At the end of every other run, we’d sit at the dinner table deconstructing the day’s thoughts and events. Prior to the trip, we had met each other only three times. Now we were together 24/7, filled with many ‘I’m-glad-you’re-here’ moments for the both of us. Not just when that bear-sized dog effortlessly jumped over to our side of the fence in Kvemo Marghi, but on those really long days, when the laughter and quatschen (German for nonsense talk), were as important as heart and lungs in getting us to the top.
Another exception to the unspoken “no chacha” pact was a memorable stay in Zemo Marghi. Directions from David, who booked for me, went like this: “Ask for Murmon once in the village.” Thankfully, of about the twelve houses that made up the village, I guess only one Murmon had a guesthouse. We found the jolly old man chopping wood in front of a rustic, two-storey home. He smiled at us, mumbling something about Russki. We told him we didn’t speak it and he chuckled as he directed us into his property and called “Saba!”
A pretty herd of cows grazed on the rare kempt lawn. Beehives lined up where the grass met the forest, amidst stunning mountain scenery. A sheep dog wagged its tail as it lay beside an old bathtub next to a wooden table. The vibe was tranquil.
Murmon gestured us to sit down and his nine-year-old son walked out, bringing with him a friendly smile, a basket of bread and two plates. One of cheese, the other cucumber. Ravenous, as always, we ate the whole thing.
When darkness fell, Murmon came out with a lightbulb and screwed it somewhere into the tree above our table, while Saba laid down butcher’s paper as a tablecloth and ripped pages from a notebook to play the role of napkins. We looked on, eager to see how this would unfold. Eyes grateful when words weren’t of real use. A rich soup was ladled out, along with plenty more bread and cheese and – you guessed it – that old plastic bottle filled with chacha. We toasted the traditional way, holding our glass and entwining our arm around our neighbour’s before downing the shot, giving a little shudder from the strength.
Lukas and I looked at one another, apprehension in our eyes that this could get messy, but also with humor for how our day had felt long and arduous only to conclude here, sitting around this garden table having a dinner party with the locals. We were minus a common language but possessed a surplus of connection and cheer. Our phones stayed inside. It would have felt rude to pose that hideous question, “Excuse me, is there wifi?” Instead, we played soccer in the garden and Saba showed us his hand-carved bow and arrow.
Morning brought with it a clear blue sky. We started the slow-jog warm up, bidding farewell to new friends as they looped bridles around their shoulders and presumably went to collect their horses.