A three-hour drive to the South East of Krasnodar will see you arriving in a small village called Mezmay. The village itself is a collection of small houses, dirt and gravel roads, tiny supermarkets and newly-built eco-lodges. What’s so special about this place is the spectacular forests that can be found, courtesy of the pristine national park surrounding the town.
Among the many attractions in this area is Eagle Shelf, an impressive rock ledge, about 100m above ground level, that looks out over the village and surrounding valleys.
As you’re driving into Mezmay, before the bitumen stops, you will see a small trail leading into the woods on the right. This spot is normally better signposted by the cars that are parked there by keen hikers. This section of the road is really steep so you might need to put some rocks in front of your tyres unless you are ready to put complete faith in your handbrake.
The trail starts and you are immediately surrounded by unspoiled, picturesque forest; Oak trees, bushes, wild flowers and the illusive wild orchid are just some of the botanical delights to be found.
This forest is stunning at any time of year, whether it be in its greenest state during spring, covered in shades of yellow, orange and red in autumn or under a blanket of white snow in winter.
There are clearings with tables and chairs made from logs, paths for hikers, BMX riders and four-wheelers and a freshness to the air that can only be found in such remote, undiscovered places.
The trail continues with a mixture of steep and flat sections until you near a tall, pinky-orange cliff that signals you are close to the shelf. This forest is filled with various trails. If you want to make your way to Eagle Shelf, stick to the lower trails and they will lead you along this cliff face and out onto the shelf itself where you can sit, stand, lie or pose however you like while enjoying the view.
You’ll be able to see tall mountains in the distance, the blue rooves of the village houses below and endless forest. The shelf is big enough to hold quite a few people and it is a popular spot for selfies so you might have to wait a while to get a picture there. But the air is fresh, the nature beautiful and the atmosphere serene.
If you want to avoid the crowds and are feeling a little daring, you can take a higher trail that will lead you out onto a smaller and higher shelf that only has enough room for about 4 people. From here, the famous Eagle Shelf seems far below and you won’t be bothered by any other climbers.
This is a place where you can observe nature; the vultures flying by, the green-back lizards and hear the songs of many smaller birds. It’s a unique experience and a must-do for anyone who is in the south of Russia.