Help Camp Tusheti: Hard work and peace for your soul


If you want to spend a memorable two weeks out of the city in the mountains, and you want more than just a summer’s hike, but also to do some good work as a volunteer – Help Camp Tusheti is the best place to be.

It all started 7 years ago when Czech teacher from Charles University in Prague Slávek Horák was living in Georgia and he wanted to do some meaningful work with volunteers. They started to mark touristic roads in Tusheti,  a historic region in northeast Georgia located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, and they also started to repair an old castle called Keselo in Omalo village. I asked him a few questions to find out more about the work of Czech and Slovak people there.

Can you tell me how it all started, where did an idea of help camp come from and why did you choose Tusheti?
In 2006 my friend David Gladiš (btw. founder of popular Czech server Hedvábná stezka) visited Georgia, he met Nugzar Idoidze and asked if Czech volunteers were needed. When I moved to Georgia in 2008 for two years David provided the contacts for me and in 2010 we made a deal about first help camp. It was two amazing weeks in the mountains and looked promising for continued cooperation. Since then we are going to Omalo in Tusheti every year, now for 7 years already.

And why Tusheti? I heard a lot about this interesting place before I visited it and when I have been there with Czech volunteers for the first time (in that time with no idea what kind of place actually we are going to and what is going to happen there), exploring of this place started to be like a drug for me. I must be there every year. Moreover my daughter fell in love with this place too and she insists to me every year that I have to organize another help camp. So what can I do? 🙂 There are still Czech projects in Tusheti, we are not alone there. We might even say that Czechs “colonized” Tusheti a bit in case of development aid.

Castle Keselo

What you had to go throw in the beginning, were Georgians up to this Czech volunteering?
The beginning was directionless, we did not have options or any sort of plan. I did not know anything about Castle Keselo by that time, I had just seen few pictures and I heard about it from people around. But immediately in first days we created a reputation of enthusiastic hard workers and people who really want to help Tusheti. Because of that from the first year they were kindly accepting us everywhere we came and said who we are and what are we doing.

Our first host Temuri was bringing food every day from Down Omalo to Keselo Castle and he took care of our needs. One day when we were working on castle 3 or 4 young Georgians came and they started to sing some long song in direction of valley and we recognized just a word “rusuli” which means Russian. We asked them what they were singing about and they said it was song about us, about people to whose language they were not understand (Czech) but sounds familiar with Russian and about how we came to Tusheti to help. From the early days, we were also lucky we became friends with leaders of National park Tusheti in that time, and their director was always available to help us with transport etc.

On horses

Can you highlight some the most interesting moments from each season of help camps?
In case of atmosphere of a help camp it’s really hard to select the standout moments. Every year was different, the people were different and they come in different quantities. But each time it was a really great bunch of people. I don’t remember anybody who did not fit in, and it was around 120 people after that 7 years of help camps. I think when somebody decides to overcome the laziness and the distance and dedicates part of his or her summer or vacations to action, they are really self-assured.

Is the number of participants of the help camp increasing every year?
Interest of people about help camp is fluctuating I have to say. I had years when we found two people would have at least seven volunteers. But we also had years with 25 people and the camp was crowded by tents. unfortunately these past two years I have to turn people away because many people would like to join us.  I don’t like the application process, it always makes me sad when I send all the information and then without saying anything that somebody not come. Every year there are a few cases like this. It is a pity because somebody else could have chance to come.

At the start of every help camp I am afraid that somebody will be bored or will feel that there is nothing special to do. But luckily every year we found enough work to do for everyone. And if there are some days without work – because it does not depends just on me, but also on jeeps and free time of rangers, people can hike on the montains and enjoy they free time in nature.

Help Camp Tusheti 2016

What is the average age of participants of help camp? And for whom is help camp intended?
Again, every year is different. I’m not one for statistics, although in applications form there is a question date of birth. Youngest participants were 17 and oldest was over 50. Not everyone can take 3 weeks out of work though, so usually students and teachers come to spend their holidays or those willing to take this as their only vacation. I am really glad they are choosing “work” and volunteering with us instead of laying on the beach 🙂

Help camp is open to everyone, especially from Czechs and Slovaks. I like that we are close group by our language, mentality and culturally, nobody is excluded by late night talks around camp fire in Czech, we sing same songs, make jokes etc.

Dartlo

What are plans in the future?
It depends if there is gonna be a work for our volunteers in Tusheti. I want to do something what got sense and what Georgian side can organize in case of human and financial resources. I’ve got some ideas on my mind, but next year the priority will be to finish on going project of marking of roads and I will make my own plans after that. It all also depends on my time schedule, my family responsibilities etc. In any case I will not have opportunity to come to Georgia I am afraid there is not anybody to replace me.

Do you have any message for this year participants of Help Camp Tusheti 2016?
As every year I would like to thank for great two weeks which I could spend with nice people and for their devotion and enthusiasm in their work. And as I said as I remember as one of my toasts up there in Omalo, I hope nobody of you left with feeling of wasted time and money.

Thank you Slávek for your answers and I hope next year will be successful again!

Help Camp Tusheti 2016

My personal experience
This year I was also one of the volunteers of this help camp and it was amazing experience. It was one of my best times in Georgia. Two weeks “lost” in the mountains, far far away from normal stereotypical life, no internet 🙂 . It was hard work but big rest for my soul. First nights were really challenging for me. I am a beginner hiker, I did not bring anything for hiking from Czech to Georgia, so I had to borrow all the stuff – including sleeping bag, a tent and a sleeping pad – from my friends living here. Because I´ve got kinda crazy summer here now – full of events and activities, packing was really quick and I did not check what kind of “mountain equipment” I actually received. First night I found out, it is not the best equipment for cold nights in Tusheti. I totally frozen in a Chinese tent where you can´t even stretch your legs, in 5 layers of clothes in a sleeping bag from the Soviet era. I did not sleep much 😀 It took me 3 nights when I got used to that and I had to borrow a blanket from one of the guest houses in Upper Omalo, where we were camping on the hill. Almost every day we were hiking and marking touristic roads. We were using a Czech system – so we painted 2 white stripes, usually on trees or rocks, and one colourful stripe between them, usually red one for more difficult trek and yellow one for easier.  Every day and every night we were drinking liters of chacha, I got totally wasted once and I had one big blackout from that night 😀 Every day there were long night talks with more than 15 Czechs in front of a camp fire, it was nice to speak in Czech again. I was eating instant food for 12 days, I almost got crazy of that. I was dreaming about fresh made khinkali and lobio all the time. In camp there was no shower so we had to take a shower in one of the guest houses but it was mainly for guests so I took shower like every 3rd day, sometimes warm, sometimes not. We were using an outside latrine without a door with the most beautiful view on the world. Once my toilet paper felt down and it was rolling down the hill, everybody was hysterically laughing when I was rolling it back 😀 Once we jumped into a river which has around 10 degrees, and it was amazing actually. After that you feel so refreshed. Our neighbours were cows, sheeps, dogs, horses and drunk Tushetians. Cows were all around all the time and during our stay they damaged two tents and ate a lot of our food. There was also one incident when some tourists came to our camp, totally scared. Some crazy driver almost drove on their tent while they were sleeping, because he was totally wasted and fall asleep while he was driving.  All the time as a proper princess I was dreaming about comfort of a bed and hot shower, but to be honest I was not dreaming about wearing bra, make up and shaving at all. Once I stood totally alone on the road, big mountains were in front of me and I started very serious dialogue between me and mother nature. That day I was feeling a bit sick, because I was not drinking chacha for 3 days after my drunk adventure, and I probably got some illness immediately. So first I was telling that if i will die there it will be the best death ever, I wanted my soul to stay there forever. Then I was thinking about how small and weak humans are face to face to her and I was admiring every single part of her. Then I was thinking about all my personal stuff, problems and bullshit like that and I realized it is fucking nothing. One moment I was even crying for a while, it was combination of total happiness and tiredness. We all were living there “out of reality” kinda, we all could forget about everyday stereotype and problems. It was so calming. I am glad we were such a nice group of people who understood the meaning of our work there and we enjoyed it so much. Check out this video which describes my feelings really precisely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66-aDdb5OU.
More info about help camp: tusetie.webnode.cz

Tusheti

Tusheti – I will never forget.

Help Camp Tusheti: Hard work and peace for your soulhttp://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7262411-667x500.jpghttp://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7262411-150x113.jpg Kristyna Kyankova EnvironmentOpportunitiesSport & LifestyleTraveling,,,,
If you want to spend a memorable two weeks out of the city in the mountains, and you want more than just a summer’s hike, but also to do some good work as a volunteer - Help Camp Tusheti is the best place to be. It all started 7 years...
If you want to spend a memorable two weeks out of the city in the mountains, and you want more than just a summer’s hike, but also to do some good work as a volunteer - Help Camp Tusheti is the best place to be. <span style="font-weight: 400">It all started 7 years ago when Czech teacher from Charles University in Prague </span><b>Slávek Horák</b><span style="font-weight: 400"> was living in Georgia and he wanted to do some meaningful work with volunteers. They started to mark touristic roads in Tusheti,  a historic region in northeast Georgia located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, and they also started to repair an old castle called Keselo in Omalo village. </span><span style="font-weight: 400">I asked him a few questions to find out more about the work of Czech and Slovak people there.</span> <b>Can you tell me how it all started, where did an idea of help camp come from and why did you choose Tusheti? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">In 2006 my friend David Gladiš (btw. founder of popular Czech server Hedvábná stezka) visited Georgia, he met Nugzar Idoidze and asked if Czech volunteers were needed. When I moved to Georgia in 2008 for two years David provided the contacts for me and in 2010 we made a deal about first help camp. </span><span style="font-weight: 400">It was two amazing weeks in the mountains and looked promising for continued cooperation. Since then we are going to Omalo in Tusheti every year, now for 7 years already. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">And why Tusheti? I heard a lot about this interesting place before I visited it and when I have been there with Czech volunteers for the first time (in that time with no idea what kind of place actually we are going to and what is going to happen there), <strong>exploring of this place started to be like a drug for me</strong>. I must be there every year. Moreover my daughter fell in love with this place too and she insists to me every year that I have to organize another help camp. So what can I do? 🙂 There are still Czech projects in Tusheti, we are not alone there. We might even say that Czechs “colonized” Tusheti a bit in case of development aid.</span> <img class="aligncenter wp-image-600 size-large" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7272448-667x500.jpg" alt="Castle Keselo" width="667" height="500" /> <b>What you had to go throw in the beginning, were Georgians up to this Czech volunteering? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">The beginning was directionless, we did not have options or any sort of plan. I did not know anything about Castle Keselo by that time, I had just seen few pictures and I heard about it from people around. But immediately in first days <strong>we created a reputation of enthusiastic hard workers and people who really want to help Tusheti</strong>. Because of that from the first year they were kindly accepting us everywhere we came and said who we are and what are we doing. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Our first host Temuri was bringing food every day from Down Omalo to Keselo Castle and he took care of our needs. One day when we were working on castle 3 or 4 young Georgians came and they started to sing some long song in direction of valley and we recognized just a word “rusuli” which means Russian. We asked them what they were singing about and they said it was song about us, about people to whose language they were not understand (Czech) but sounds familiar with Russian and about how we came to Tusheti to help. From the early days, we were also lucky we became friends with leaders of National park Tusheti in that time, and their director was always available to help us with transport etc.</span> <img class="aligncenter wp-image-603 size-large" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7302455-667x500.jpg" alt="On horses" width="667" height="500" /> <b>Can you highlight some the most interesting moments from each season of help camps? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">In case of atmosphere of a help camp it’s really hard to select the standout moments. Every year was different, the people were different and they come in different quantities. But each time it was a really great bunch of people. I don’t remember anybody who did not fit in, and it was around 120 people after that 7 years of help camps. I think when somebody decides to overcome the laziness and the distance and dedicates part of his or her summer or vacations to action, they are really self-assured.</span> <b>Is the number of participants of the help camp increasing every year? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">Interest of people about help camp is fluctuating I have to say. I had years when we found two people would have at least seven volunteers. But we also had years with 25 people and the camp was crowded by tents. </span>unfortunately <span style="font-weight: 400">these past two years I have to turn people away because many people would like to join us.  I don’t like the application process, it always makes me sad when I send all the information and then without saying anything that somebody not come. Every year there are a few cases like this. It is a pity because somebody else could have chance to come. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">At the start of every help camp I am afraid that somebody will be bored or will feel that there is nothing special to do. But luckily every year we found enough work to do for everyone. And if there are some days without work - because it does not depends just on me, but also on jeeps and free time of rangers, people can hike on the montains and enjoy they free time in nature.</span> <img class="aligncenter wp-image-599 size-large" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7262426-667x500.jpg" alt="Help Camp Tusheti 2016" width="667" height="500" /> <b>What is the average age of participants of help camp? And for whom is help camp intended? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">Again, every year is different. I’m not one for statistics, although in applications form there is a question date of birth. Youngest participants were 17 and oldest was over 50. Not everyone can take 3 weeks out of work though, so usually students and teachers come to spend their holidays or those willing to take this as their only vacation. I am really glad they are choosing “work” and volunteering with us instead of laying on the beach 🙂 </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Help camp is open to everyone, especially from Czechs and Slovaks. I like that we are close group by our language, mentality and culturally, nobody is excluded by late night talks around camp fire in Czech, we sing same songs, make jokes etc.</span> <img class="aligncenter wp-image-602 size-large" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7262428-667x500.jpg" alt="Dartlo" width="667" height="500" /> <b>What are plans in the future? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">It depends if there is gonna be a work for our volunteers in Tusheti. I want to do something what got sense and what Georgian side can organize in case of human and financial resources. I’ve got some ideas on my mind, but next year the priority will be to finish on going project of marking of roads and I will make my own plans after that. It all also depends on my time schedule, my family responsibilities etc. In any case I will not have opportunity to come to Georgia I am afraid there is not anybody to replace me. </span> <b>Do you have any message for this year participants of Help Camp Tusheti 2016? </b><span style="font-weight: 400">As every year I would like to thank for great two weeks which I could spend with nice people and for their devotion and enthusiasm in their work. And as I said as I remember as one of my toasts up there in Omalo, I hope nobody of you left with feeling of wasted time and money.</span> <strong>Thank you Slávek for your answers and I hope next year will be successful again!</strong> <img class="aligncenter wp-image-596 size-large" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/P7272432-667x500.jpg" alt="Help Camp Tusheti 2016" width="667" height="500" /> <b>My personal experience </b><span style="font-weight: 400">This year I was also one of the volunteers of this help camp and it was amazing experience. It was one of my best times in Georgia. Two weeks “lost” in the mountains, far far away from normal stereotypical life, no internet 🙂 . It was hard work but big rest for my soul. </span><span style="font-weight: 400">First nights were really challenging for me. I am a beginner hiker, I did not bring anything for hiking from Czech to Georgia, so I had to borrow all the stuff - including sleeping bag, a tent and a sleeping pad - from my friends living here. Because I´ve got kinda crazy summer here now - full of events and activities, packing was really quick and I did not check what kind of “mountain equipment” I actually received. First night I found out, it is not the best equipment for cold nights in Tusheti. I totally frozen in a Chinese tent where you can´t even stretch your legs, in 5 layers of clothes in a sleeping bag from the Soviet era. I did not sleep much 😀 It took me 3 nights when I got used to that and I had to borrow a blanket from one of the guest houses in Upper Omalo, where we were camping on the hill. Almost every day we were hiking and marking touristic roads. We were using a Czech system - so we painted 2 white stripes, usually on trees or rocks, and one colourful stripe between them, usually red one for more difficult trek and yellow one for easier.  Every day and every night we were drinking liters of chacha, I got totally wasted once and I had one big blackout from that night 😀 Every day there were long night talks with more than 15 Czechs in front of a camp fire, it was nice to speak in Czech again. I was eating instant food for 12 days, I almost got crazy of that. I was dreaming about fresh made khinkali and lobio all the time. In camp there was no shower so we had to take a shower in one of the guest houses but it was mainly for guests so I took shower like every 3rd day, sometimes warm, sometimes not. We were using an outside latrine without a door with the most beautiful view on the world. Once my toilet paper felt down and it was rolling down the hill, everybody was hysterically laughing when I was rolling it back 😀 Once we jumped into a river which has around 10 degrees, and it was amazing actually. After that you feel so refreshed. Our neighbours were cows, sheeps, dogs, horses and drunk Tushetians. Cows were all around all the time and during our stay they damaged two tents and ate a lot of our food. There was also one incident when some tourists came to our camp, totally scared. Some crazy driver almost drove on their tent while they were sleeping, because he was totally wasted and fall asleep while he was driving.  All the time as a proper princess I was dreaming about comfort of a bed and hot shower, but to be honest I was not dreaming about wearing bra, make up and shaving at all. Once I stood totally alone on the road, big mountains were in front of me and I started very serious dialogue between me and mother nature. That day I was feeling a bit sick, because I was not drinking chacha for 3 days after my drunk adventure, and I probably got some illness immediately. So first I was telling that if i will die there it will be the best death ever, I wanted my soul to stay there forever. Then I was thinking about how small and weak humans are face to face to her and I was admiring every single part of her. Then I was thinking about all my personal stuff, problems and bullshit like that and I realized it is fucking nothing. One moment I was even crying for a while, it was combination of total happiness and tiredness. We all were living there "out of reality" kinda, we all could forget about everyday stereotype and problems. It was so calming. I am glad we were such a nice group of people who understood the meaning of our work there and we enjoyed it so much. Check out this video which describes my feelings really precisely: </span><span style="font-weight: 400"><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66-aDdb5OU">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66-aDdb5OU</a>. More info about help camp: <a href="http://tusetie.webnode.cz/">tusetie.webnode.cz</a> </span> <img class="wp-image-598 size-large aligncenter" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/14030663_1317238421621648_512317089_n-680x383.jpg" alt="Tusheti" width="680" height="383" /> <p style="text-align: center"><span style="font-weight: 400">Tusheti - I will never forget. </span></p>
Kristyna Kyankova
Human, women and animal rights activist from Brno, Czech Republic. Currently on EVS in Georgia for 10 months. Focused on various topics from different fields. Feminism, sexism, objectifying / sustainability, ecology, environment / refugees, minorities / gender, LGBT / culture, life style, fashion / Interested in visiting places in Tbilisi and Georgia and enjoying life here as much as possible!