After 26 hours of bus from Tehran and a dramatic change in the landscape and everyone’s behaviour, I got to Yerevan. I walked to my hostel because I needed to stretch my legs and realised that I had arrived to a very European city. Architecture, organisation around, light nice traffic, people’s style, people in terraces enjoying coffee or beer… It was such a beautiful change! Bliss!
In my hostel, very good atmosphere was waiting for me and I instantly started getting on very well with the people around, specially these two Filipino girls. They invited me to join them next day in a tour and I was delighted.
I felt I still needed to walk a bit more and breath some air that wasn’t inside a vehicle, so I went to explore the city and the first I did was to get in a shop and go shopping some clothes I needed. Finally sizes and style I could use! After feeling great in a fitting room with music around and getting back to the consumist me, I explored the city, visited a beautiful church and hiked my way up to some memorial at the top of the city to get nice views.
After that, I was tired enough to get back, relax and get some food. I even got to the groceries and got vegetables and cook. That was all I needed, to eat healthily after the weird lunches I had been dealing with in Iran due to Ramadan.
I went to sleep, completely exhausted from the day and the bus journey and with the hopes of getting up next morning to go on the tour with these lovely people in my room that I just met.
But things never go to plan. At 4.30 am I was woken up by a lot of noise and hassle around. Everyone was up and there was a guy, Iranian one with French nationality, that had had his laptop stolen apparently and everyone was trying to figure out what had happened. All I could gather was that he had arrived really late at night, gone to sleep and woke up to find out his only bag was gone with his laptop, credit cards and all stuff but his passport.
Even the receptionist was trying to help to see what happened and people was around trying to figure how the bag had been taken through the barred window and how that had been possible.
I was extremely tired and seeing that nothing had to do with me, I put on my sleeping kit (eye mask and earplugs) and got back to sleep after a while of madness.
The thing went on the whole night. The guy insisted in calling the police and at 7am I was woken up again because the police was there taking finger prints and pictures and they wanted to talk to us. Me included. I couldn’t believe it. People started laughing at the situation and after a while the only Armenian guy staying in the hostel got to ask where the bag could possibly be to what I answered very ironically ‘here’ pointing at my nose. He made an appropriate comment on the bag and my boobs and kept going on jokes on how we were all suspects and we were in need of a lawyer and if there was any lawyer between us. He asked each of us separately what was our profession and when I said architect he said how hot that was and I almost punch him because I was getting extremely annoyed by the situation.
People kept joking and then I felt I had enough I got to say a few serious words about the situation because we were going to be taken to the police station and would have to make a statement and I felt incredibly unsettled about everything.
I was in a foreign country where I had no idea how things were working, the police was not speaking English so I was unsure about what they were saying, I had never being making a statement in a Police station. After hearing a few ‘no problem, no problem’ and ‘only two minutes’ I was fed up and didn’t want to sign any kind of document or talk with the police about anything. So I decided to call my insurance so they could put me through a lawyer. The lawyer was sleeping in Spanish time, obviously, but she attended me and explained me how things should be, although she was quite startled when I heard about my situation and that I was in a police station because of this. People were going crazy and the manager of the phone insisted on me hanging up the phone countless times. That night I would find out that everyone thought I was calling to the embassy probably that’s why but I suppose I went so crazy that they ha reasons to think so.
At the police station we were left in the middle of a hallway, with people passing at all times looking at us quite surprised and I felt that the situation couldn’t get more ridiculous. We never were offered anything and the only thing we knew is that we were waiting for a translator.
The translator arrived and the first thing was to talk to the French/Persian guy that had his stuff stolen. Then, two hours and a half after our arrival to the police station, we were individually interviewed and we had to sign out the statement. I found ridiculous that nobody ever took my passport number or anything. So I was almost okay with signing stuff and get the fuck out. I was in the first car leaving the police station. I think the owner of the hostel was quite happy to have me talking to the police in the first batch. I couldn’t believe that people even missed work because of this stupid thing.
Back at the hostel we could all agree that we were in need of resting and the afternoon passed quietly. I was quite sad that after leaving behind so many bad experiences in Iran, all this was happening to me in my first night in Armenia. Fortunately, people started planning out something for the evening and invited me to join up and that really saved the day. We took a taxi to check out some old stuff around Yerevan and had a great time exploring and taking lots of silly pictures.
Back to the hostel all that could be left to do was to get all of us together to go for dinner. We were bonding. Finally, once more back to the hostel, the owner was waiting for us with a cake to apologise. It had been a long day and after that we all went to sleep. We had more stuff going on next day!
I had planned some hiking with Georgi from Georgia during our stay in the police station, unaware that the Armenian guy had rescheduled the tour for next day. So I cancelled that, as Georgi was very flexible and went with the others to explore the alphabet monument with the Armenian letters and a fort between others. We had a great time jumping from place to place, taking pictures and stupid videos that would be put together after. It was a fun day and after lunch we got back to chill a bit and then decided to go out for a beer. Or two. After all the sh*t I had been into lately I needed that very much. And dancing. And being out in general, I had missed that. It had been too long since the last time.
The night was super fun, everyone taking pics and messing around in our recently created whatsapp group and teasing each other. The thing didn’t go so well at the end of the night when one of the lads got too drunk and sick and everything got very messy. We all stuck together and came back together and had more fun in the whatsapp group even though we were already in our beds, in silence.
Myself, Jeroen the Belgian dude and Georgi had planned to visit Khor Virap and apparently, not far from there, there was Georgi’s favourite place in Armenia: Novarank. The plan was to wake up and see how we could get there. To wake up took us longer than expected and to move from the hostel even longer. We left a lot of stuff in the hostel, checked out and took a few things with us to spend from one to a few days outside.
Once we got to the bus station, we waited for the next and last bus to only find out that it was broken. Anyways, we had fun while waiting and found more about Georgi’s life, hearing stories about mafia, revenge, killings, prison and war. He even had been shot! We were shocked by all the stuff we were hearing that was, at the same time, so natural to him. Then, we shared an inexpensive taxi to Khor Virap and explored the place. It was already late in the evening and the skies were threatening us with thunders and bolts. But after a chat with a couple of hitchhikers coming from somewhere else to camp there, we decided to keep going and try to reach at least the next town, quite close to our destination.
We went to the road and started walking while trying to get a lift to the main road. That part was easy. Once in the main road, we only had to get a ride in the right direction. We got a total of 3 different rides, with a break for dinner in between. It wasn’t difficult. And having Georgi made things easier because he could speak Russian with everybody. Thanks to that, our last car, the crappy one that barely could take the uphill roads and stopped working twice, took us to a new guest house the drivers were making. There, we were given homemade wine and we toasted to Armenia. The drivers were drinking cognac shots instead and when Jeroen asked about the cognac, they immediately took shot glasses to give us some, despite I refused to have a shot. After that, you could foresee the disaster and I ended up spilling wine all over the place included my T-shirt. The drivers were super nice although Jeroen and me couldn’t be part of the conversation and they showed us all the rooms before they dropped us at our final destination: Noravank
After hiking in the road in the darkness, we had to hike through the lands and mountains surrounding the monastery to find a place to open the tent. We went next to a cliff and I feared for someone falling down remembering my past experience in Indonesia, because it was dark and fairly dangerous. Georgi had no problem with that. Then, when we found a good spot and he started getting things out of his backpack, Jeroen and me were freaking out because of the snake noises you could hear all over the place. I screamed when he steeped on a huge thing that according to me was a huge spider and according to Georgi was a scorpion. It was getting intense I was very relieved when we were able to enter the tent. There, we enjoyed a fantastic beer and went to sleep.
We woke up early in the morning as Georgi had to go back to Yerevan for some unexpected work and when he asked the Russian guy we had seen last night at the parking of Noravank to see if he was going to go to Yerevan, we happened to find out that he was going to the same area and place that Jeroen and me were going to. So we jumped in his car and led Georgi hitchhiking on his way back to meet him again next day and then go together to Sevan lake.
The Russian guy, Dymitri, couldn’t speak much English but he had exactly out same route. That was great for us! So we made our way south to Tatev, with several stops on the way to take pictures to the landscape and eat lunch. I found myself in the same road the bus from Tehran took me through Armenia. I would take this road once more to go back north Armenia.
We visited Tatev with him, taking the longest cable ride in the world and enjoying beautiful views. Georgi had given us some tips to take the cable one way and get back trekking but it was too late in the day for a 17km trek and Dymitri was going to Goris to find a spot to sleep there, so we would stick with him and we took the cable back as well. There was something in between that we wanted to see, the Devil’s bridge, but because we couldn’t reach any other way but trekking, Dymitri insisted on going with the car and we couldn’t say no to that as we were quite tired from sleeping on the tent and not for very long. There, I realised I hadn’t have any decent sleep since my arrival to Armenia. I didn’t know what t expect from this “Devil’s bridge” and we came across a kinf of cave with a man guiding us and saying in Russian that it was a bit dangerous. We went down some rocks with the help of a rope and this man and then went down a ladder. There, there was a cave filled with water that we had to cross. The man had seen me in difficulties to reach with my feet the spots he was marking for me while going down the rocks and maybe because of that or maybe because he wanted to see me wet, he pointed me the water and all I could do was to get in up to my belly to continue the way. The lads simply crossed from rock to rock and avoided the water. And we made it to the nice spot were he was pointing at what we were supposed to see. I still think we didn’t get the point. A couple came in when we were about to leave. The girl was wearing long DRY jeans and I looked at everyone wondering why I was wet and she was dry. Then, on the way back, we all went through the rocks and I got annoyed that I didn’t need to get in the water. The man tricked me or something, not fair! Thankfully, that was the last stop of the day and we just went to find a place to sleep.
So, we all three ended up in Goris an Dymitri joined our idea of getting to the guesthouse Georgi had booked for us and when we got there we introduced ourselves as the friends of Georgi from Georgia. Inmediately, we were offered homemade vodzka from some berries they had in their garden. It was strong, really strong. We had a couple of shots and we had alook to the room. One double bed and one single bed. Oh oh. We asked to change it and got three single beds. Then, we chilled with the piano, and Dymitri delighted us with some weird instrument he played in his mouth.
Next morning, we were woken up by Dymitri. He was impatient to start the day and we had breakfast and went to look for more adventures. The plan was to make it to Sevan lake, but there were a couple of things that he wanted to check in the middle of the way and we were happy to see more than what we had in our plans. So, first, we went to Jermuk to taste different mineral water. It was disgusting. There was warm mineral water coming out in a sort of fountain and all of them were extremely disgusting. It made me wish it was the homemade vodka from the previous night. After the gross water, we checked a waterfall nearby the town. And then, made our way to a volcano that Dymitri had been recommended by some local (the perks of speaking Russian here).
We went up the mountains, passing a really cool spot with great views down and Dymitri took us through some crazy road where we thought whether we were not going to make it or the car wouldn’t. After a while, we made him understand that the car was not ready for such road and he stopped the car and asked some locals passing in a jeep in that moment. The locals made him understand that he could not reach anywhere around with his car, thank God. Then, he got really stressed because he suddenly had the idea anout reaching to the top and opening up his tent there. Jeroen and me got worried. We wanted to make it to Sevan to see if Georgi was coming there. We had not have connection with him in the whole day but the initial idea was to be around Sevan together again, therefore we had to get there. The volcano was cool but nothing I had not seen previously and we didn’t want to hike up as it would take too long and we definitely were not ready to sleep there, as Georgi took the tent with him. The Russian guy was visibly disturbed by all that was happening and quite overwhelmed. He needed to make a decision and he was completely disapointed that the way to the top was not easy. For Jeroen and me, it was a breaking point, and we offered him to keep going his way and sleep at the top and take as many pictures of stars as he wanted, but we would take our backpacks and go to the nearest town to find a ride to Sevan .He asked us for time to think about everything. You could see smoke coming out of his head and after a long while he decided to continue his journey with us. But first, he needed to take a picture of the volcano, which took like 20 minutes because he had to wait for the clouds to be gone to take the perfect picture. We started getting a bit annoyed with all these things, but never mind, after all, we had an easy ride to Sevan!
Once more back to the car, we made it to Sevan with a stop as well in a monastery in between and right next to Sevan. It was very cool but I started realising that I had seen too many of the same and now they were not looking spectacular anymore (especially after Noravank, the most espectacular of all and the coolest experience in the tent) and I was also sick of being in the car and of green mountains. It was time to make a move for me. It had been great but I was in need of a change. With those thoughts we went for dinner and tried to plan something. Checking prices to see where we were going to sleep that night, we realised that Dilijan, the next town in Jeroen’s itinerary was cheaper and we took the decision of trying to get there to sleep. Dymitri was staying in Sevan to shoot stars and would drive to Dilijan the next day but we were going after dinner. So we asked him to drop us in the motorway and when we found a lightened spot with enough space for the cars to stop, we started hitchhiking.
We were not very lucky and people stopping would not take us. Or they would ask for money. After a while, Jeroen decided to get in a nearby hotel to ask for other ways to reach Dilijan and also check prices over there. Just when I was left alone, a huge van stopped and I run away towards it to check where it was going. ‘Dilijan?’ I asked. The guy looked at me from top to bottom and from bottom to top and said ‘yeahhh Dilijan, Dilijan’. I freaked out and asked him to wait for me for a minute and run away, screaming Jeroen’s name all over the place to find him as soon as possible. I was not trusting the driver and I needed him to see that I was not alone. He actually got to hear me and came to find me and then we both went to the van. the driver was cool to get us both and we jumped in and ate apricots the had in the van while he talked all the time on the phone and drove like a lunatic to take us to Dilijan. We made it! We found our place to sleep, bargained for breakfast and got a couple of beers that we enjoyed in our balcony while watching fireworks. What a perfect way to end up the day!
Next morning when we woke up, it was the first day since I had arrived to Armenia that I was actually sleeping more than 8 hours. It felt bliss. We had breakfast and decided to explore the town a little bit before splitting up. I would be getting back to Yerevan to change countries and go to Georgia and Jeroen wanted to get to Gyumri, the second biggest city in Armenia. For our surprise, the minute we stepped out of the guesthouse, we bumped into Dymitri. Unbelieveble! So we jumped in his car one last time to go our this town and go to some monastery that didn’t impressed us at all and then to a lake that he had been told it was the best to see in the area. We had to hike for a bit and we couldn’t believe we were going to walk, finally! It had been a while since the last time. We hiked all the way up to see a shitty lake and then back to Dilijan to take a bus to our destinations. Jeroen didn’t find anything else but a bus going to Yerevan so, once more, we were stuck with each other! We came back together to our old hostel and saw everyone back there. We were all together once more!
It was my last day around and we went here and there. Georgi was in charge of organising a car to Tbilisi the next day and I couldn’t really believe I was going to get to Tbilisi ever because he was with his usual sentence ‘No problem, no problem’ but at 10pm he still didn’t manage to make the call. Classic Georgi, you could say anything that it would never be a problem. Whatever the case, it was my last night and all had to go for a drink (this time everyone pays his own drinks, no fuss with the rounds) and danced to every kind of music. It was the end, the perfect end for my Armenian adventures. I only can say that as bad as it is started, I had fun, lots of fun.