However, there is more to the country than wine tasting. We visited numerous churches and monasteries, struck into awed silence by their simple beauty.
And we were all eager to explore the country’s natural beauty. It was time to head to the mountains, and more specifically the remote Tusheti region in north-east Georgia, accessible by road only from early June to early October.
To get there, we transferred into a convoy of 4WDs driven by men from Tusheti. As we headed up the twisting gravel track (‘road’ being an overstatement) with its horseshoe bends and vertiginous drops I appreciated the calm experience of the driver. He couldn’t speak much English but joked “Free car wash!” when we passed under a waterfall. Heavy cloud was sitting over the mountains, and we entered it as we went above the treeline.
The Abano Pass is the highest drivable pass in the Caucasus at 2,826m high, but visibility was down to a few metres as we went over it. As we descended, the clouds cleared and we started to see large patches of ice. We stopped at one ice tunnel that had formed over a fast-ﬂowing river, which we then forded. The scenery changed again to grassy meadows and forested hillsides.
Finally, three and half hours after starting on the road, we rounded a hill and suddenly had a view of the medieval watchtowers of Keselo Hill in front of us, overlooking Omalo, the main village of the Tusheti.
Cattle, sheep and horses freely grazed the pastures around the cluster of wooden buildings that make up the village. Being at altitude the temperature dropped at night and our warm layers came out.
We were glad of the hearty mountain food; soup and stew, roasted veg, chips, and the local cheesy bread known as khachapuri throughout Georgia.