Friday, December 27, 2002

The Lake Sevan Adventure

Today Harout and I went to look for a rubber raft for my fish-farm in Artsakh.

We headed out late as I had to go find the HOM storage depot, which I did find and picked up Vagif Stepanian�s wheelchair.

So at 2:30 PM we left Yerevan in the direction of Lake Sevan.

On the way we got stopped at the Lake Sevan police checkpoint and in my best Western-Armenian I asked the cop how he was. Harout looking very Diaspora with his video camera got the cop to smile at us and tell me that they have much respect for us and to have a nice day.

So we arrived to the shore of Lake Sevan and I have to tell you that it was quite beautiful today.

The first real village that was accessible from our side of the road as not quite as accessible as I thought, as the road itself had not been cleared and I got us stuck in the snow.

Harout got out and started to push the car. A little bit of salt under the tires (I don�t know it this helped) and we freed the car.

We didn�t enter that village and stopped next to a couple of people that were from the village and asked them if they knew of anyone that may be selling a rubber raft. They told us no, but we may find a raft in Vartenis. I asked how far it was and they told me 20 to 30 kilometers.

We drove on and along the way stopped and asked people that were selling fish.

At about 20 kilometers, we spotted a couple of really cute puppies playing on the side of the road. Both Harout and I thought that they were just too adorable and I asked Harout if he wanted a puppy? He said that his uncle wanted a dog and I said that I too would not mind a puppy and asked him if I should turn back around so we could pick them up? Harout thought about it and without saying anything, waved me to keep going, but I knew that he really wanted one. So all the way, I kept talking about the puppies and how I hope they will make it through this really harsh winter.

We came to a village that in the road had a huge ditch with water running through it and I tried to stop, but the road was total ice and we drove right over it. I stopped the car and didn�t really notice any damage, but did notice that all the built up ice on the car had fallen off. A man from that village also looked under my car and told me it looked okay.

I asked the man if he knew about anyone selling a rubber raft and he said that there was no one like that in his village, but directly across the lake in the village of Dzovag Kyugh they would have something like that. I asked him how far that was and he said it�s just passed Vartenis, which is 60 kilometers away. Wait a second, 20+ kilometers away, Vartenis was 20 to 30 kilometers. I guess distance for someone of foot is not the same to someone in a car.

I want to mention also the condition of this road we were driving on. First of all, it is not the usual road that people take when going to Vartenis, so it�s not at all cleared of snow in some places and I have to tell you that at times if I didn�t have 280 horsepower under my foot to speed passed those points, we would have been stuck for sure.

So we drove on for another 60 kilometers and arrived to Vartenis. There I asked about a rubber raft and they said that no such person that I could find at that hour and should wait until morning (it was 5:30 PM). I asked the people in Vartenis if they knew about Dzovakyugh and maybe a raft being there and they agreed that my chances there would be better.

We drove on and not too far out of Vartenis, I stopped at a gas station to ask where Dzovakyugh was. I pulled up and honked my horn. The kid inside came out a minute or so later after we watched him through the window bundling all up. I asked him about Dzovag Kyugh and he said the road beside his station was the entrance. We thanked him a drove on.

As we were driving up the main road to Dzovag Kyugh I told Harout that I had better find a raft here after all we have been through or else I�ll get really mad and when I get mad, I�m not fun to be around and maybe we should get Vagif�s wheelchair out of the trunk and put it in the car so he could sit back there. Harout looked a bit concerned and I guess started to pray or something.

First people we saw at the entrance of the village we asked about a rubber raft and the relayed what we asked to some man that was walking in the direction of the village.

The man walks over to our car and asked what it was that we needed. I told him and he said that he asked again as he could not believe that we would be looking for such a raft as he had one he needed to sell. I asked him if we could see it and he said yes, but we needed to go to his brother�s house to get some valves for it and a pump.

We drove into the village and got what he needed. Then on to his house, which was on the outskirts of the village and the road there was quite covered in snow and he was concerned that our car could not make it to his house.

We drove on and at about 100 meters from his house, our car got kind of stuck, so I backed it up to the road we were on and we walked.

In his basement, he uncovered a very used but somewhat large raft. He told me in advance that it has a couple of holes, but they can be fixed by someone that fixes inner-tubes. He pumped it up and we found 2 small holes.

I asked him how much he wanted for the raft and he asked him how much I would like to pay for it. I told him I have never purchased a used raft and I�m sure he has never sold a raft, so he is going to have to decide.

He said that this was going to be a very sad New Year for him and his 4 children as they had no money and this by chance encounter was something very special. He invited us in to a cup of coffee and to talk.

We went into his house where his 2 daughters (one 14 and the other 9) made us coffee. He apologized for the blackened walls in the room they live in and told us that during Levon Ter Pedrosyan�s time of being president of Armenia, there was no heating materials for that first winter and they had to heat the house with transformer oil (which is used to cool transformers). He said the oil blackened the walls and also took its toll on their health. We didn�t see a wife in the house and I really didn�t want to ask.

Someone called us out to move the car since it was blocking the road. We went out and after seeing the road to his house, I decided to trying to drive it in.

I got a running start and made it to his front door. He told me that even Niva�s (little 4WD jeeps) have had trouble doing this.

So we talked price and I told him from the start that he name the price, I�m not going to haggle with him and if the price is okay with me, I�ll take it. He told me that such a boat is probably worth in this condition $150 (which is not really true since I knew a new boat with a motor, which his does not have is around $250), but since this is our first encounter and he wants to be friends with us, he will give it me to for $80. I asked him how much that would be in dram and we agreed to 45,000.

I pulled out the money and you had to see the look on his daughters faces. Compared to what they looked like when we first walked (though I think that maybe they didn�t know what to make of Harout was the reason for the puzzled look) and then, was a huge difference. They would now have some food on the table for New Years.

We all went into the basement to roll up the raft and the girls were helping their dad to put the raft in a couple of sacks so we could put it in the back of my car without getting the car dirty.

I exchanged phone numbers with our new friend and we turned him down for an invitation to dinner and a warm place to stay since this was said to be the worst day as far as weather goes and the people I stay with advised me not to go today so I really had to get back or else they were going to think the worst had happened to me.

We headed back towards Yerevan, which was another 160 kilometers, turning off at one wrong place, but finally getting to Yerevan at around 9:30 PM.

We went to Cactus Mexican restaurant, stuffed our faces with some decent food and a strawberry margarita (it�s been 3 years since I�ve had one of those, but they have no effect on me since I can now drink Vodka without it having any effect on me (nothing at all to be proud of)).

On the way to Harout�s place, I took a short cut, which is a hill that goes up the side of the main post office on Saryan and before we entered that hill, Harout pointed out that it was a sheet of ice and a Fiat was sliding back down as it had attempted going up it. I waited for it to come down, punch the gas pedal and up we went it with the car almost stopping at the top. We laughed at what the guy in the Fait must have been saying while we were going up the hill and more so when we made it up and drove out of sight.

For it to be one of the coldest days of the year and probably one of the days that most people stayed home, Harout and I had a great adventure that we will remember for a long time to come.

Harout, I just want you to remember that the puppies and what becomes of them are on your karma account.

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