Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Northern Trip-Part 2

On this trip of 30 folks, there were about 8 from the UK, 2 from the US, 9 from Ethiopia, 5 Italians, and the rest from European countries. The Italians were quite vocal and often exclaimed "Mamma Mia"while our bus was on a treacherous road, "Bravo" when we had concluded, or "Belissimo" when we came across stunning scenery which was every day. After leaving Aksum, we arrived in the evening at Makalle and stayed in different hotels as we did not have reservations for the whole group. The next day, January 2, was also a long drive to get to Woldiya and stayed in a disappointing hotel. They had no running water but when asked would bring a bucket of water for cleaning up which I appreciated. In the late afternoon the next day we arrived at Lalibella and settled in at the Roha Hotel. Many of our group had dinner together. We headed off with a guide the next day to tour most of the 11 historic churches. Since it was getting close to Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas (Jan 7) the place was crowded with tourists, pilgrims, beggars, monks, nuns and vendors.

These rock hewn churches are magnificent structures to see. Many had a shelter over them to protect the church interiors. Our guide hired a shoe guy as we had to always remove our shoes before entering a church and then find and put our shoes back on before heading to the next church. I was happy that I had socks on as some in our group had sandals and bare feet. The church interiors was not the best or cleanest at this hectic time. Some churches were smaller and they were packed to the brim with visitors. As usual, some rooms in the church did not allow women to enter, but one could take photos at the entrance. The next day we visited a cave church on our way out and heard a priest giving a talk about church history in Amharic and also heard a bit of church music with their drums and sistrum instruments. In the evening we browsed the shops and had dinner. Water was only available for 1 1/2 hours in the morning and evening as this is a very dry area.

The next day took us back to the not so nice hotel with no water. Some of us tried to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant and had to wait more than two hours for the food to appear. We resumed our road travel early the next morning and stopped to purchase kolo or roasted barley along the way. There were also children selling bunches of carrots, women selling white honey (with the wax mixed in) or boiled beans which was hot and so delicious.

We arrived in Dessie town on January 7 which was the local Christmas day. We walked around the museum grounds as the building was closed. We stayed in the Ghion Hotel but our room had no bathroom, just a public bath which did not look great. Our whole group ate together and had very good service. While waiting for the food Elizabeth suggested we sing Christmas carols which we did in different languages. After my kitfo meal (minced ground beef) & vegetable soup, Elizabeth served us a Christmas bread and South African wine for dessert. A few people wanted to do some Ethiopian dancing so we found a local radio station and started. Later, the hotel staff brought some cassettes which had better music and some of us stayed up late dancing. Back at my room I asked for a bucket of water since there was no running water. It arrived but it looked like the bucket was an old trash can. I put disinfectant in the water before I cleaned up and went to sleep. During dinner we heard there was a problem with our bus overheating and the drivers were busy trying to make repairs.

The next day was the final day of our trip, January 8, 2008. The bus was not ready and parts had to be found, etc. Eventually we left Dessie town at 11am, five hours later than expected. We had a long drive and passed by many scenic viewpoints, especially Debre Zina and Debre Brehan. We arrived in Addis about 11:20pm and said our goodbyes and quickly dispersed.

Although we covered much ground and were on the bus a great deal, our wildlife group had an opportunity to see many unique sights and meet some interesting people along the way. As usual, another wonderful wildlife trip arranged by Elizabeth who has lived in Ethiopia for about 42 years. We had really good weather, fairly good road conditions but did witness much construction along the way. The Chinese are doing much of this road work building small bridges with Oriental motifs and using their construction machines.

Along the trip I found out through various phone calls that my electricity had been cut in my apt. in Addis Ababa. My fantastic maid cleaned up the fridge mess before I arrived and a considerate neighbor refrigerated some food items. Went to work tired the next day with good memories of our explorations to the northern regions of Ethiopia.

Ciao for now.

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