks like me when I have to deal with tourists at our country house. His mother Lela is the boss here. We drink tea. Kagha works in the local municipality in tourism management and knows Alar Sikk who comes here many times a year. In winter with snow the pass is closed and a helicopter connects the town with the outside world. A tunnel is under construction.
We go to a tavern belonging to the family to have dinner. A bunch of merry people is already sitting round a table and they immediately make place for me and order me to eat. Everything is delicious, as usual. Half of the men are called David. And there's a young woman called Vera who is visiting Georgia after living 15 years in the USA. She makes toast after toast to celebrate coming home. They are not very generous with non-alcoholic drinks so we start with chacha right away. First from a shop's bottle, then a home made one. Plus beer and martini cocktail. Rough. Lela sings karaoke with TV. She's a tough patriot and has clear opinions about the northern neighbor and August war.
An American from California arrives. He's traveling five years already. I have to translate his talk to one of the David's and vice versa. It starts to get difficult to manage the two foreign languages. Their speeches are long.

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