Road to Kakheti 1: Above the Clouds at Gombori

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Weekend Tour

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

It was autumn when I first visited Georgia in 2010. Trees everywhere were bursting with colors but it was frequently cloudy and there was rain from time to time.  After  working for 2 weeks in Tbilisi, I got an opportunity to travel to the countryside one weekend and my first choice for a region to visit was Kakheti. I read somewhere that Georgia has the longest history of winemaking in the Caucasus region and it was in Kakheti where that history was made. I also knew that Kakheti is home to other historical sites and is the most visited province in Georgia. Fortunately, my office colleagues and another friend agreed to accompany me in the trip and we set out for Kakheti one early Sunday morning.  As usual, I traveled light with only my rain gear and my camera.

Foggy Countryside

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

A winding road towards Gombori

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

A sleepy roadside village

There are two routes going to Telavi, the capital town of Kakheti, but Natia, our lovely lady friend who was doing the driving, suggested that we pass through the more scenic Gombori Mountain Range, the Georgian section of the Greater Caucasus mountains, where the road was also better.

There was nothing much too see along the road for almost an hour from Tbilisi until we turned to an apparently newly-built road and the scenery got a bit more exciting. The landscape became hillier and the scenery more rural but visibility also became poorer as we began to enter a heavy fog. I also started to worry that my camera may not be able to capture much of the passing countryside scenes.

But still I was excited as we drove through the foggy countryside.  There were sleepy highland villages, some herders and their cattle, cold-stricken leafless trees, and some occasional fortresses or whatever was left of them.  We were hurrying to spend enough time at Tsinandali and Sighnaghi, two of the most popular places in Kakheti, so I just had to capture photos of the passing scenes whenever I can as we traveled.

Above the Clouds

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Jessie T. Ponce PhotographyThe sky gradually brightened as we slowly zigzagged uphill towards to the higher portions of the Gombori Mountains.  We were amazed that it was sunny on the mountaintops and, when we looked back, only then did we realize that we’ve been driving under a low cloud all along.

The view was so breathtaking that we had to stop several times along the zigzag road, posing by the roadside, taking photos of the sea of clouds blanketing the lowlands, or just enjoying the mountain breeze under the smiling sun.

The only problem with the clouds was that they obstructed our view of the lowlands. The Caucasus Mountains separate Georgia from Russia and the Gombori Range is its lower portion on the Georgian side.  The mountain range serves as a watershed, separating the Alazani and Iori river valleys, and create the inner (Shida) and outer (Gare) regions of Kakheti.  Thus there are two mountain ranges, two rivers and two valleys which influence and dominate the characteristics and potential for agricultural production in Kakheti. But none of these rivers or valleys were visible even at the highest point of the road so we just savored the thought that we were standing above the clouds. And when we had our fill, we slowly proceeded through a forest of deciduous trees getting ready for winter and then slowly descended from the sunny portion and entered a cloudy valley once again.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

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