Панкісі (груз. “პანკისის”, англ. “Pankisi”, рос. “Панкисское ущелье”) – верхів’я долини річки Алазані серед гір Кавказу, що знаходиться у північно-східній частині Грузії, межуючи з Автономною Республікою Чечня (Російська Федерація).
Адміністративно долина Панкісі належить до Ахметського району, край Кахетія. Панкійська ущелина заселена мусульманами-кистинцями, котрі мають спільне коріння з чеченцями, здавна славляться войовничою вдачею та непохитним звичаєвим правом.
Долина Панкійської ущелини шириною приблизно три кілометри тягнеться між двома гірськими хребтами протягом кілометрів двадцяти і переходить у високогірний масив на північному кордоні з Чечнею.
На заході Панкісі межує з долинами річок Іорі, далі на захід – Пшавською Арагві, населеною пшавами та Верхньою Арагві, населеною хевсурами. На південний схід від Панкісі простягається грузинський історичний район Тушетія, східніше якого лежить російський Дагестан.
Річка Алазані, прорізавши Панкійську ущелину, згодом спускається на південь, де після різкого повороту на південний схід протікає по широкій рівнинній долині, яка, власне, і є осердям грузинської історичної області Кахетія.
Дістатись Панкісі, яке затиснуте між горами, можливо лише одним шляхом: Телаві – Ахмета – с. Матані – с. Сакобіано – с. Дуісі.
Історія та етнографія
75% населення Панкісі складають кистинці – етнічна група чеченців, що переселилась на терени Грузії у XVI столітті на запрошення Давида Будівничого. Войовничі кистинці (дзурдзуки, вайнахи) допомагали грузинам захищатись від нападів східних народів.
Цікаві факти про чеченців-кистинців зі словника Брокгауза і Єфрона:
“…До чеченців, окрім власне чеченців (в Грозненському окрузі), зараховуються кисти (по ущелинах Макалдона і Аргуна), інгуші, галгаї, карабулаки (по Ассі і Сунжі; найбільш вороже нам [росіянам] плем’я, цілком виселене в Туреччину) та ічкерці (у Веденському окрузі).
…Найближчі сусіди чеченців називають їх місджегами (лезгінці і кумуки) та кистами (грузини).
…Починаючи з XVI ст. чеченці послідовно вели війни з ногайцями, калмиками, кабардинцями, кумуками і, нарешті, з росіянами (з початку XVII століття).
…Чеченці вважаються людьми веселими, дотепними ( “французи Кавказу”), чутливими, але користуються меншими симпатіями, ніж черкеси, внаслідок їхніх схильностей до підозрілості, підступності й суворості, що виробилися, ймовірно, під час вікової боротьби. Незламність, хоробрість, спритність, витривалість, спокій в боротьбі – риси чеченців, давно визнані усіма, навіть їхніми ворогами.
…У часи своєї незалежності чеченці, напротивагу черкесам, не знали феодального устрою і класового розшарування. У їхніх вільних громадах, що управлялися народними зборами, всі були абсолютно рівні.
…Наприкінці XII або початку XIII ст. між чеченців стало поширюватися християнство. Сліди його і тепер видно в руїнах храмів, у святах: кістинці та інгуші святкують Новий рік, день пророка св. Іллі та Трійцю. У багатьох місцях вони приносять у жертву баранів на честь св. Діви, св. Георгія і св. Марини.”
На початку XVIII в. чеченці прийняли іслам сунітського толку. У своїх релігійних звичаях, крім елементів християнських і магометанських, чеченці зберегли багато елементів первісного язичництва, зокрема і фалічного культу. В країні часто можна знайти маленькі бронзові голі пріапічні статуетки, яким поклоняються чоловіки, як до охоронців стад, а жінки їх обіймають, щоб вимолити дітей чоловічої статі.”
У 1990-і роки після другої чеченської війни в Панкісі поселилися біженці з Чечні , котрі проникали сюди гірською стежкою, по якій можна було відносно вільно переміщуватись. Нині вона замінована російськими прикордонниками.
Кремлівські медіа стверджували, що територія Панкісі на початку 2000-х використовувалась як база для транзиту, вишколу та забезпечення чеченських бойовиків під проводом Руслана Гелаєва.
Канал з мостом перед селом Дуісі – кордон розрекламованого кремлівськими медіа незалежного Панкісістану. За словами автора блогу travelgeorgia.ru біля каналу було встановлене пулеметне гніздо та стояв автоматчик, який пропускав лише тих, кого потрібно. Це було в 2003 році. У 2004-му Гелаєв був ліквідований росіянами під час вилазки в Дагестані.
Landmine Monitor досі застерігає про ризики знаходження протипіхотних мін на території Панкісі та певну кількість інцидентів, спровокованих ними.
Проте, на відміну від наляканих Панкісістаном жителів пострадянського простору, західні туристи полюбляють подорожувати Панкійською ущелиною, про що свідчить зокрема польський сайт www.pankisi.org, на якому описано більше десятка цікавих екотуристичних маршрутів по Панкісі.
Під час подорожі Кахетією в 2012 році знайомі кистинці та кахетинці з Телаві запевняли нас, що Панкісі – мирне, спокійне і мальовниче місце, а всі інсинуації щодо бойових дій – яскравий приклад дезінформації громадськості з боку мас-медіа.
Карта Панкісі. Джерело: www.pankisi.org
Нижче подана англомовна інформація про туристичні маршрути Панкісі з польського сайту www.pankisi.org :
We begin this rout in the centre it Duisi, walking the main street lading to Jokolo village. We pass shops, local school, community center. The office of UNHCR as well as the branch of Georgian Ministry to matters of refugees and settlement is located in the community center, where we can find out many interesting things about Chechenian and Kistynian refugees. Little of them stayed in Pankisi gorge till the present moment, despite that refugees’ situation is difficult. UNHCR and other NGOs pilot several helping programs for them, like the craftsman’s workshops. It in the community center you can buy their work, ex. jewellery, articles made of felt – bags, wallets, caps and clothes.
After leaving from community center we go further to Jokolo, after few meters on the left we are passing so cold new red brick mosque. It was built it in 2001 r. mainly by the Chechenian refugees, followers of non-Sufi Islam, often called fundamentalists, at the present moment after the refugees’ departure young residents are attending this mosque.
Behind the mosque we pass a mini gas station and we come to a Kistynian cemetery. We turn left from the main road, slightly uphill. We pass the cemetery, situated on a gentle slope over Duisi. It is worth to visit this cemetery. There are many interesting tombstones from different historical periods. The oldest ones are made of stone and have inscriptions in Arab. The tombstones present with times of Soviet Georgia are also interesting, made in characteristic style for whole Georgia: the marble plates with the painting of the deceased (from photo) often in natural size, pictured in every day situation related with his/ hers occupation or passion. Inscriptions are in Georgian, often shachad in Arab is added. The newest tombstones are more modest, without deceased’s pictures, with inscriptions in Georgian and obligatorily a shachad in Arab. Several new tombstones on the cemetery are with inscriptions in Cyrillic alphabet or in Arab, to which high green flag are attached, signifying a heroic death of so cold shachids.
Duisi is lying directly by Alazani river. The river loudly humming, flows in a wide, stony trough on the height and the whole length of the village. This is a favorite place of the villagers for swimming during sweltering days of summer, boys are often playing soccer on the meadows over the river and once a week men arrive here to a horse’s market.
Closer to Duisi one can see numerous water channels bringing water from the river in first order to a mill. Unfortunately the building is a small metal barrack and there is no charm of an old mill in it, however beside it there is the oldest cemetery in Duisi, where one can find many old tombstones and graves of the first Kistinian settlers in Pankisi. After flowing through wheels of the mill water runs further to local house gardens. We pass the mill and we direct our step towards a dam and a bridge (to the south), to a road leading to the opposite bank of the Alazani river, we turn left leaving the dam behind, again north facing tall peaks of Caucasus, to Omalo.
Right after turning left, on the right side of the mountain we will see the deep green ravine and on its slopes, ruins of the Georgian Christian temple which Kists call the Khomi.
Probably it can be dated back to times of queen’s Tamara rule (XII – XIII in.) The temple is overgrown by old trees, mainly oaks. It is yet possible to distinguish a place where the altar used to be. Sometimes Georgian highlanders and Kists visit the temple, often during one day of the year specially dedicated to it, to light a candle or to sacrifice a lamb.
It is at present Kists’ favorite picnic place. Beautiful view from the temple spreads on whole ravine – particularly Pshavi – Osetian part. Leaving Khomi we are going down and back to the road to Omalo. After 200 -300 meters we are approaching a hill on the right (on which we can climb gentle serpentine road), where the next Georgian Christian temple stands – Khorbalo , also from XII – XIII c. Today in ruin, but overgrown with old trees, it creates a picturesque view against beautiful river and mountains. It is well visible from opposite bank, from Duisi.
Standing near the Khorbalo temple we can admire an wide-ranging view on Pankisi gorge. There is a clear view over minarets of two mosques in Duisi – old and new, and in the right hour one can hear muezzin’s voice calling to pray, speeding along the whole valley multiplied with mountain echo.
Despite that Kists in majority are Moslems, they hold in the highest regard and respect Christian temples as well as their ruins. Sometimes on holiday they visit those temples to ask its patrons (mostly St. George) for help of to thank for it. Currently they do not pray in them, as they used to on the beginning of the 1990’s. Kists won’t let anybody to devastate these places, cut trees or to even pick flowers. They say that people who dishonored holiness of these places were punished ruthlessly.
Some lost their mind for cutting down oaks growing round temple. Others who shot the walls of a temple were killed few months later on war in Chechen.
After going down from Khorbalo we are walking by a road and past half an hour reaching the first village on this river bank – Dumasturi, mainly inhabited by Kists, but also by few Osetian families still living there, what is easily recognized by home pigs grazing by homesteads. In Dumasturi road turns to Shua Khalacani, where main road, after going though Zemo, leads to fortifications of Torgva Pankeli fortress.
An old Kistinian wooden house stands on the right side of the road. Beautiful architectural openwork decorations are remarkable. A farm is close to the mentioned left turn, in the opposite direction there is a forest road – in order to go there we have to cross a wooden fens. After passing obstacle we walk this road through shaggy bushes. After a few hundred meters, in the forest, on the right there is an Ossetani cemetery. Opposite the cemetery, on the left side of the road there are ruins of an old Georgian city (probably from IV – VI century). We can see the ruins of a former house it – is this a tall wall with windows. Unfortunately the rest of the buildings is completely ruined and not accessible. We come back to the mentioned house by the same road, we cross the fens and go further by the main road to Omalo. Between Dumasturi and Omalo there are cornfields, meadows and the whole time we can admire the northern settings of the Panki Valley.
Kvemo Khalacani – Kistynian-Ososetian village. In Khalacani on gentle green hill, after the same side where telephone pole is, we see old trees’ groves. Three are this such places, laid in line of straight line. As we approach them we come on an open mountain pasture, from which whole Khalacani is seen. By now there are only small ruins of fortresses fortifications in each of these groves. Kists say, that snakes and vipers often crawl out from these ruins, but non – poisonous. We didn’t see any there, however one should surely keep caution. A pleasure of hiking in such open space and admiring picturesque view over Duisi, Dumasturi, and all three villages Khalacani and even Omalo is worth walking this hill. This is also a very good place for paragliding.
In the Khalacani village we can visit osetian cemetery, with tombstones in the human figures’ shape, or with the grave slabs decorated with paintings of the dead picturing them in different moments their lives. Such plates are characteristic for whole Georgia.
In Kvemo Khalacani there is a dozen or so houses – examples of very pretty, old architecture, characteristic to kistinan village. They are storeyed buildings surrounded by gardens.
We are climbing for about 1,5 hours to the top, where a chain of fortifications named Torgva Pankeli begins, it was built in the times of the queen Tamara, by the end of XII century. Fortress and the majority of the grounds of today’s gorge once belonged to a Georgian duke named Torgva Pankeli. He was descended from Georgian highlanders – Pchowi, and trusted men of queen’s son and successor- king George Lasha. Together with other magnates he set a conspiracy against Mongolians, which conquered Georgia in first half of XIII century.
Conspiracy was discovered and Torgva Pankeli was executed by Mongolians.
On the right side directing our steps up we approach one of the fortress towers from which a beautiful view spreads over Alazani river valley, other side of the Pankisi gorge, a valley inhabited by Tuszyns – with their lowland central village visible – Alvani. Reaching further, we can to see a Georgian cathedral Alawerdi from XI century (The Alaverdi holiday so cold Alaverdoba falls on October 15th), one of the most important pilgrimage places for Georgians from the whole country, Georgian highlanders from Kachetii and to until recently also Kists.
We come back to the main path, which leads along fortifications, after about 10 minute walk we reach a Georgian church situated at the very end the fortress. His ruins are well kept, there are clear traces of windows, doors, altar, old and very frescoes.
There is a passage in the temple floor lading to underground corridors and rooms build under the whole fortress and the church. Directly under the church there is a place of burial. A guide assists visitors as it is easy to lose your way in the underground corridors. It is possible to come back to the front of Torgva Pankeli by underground corridors.
Torgva Pankeli was built in a communication wise location and in good view point. It is a part of a signalization system. People from Pankisi used to light fire on top of the buildings to pass on most important messages from fortress to fortress, mainly warning from enemy approaching the village.
Omalо – Pankisi village, situated on the right Alazani river bank.
There is an old mosque, which at present function as the woman’s house of prayer. The female members of an Sufi Islamic fraternities pray in it. Woman in Kisinian tradition cannot accompany deceased on a road to cemetery, but they can conduct a Sufi prayer. Female fraternities are a rarity in Moslem world, but not among Kists.
Men pray in the new mosque, standing in the centre of the village, it was build in 2001 r. Not so long ago (15-10 years) half of Omalo residents professed Islam and the other half belonged to Georgian orthodox church. Aside from that majority celebrated both Moslem and Christian holidays. Several Christian families are still living in Omalo at present (np. family Bekauri) as well as “mixed” families, their members profess both religions. They come to pray in mosque and they worship Christian saints.
There used to be three such temples in Omalo, which stud on holy places in pre-Christian times. Two of them were blown up by so cold wahhabists, on the beginning 2000’s, in times of past crisis related to refugees the and Chechen fighters.
The temple that was saved, named Cminda Georgi Ckwitori (Św Jerzy Ckwitori) is in Omalo, nearby we can admire a magnificent belfry. The main holiday of this church falls on 4th of April (St. George). Then Christian Pshavs arrive from Matani and Sakobiano. Several Kists comes from Omalo also. They light candles, tie ribbons, put coins in churches’ walls and pray. After the prayer they organize a picnic with food and wine.
The road comes to an end of Omalo village, where over Alazanis’ tributary, we can find an umbrella roof and a place suitable for refreshing bath and rest. From this place we can still climb on a nearby hill, also with a telephone pole paced there. After walking through a lush forest, by a visible path, after 20 minutes we will find a tiny chapel – another holy place. Road further in the mountains leads to next holy place named Kupala. Women come to this place to ask for birth of a son.
After leaving the Duisi cemetery we turn left heading to the mountains, we walk towards Dedisperuli village (also cold Kakliani). After several meters we come to an amphitheatre, situated on our right side. Amphitheatre was built in social act by Pankisi gorge residents in 1985- 1986. There is an obelisk round commemorating local people who died as soldiers of red army in time II world. On this obelisk every village has its board, where names of killed people are listed – Kists, Pshavs and Ossetians.
In 1998 r. (1999) amphitheatre hosted the president Iczkerii Asłan Maschadow, which arrived to Georgia on official invitation of the president of Georgia – Eduard Szewardnadze.
From overgrown with grass, trees and Caucasian mallows amphitheatre and wide view stretches over a part of Pankisi gorge – Duisi and Jokolo.
We come back from the amphitheatre to the main road up the hill and after a dozen meters or so we come to Pshzaws’ village – Dedisperuli also cold Kakliani. In the village occupants’ majority lives poorly and modestly, mainly from what the nature gives them. In Kakliani you can buy the best nuts and mushrooms in whole Pankisi, not without reason second name of village- Kakliani means “nuts” in Georgian.
Our rout leads fourth Kakliani village and further by a mountain range, we turn by a little spring in the village and we head north uphill. After 10 -20 meters we come to ruins of a tower and a fortress from times of Torgva Pankeli’s duchy (XII – XIII c.). Then we head from this place down about 200-300 metres, the best way goes in a corridor of a dried stream, and come to place named Baltagori, probably built by Kists’ Chechenian ancestors who settled down in this place at the beginning of their stay in Georgia – at the end of XVIII c. It is a tower and next signaling point, one of many build around whole Pankisi gorge.
Baltagori tower kept is in a perfect shape. Stones be arranged very closely and systematically. It is possible to enter it only with a cast down ladder from the inside.
Probably it was built after the example of famous Chechenian towers. Till recently in every valley, over the second side of the mountains, there were a dozen or so of such towers.
When the weather is good Baltagori is a perfect view point over peaks of High Caucasus: from left there is Batana pass, then Spiroza peak and on the right side Nakerała.
From Baltagori we go down, after 200 meters we come to an old trees grove, where a small Georgian church is standing (XII – XIII in.), already on a belonging to Jokolo village slope. In the early 2000 wahhabists blew up a part of the church. At present we can see ruins, and among them main nave with the altar.
Until recently (5-10) years Kists together with other Georgian highlanders (Pshavs) celebrated Christian Easter in this place. They prayed, made sacrifice of lambs, lighted candles. They painted eggs red and carried them to a cemetery.
In front of this church there is a cornfield, and behind it ruins of a second Georgian church, overgrown with old oaks the and alders.
Along the trees we can notice arranged stones. Whole Kistynian and Pshaw families used to sit down on them, organize a holiday meal, made toasts, celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Today mainly Pshavs are celebrating Ester in this place.
After leaving the second temple heading to Jokolo village.
Going from Duisi to Birkiani on the right among trees we first see a Georgian temple, then other ruins. St. George Georgian church was build in XI – XII century. Ruins are kept in good condition. The tree which grown in the walls as well as spring adds this place a lot of charm. It is a calm, shadowy, place encouraging to stop for a moment. There are other building ruins, maybe be monastery or palace (pretty solid walls, well kept)
During Easter Georgian highlanders and individual Kistinian families come to the temple, pray, eat breakfast together, light candles. So called Wahhabists used to eradicate these practices in 1990’s
One night they blew up the majority of Georgian churches in the neighborhood, wanting to eliminate the “pagan habits” this way, and to preach “pour Islam” to them. Also that temple suffered from that act, however not so much to convince the locals not to come here. They only maybe confess less openly to it.
Duisi – Matani (duration: 2-3 hour)
We recommend to travel this rout by a car, but obviously it can also don on foot.
We go by a main road from Duisi, along Alazani river, in Achmeta direction (south), about 10 kilometers.
After leaving Duisi we, pass on the way Pshaw villages: Kwareldzchali (with a ruined Georgian church from VII c.), Sakobiano (also with several ruined old Georgianch churches), we pass a road turning to Baklowerchi on the right side and to recent the main Osetian village- Koreti. At present mainly Kists live in Koreti. About a dozen or so Ossetian families stayed. They began leaving in masses from Pankisi in time of conflict in South Ossetia and destabilization in Pankisi till 2003 r.
In far perspective from our road we can already see Achmeta and rising over it fortress Bachtrioni, built by Persians in XVI c. The fortress became famous from heroic retake of it by Kakhetians from Persians’ hands in late XVI c.
Meanwhile we get to the largest Pshav village in the gorge- Matani.
In the village we notice a lot of houses built of stone, on a high foundation. Houses are surrounded by vineyards and orchards. White calcareous rocks stand out in few places on the local hills.
In Matani we can visit a Pshav cemetery, with antique tombstones from various periods of history, the most interesting are the ones in a shape of a lying figures, stone human figurines, in the rams’ shape, the bulls’ shape. The cemetery does not function anymore.
After visiting the cemetery we are going to a fortress surrounding a palace in which Kajhroso (called also the Kakucą) Cholokashvili was born, famous national hero of Georgia.
Kakuca Cholokashvili came from a well-known aristocratic family, he fought in world war I where he joined the British army and entered Georgia together with them. He was a colonel of independent Georgia in 1918 – 1921.
After Bolsheviks entered in 1922 Kakuca led the anti-Bolshevik uprising raised by Khevsurs. The uprising was crushed and Kakuca emigrated to France where he died. In 2005. The government of Georgia broth in his ashes and placed them in pantheon of heroes of Georgia in Tbilisi.
At present his museum is in the palace in Matani. A small Georgian Jesus Christ’s parents church from XVI stands by it. Near the church there is a Georgian female monastery. At present there are only two nuns remaining there.
In times of unstable history of Georgia, the church often served as shelter for neighboring population, mainly Pshavs and the Ossetians against the Persian shahs’ invasions.
A winding road leads from fortress to nearby afforested mountains, where a Georgian church from the V century (that is from the beginnings of Christianity in Georgia) is situated. The Church is named Cchrakari what means Nine Gates in Georgian.
Matani is also well-known of Christian holidays joint with festivals and feasts organized in different seasons of the year. The holiday most known is named Didbatoneba and it falls on the day of St. George (23rd of November) and a holiday named Cihegoroba celebrated on Tuesday after Easter.
In Pankisi so as in whole Georgia, every village has its local St. George who patronizes a neighboring church and his holiday falls on once a year. That explains a Georgian saying, that in Georgia every day is St. George’s gay. Pshavs and Ossetians celebrate in Matani and recently also Kists joind them. Alpine rout leads from Matani to Chelis Czala – hot mineral and healing springs.
Dzibachewi – last village in Pankisi by car. After reaching Dzibachewi we can stay in the car or switch to a pony. From the main road in Dzibachewi, we turn left behind a bridge. We pass an entry to Bacarski National Park, where the park�s museum is. National Park begins from deciduous forest, in which found relic yew trees. Higher, closer to crests yew’s grow in clusters. The museum is being renovated at present, there also are plans to build a hotel by it.
From the main road in Dzibachewi, we turn left behind a bridge.
We pass an entry to Bacarski National Park, where the park’s museum is. National Park begins from deciduous forest, in which found relic yew trees. Higher, closer to crests yew’s grow in clusters. The museum is being renovated at present, there also are plans to build a hotel by it. We go further straight, on first larger cross roads we turn left uphill. Alazani all the time flows near us and several times we have to cross it.
We approach the Bebris Tapis pass (18 kilometres from Duisi). Its name comes from oldman’s name – Bebris who lived in this place. Tapis means “place” in Kistinian.
A nice view stretches from the pass over Nakerala High Caucasus mountains.
From the pass we go all the time in up the mountain. It was built by Tushins in 2007 r. and at present it leads to the next pass named Batana, situated high in the mountains. There are Tushin and Kistinian shepherds’ summer huts and shelters on Batana. Beautiful views stretch from tat place over the peaks of High Caucasus. Shepherds live in this place since June to the end of September. They supervise pasturage of sheep’s herds, cows and goats. Tushins keep pigs near their shelters, what signalizes that, there are no Kists around, but only Georgian highlanders.
Shepherds through the whole season make different kinds of whey and cheese from cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk. Surely they will show us individual production stages, and treat us with what they already made.
In every place where there the shepherds are we can encounter also dogs – Caucasian sheep-dogs looking after herds and defending them from wolves. One should keep caution, and not move till their owner will come and call the dogs. After spending some time in shepherds’ company dogs stop paying attention to the guests. They thing of guests as a part of the herd.
You can spend night in Batana, but we recommend to go further, 500 meters down to next kistinian shepherds’ hostel place named Kochadala. There is much more space and a river in which you can swim.
* Batana – Sakisto – Kochadala (duration: 3,5 hours): possible route
If you will decide not to stay in Batana, we recomend to hike or horseback ride to the highest peak in this mountain chain named Sakisto (2650 m. above the see level)
We head north from Batana, up the mountain, after 15 minutes of mountain-climbing we come to a mountain spring. It reflects the image of near by rocky mountains. Shepherds’ half wild horses often graze closely. By the lake there is a memorial plate with inscriptions: Laurenty Iwanowicz, son of Iwano, 1941-1979 r.
Narrow path from the lake leads pretty steeply up the mountain.
We climb by the right slope straight to Sakisto peak.
After about 1,5 hour moderate walk we come up to a place where more Kistinian shepherds’ huts are located.
We can spend the night here, but there is no water in Sakisto.
There is also a road from Sakisto that leads to Zuruskori peak (duration: about 2 hours on foot).
Meanwhile we come back down from Sakisto, to the lake and we go down following the memorial plate to Kochadala (about 15 minutes), a place where we find some huts and Kistinian shepherds’ shelters by the river.
Kochadala is the next kistinian shepherds’ hostel place located 500 meters down from Batana. There is much more space and a river in which you can swim.
In Kochadala we will find several huts of Kistinian shepherds producing a dozen or so kinds of cheeses mainly smoked cheeses which are real delicacies.
The huts are situated beautifully by the river with a very quick and bright current. This place is well-known of its healing power. Shepherds say that this the place to regain not only your health, but even sight, speech and taste.
* Kochadala – Zubuk – Gochia- Lamazur – Kochadala (duration: about 6 hours): possible radial route
After regaining what we have lost in our rapid and nervous world, we suggest to climb on a nearby mountain peak. We cross the river by shepherd’s huts and we start climbing up the mountain right away. After about an hour we come to the first peak named Zubuk.
From this place our rout leads through mountain peaks, till we reach the next range named Lamazur.
High peaks covered with snow are surrounding us from all sides. Near Lamazur peak there is a small mountain lake named Makasta. One of Kistinian legends says, that the lake has no bottom. Its water runs by underground corridors, and flows into the black sea. Once a whole rams’ herd drowned in it and after a year all floated on the surface of the black sea.
In Lamazur we can admire many marble rocks, mainly white, green and multicolored marble.
In Lower and Upper Lamazur we will encounter shelters and Kistinian shepherds’ huts where we can stay overnight.
From Lower Lamazur we go down by a sheer road leading to Kochadala. We pass many rocks suitable for rock-climbing on our way.
Kochadala-Hadori -Dzibachewi-Duisi (duration: about 2-3 hours): This is the best with this route to come back to Duisi. Road leads softly down, along Alazani river which often crosses the road. We walk with through a beautiful, old and thick forest.
We reach Hadori and crossroads. Road on the right (to the north) leads to a water power station, waterfalls in Hadori gorge and further to an old Kistinian settlement – Horadżo.
There are sulphuric drinking water springs close by See route 13….
We go south, heading to Dzibachewi and to Duisi. Here we can get in a car or catch a minibus (marszrutkki), going to Duisi.
Sometimes there is a possibility of touring the water power station in Hadori, administered by Chinese. Kists also work here and thanks to that we can see at whole process of using water in energy production.
* Route: Omalo – Horadzo – Czhatana – Nakerala – Omalo (duration 3-4 days).
This rout leads through beautiful, diverse and highest parts of the mountains which are closing the Pankisi gorge. During this trip we will sleep in shepherd’s shelters and also get to know the local cuisine. It is also possible to hire horses for the whole rout.
The Nakerała pass is our destination, it is situated at the being of the main ridge visible from Duisi, the largest village in Pankisi gorge. Route begins in Omalo, inhabited by Kists, Georgian Chechens. We recommend a walk around the village right before the sunset, when the villagers sit in front of the houses on benches, they chat, tell jokes, comment on the events of the past day and they certainly will notice a group of guests with rucksacks. Omalo village is an example of characteristic Kistinian architecture. There are houses on both sides of road, often ornamented, surrounded with luxuriant gardens. There are small springs in front of many houses, where we can always have a drink. A small mosque is situated in a the central part of village, with somewhat clumsy, dumpy, but picturesque minaret.
We leave the village slowly. We are heading north and moving along the Alazani river on horseback. On the opposite bank we can see a nice wide road, we do not cross the Alazani river but keep on going along the left bank. We are surrounded by hills overgrown with forest.
After some time on the right we see Obolabonesz. The villagers say that 200 years ago there used to be a village where Kists’ ancestors lived after arriving from Chechnya. Nowadays Obolabonesz is just an overgrown thin forest glade. We can see a stone, a low wall about a dozen or so meters long. It may look like they are remains of a former farm. As we go to the other side of the wall, it turns out that this is cemeterys’ fens. The cemetery is very worn out, there are only several stone plates. One monument distinguishes itself among old tombstones, looking like modern graves. We can read, that a men named Abdullah is buried in this place and he lived between 1924 and 1950. The rest of graves are characteristic stone plates, on one of them we can see the Moslem half-moon with a star as well as the inscription in Arab.
We walk from Obolabonesz by the left Alazani’s bank (northern direction). Route leads by a forest, several times it crosses few streams joining the river. In some places path becomes rocky and steep (if we are horseback riding we will have to get off). With time however it becomes more comfortable and it goes lower to Alazani.
On the other side of the river we see a wide, comfortable road (we can get here from Duisi)
It is mainly used by lorries with stones from the mountains. Then a bit industrial scenery appears in front of us, typical for a quarry- a tin building pipes and pylons.
Our path now leads very near to Alazani. (it is also possible to start from coming here by car and later cross the river on horseback).
This is a very characteristic place in which we turn right (going from Omalo). We move along a different, smaller river. A comfortable road leads us though a forest, once a while we can admire more and more beautiful views of mountains overgrown by trees.
It is clear, that we are slowly moving away from human residence. We walk about 1h by this road. We cross a stream. A healing spring in situated near this place – mineral water with heavy sulphur concentration ( it has a characteristic smell) – supposedly it helps to cure lung and stomach disease. A path on the left leads to the spring. We go further by our road which slowly transforms in to a mountain path. Here and there it becomes winding and steep. We cross numerous streams on our way, we have to be very careful if we ride on horseback. After about 1,5h we reach a picturesque village – Horadżo (about 2.45h from Alazani river). (it concerns inhabited in mountains this all places) As in all mountain regions populated by people we have to be aware of potentially dangerous dogs.
Horadżo is an old – 200 years old Kistinian settlement. Only one shepherd’s family lives here now, as farmer says he is a representative of fifth generation of Kists living in this place. The hamlet looks like a well kept open-air ethnographic museum. There are seven stone houses with walls made from stone plates put together (coming in side we destroy bats’ peace…).
The most important multi-storey house be inhabited. Unusual stairs lead to the first floor, to habitable part – it is a kind of stone pyramid where we climb to a wooden, shadowy bower.
All the equipments in the house have museum value and it is hard to believe, that they are not exhibits, but things used daily.
Described farm is sitated on the left side from the path. On the right there is a cemetery, with several stone plates put vertically in the ground.
After a stop in Horad�o our path leads further up the mountain. Nearby, on the left side, we notice that long time ago there had to be some buildings here. We go through the forest which thins out again – judging by wild fruit trees, numerous blackberries’ bushes and terrain form, again we can presume, that we are passing an old Kistinian colony. We enter the forest then again, path rises up the mountain, until widespread meadows appear in the end. The valley which we traveled closes slowly behind us. We reach Czhatana, shepherds� village, in which we will stop for the night (about 1,15 h from Horad�o). There is a nice place take a bath by the stream, close to the shelters.
Two Kistinian families from Omalo live in Czhatana from May to September. They raise cattle. Since we stop here for the night we recommend to take a closer look on the buildings. They are shelters made of stone, each consists of one-room living quarter and a kind of a porch.
All shelters are really old, and full of tools and equipments. Wooden wide benches serving for sleeping are focal pieces of furniture in the room. Meals are prepared on open fire, outside on the porch.
A pot or a kettle with mountain herb tea or coffee is placed on top of wooden logs based directly by a wall of the shelter. Smoked cheeses is hanging over a hearth.
While staying in Czhatana we can be go on short trips in closest neighborhood. Right behind the village there are two small cemeteries – Georgian and Kistinian. And right in front of Czhatana there is a path leading to a mountain spring – wild mountain goats chose it for a watering place. We can also hike to a ridge from which we can to admire Didgora lake. There is an old Orthodox church nearby the settlement, in which few of Omalo villagers celebrate shepherd’s holiday Peris Cwaleba (19th of August). This Christian holiday is, celebrated also by Moslem Kists. When autumn comes, grasses and lives become yellow and villagers go out to the pastures, they feast together thanking for a good year.
In Czhatana we can also hear legends about nearby places. There is a cave above the settlement in which one can hear the swoosh of sea. Men say, that there used to be a tunnel linking Czhatana to the sea. Shepherds used to shout loudly near this place, in order keep to animals from approaching this cave. This is well-known place among shepherds, very recently it was covered up by an avalanche. In other place there is Sakwawizgori lake, where a ram drown trying to have a drink. Shepherds tried to stop the animal, but they fell to the water with him and also drowned. Supposedly they were found dead in the Black Sea. According to other tales Chechnyan guerrillas hiding in the valley from Russian soldiers hid in local “tunnels”.
Feather walk leads to a shepherd’s shelter situated at the feet of Nakerawa pass. Going out from Czhatana we cross a stream and walk in to the forest. Clear path gradually disappears more and more, and we climb steep up the mountain. In one moment we pass the border of the forest.
We see mountain pastures and the main ridge. After a moment we come up to shelters situated by Nakerawa pass (about 3h from Czhatana).
The scenery of this place is completely different, a lot of more harsh and less diverse. First of all it lacks trees, which is noticeable especially in the late afternoon, when coming back with mountain trip, we can’t hide nowhere from the sun.
From shelter we are walking by a path leading to the main ridge (about 5 minutes from the shelter there is a water outlet – further there is no water at all!).
After about 20 minutes we reach Nakerawa pass. A splendid view stretches from here over the whole ridge, reaching 3000 meters, Pankisi Valley and its neighborhood to Achmeta (the centre of the region). After geting to the ridge we turn left and begin hiking by a well noticeable path leading through higher and higher peaks until reaching to the lake (about 1.5h).
We walk from shepherds’ camp up the mountain to the closest peak. treaded by sheep path leads there passing by a spring where we should get a supply of water. It is a gentle climb so we can ignore the path.
Further the treaded by sheep path will lie out our rout leading to the peaks. Up and down and again up and down- this pretty gentle walk should not take more than 2
In a spot where our mountain range begins to split we should go right, and then right away up the mountain. After a pretty steep (comparing to a pleasant walk through the peaks) about 40 minute climb, we will approach the peak of the mountain, from which we can see a small green lake and patches of snow. The easiest way to go down to the lake is on the left side from the prak, there is no path, however it is impossible to lose the way. Pretty steep way down takes about 20 minutes, way up about 40 minutes, we recommend to get a supply of water by the lake.
From the top, we see in distance a winding round climbing up around the mountain – it is a road to Omalo (described further). Return to shepherds’ position by the same road.
The duration of the trip – about 4 hours, (marching medium pace).
Shepherd’s guarding dogs can be dangerous here (as everywhere in the mountains). Usually loud shout scars them away. It in case of aggressive one it good have several stones or a stick in hand.
From Nakerawa pass, in the opposite way (south – west) return road leads to Omalo. We hike by a path gently traversing the ridge heading to visible pastures. All the time we hold on to a clear path, which falls beautify down from the ridge to the forest. After about 1,5h we approach more shelters, from where a picturesque view stretches over the whole neighborhood. Shepherd’s camp, called Tornażdar is on the border of the forest. straight from shelters we walk by a path down for about 2 hours, till river valley. This rout is not difficult and there is no chance of losing your way. Then next we head together with reaches of the river to Omalo. After several minutes we pass a comfortable place to sit down by a table under an umbrella, we turn left. We cross a stream several times and in about 30 minutes we reach Omalo village.
* Rout: Bottom Khalacani – Dumasturi -Omalo – Duisi
The rout leads by an asphalt road, along the eastern bank of the Alazani river. It in Lower Khalacani there is a dozen or so houses – very beautiful examples of old architecture, characteristic for a Kistinian village. They are multi-storey buildings surrounded by gardens.
We start from Khalacani in northern direction to the neighboring village – Dumasturi. In one spot the village road turns right. After few meters we come to the next visible turn left – is this almost the end of the village. An old Kistinian wooden house stands on the right side of the road. Pretty open – work architectural decorations drags our attention. The household is situated close to the previously mentioned left turn, in opposite direction there is forest road – in order to get on it her we have to go through a wooden fens. We overcome the obstacle and walk through bushes. After a few hundred meters in the forest on the right we encounter an Ossetian cemetery. Opposite to the cemetery, on the left side of the road the there are ruins of an old Georgian city (hypothetically IV – VI age). We can see the remains of a former house – it is this high, a few meters tall wall with window openings. Unfortunately the rest of the buildings is completely ruined and not accessible. We come back to the remains of the house with the same road, we cross the fens and we move along by the main road to Omalo. Between Dumasturi and Omalo there are cornfields and meadows, we can also admire all the time the northern landscape of Pankisi Valley.
Approaching Omalo, on the height of the first house on the right, about 200 meters left we see a grove. We head this way, going through a pasture. Among the trees we will find small ruins or rather the remains of ruins, although the neighborhood looks very beautify from here, especially at sunset. We come back to the main road and we walk through Omalo. We move on through the village, pass the mosque on the right and we head to Alazani. We can cross over the river using a metal bridge (for pedestrians only) and return to Duisi on the other bank through Dżokowo.
Healing waters spring
Pankisi gorge is very rich in healing waters of different kind – ferruginous, magnesium, sulphuric. How Kists say: “Our waters work miracles, they cured already many with the heaviest diseases”. The healing waters at entrance to Pankisi gorge are helpful in stomach illness. In place of a spring there is a built in small pool, from which we can take water.
Going from Duisi to Achmeta, you should turn right just before the river by the valley’s end. Attention: road is accessible for off-road cars (4X4) only. Further we cross by car or on foot about 5 kilometers to a former kolkhoz. We turn left then and we go about 1 kilometer. We enter a glade, turn right to a road which leads uphill about 50 meters. The spring is in the gorge on the right side. It is very hard to find this place without our guides’ help. There is one more spring in the neighborhood of the mentioned glade, however it is used by cows. Kists are planning to restore it to use for people.