„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
What to take for a trip to Tbilisi – Tips from  New York Times
Lots of tourists arrive in Georgia, Tbilisi, especially in summer, when tourist season is in its peak. But not everyone knows which items to take with during the trip to Tbilisi.
Archeological artifacts found during rehabilitation works of Gudiashvili Square, Tbilisi
Recently a new discovery has been made in a historic Gudiashvili Square, located in the heart of Tbilisi, near Liberty Square.
Georgian specialists to rehabilitate abandoned Oshki dome in Tao-Klarjeti
A group of Georgian specialists and scientists have been sent to Tao-Klarjeti, a historic province that used to belong to Georgia
Discovery of the largest and oldest Basilica in Georgia
In Georgia, it was a sensation when an archeological expedition unearthed Doloshopi Basilica in Kakheti region, that is considered to be the oldest within the country.
Euronews advices travelers to visit spectacular Prometheus caves in Georgia
Summer season is the best time to travel in Georgia and explore some of the most distinguished sites. Fortunately, there are lots of places in Georgia to visit.
Horce race festival of Tusheti Region captured by Polish photographer
The Polish photographer Magdalena Konik is a frequent visitor of Georgia and is interested in exploring both traditions and sites of the country.
National Tourism Administration develops hiking trails in Georgia
Georgia is well known for it diverse nature and a plenty of places for hiking and camping.
Top 10 magical lakes to visit in Georgia
Summer is approaching, and everyone seeks for the places to chill out in the lap of nature far from the city noise and pollution.
The Guardian names Georgia as an alternative to the Alps
Georgia’s unique beauty and exotic wild nature has attracted the attention of the numerous international publications already.
Forbes: Why Georgia is the next great food and wine destination
Georgian culture, traditions and hospitality often attract the attention of the leading international media.
10 castle villages of Georgia’s Tusheti Region to be studied and rehabilitated
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced launching of inventory and study works in 10 castle villages of Tusheti,
From Georgia to Lebanon: exploring the best wines of the ancient world
As it is widely known, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world.
National Geographic to cover stories about Georgia and promote tourism industry
Georgian National Tourism Administration of the Ministry of Economy and sustainable development of Georgia
How to Toast in Tbilisi: Georgian Food Is Nothing Without Supra
Georgian” supra” or so called tradition of feasting is not a novelty for foreigners
Most charming historic buildings of Tbilisi - A trip through the city’s past
Tbilisi, Georgia’s beautiful capital, is distinguished by a number of features making the city a unique
Story of Georgian oda houses in Samegrelo told through photos
Samegrelo, one of the richest and most beautiful regions of Georgia, is distinguished by many unique features
National Geographic explores Georgia’s ex-Soviet spa resorts
National Geographic has recently visited Georgia’s crumbling ex-Soviet spa resorts.
The Independent on Svaneti: How to hike through most remote region in Georgia
Svaneti, Georgia’s remote highland has always been quite an attractive place for the tourists and foreign visitors
Inaugural Experts name Tbilisi Best Emerging Destination 2018
Well-known travel website tripexpert.com has named Georgia’s capital Tbilisi Best Emerging Destination 2018.
Georgia’s Goderdzi resort turned into vanilla ice cream “wonderland” by pink snow
Recently Georgia’s latest ski resort Goderdzi was covered with pink snow creating the association of giant vanilla ice-cream.
Unknown medieval monastery ruins discovered in Georgia
Ruins of a previously unknown medieval monastery have been discovered in Georgia’s south.
National Geographic Traveler Names Batumi in Top 10 Tourist Cities in Europe
Georgia’s seaside city of Batumi, the capital of Adjara Region is becoming more and more attractive for the tourists
Georgia’s David Gareji complex among 7 most endangered heritage sites in Europe
Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organization in Europe, and the European Investment Bank Institute
Mesmerizing view of Ushba Mount captured in Georgia’s Svaneti Region
It is impossible to visit highlands of Georgia and stay unimpressed.
CENN gives recommendations to Georgian government on road constructions in remote highlands
CENN is a non-governmental organisation working to protect their environment fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucuses.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
23.06.2018
24.06.2018
USD
1
USD
2.4578
2.4578
EUR
1
EUR
2.8597
2.8597
GBP
1
GBP
3.2659
3.2659
RUB
100
RUB
3.8955
3.8955