I was descending a Georgian mountain pass in a rented Renault Duster when, rounding a curve with six-foot snow drifts to either side, a dark and narrow tunnel came into view. Looking down the mountain, I could see the other end of it — and an apparently endless convoy of eighteen-wheelers making their way up, entering in the opposite direction. I couldn’t imagine how we’d fit alongside each other, but I pressed on, only to find myself in a black hole. The headlights illuminated nothing. I rolled down the window — one of those useless things you do when beginning to panic — and realized that we were in a cloud of black truck exhaust so thick it was blinding.
I’d come to Georgia to ski — attracted by images of the towering Caucasus Mountains and reports of affordable skiing without the crowds. Those who knew Georgia tended to describe it warmly: exotic and undiscovered, with great food, situated at a crossroads full of history, and changing — its young population striving to show off a post-Soviet identity to the world.