I didn’t want to ask for directions. What if the person I asked wasn’t real? That was the feeling walking through the village of Khndzoresk as clouds blanketed the whole place with not a single soul in sight.
We, the adventurous lot had taken a taxi right upto Khndzoresk bridge from the town of Goris (where we stayed) and walked to the cave dwellings (across the bridge) exploring it all the way. Some of us decided to carry on further and exit from the other side hoping we’d find some transport. The weather was amazing and so was the scenery, so the plan wasn’t all that bad.
Nearing the end of the cave dwelling, houses began appearing with farming vehicles parked around, chickens having a party and cow dung splattered roads. So we concluded that we were passing a village. Some of the houses had humans and they waved to us with broad smiles as we trotted along. We wanted to be sure we were getting to the main road, so google maps and the occasional humans helped us. After perhaps what seemed like eternity and dwindling life around, we hit the main road and saw a shop that seemed to be the online thing alive. By now, the town had been covered in mist and the visibility was probably a few metres giving it a spooky look. After having confirmed that ‘going’ left would get us back to Goris, we began walking since no busses or cars were in sight.
We were now in probably the more developed part of the village since the roads were wider, houses bigger, etc. Imagine a town that’s decades old and didn’t bother growing up, so it stuck to whatever it was born with and life kept continuing. That was this place. Most sign boards, buildings, etc. would have been from the soviet-era rusting away in all glory. Amongst the 6 or 7 us, the faster ones pace-walked their way ahead and were completely out of sight. I was with Romina and Ravi. The former, an Argentinian not living in Argentina and the latter an Indian not living in India. As we walked through what seemed like the end of civilisation resting its hopes upon 3 remaining humans, Ravi got a call from the taxi guy who had dropped us to the bridge. He demanded that we pay for the return trip since he wasn’t getting any customers. While that was never the agreement, Ravi told them to come to the hostel for it with his better-than-functional Russian. Well he even tried to ask if they could come and pick up but I guess the vocabulary fell short.
There was not a single human. Not a single one. And I would doubt any of the people I saw were real. They were probably the guardians showing us our way. All the horror movies flashed in my mind and the decision to not ask for directions was being mooted. As we walked through the apocalyptic town almost nearing the end, we had lost hopes of getting a transport and had almost made up our mind to walk a few more hours in the cold to get to our hostel. Parking ourselves by the edge of the road for a break, a car approached driven by a young fellow who seemed like he was from the army. ‘Goris’, we said, and he smiled back in return opening the door for us. Settling in, Ravi and I tried to talk to the guy with our limited edition Russian but lo behold, he didn’t speak any. Probably a pure Armenian and yes an army guy too.
The weather wasn’t any better and began raining too. Driving through the mountains during rain and mist with near 0 visibility, our guy was in the mood to race. With himself! I don’t have words to explain how he drove in those conditions. Ravi, in the front seat was stone-dead probably out of fear. Romina and I held on to door frame with all our might and kept exchanging glances of is-this-the-end. When someone says life is uncertain, believe them. Because this guy certainly did make us believe in the statement. Crossing ourselves and chanting whatever prayers we knew all through the 20 minute journey, Goris appeared out of the mist and our heart rates began reaching back to normalcy.
All said and done, this guy was a saviour. Had it not been for him, we may have walked hours and reached in the night. Cold and half-dead. We shook hands with him, thanked him in Russian and laughed our way back to the hostel.