A bit of background to Macahel.

While travelling in Tusheti/Georgia we had heard tell of lost forgotten lands that had been part of Georgia and were now part of Turkey .After some investigation I discovered small that remote region surrounding the Machakheli valley had been part of the Georgian kingdom until its fragmentation in the late 15th century, later passing into the hands of the Princes of Samtskhe. Unfortunately the Samtskhe dynasty fell foul of the Ottoman Sultan ‘Mehmed II’ in 1479. History continued to play cat and mouse with the region until temporary occupation in 1918 1920 by Turkish and British troops. While Europe licked it’s wounds the Soviet Russia signed the Kars agreement in 1921 with Turkey, thus creating the current Turkish-Soviet border. The outcome of the negotiations divided the remote Machakheli valley into two distinct areas, Upper and Lower Machakheli, with Turkey taking control of the upper part of Machakheli valley making up six villages: Düzenli (Zedvake), Efeler (Eprati), Kayalar (Kvabitavi), Maral (Mindieti), and Uğur (Akria). The centre of Upper Machakheli, Khertvisi , was renamed in 1925 as "Camili" (the place with the mosque ) subsequently the local areas is often referred to as Camili with the main village taking the name Camili.
On the other side of the border the Georgian province of Adjara Georgia supports the remaining twelve villages which are considered as part of the Municipality of Khelvachauri. These villages are known as Upper Chkhutuneti, Lower Chkhutuneti, Chikuneti, Ckhemlara, Skurdidi, Ajarisagmarti, Kedkedi, Sidieti, Zhanviri, Gorgadzeebi, Safutkreti.
During the remaining years of the 20th century these hidden lands continued their life of obscurity, protected from the world due to their proximity to the sensitive Russian border. It was only in 2007 when restrictions were lifted on the Turkish side that foreign nationals were permitted to visit the Turkish side with a permit. What sets this unique area apart from other mountain communities is the Turkish side of the Machakheli valley is cut off during the winter for 6 months of the year due to harsh weather conditions making the roads impassable. As a result of these challenging conditions the six villages on the Turkish side of the valley are permitted to travel to Georgia during the winter months when in need of critical services such as the hospital.

Imerhev village in Macahel

Life remains unchanged for the folk in the valley of Macahel. Cradled within their unique valley, Georgian continues to be spoken on both sides setting them apart from the world beyond the Lesser Caucuses. And language is not the only unique characteristic of this region. During the summer months the majority of the Turkish population follow a transhumant way of life, driving their livestock, high up onto the mountain plateaus where life follows its natural pace while the community live a life as their forefathers in small wooden shanty villages. This account illustrates the journey two families the Wills’s and Pomeroys, made while discovering the Machakheli valley and surrounding mountain plateaus known locally as the Yayalars’.

Mereta Yayalar high in the mountain pastures .