I was invited on my host family’s school field trip to see a cave near Kutaisi. I had nothing better to do on this rainy weekend so I went along for the ride. While it was raining in my city, by the time we had gotten to Kutaisi, it had turned to snow. This wasn’t a big problem, or so we thought, until we were headed up the mountains outside of Kutaisi and then I started to get a little more worried. No one else seemed concerned though, and all the moms and teachers were throwing down shots of tcha-tcha (Georgian vodka) as we went along.
The bus handled the switchbacks up the mountain well for a while until things started to get steeper. Finally there was one turn where the bus couldn’t turn and get the momentum to go up the hill at the same time. The bus stopped, and then started sliding, not rolling, backwards down the hill. It wasn’t long, maybe only for one or two seconds, but those two seconds as we slid backwards, frighteningly close to the ditch on the side of the road (but fortunately not towards the drop off the mountain on the other side of the road) seriously frightened me and I wanted off the bus. But the driver decided to give it another go. And the same thing happened. We went up, up, up, and slid back down.
After this, the driver got everyone off the bus and he tried again unsuccessfully to get up the hill. There was no other choice but to back the bus down the hill until there was a place for the bus to turn around. We on the other hand were about 30 students and another 30 adults who had been dropped off of a bus in the middle of a snowstorm. And kids from a city that sees very little snow. So, of course the inevitable happened. A giant snowball fight where both kids and teachers and students were all joining in. I was probably the only one trying to stay out of the melee, my sneakers already soaked through after 2 minutes of walking through the wet snow.
Bus backing down the hill while students and teacher engage in a snowball fight
We had to walk about 10 minutes (probably would have been 5 minutes if it hadn’t been for the snowball fight) down the hill until the bus was able to turn around and get us out. So we changed our plans and headed to a different cave. One that didn’t involve climbing any mountains.
Perhaps it was fate that this happened because as we started our tour, someone mentioned that I was from America, and it just so happened that another worker who was off duty but just going into the cave to take some photos was the official English translator at the caves and he gave me my own personal tour while the rest of the students had their tour in Georgian.
The cave, as you can see, was beautiful. The colors around the cave come from different minerals. White from limestone, orange from clay and black from magnesium. My guide was quick to point out all the formations that looked like other things. “This one looks like a monk!” “This one looks like Simba from the Lion King!” “Here’s an elephant!”. It was quite entertaining.
After this we went to a house in the area where every parent on the trip brought out a huge amount of food. There actually wasn’t a whole lot of variety. Everyone brought 2-3 loaves of khajapuri, then there were several boxes of cold cooked vegetables, several boxes of cold chicken, and about 3 chocolate cakes. Bottles of soda, mineral water (Georgia’s #1 export), “lemonade” (which is strangely pear flavored), and of course wine and vodka for the adult folks were also scattered about the table. After stuffing ourselves silly we warmed up and dried our wet clothes in front of the wood stove inside the house, then headed back to the bus and back home. Though the day started out a bit scarily with the snow, all in all it was a pretty good trip.
Typical Georgian feast
Bonus: A chance to experience a bus ride with a bus full of Georgian children