„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
Get to know Georgian Inventor Students travelling to NASA Space Center
Sophio Chikhladze (Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy), Mariam Gamrekelashvili, Giorgi Rigishvili, Aleksandre Kajaia (School AIA-GESS) and Iona Iobidze (Kutaisi School Progress)
Georgian village, where nearly everybody could sing
It became necessary to construct a new building for a hotel
One Night Trip to Breathtaking Kazbegi
Georgian photographer Giorgi Shermazanashvili has recently visited Kazbegi
Atlas Obscura about the Foundation of Tbilisi and Sulfur Baths
Atlas Obscure has recently devoted an article to the sulfur baths in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
5 facts about Georgian wine
Georgia claims to be the cradle of wine.
A road from Mestia to Chalaadi Glacier
"Are these mountains real?" this question was asked by a tourist from Dubai visiting Svaneti.
Explore Tbilisi during Spring Nights
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia founded in the 5th century.
Laboratory of Eshera – Secret Facility in Abkhazia That Remains a Mystery till Today
The truth about a cave located in Abkhazia and, presumably, housing Russian military base and a secret seismological laboratory, remains largely unknown to the public.
Celebrate warm spring days in Georgia
Spring has come and the nature of Georgia is becoming greener and greener every day.
The loggerhead sea turtle, found in Black Sea, remains in Georgia for rehabilitation
The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) was found off Black Sea coast in Poti
Stefan Rohner’s Bike Tour in Georgia: Fresh Start with Chacha
Stefan Rohner, a traveler rode to Georgia, visited and took photos of beautiful places in the country.
Lado Apkhazava congratulates Peter Tabichi on his victory
The winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2019 was announced at an awarding ceremony in Dubai.
Surami Fortress captured by Georgian photographers
Surami is a mountain resort surrounded by evergreen coniferous forest.
Zviad Tsikolia working on the First Georgian Airplane “Lizi”
Zviad Tsikolia, a Georgian designer, has been refining the first Georgian airplane model “Lizi”.
Georgian Watch Brand “Tsikolia” may bring the production from Switzerland to Georgia
Georgian designer Zviad Tsikolia may bring the production of his watch brand from Switzerland to Georgia.
Newsweek: Georgia is Europe’s New Cultural Hub
“The former Soviet Republic of Georgia is the hot new place for travelers in the know,”
“As If God himself created Tbilisi…” – What does a Lebanese Tourist say about Georgia?
Tbilisi – the city of churches which has nothing to do with the American Dream.
From Tbilisi Civil War to the Present Day
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia relegated its turbulent days of the civil war to the past.
American Traveler impressed with Georgia
Nicole Heker is a traveler from the U.S. Nicole has been traveling for 4 years.
5	Differences between a country and a state of Georgia
Georgia is internationally recognized as one of the most interesting and popular destinations.
Why is Georgia Land of The Wolves?
Georgia is described as Land of The Wolves on the map published by the Culture Trip.
Mila Kunis appears in David Koma at “Wonder Park” premiere
Mila Kunis appeared in David Koma at “Wonder Park” premiere on the 10th of March.
Dwellers of a village in Afghanistan call themselves Gurjis
The 31st battalion of Georgian armed forces in Afghanistan has brought great news to Georgians.
Sulguni with Lapland Motives
Marika Niklason from Georgia, lives in Asele in the south part of Swedish Lapland, with her husband and children and produces Georgian smoked cheese called “Lapplands Mejeri”.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
16.04.2019
17.04.2019
USD
1
USD
2.6916
2.6906
EUR
1
EUR
3.0447
3.0404
GBP
1
GBP
3.5276
3.5201
RUB
100
RUB
4.1909
4.1792