The Silky Way Adventure
Slices of Armenia
Chapter 11 – It’s the Road!
Previous chapter: Men of God
The countryside was still curling up in a cotton-like fog when we left the Tatev monastery. Ophelia had insisted that Artyom should be baptised right away, because his faith was strong she said, but we had left anyway in a last smile. It took us almost two hours to reach the main road. We were walking down the turns we had been climbing in a jeep the day before. One single vehicle with more passengers than seats drove past us, and we walked past a herd of sheep scattered on the side of the mountain. We stopped for breakfast, somewhat impatient to find a car driving in the right direction to take us to a busier road. A car did stop. It was a taxi that offered to take us in for a rather cheap price. We don’t usually take taxis, but we were dreading another two hours wait until the next car and we were quite tired, so we climbed onboard.
Tatevian sheep in the morning
Luckily for us, the Road is merciful. The couple that stopped for us just outside Goris understood, without a word, that we were exhausted and invited us to stay at their place for the afternoon and night. We reached Kajaran, where our hosts were living, at around 3 p.m., after a dozy and rather silent ride. Gayane and Meruzh were on their way back from Yerevan. They had to drive there for a check-up at the hospital, since Meruzh had had a heart infarct a year ago. Because of the local mining industry, the air in Kajaran was very polluted and most of its inhabitants have health issues. Our hosts had encouraged their children to leave town and were glad to see them now live in Yerevan. We spent a quiet but warm afternoon with our hosts, who called in a few friends to visit. A good long night’s sleep had us ready for the next day’s drive, one that would bring an end to our adventure.
I am not going to pretend that I have been permanently cheerful during our Silky Way trip. Within three days I had started complaining. We were then walking through Vanadzor, in the North of the country, trying to get out of the city to hitchhike again, but it seemed to never end. I was tired of carrying my backpack. Why couldn’t we hitchhike in the town? Yes, you do have to wait longer, but in the end it’s all the same, at least to me. You’ll get there at the same time. Artyom, without losing his composure, had encouraged me to look around the Soviet town, to try to understand why everyone’s face was so stern and why no one ever smiled back. I had thought about it a lot already, and asked around, and heard many an explanation and none of them had been convincing enough. It was just everywhere the same, the hardness of faces and the coldness of the soviet architecture in ex-USSR union countries. In the cities at least. But we had kept walking, I had calmed down and everything had been fine again as soon as we had finally gotten to the end of the loud main road. A little while later, I had apologized for my moody behaviour and Artyom had answered “It’s all right. It’s the Road!”
So we had been moody, but in turns, which helped us keep a minimum level of cheerfulness and optimism between the two of us. And the Road, in addition, had been extremely obliging. When I had dreamed of a warm bed after our cold night under the tent, I got it the very next night in the garage of the TV station. And Artyom, who had only wished for some warmth, had ended up in the heat of the machine room.
And when, in the taxi driving towards Tatev, I had learned that my almost-grand-father Paul had passed away, the Road had given me a timeless fog to match my sketchy emotions of the time. And later on the same day, the Road had given me a whole monastery full of kind and understanding people. And a religious ceremony – the cult is of no relevance – had with perfect timing enabled me to engage in my own thoughts and dwell on the meaning of life, and to say good-bye to one man.
It’s the Road, yes. And c’est la Vie.
Farewell to Paul
Next chapter : Dried Fruits