For us other uncertainties hang in the air. The border between Georgia and Ossetia was closed due to the Chechen war, but below spring continues to works its wonders.
The banks of the Aragvi River carry a new, limpid green carpet. Brilliant blossoms of cherry, apricot, peach ignite like lamps among the woodlands.
As our jeep prepares for the 1500 meter climb, we decide to do the same, stopping to re-fuel on mountain food "khinkhali." A short drive later we halt again beside a row of surreal totem-poles carrying white woolly balls. Cheerful, head-scarved ladies hail us from nearby huts. "Come here! You will look beautiful! Only ten lari!" The woollen balls turn out to be "papakhi" traditional mountain hats, able to transform its wearer into an instant Caucasian bandit for just $5.
Next to the tourist-pleasing hats, hand-knitted socks embroidered with bright coloured crosses give clues to cultures once thriving beyond the steep road. The Khevsurs and Pshavs now hang by threads onto their cultural continuity, but are already transforming these beautiful, pre-Christian patterns into tourist novelties mostly for us now, not themselves.