It is an ancient treasure, in which three species of juniper, including the rare black juniper, Juniperus foetidissima, live alongside the pistachio tree.
This sculpted wilderness is rich in biological life home to wolves, brown bears, wild boar, the great imperial and steppe eagles, and more than 800 different species of plants and trees. Inside the eroded canyons, fruit trees are in flower. Amiran points to a white-blossomed bush an endemic pear tree, Pirus sakhokiana, found nowhere else in the world. Swallows' nests like small, earthenware gourds hang from the canyon wall. We meet lizards and tortoises, and touch the fossil remains of small sea creatures embedded in the rocks. At the very end of the canyon, Amiran shows us the white fossil bones of an elephant ancestor.
I feel as though I have been walking through layers of time. Vashlovani has been protected since 1935 the former Soviet Union set aside over 2% of its territory as wild nature. The nomadic sheep and cattle herders who use the grasslands around it as winter pastures left it untouched it was too steep-sided, too inaccessible for their herds.