„A deadly, boozy journey“ with the shepherds of Tusheti
29 November, 2017
„A deadly, boozy journey“ with the shepherds of Tusheti
Photographer Amos Chapple joined a group of mountain shepherds on their journey from the steep mountains to the plains.

This „most spectacular animal migrations“ take place every autumn in Georgia’s remote region of Tusheti, when the shepherds bring their sheep down to their winter pastures in Kakheti. Amos Chapple calls this experience a „deadly, boozy journey“.

geotv.ge

The photographer accompanied a group of 6 shepherds with
their 1200 sheep. The men are among dozens of shepherds and their flocks who spend their summer in the Tusheti mountains.

geotv.ge

The trek from their base village down to the plains of Kakheti starts in early October, as autumn comes early to Georgia’s Tusheti mountains.

geotv.ge

29-year-old Sulkhan Gigoidze is the tacit leader of the group. He dropped out of a technical institute to tend sheep, because he didn't want to be around people, as Amos Chapple writes.

geotv.ge

It takes the group three days to hike down. The second day is supposed to be the most intense “with the formidable 2,800-meter-high Abano Pass looming ahead”.

geotv.ge

Part of the group is “Georgik”, a 3-month-old Georgian shepherd. He is treated as a favorite by the men, Amos Chapple recounts. The dogs are important to the shepherds. “The Georgian shepherd is a tough, ancient dog breed that helps keep the sheep in formation and protects them from wolves”, the photographer explains.

geotv.ge

“The dogs are bred to be the same color and size as the sheep they protect. It's impossible to spot the dogs from a distance, meaning the wolf packs that stalk the migrating sheep must treat all flocks with caution.”

geotv.ge

At the base of the pass the men pause for lunch. Amos Chapple describes the menu: a bag of salty sheep cheese, bread, a tin of stewed fish and three shots of the liquor ”chacha” for each of the shepherds. “Every swill is accompanied by a toast - to the mountains, guests, and to a friend who died recently on the road they're about to take.”

geotv.ge
geotv.ge

After lunch the climb begins. According to the photographer, the road over the Abano Pass is regarded as one of the most dangerous on Earth.

geotv.ge

He recounts how a truck passes by, carrying the wreckage of a vehicle that toppled off the road. The dead driver of the vehicle was a friend of the group, they tell Amos Chapple.

geotv.ge

The journey goes on: “As the sheep climb, the rain turns to sleet, and then snow.”

geotv.ge

According to the photographer, around 85 percent of each flock is female and each sheep is worth around $60: „The Tusheti sheep are known for their resilience and rich, buttery meat. Their fleece is too coarse to be sold and is usually burned after shearing.”

geotv.ge
geotv.ge

When the group reaches the pass, a buffeting wind tugs at the flock. The sheep push ahead because they need to get to the relative warmth of the lower altitudes as quickly as possible, as the photographer points out.

geotv.ge

The weary dogs however sleep where they can, especially “little Georgik” is exhausted and needs the help of the men who carry him over the rougher sections of the path.

geotv.ge
geotv.ge

The route is steep and difficult and the group is in a hurry. They have to reach their destination before darkness.

geotv.ge

“As daylight disappears the exhausted flock files down the last sections of the day's trek. After 12 hours of near-continuous marching, Sulkhan counts the losses - eight sheep, a typical number for a large flock crossing the pass.”

geotv.ge

There are multiple reasons for the losses, the photographer explains: “If the sheep stop to rest from injury or exhaustion they soon die of exposure, fall prey to wolves, or are taken straight to slaughter by passing locals.”

geotv.ge

The day is far from being over for the shepherds. After they have made a kind of rudimentary camp they find the wood is too wet to burn, the photographer goes on. “One of the men stuffs one, then a second, rubber boot into the smoldering logs and the fire is soon roaring.”

geotv.ge

The men get dry as best they can, with countless shots of chacha knocked back in the process, before they finally curl up for the night with “little Georgik” slinking inside one of the felt sleeping bags.

geotv.ge

The following day the group reaches their destination: They move into civilization and “the T-shirt weather of the plains” where their first priority is a cold beer.

geotv.ge

Now, the flock will spend one week grazing on the plains to get used to the mild weather, the photographer writes. Then the sheep will continue around 200 kilometers to winter pasture along the border with Azerbaijan.

geotv.ge

Photographs by Amos Chapple

Related stories:

Tusheti among “12 best places you've never heard of” – CNN

Top 5 wild mountainous resorts of Georgia to visit

Georgian farmer ranked first place at Cheese Festival in Italy



Print
Other Stories
Hotel Porta Caucasia Kazbegi-Discover What Is Yours
Discover what is yours - Travel to Georgia - This is the main call of the year of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, which advises all residents of Georgia to travel, get to know and discover their own country, once again to make sure that Georgia is truly distinguished by its sights, nature, history and with the diversity of touristic destinations.
“Together for Better Environment” - EU and MEPA Mark World Environment Day
On June 5, 2020, the EU marks World Environment Day within the framework of the Green Week information campaign, held in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, the EU Delegation to Georgia states.
"Qvevri" Shaped Hotel Complex in Georgia Soon
Today the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, inspected the construction of the hotel "Qvevri" in Telavi, which is implemented with the support of the state program- Host in Georgia.
Georgians buy abandoned houses amid coronavirus pandemic
Lekso Charkviani is a founder of a social campaign called “The Lost Eden”. The idea behind the campaign is to search, find, and help the owners sell their houses in any place in Georgia.
Breathtaking Pictures of Snowy Spring in Georgia
On March 17 Georgia was surprized with snow and the social media was full of breathtaking photos of snowy Georgia taken by Georgian photographers
The History of Georgian Firearms Development
In the 9th century, a dent was invented in China that was originally used for fireworks during religious ceremonies. Its use in military affairs began relatively late in the 11th century
Estonian Traveler  About Georgia
Anna Linn is a traveler from Estonia who has recently visited Georgia and shared her experiences with us.
How to Make Women Happy on March 8th - The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi's Best Offer
Women's Day is celebrated around the world but for some reason, it is mostly loved in Georgia
Tbilisi in The List of The Best Cities For Female Solo Travelers
Tourlane, the leading planning and booking service for expert-made dream vacations, has revealed the top cities for female solo travelers
10 Magnificent Churches of Georgia
"John Graham Tours" Publishes the list of 10 magnificent churches of Georgia, specifically of Shida Kartli
Georgia in the list of Hollywood's busiest location sectors
The Hollywood Reporter publishes the list of the busiest location sectors of 2020 and Georgia is number one in the list
Why Georgia is the Most Underrated Skiing Destination
CNN publishes an article writing about why Georgia is the most underrated skiing destination
Tbilisi Takes Third Place in The Category of Cost-Effectivness-FDI
Famous British edition FDI Intelligence which provides up to date reviews of investment and economic development in different European cities and regions has published a ranking of 2020/21
CNN Offers 10 Of The Most Dreamiest Places in Georgia
Without a doubt, CNN's famous travel series will give you the most truthful advice on which you can count on
Radisson Collection Tsinandali Complex Among the 45 Best Hotels
The hotel located in the village Tsinandali was named among the 45 best hotels in Paris
Letter From Thailand To Georgians
“Coming to Georgia wasn’t an accident”
"There was a "ME" before Georgia and another one after."-Foreigners about Georgia
"We've never seen people describing their country with as much passion and excitement as you two are doing it. What a great thing to do!"
British edition about Kvareli's football pitch
The British edition, The Sun Dream Team, published a photo of the pitch located in Kvareli
Tbilisi winning Rynair's Instagram voting as the best 2020 destination
"We just crowned Tbilisi as Ryanair’s 2020 destination face-off winner in our Stories"
The Real History of Tbilisi
Little do people know about the real history of Georgia's capital city Tbilisi.
"Georgians will extend their arm for a friendly handshake"-Ryanair
The Irish budget airline Ryanair publishes an article about the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi. The title says it all- "The Enchanting City of Tbilisi."
The Transcaucasian Trail in Georgia
The Transcaucasian Trail- a world-class, long-distance hiking trail, more than 3,000km in length following the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains and connecting roughly two dozen national parks and protected areas in the region.
"Home for the homeless"-BBC about Tskaltubo sanatoriums
BBC publishes a documentary about Tskaltubo's sanatoriums located in the West part of Georgia.
Georgia reaches a record number of visitors
In January 2020, a record number of international travelers visited Georgia.
Abastumani resort brought to life
The observatory renovations are completed in Abastumani resort, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure reports.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
02.08.2020
03.08.2020
USD
1
USD
3.0721
3.0721
EUR
1
EUR
3.6420
3.6420
GBP
1
GBP
4.0343
4.0343
RUB
100
RUB
4.1573
4.1573