21 years old Val Ismaili lives in London and studies Civil Engineering in Bristol University. But the man has a very interesting and risky hobby. He likes hiking.
Val is now in Armenia and has had a very adventurous trip here. At first he completed the 4 summits of Aragats, then walked to Batumi in 8 weeks.
Val shared his Armenian adventures with NEWS.am STYLE.
“I arrived in Armenia 4 months ago! Since then I’ve spent 8 weeks hiking 1500km on the Transcaucasian Trail from Meghri all the way through Armenia to finish at Batumi. I then spent more than 5 weeks working in Dilijan to help build the first hiking trail in Armenia from Dilijan-Parz Lich-Gosh-Gosh Lake. Before I came to Armenia I knew I wanted to try and complete the four summits of Aragats alone. Some of my Armenian friends kept telling me how amazing the view is from the top of the peaks, so I just had to go! On the North and East peaks, the sky was completely blue, I could see the whole of Armenia. Knowing that I had walked across the entire country was a really special feeling. By the time I reached the West peak, the weather had changed completely and it actually started snowing. It was cool to experience such different weather conditions on the same day,-says Val adding.
“Yes, hiking is my hobby, it's my favorite thing to do in my free time. I never get bored of it! I also climbed Khustup (3206m) in Armenia, as well as Latraldashi (3370m) in Mestia, Georgia and mountains in Albania and Kosovo.I began my expedition in Meghri, walking through Shikahogh and Arevik NP to reach Kapan where I climbed Khustup and carried on walking to Tatev, Sisian, then through the mountains of Vaults Dzor through Artavan and to Noravank. I walked through the entire Geghama mountain range covering 120km in 4 days to then reach Dilijan where I helped build the first hiking trail in Armenia from Dilijan to Parz Lich. I then continued north towards Alaverdi and into Georgia eventually reaching Batumi”.
Of course, this kind of trip couldn’t pass without interesting accidents.
“The trip was full of adventures from being chased by exceptionally large Armenian mountain dogs to being stuck in thunderstorms at 3000m in the Geghama range. My favorite experiences were when I was invited in by the shepherds living in the mountains and was asked to eat with them and offered a bed for the night. I don't think I'll forget those memories.
I stopped at many places. As I was always walking I had to take some days for rest when I got to the big towns like Kapan, Sisian, Areni, Sevan, Dilijan and Alaverdi. But I stopped at many other places too so I could see the history of Armenia. My favorite time was when I wasn't in cities though like the Geghama range or the forests of Syunik. There's something really special about being in the mountains alone”.
Although Val was very impressed by the beauty of Armenia, he has also noticed some negative sides of it.
“There are only a few things I didn't like about Armenia. I think the biggest problem was the trash that people throw on the floor. Armenia is such a beautiful country try, it's a shame to ruin it because of laziness of some people unable to carry their rubbish to a bin. I know there is the 'Clean Armenia' program to help fix the problem, so that's a good start”.
Val is in Armenia for the first time, but he is sure this is not going to be the last time.
“Im actually going tomorrow. So apart from eating a lot of good food in Yerevan, I don't think I'll be doing much.
I have some ideas for the future but they're not finished planning yet. Let's just say it involves a lot of walking...
I'd also like to come back to Armenia next year and help build some more hiking trails in Dilijan National Park. There is a volunteer program which local Armenians and internationals can volunteer on and learn how to build hiking trails. I've made many friends from this program and wish to come back again. This year we built 80km of hiking trail, imagine how much we can build next year if we have even more people come and help!"
Photos from Val’s Instagram page