GEORGIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA
Trip Start ??? 06, 2000
1Trip End ??? 09, 2000
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I needn't have worried.I had gone merely a few yards down the road when a bus pulled in just ahead of me,headed for Tskhinvali.I jumped aboard,and moments later I was sailing through the frontier post,without the vehicle even being stopped,let alone my presence on board being noticed by the S Ossetian troops.
I spent the next two hours doing a kind of "secret filming" in the regional capital,slightly worried that I was there without the necessary permission,and not wanting to attract attention.
When I went into a shop to purchase some water,the shopkeeper was surprised that I offered Georgian Lari in payment.All normal trade here is done in the Russian Rouble.
Otherwise,I managed to keep a low profile.
The town was quite small and quiet,with just a couple of quite lengthy shopping streets,and a sprawl of houses very much in the style of Gori,but mostly low rise development.
There was a certain amount of damage from the wars that have been going on here since 1992.The most notable was a church that was surrounded by ruined buildings,and had a white flag flying from the telegraph pole outside.
Luscious countryside surrounded the town which appeared to be a real backwater.
My main concern was getting back through the border to Georgia that night,without incurring the wrath of the border guards,if they realised that I had sneaked through.There did not appear to be another bus,nor any taxi service.I had no choice but to walk,and got chatting to a local man for cover as I made my way down the country lane out of town.He veered off just before the border,however,so I walked alone,head down for the next few hundred yards.There was a bit of traffic crossing,and initially it seemed I could walk through unmolested.I made it past all border offices,and the road barrier.
Then I heard a shout from the same man who had delayed me earlier.
I ignored him and ploughed on.He ran across the road,and asked me if I had been to South Ossetia.
I mumbled my inaudible reply,and carried on walking towards Gori.
He matched me pace for pace,his hand trembling on his Kalashnikov rifle,as he ordered me to stop and present my documents.I could tell he didn't really want to do this,and ploughed on further.When his attentions got too much,I said "Not today,thankyou" as if he were recruiting for the Jehovah's Witnesses.
A final military hut was nearing on the left hand side,and I hoped that if I reached this I was home and dry in Georgian territory.He clearly wasn't going to allow this,so he finally stood in front of me,and demanded to take my passport ack to the border,now a hundred yards down the road.
Relieved that he only wanted to take my passport,I relented.He then shouted across to the hut,and asked the soldiers in there to look after me until he had entered my details and returned my passport.
I was invited in to what transpired to be a S Ossetian post,sat down and fed with a cob of corn.
One soldier lay on a camp bed cradling his Kalashnikov,which he lovingly referred to as his "fraulein".
He got up a few minutes later,and just after there was a loud crash.We all looked round and noticed his "fraulein" had rolled off the bed.tbc