Lagodekhi inaugurated a tradition of setting aside large areas of undisturbed nature which continued through the Soviet era and which has left more than 2% of Georgian land under strict protection.
Vazha tells me of the plan to expand the Lagodekhi reserve by a third of its existing size especially in order to protect the habitat of the tur. These are such hard times in Georgia like other guardians of these wilderness areas I have met, Vazha has been paid irregularly for the last three years. Yet their dedication and commitment to the land never seems to falter. They are deeply inspiring human beings.
It is evening when we reach the valley floor. Pat follows the evening light around to Vazha's vineyard where he can see the mountains make their sheer ascent out of the plain. He shows me a long ridge rising to the snowline. Tomorrow we will ride across it and spend the night up among the alpine meadows.
I sit for a while on the grass among poppies and wild flowers, by vines which have never known chemicals. The mountains rise above the vines, forested, tipped with snow. An image of Eden, a garden of earthly delight.