What is the name of this gorge, I ask Vazha, during one brief, breathless pause. "Ninoskhevi", he says. "Nino's Gorge". It was St. Nino who brought Christianity here in the fourth century. The legends say she wove a cross from vines and braided it with her hair - making Georgia the only known country in Christendom to have been converted by a woman.
The gorge opens and exposes a wide sunlit slope of young green ferns. And there ahead is a dazzling cascade of white water. Gurgeniani Waterfall. The air all around is thundering, vibrating to its fall for now the flow is powered by melting snow from the peaks above.
We eat on a sun-warmed rock above the waterfall. Bread and cheese and wine and a toast for nature, for the beauty and abundance all around us. Lagodekhi was the oldest nature reserve in the Russian Empire, established under the Tsar in 1912. It rises through the virgin beech forest all around us to alpine meadows at 3,000 meters and shelters many large mammals red and roe deer, wolves, bear and lynx, and the endemic mountain goat or tur.