Back to Yerevan...
Today’s morning was not so bright like other days. From the window we could see a white sky which means cloudy day. Surrounding mountains were covered by fog which lowers even at the houses at the edge of Goris town. Sounds like a rainy day. Without any delays we prepared our stuff and breakfast came next. During our breakfast the first drops are fall, very soon they became pure rain.
During our waiting time until rain stops, we started a conversation with a lady sitting next to our table. Her english is good and her dream is to travel the world on a motorcycle. With her extravert enthusiasm she started asking us lots of questions about travelling on a motorcycle, in her eyes she saw us as a new Marco Polo. Among others she told us that motorcycles are quite rare to be seen in her country and for a female is even more difficult to be a motorcyclist because in Armenia is consider as a mans thing. We wished her that her dream come true as we prepared for our departure as the rain had almost stopped. All the hotel staff were out to greet us on our departure, this act made us feel a pleasant feeling, very nice of them. We had 3 nights stay at Goris and our stay left us with some wonderful and positive feelings about this place.
We began today’s route towards Sisian, 30 km’s away. Road surface was an average state and the combination of rain and road surface made riding feeling a bit agony, great care should be taken especially the small ponds on the surface which can hide a big hole. At the junction towards «Devils Bridge» we headed straight, with this weather visiting the place will be a difficult task so we cancel the visit. Shortly, conditions deteriorate. Rain and heavy fog were making riding a very difficult task, we couldn’t see more than a few meters ahead of us... With light and fog lights on we ride in low speeds and with great caution in opposition of other vehicles which they move like nothing is happening, they speed and overtake lorries with almost zero visibility.
Fog continued for a long time as we were riding on an altitude of 1700 meters, expectations for improvement were getting less and less. But we were so wrong, soon after everything changes. Fog disappears and a bright sun takes fog’s position. We were very lucky because Sisian is just a few kilometers away and especially the landmark that we wanted to visit and the weather improved. At the first road sign for Sisian we turned left following a dirt road of 2 km’s to Zorats Karer (or Karahundj or Carahunge) and soon the Stonehenge of Armenia appeared in front of us. We parked the bikes and also removed the rain suits as the weather was getting sunny and warmer.
At a first glance towards the place, the rocks seemed to be scattered around the place but in a closer look they are not, they are symmetrically align. This stones are dating since 3000 BC, they have holes on them so able to observe different constellations. It sounds simple but if you think at that time that these observations were made thousands of years ago then it becomes very interesting.
While we wonder around the place, a Dutch couple, around 35, arrive with their bicycles. Started chatting with them about Armenia and how beautiful country it is and also how fascinating is to travel around the world. They asked us how many days we are on the road and as we answer back proudly the number, we ask back the same question. They laughed in a discreet way making us rephrase our question, «How many months on the road?» we asked second time but still they kept a smile on their face and in a few seconds they answered... «3 years». They told us that they covered by bicycle all western Africa and now heading towards the eastern part of Asia. No further comments from our part...
Exactly opposite the entrance of the site there was an information office which we took a visit to gather more info about the place. The person in charge of the office he said he knew basically nothing and urged us to buy a book about the place which had a size of Larousse Britannica. We leaft behind Zorats Karer with the sun at its best but this lasted short, rain was expecting us further up the road making us again to wear our rain suits. It seemed like good weather gave us the chance only to enjoy our visit to Zorats Karer.
After Vorotan pass rain stopped and the sky became completely clear. Rain suits back in our panniers and soon after we passed Yeghegnadzor, we headed straight leaving behind us the road leading to Sevan lake via the Selim pass. Scenery became amazing as the route passes through some huge rocks and on our left Arpa river is keeping us company. After some short distance we reached the junction of Noravank monastery. A narrow but spectacular route leaded us to the monastery. The scenery treeless with steep cliffs around us giving us the impression that we moved to another country.
Noravank means «New Abbey» in Armenian language. Although this name does not really apply because the monastery has 7 centuries of age. The monastery was build in the 13th century at the edge of Amaghu canyon. The canyon is known for its steep red rock formation which rise up behind the monastery. According to a myth, a piece of holly cross with Jesus blood is hidden here. The rectangular church of St. Gregory was used initially as the grave of prince Elikum III Orbelian. The walls of the 2 sides of the altar are decorated with Khachkars and images of pigeons. Remarkably is that the church entrance, exactly on the main door, there is a face illustration.... at the beginning we thought that it was Jesus but afterwards found out (from our Armenian friend Mike) that is the only illustration in the world of God.
The most impressive building in the monastery is a twin store church of Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy mother of God). The western part of the build is specially decorated and there are 2 narrow staircases leading to the upper floor. At 2002 the monastery was declared by UNESCO as heritage site of global inheritance.
We left the monastery and very close we stopped for a tea at a special shop builded in a rock opening. With great difficulty we resisted the smells of smoked kebabs roasting by the shopkeeper. The keeper of the place build a chimney of 2 meters height, on the bottom a slow burning fire is kept and on the top the hanging kebabs are cooked.
We continued our today’s route via the borders of Azerbaijan, autonomous state of Nachisevan, in a route that altitude reaches at 1795 meters, Rukh Manuk pass. Scenery had little vegetation and after the pass lies a big plateau. In the horizon we could barely see the famous mountain Ararat. We passed Yeraskh village and we entered a flat area full of crops. On our left there were some manmade lakes. Maybe they are used to collect water for irrigation purposes. Also on our left we could see the barbwire of Armenia and Turkey borders, even some minaret were visible. The small and big Ararat mountain seemed next to each other. The peak of big Ararat is usually covered by clouds. Worth mentioning, for the Armenians and generally all Christians, mount Ararat lies in Turkish soil which is consider as not a positive fact.
Soon we reached Khor Virap monastery which lies on a peak of a small hill. We parked our motorcycle in a supposing parking plot and immediately some guys came over to collect the parking fee. Sign for parking fees didn’t exist and also the fact that we didn’t like the way they look we refused to pay. They insisted but after we as well insisted of not paying, they gave up and left angrily. We stayed by our motorcycles and watched their fraud in action. In a few minutes a car with some unexpected tourists arrived, the guys collected the parking fees and soon after they went to the nearby cantina and spend the money in...beers. Also, at the entrance of the monastery, the same gang sells pigeons which they declare that these pigeons bring the message of the Ararat buyer. And people buy them... We decided to visit the monastery in groups for obvious reasons, cannot just leave our motorcycles unattended with these guys wondering around freely.
Khor Virap monastery is one of the most important in Armenian culture. Many come here to get married, baptize their children and other religious issues. It posses a traditional Armenian style of architecture but the one that is the most spectacular feature is the sight of biblical mount Ararat. Monastery’s name means «Deep Well» and it derives from the cell that St. Gregory the enlighten martyred. The myth says that he was thrown in a well of 6 meters depth with poisonous reptiles. In the well he manage to live 13 years and was given food secretly from a widow and comforted by an angel send by god. The well still exist and its a place of worship and adoration.
We wondered around the monastery for some time and then we returned back to the road heading for Yerevan. The capital is just 35-40 km away but road works are in progress with the result of only 1 lane to be given to traffic. After suffering time in traffic due to the road works, we reached Yerevan and we make a booking with the office arranging our accommodation.
The guy at the office seemed like he was trying to cheat us but after he gave us a nice apartment with a good price we decided not to make an extra issue. The only issue is that this apartment we should check out at 6 in the next morning. Tones arise because he change the agreement we had with him until a big guy speaking english got into the fight and said «no problem sir, follow me, follow me...». On the same time he was hitting his hand on his chest like he will solve the issue. We followed him and he leaded us to a parking place of a building in the town centre. He payed the parking fees and called us to follow him. As we usually did, 2 of us followed him to see and check the apartment. He wondered why the rest don’t follow. George replied back «check first» and the big man laughed loud. Looking around in the parking place, something is not right. The worst car which could see was a new technology Mercedes. Next to me a Porsche and further a Bentley...
The 2 who went to check the apartment said it was all fine so we went upstairs. It was the most classy and luxurious that I ever saw in my life. The whole top floor was ours, the huge balcony had a shape of a ship and facing the opera house and main pedestrian zone. Its so nice that we didn’t want to leave it, hunger started to dominate our bodies so searched around the apartment for solution. The supermarket and a kebab shop is our solution to hunger finally. Enjoyed our meal with a great view from the balcony discussing for one more time how much this country fascinate uWe called Bakur for the beer party that he had promised us. Unfortunately he was busy but he thanked us so much that we didnt forget him. He told us to make the party tomorrow but for us tomorrow is departure day.