Our rest day yesterday was filled with laughter and fun as we wound down our trip. We cleaned up at the Barrels and were down at the Azau valley by high noon. As I was leaving, Vera gave me a souvenir pin and, as translated by Sergei, invited me to her town nearby. I made sure Sergei gave her a Canada pin in return and a couple of postcards after I left.
Every so often, I think that everyone should go through a stay such as what we had at the Barrels. Afterwards you truly appreciate modern conveniences, such as a sit-down toilet, flowing water, showers, and heck, clean clothes and underwear (I know too much information). An invention called a mirror, something oddly unavailable at the Barrels, has shown me that I had severely burnt my skin. Compared to me though, Keli has burned much more and it was way more obvious on her than on me. I think she has decided to wear sunglass until the “Gogglization” disappears. I wear my “Raccoonization” with pride, after all I was already a freak here!
After a couple hours of rest and cleaning (mostly cleaning – yes it took that long) we relaxed at a local cafe. The first beer was absolute heaven, the second and third simply led to greater and higher levels of spiritual happiness. Why do I have a feeling Alcoholics Anonymous will read this and be giving me a call?
Post beer-filled joy, Keli and I joined Sergei and Ilya on a short hike to Terskol. I needed to get some money and Sergei wanted to get the photos off my camera. The computers at the Internet cafe we used were some of the slowest I have used in years. I could literally hear the hamsters rattling the cases, grinding away at the bits and bytes. We were then picked up by the others with Tatiana for our post-climb party.
Supper was basically local fare and as had been so far during this trip to the Caucasus, vegetarianism seems to confuse the locals. Keli, for instance, was served an entire plate of cheese as her main dish. She assured me that she would not be completely constipated from eating a metric ton of goat cheese. My main dish was some kind of quiche made with eggs. As Keli said…
“Why can’t they understand that Vegetarianism means Vegetables!”
Regardless of their dubious vegetable consistencies, the food was tasty. A couple of champagne bottles were opened, t-shirts were presented and certificates shared. The photographer who had climbed with us also showed up to sell his wares. My immediate thought was that he might have placed our pictures on tourist tea cups and saucers as happens so often in Asia. I had a mental image of trying to create a matching set of Elbrus souvenir dinnerware. Thankfully it was a printed set of photos duplicated on a CD. Having drunk enough champagne to addle our brains, Keli and I each paid to get the same recorded CDs which she will send to Edmonton by post when she returns to Canada. Yes, we were idiots.
Ilya then bought a really nice bottle of vodka which we proceeded to lay siege to. After addling our brains further we headed back to the hotel cafe to really lay the hammer to some alcoholic beverages. I managed to send my friend Craig in Edmonton a message via SMS and since I hadn’t heard back I
quickly phoned. I realized the next day that I had sent the initial message to a different number in Edmonton and received a message from that mysterious party to “screw off and stop sending messages at 2am.” Everything was fine in Edmonton.
The evening was quite the alcoholic blur. I remember having a karaoke competition with the locals. I believe Ahsan and I belted out “YMCA”, “Californication”, Madonna’s “Music” and then massacred everyone with “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. I can guarantee you we shocked the locals, not only with our terrible voices but by scoring two perfect scores and beating their angelic voices.
Around 3am (I think), Anders staggered off to bed and Mike finally beat the bartender at chess and I helped him to his room so I too could collapse into bed.