Mestia in the Great Caucasus, altitude 1400 meters, is a collection of 10 neighbourhoods, dotted with Svanetian towers erected mainly in the 9th-12th centuries. Each tower is attached to a machubi, a big two-storey house. The ground floor is a single hall with an open hearth and accommodation for both people and domestic animals, the latter being separated by a wooden partition, which is often lavishly decorated. A corridor annex helped the thermal insulation of the building. The upper floor, called a darbazi, was used by the family in the summer, and also served as a store for fodder and tools. A door at this level provided access to the tower, which was also connected with the corridor that protected the entrance.

We decided on a taxi to drive the 10 km into Mestiachala valley to the suspension bridge, where the dirt road ends and the trail to the Chalaadi glacier starts. Right behind the bridge lies a military border post so there is a chance that soldiers will ask you for passports. Most of the group walked the 1.5 km trail up to the Chalaadi glacier.