We got up early in the morning in Tblisi to get the bus to Armenia. We had heard that the only way was to get the Yerevan bus. As the place we wanted to go to was in-between Tblisi and Yerevan we would have to pay the full fare (not very much) and ask to get out the bus where we want to. We decided to try to get out at a place called Alaverdi because it is located near some monasteries that might be worth visiting.

When we asked about the bus it turned out it wasn't going to leave for about an hour. I think we ended up waiting around the bus station for about 2 hours.

View from the bus station.

The vehicle turned out to be a cramped minibus. I think it was a converted van because the windows didnt open. It was boiling hot. People were stacking numerous large boxes of fruit into it. We were urged to get on incase we lost our seat. It was unbearably hot and airless inside.

Eventually the minibus began to trundle slowly through the busy city. I couldnt see out because of curtains that wouldnt open. After a while we arrived at the Armenian border. The border was reasonably straightforward but took a little while. We managed to get dropped off in Alaverdi.

As soon as we got out of the minibus a car pulled-up and somone was asking if we needed somewhere to stay. The first thing we needed was to change money. They directed us to an ATM across the street and waited. The town was a small mining town with ugly soviet buildings. It didn't look like an easy place to find a hotel so we agreed to go with them.

The lady said she was the administrator for the hotel. The car pulled off the street into a back alley and went down in-between some very basic scruffy old soviet-style large accommodation blocks and throug a gate. We were worried. It didn't seem right. We followed her up some narrow concrete steps round the back, in-between the building and a cliff, mumbling negativities to each other. When we entered the building it didn't seem too bad and it was concievable that it was a sort of 'hotel'. Although it didn't feel like there were often guests. There was a groovy picture on the wall. We checked in.

The same guy that drove us there offered to drive us to the monastery up the hill so we left our bags and piled in again.

On the way the car got a blow-out. The tyres were completely bald and there was no spare. The driver flagged someone down and they agreed to let him use their spare whell. He couldn't get it on properly though. He started to drive us back down the hill, back towards the town. The wheel started banging and wobbling - Not good. He pulled over again and had another go at it. He wouldnt let me help. We drove on again. The noise got worse. Ruth was scared. After a little way he pulled into a small tyre repair shed at the side of the road. I guess that was his plan. The place looked like a kazi. While the man replaced his old bald tyre with another old bald tyre we picked black and white mulberries.

Silk worms eat mulberry leaves. And we were on the silk road.

The tyre repair man thought Hannahs boots looked like they needed a clean so he told her to go down to the river to wash them. Presumably because she is too polite to say no she actually did it. She wasn't happy about it though because the slope was very steep and unstable and the river was fast flowing and looked deep and polluted by the mine. I dont even think her boots were dirty - perhaps the guy was joking?

Finally the tyre was fixed and we got taken to the monastery.
Haghpat Monastery.

We got a lift back down to strange and kinda ugly little mining town. It felt like Twin Peaks. We went and had a really good slap-up meal.

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