I stayed two days in this Vanadzor’s apartment, located in the Taron 3 district, a few kilometres from the city center. On the sixth floor of one of these buildings with moldy stairwells but flats shining cleanliness. The echo of a Russian detective series rang out from the kitchen, where the old lady was drinking her tea, staring at the screen. Meanwhile, her granddaughter was doing her homework. They lived together. And while the grandmother was expressing the melancholy of a digested sadness, the youngest seemed to be full of life and projects. Lying on this couch, which served as my bed, I was visualizing this trip in the Armenian north, which I had begun four days earlier. Staring at the ceiling, I saw pictures again.
I was looking back at the shores of Lake Arpi. This lake through which broke a small island, like a boil. The laughs of the Armenian gulls, which, as clouds, rose with a stroke of a wing to invade the sky. But also this paradoxical silence. Where the only human voice that we hear is ours, and where only the wind squalls, the chirping of the little birds and the rustling of the leaves meet. I had lighted a fire and made a coffee in my little pan, facing the lake. I had camped there and spent the coldest night of my life. Humidity crossed my tent and my sleeping bag. And the dogs were screaming outside.
The next day I walked off the roads, through the irrigated lands where my feet were sinking. I crossed huge herds of cows. They showed me a ford when I was lost in front of a wide canal. I had no more water to drink so I calmed my thirst with these patches of snow that persisted despite the advance of spring. I was invited to two villages, by these inhabitants of Armenian Siberia. But, along the Akhurian River, in a green gorge, I told myself that I was not going to spend the night outside again. I slept with a family in the village of Krasar. At dinner, they told me that my itinerary for the next few days was dangerous. The pass between Achotsk and Tashir, 40 kilometers long, was made impracticable due to the snow and was full of wolves and bears. My feet were also blistered because of bad shoes.
I went to Spitak in marshrutka. There, I decided to take care of my feet.
The next day I was walking for Vanadzor. Nature was changing. The desolate plains of the northwest were no longer visible anywhere. Here were standing majestic green heights sprinkled by a few flowering trees. White and pink spots on these bushy mountains. I crossed the rusty industrial areas of the periphery. They seemed dead but sometimes they made a loud snoring. Some guys were around them. There was one who picked plants. The concrete of the ground was punctured by the greenery. I continued my walk.
That's how I got there. The glasses of vodka swallowed with the grandmother gave me imagination I think. But they also accentuated the frustration that I felt about my destroyed feet, which I bled every night to eliminate the blisters in order to give me a reprieve.
The following days, I went on Alaverdi’s road, passing by Toumanian. Surrounded by these forests hanging on the flanks of rocks, the view did not offer the same depth as a few days earlier. A railway crossed the gorge. And heavy trucks were driving to and from Tbilisi.
The weather was gloomy, I was walking in the rain. Sometimes rays pierced the clouds and illuminated this wet environment. Workers were renovating the road and greeted me with sweets as I passed. The city of Toumanian, whose buildings followed the slope of a hill, inspired the tranquillity of lost places but full of life. From the house where I was staying, I saw the monastery of Kobayr. Encrusted in stone, it seemed by nature to belong to the hill. The next day, I went to follow this dirt road to the monastery. The cliff dripped with rainwater and the rock shone. Kobayr was there. Old stone stairs gnawed by time and others made of metal brought to the monument. A good part of it was collapsed but remained this painting on one of the interior walls. The Lord's Supper. Scaffoldings were there, as a means to remind us that the locals wanted to preserve the soul of the monastery.
Alaverdi appeared to me twenty kilometers away. This ore factory, spewing its thick smoke in a heavy sky where it was mingling with the clouds, was impressive in the eyes. The city oozed boredom. And the bars of pink buildings were sad. I went the next day to go to the surrounding monasteries by hitchhiking. And on the high plateaus of Lorri, I went, surrounded by these old stones, drowning myself in the golden and midnight blue paintings of Akhtala’s monastery.
200 kilometers in the Armenian north, little and a lot at once.