Shikahogh reserve – Nerkin Hand

This morning I had a meeting with the director of the Shikahogh State Reserve in his office in Kapan. According to my guide I had to ask permission to enter the reserve. Around 9am I was looking for the office but couldn’t really find it. I called my contact Lusin who came out on the street to show me where I had to be. I was happy to have such a good contact as Lusin. (If you read this Lusin, thanks!)

While having a coffee, the director explained me there would never be enough time to bring a visit to the reserve in only one day. I needed something stronger than coffee overcome my disappointment. Unfortunately, there was no homemade vodka this time. However, what they offered instead was at least as great as a visit inside the reserve.

They would send someone from Kapan with me in my car for the rest of the day. He was going to bring me to a small village at the border of the Shikahogh Reserve. Although, I didn’t understand a word of what my guide was saying. He gets my greatest respect. With all his enthusiasm about this region it was a pleasure to have him as a guide.

After bringing a visit to the office in Shikahogh village and passing the ruins of a church, we descended into the valley. About one hour by car from Kapan, we drove down to Nerkin Hand village. (There is a sign “Plane Grove Sanctuary”) The village is one of the remotest of Armenia and on the border of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

It might be interesting to watch this map to see how isolated the village is. While writing this post, I’ve also found a very interesting article about this village. I wish I had read this article before I visited the village. I would have understand the situation of the people more.

In close proximity to the Nerkin Hand village in the Tsav riverside the Plane Grove Sanctuary is located. The grove’s core is composed of more than thousand 200-250 year old and 30-35 m high trees that have survived until today.

When we returned from the forest, we passed a small building that seemed to be the oven of the village. They were making the typical Armenian bread ‘Lavash’. It’s an experience on it own to see how they make it. They gave me two pieces to take with me. It was delicious! You can see on the pictures below how it was prepared.

If all this was not enough to make me remember this little village forever, I was invited for lunch. Once more the table was soon full with food they prepared especially for my visit and our glasses were filled with vodka.

Around 3pm, I had to move on and continue my trip. This is always the hardest part of meeting great people. Saying goodbye.

Together with my guide we returned to Kapan where I brought him back to his house. I was not home yet. The long and difficult road back to Goris was still waiting on me. In Goris I would meet Ani. She hosted me in Yerevan for one night and asked me to join me later on my trip when I was going to Nagorno Karabakh or Artsakh (depending on how you want to call the self-declared republic) .

While I was waiting on her in Goris, I had a small incident with corrupt police man who demanded 25 euros because I drove in a one way street. Although they were not driving a police car nor they were dressed as police man. They took me in their Lada Niva car and studied my documents. After a while of discussion, and a phone call to Anush, I decided to try my luck and asked them to bring me to the police station. They realized I wouldn’t pay them so they let me go.

Soon after this incident, Ani arrived by taxi from Yerevan and we hit the road to the border with Artsakh.  Once passed the border check we drove to Stepanakert where we rented a room in a Motel.

I was in Artsakh. A region with a recent history. Unfortunately, I do not have enough knowledge about it to share it here. If you read this and want to know more. I think google is your best try.

It was already late and dark outside, hard to get a picture of the environment so far. I was happy to have Ani with me for the next three days. Not only did she speak the language, she was also good company to talk with. Something I had to miss while I was traveling alone. English is a very big rarity in these regions.

It was a long day and yet another exhausting day too. Happy to have a bed and a shower. Looking forward to my next days in Artsakh.

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