Friday, December 02, 2005

At large with entourage

The leader of Georgia's Labor Party, Shakya Natelashvili, has told local reporters this week that he's done the sums on President Saakashvili's overseas trips this year... and the President has accumulated more than just some frequent flyer points. According to Natelashvili, The President has been on 38 overseas trips on which he was accompanied by around 2000 people and at a cost of 30 million lari (about $US15 million). Meanwhile I'm still at large of course and tomorrow, with my entourage of only a driver and a translator, our destination is Akhalkalaki and Gorelovka. In what looks like a reasonable roadworthy Lancia we'll drive through Borjourmi known for it's mineral water and Akhatsikhe. Hopefully we'll get to see something of the new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. While we're down in the Samtskhe-Javakheti province, I hope to find out more about a Russian sect, the Dukhobors. They came to Georgia about 150 years ago but now the younger generation is moving on and moving out. And, if I can manage it, I'll try to get to the vast system of caves near Vardzia. There's a monastery down there and I think it might be interesting to see what life is like for the brothers among the caves. This is all happening very close to the Armenian border and curiously the Lonely Planet guide sort of ends at Vardzia. I have little idea of what internet access is down that way but I'll post an update when I can. The plan is to be back in Tbilisi Monday evening and ready for a final round of interviews on Tuesday - including Mr UFO.

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