31-May-2009 -- A first attempt by all of us to visit a confluence, no one knew exactly how the day would unfold. We left by car from the capital of Tbilisi around 7:00 a.m., left the main road in Baghdati by 11:00 a.m., and proceeded to make our way down a gradually deteriorating back road alongside the Sakraula River through the tiny village of Sakraula. The road ended after 17 km of dodging geese, cows, pigs and barely passable mudholes. After consulting a local farmer we left the vehicle and made our way over a swinging footbridge of dilapidated planks to the other side of the river, following a small tributary called Jvandisghele up into the hills.
For most of the way the 500m ascent was relatively easy despite midday heat because of a nicely formed cow trail that paralleled the water via muddy switchbacks. Once we were within a 100 meters of the confluence however, the going got tricky in a hurry. We had to leave the trail and negotiate the nearly 50-degree dropoff to the water below, which was densely packed with stinging nettles, awkward footing and unexpectedly loose scree and rock. We kept losing the signal in the heavy trees. Zeroing in on the destination, we found ourselves balancing on fallen logs, hanging by roots and swatting away biting flies.
Then we dropped the camera. We watched in despair as it rolled through the undergrowth and tumbled out of sight down the slope, crashing ever-more-distantly through bushes and bouncing off boulders. Eventually I was able to lower myself painfully through the treacherous mess and somehow stumbled upon it wedged between two stumps about 200 meters below. Climbing back up to the group, I quickly snapped off some photos.
By then it was close to 2:30 p.m. We scrambled back to the top to the ridge and settled down to celebrate in true local style with meat, bread, cheese and several well-earned shots of vodka.