Defeating the dragon

First of all, this will possibly be the most over the top title of any blog post that’s ever going to be written here. Speaking about tops, this post will be about last Sundays hike to Azhdahak. Now Azhdahak in Armenian mythology is a man-dragon, powerful enough to absorb the world. So how does one even travel to a man-dragon-mountain? Well it’s quite easy really. You go to one of the villages about one hour away from the mountain, then you go up and up and up for about an hour on the back of a truck. After that you continue up and then up and when you reach that tall peak on your right, yeah continue going up a bit more

We we’re off to an early start on sunday morning, hopefully I think both Emma and I prepared as best we could before the trip. We had enough food with us to feed an entire village, layers upon layers with clothes, hiking shoes and everything. I had a small fear that I was reliving my art of overpacking days©. This trip has been one of the destinations I’ve been most excited about when we were doing research and scouting which places in Armenia we’d like to visit the most. It’s an old volcano with a lake in the center at 3600 meters, I mean that says it all right?

What it doesn’t say is the obvious part, an old volcano at 3600 meters isn’t going to be a simple stroll right? It’s probably going to be hard, but that wasn’t something I’d given much thought to beforehand, let’s just say there’s a reason I’m blogging about this on thursday, 4 days after the trip. I was a bit sick before the hike and afterwards it’s been fever, coughing and generelly having a man cold that’s put my Birthright life on hold for a couple of days.

Mount Ararat in the morning

We met up with the other people that were going on the hike and got into three taxis that were going to take us to a village. I forgot the name of the village but that’s not important, the important thing is our taxi drew the short straw, we had to cram in 4 people in the back of the taxi and sit there for an hour. I’ve had smoother rides but I think it was worse for Emma and another girl that both had sore backs even before we started the actual ascent.

Once we got to the unnamed village we were met by a suprise, the taxis stayed and the only means of transport was an old Soviet era truck from I don’t know, the 70’s? 60’s? 50’s? who knows. What I do know is that it was a cold morning and that we were supposed to get up on the truck and hold on for about an hour ascending 2000 meters, on non existant roads, next to small canyons, cliffs and try not to freeze to death on the way.

It wasn’t even 9 AM and a few of the unwritten rules of Armenia had already made themselves painfully clear:

  1. Being on time is an recommendation
  2. Comfort is an recommendation
  3. Safety is an recommendation

Pictured: our faces when we saw the truck

It’s quite funny, or comforting, or maybe both I dont know any more. Another volunteer from Switzerland (a.k.a. other Sweden) said she’d heard the phrase “TIA“, which usually stands for This is Africa, which can be used when something is done differently from what you’re used to back home. Well lets just say that TIA = This Is Armenia from now on.

The ride wasn’t as bad as we initially thought, although it really felt unsafe to say the least. But the views were amazing, going up towards Azhdahak on one side, even though we didn’t see the actual mountain, with Ararat behind us, and no one else in sight besides our trusted diesel chugging truck that is.

Finally we arrived to our drop off location, from here we’d need to hike for about 3-4 hours before reaching the actual mountain. The adventure was about to start.

Safety schmafety said the truck and defied gravity

The first ten minutes of the hike gave us a few hints about how the rest of the day would look like. It was going to be a day full of beautiful nature, and one that reminded us of how out of shape we were, having to stop every now and then just to rest cause of the incline. In retrospect doing this while I was sick wasn’t the best idea i’ve had, but I would probably be just as exhausted regardless.

The hike to Azhdahak kinda felt like we we’re in the Armenian version of The Hobbit, we were on our way through tough terrain, among beautiful mountainous landscapes on our way to the dragon. On our way we had to go over heaps of large boulders, jumping from one to the next, passing slopes of smaller rocks where you were at risk of falling over all the time, crossing hills and going up, up and of course up.

Finally we arrived to Azhdahak, just one more challenge before we could rest. Getting up the actual mountain. The incline was so steep and I was so tired that we literally took 20-30 steps, rested for a couple of minutes and rinsed and repeated. When we finally got up we were rewarded with the most amazing views I’ve seen in my life. The lake in the center of the crater, and views stretching to I don’t know how far in every direction.

Remember I said I thought we overpacked? Well foodwise maybe, cause I was so nauseous I could hardly eat anything, but the clothes? Even with all layers on it was so cold on the top. The hiking boots helped alot, it kinda felt like cheating when some of the other people in sneakers were tumbling around, but they were a life saver! I think both Emma and I low key collapsed into a nap when we we’re sitting enjoying the view. Plus I was trying not to ruin the magical experience for everyone by throwing up.

One of the other hikers got the hike as a birthday present from his girlfriend and she did one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. She acctually brought a big cake and wine up 3600 meters and everyone sang for him and ate cake. After cake there was time for wine and vodka, remember when I said TIA? That’s still true on top of mountains as well.

Emma enjoying the view, or napping no one knows.

Finally we made the descent which was much much easier before heading back on our lovely truck. This time the ride was just terrible. We we’re so tired and sore and going down 1 hour on roads that felt unsafe wasn’t really the best thing for our tired minds and our tired bodies.

All in all this was a experience I will remember for the rest of my life, it was amazing, it felt so nice being able to complete it together with Emma. We came back home around 8 PM, some 14 hours after we left, the dragon was defeated and so was my immune system.


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