Two days ago I went in search of a mineral spring with Davit, which started near Khor Virap and led us past Vedi. Eventually, with enough questioning of people standing on the sides of the road (always countless people standing on the sides of the road), we got to a guy who told us we were close, but had to have someone with us to show us the way, because it was so hard to find. We were trying to avoid that since we were planning on swimming, but were eventually convinced that our search would be fruitless and to at least take a kid along with us. So a twelve or so year old boy jumps in our car and guides us. It was a few kilometers through dirt roads and riverbeds, and really we would have never found it without either the boy, or very very good directions. We were disappointed however because the water is a pretty cool temprature, and offered nowhere to swim or sit. So we headed back to the village and dropped off the boy as we headed off into the mountains.
You are going to get sick of me talking about how green it is, but all this rain (it is raining now again, pretty much every single day it rains) had turned that region, which is one of the driest in Armenia, nice and green, with beds of wildflowers here and there. The number and variety of birds we saw as we drove along the foothills towards Lanjar was incredible! The lime-green, blue and purple (I think) bee-eater birds were everywhere and gorgeous. Then there were hawks, storks, yellow, black, black and white birds, swallows and pidgeons. Eventually we headed down a dirt track to Surp Karapet Monastery, where a tent community springs up each summer to pasture their animals.
We got back to the highway and headed for Yerevan, reaching the outskirts around 10pm when the cops stopped us for "starting to signal too late in the turn". This is one of the worst police points in Armenia I think, and of course we were not about to pay them a bribe. They started to give us a hard time about Davits driving license not being international and were not letting us go, so I decided to take their picture, which usually polarizes the situation one way or another. This guy freaked out and accussed us of being spies and claimed he would take us in for questions. He puts our car in a gated area right there and now a big scene is developing with a half a dozen cops gathering to see what is going on. The whole time I have been playing with my GPS machine and they are telling me to turn it off and take it away from them... I refuse knowing they have no clue what it does and that it makes them more nervous. I tell them we need to make some calls to friends and they are demanding I delete the picture (by this time I have explained it is a digital picture and showed them the shot too). We start writing down police badge numbers (which they are trying to hide) and names as well and again demanding to make some calls which makes them more nervous. Well now the captain starts to explain to us how we really should get an international driving license and how it is against the law to take pictures of police and their posts. I insist I don't believe it, and that on a public road I can take any picture I like... but that if they stop bothering us and let us go I will delete it. At their long winded explanations of the law I assume that they are looking for a way out and so I decide to really tell them my honest mind, what the hell. I tell them I have published a guidebbook to Armenia which is in the car, and that their pathetic attempts to collect a 1000 dram bribe from tourists is disgusting. I told them I am working like mad trying to attract visitors who will come and spend honest money in honest places and that they don't need to see cops every five minutes who leave a bad taste in their mouth. Next time you accidentally pull over a tourist I said, you should first say "Welcome", be very polite, and if you can speak their language explain what they have done wrong and ask them to be more careful, then say bon voyage to them. Most of them were knodding and saying it is true. They all want to see the book and already they are all laughing and chatting with us except for the one guy who originally tried to get the bribe from us. They enjoyed flipping through the book and the chief invited me to go into the mountains to see some cool khatchkars he was sure I did not know about. Anyways by now they had agreed that "because we are guests" they will let us go, as long as I deleted the picture, which I did in front of them, and deleted the recording (they thought the GPS was some kind of recording device ;-) So at 10:30 as we pull off into the now dark streets of Yerevan we had a half a dozen cops shouting "Welcome" at us... definitely one of the more interesting police stops here. Should I call up the cop who offered to show me around in the mountains? It is quite tempting I must say.
Aaanyways, last night was a big game of Risk, which was a long and brutal battle. We paused for the Simpsons which was the episode where you find out Principal Skinner's real name is Armen Tamzarian. It was hilarious.