Published: April 6th 2012March 19th 2012
We were up at 5.30 a.m. to get to the bus station in time to get on the road early enough so that we might get to Lalibela that day. We managed to get a bus to Alamata, changed to one going to Woldia, which broke down twice along the way. From there, we got a bus to Gashena. It would be more accurate to describe Gashena as a crossroads rather than a town, but it is 65 km south of Lalibela and must be passed through to access it.
We got to Gashena some time in the middle of the afternoon and fancied our chances of reaching Lalibela that day. It wasn't to be and we couldn't find any transport going there, so we had to get rooms in the only hotel around. The height of the excitement was yet more injera. Injera is the Ethiopian National dish, which is a sour grey pancake that looks like a dirty tea towel, where they put all sorts of sauces, beans, vegetables and sometimes meat (but not now during fasting season) in the middle. You rip off some of the injera and scoop up the fillings with it. It's actually a
lot tastier than it sounds and looks, but at this stage I had at it about 9 times out of 10 over the past 2 weeks and was getting a little sick of it.
The next morning, we got a the bus to take us the rest of the way to Lalibela. We checked into the Private Roha Hotel, whose toilet had an epic view out on to the churches. Lalibela is Ethiopia's prime tourist attraction because of the churches, which were carved into the ground. Having seen some similar churches (or what I thought might be similar) recently enough, I was a little worried that I might be a bit disappopinted, especially as everyone I had spoken to that had been there raved about them.
I certainly wasn't disappointed. The first thing that strikes you about them is their size. They are over 10 metres tall and have been carved down into the ground, with the inside also carved out. I also found it remarkable that they aren't just a tourist attraction, but are still in use. As you go from church to chapel, you often stumble upon a priest praying on his own. Although, I think
I found one who was asleep as opposed to praying.
It's difficult to describe them any further and I only hope that the photos I took do them justice. There was definitley a similar feeling to being in Petra, with some of the churches linked by pitch black tunnels you have to walk through. The most impressive one is the St. George Church, which from the top is in the shape of a cross. On our first day, we were met by a group of Ethiopian students studying to be tour guides. We met them later for a few beers and went to a traditional club with them. It was really good to have a night with some Ethiopians who didn't look for any drinks or money off us, which unfortunately always seems to be the case. It also lashed rain for a couple of hours both days we were there. It was, supposedly, the first rain they had had in 7 months. Yet again, I was bringing the Irish weather with me.
There are more photos below