We left Sighnaghi at 8:30 am. The streets were quite empty and the sound of our bags rolling along the cobblestones probably changed that. A lone yellow Lada taxi was waiting for a fare as it had done the day before. We passed on that option thinking it is not wise to go long distance and to stress the aged looking driver too much. We continued down to the main square near the bus station and a handful of taxi drivers were out and about and the first one agreed to take us straight to the border. We also went in a silver Mercedes, a significant upgrade on the yellow Lada.
The taxi driver stopped at a roadside shop to get something. Claire and I thought about getting a water, but decided to just stretch our legs. We got back into the car and the driver had brought us a can of iced coffee each. Sure he somehow read my mind, but since when does a taxi driver buy their customers something!
We made the border before lunchtime and I gave the driver an extra 10 Lari, because he mostly didn’t drive like crazy and he got us the iced coffee. We walked through Georgian emigration with ease and started to walk across the border and fending off a keen taxi driver. Armenian immigration was straightforward for Claire, but for me, he probably noticed my stamp for Azerbaijan. I got asked a lot of questions and I answered truthfully and he let me in. I kind of knew this could happen as Azerbaijan and Armenia are not great friends. In fact, the other way around and Azerbaijan would deny me entry.
Just after the border was a supermarket, money changer and bakery. I picked up some lunch from the bakery and then went and got an Armenian sim card and our organised driver turned up 30 minutes earlier. It was obvious Claire was the only foreign tourist around as I was still getting my sim card. A few minutes later and we were off following the Debed river.
This driver also made a quick stop before we drove up the hill to Haghpat. He got back into the car with chocolate ice creams for us both. Twice in one day the taxi driver buys us something! I guess we’d been good passengers. I quickly ate two chocolate ice creams as Claire can’t eat dairy, before we arrived in Haghpat. to the right was our hotel. To the left was a rather old Haghpat monastery. The Debed canyon is home to many old monasteries and Haghpat was one of the ones we wanted to visit.
We checked into our room, the bathroom is of a grand scale we have not witnessed on this trip. We decided to check out Haghpat before rain set in, but were sidetracked into a welcome cup of tea, fruit platter and biscuits. A minor delay but warmly accepted. We walked around Haghpat exploring the various buildings including a book depository and the belfry before rain set in. As we are a few metres away we explored more in the afternoon including visiting the working church.
We retired for dinner and had more food than we can eat, including numerous salads, a chicken and vegetable soup and just as we were about to leave they gave us another vegetable dish. It was too much food and I’m feeling very full and content. A pretty good first foray into Armenia.