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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Downside of an Ushguli Winter

March 12, 2008

We interrupt our regular programming to bring you this special report.

Having heard that last week, within hours of the caterpillar coming at last to clear our road of snow and restore Ushguli to Planet Earth, avalanches had followed it and closed the road again, I determined to walk down and see the damage for myself. We have now been roadless since February 15 - we won't count the caterpillar's work because it arrived in the evening and that same night the road was re-closed by snow and rock falling.

Here, from today, are my cellphone shots of the successive avalanches, each 3-4 m in height.

Last week, a friend on the phone from Tbilisi asked me what we're eating, in this isolated condition. "Each other," I replied, to great amusement. Not true yet - we have plenty of stored food and livestock, and then there are always shoes to boil, and bark off the trees. Plenty of snow for water.

Seriously, Ushguli does feel the strain of being cut off from the world every winter for weeks or months. A university student here during a 6-week break had to cross that nightmare on horseback to return to Mestia for his transport back to Tbilisi. An elderly lady here, one of my colleagues in the school, lost her sister and brother-in-law in another part of Georgia last week. She must get to the funeral. The school badly needs firewood; the classrooms are much too cold, and children are more susceptible to flu and other common diseases of winter. These are all minor worries, however, compared to what will happen if there's a medical emergency now - someone could easily die.


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