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Published: April 4th 2007
Many pilgrims ask to be buried close to the Lalibela churches. This was one on the Bete Giyorgis Church wall.
Ha Ha Ha
This is for the ones thinking that travel is like a ferry tale. Nice places, nice people, nice views and nice food.
The ferry tale part:
A typical local meal in a lazy southern village, sitting on small chairs and eating from a hand woven grass table. (US$ 0.40 for two people!)
Enjoing the view of the desert spotted with few small mud huts. Driving slowly watching trough the window the dusty roads staying behind. (US$ 2.00 for a 200km trip)
Sleep in a hotel room with open door and window, seeing the stars on the clean desert sky. (US$ 1.20 per night)
Now comes the backpackers side of things:
We arrived in town very hungry. We couldn't speak a world of Amharic and they don't speak anything else. So we made a sign of being hungry and spoke the traditional words: Food, Bread, Rice, salad, etc. But the guy seam not to understand any of them until it came out the word "meat". Suddenly the guy stopped us and started to make strange hand signals. As we didn't know what it meant we said "Yes" and hopped for the best.
Bete Giyorgis Church
In Lalibela (Northern Ethiopia) can be found 11 churches carved directly in the stone. This churches where build by King Lalibela in the twelve centure as the new Jerusalem, in response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslims.
The friendly guy brought us one tray with something like a towel covering it and direct on top of that a few bowls containing meat. We said OK and suddenly the guy flipped the bows on top of the "Towel" and left to the kitchen. We kept looking at each other until with our hands (Forks who need them?? hehehe)
we started to eat the meat. Half way trough we realize the "towel" was a kind of bread-pancake that could be also eaten. Its name is Ngera and afterwards we realize that is the base of the Ethiopian cuisine. You rip a piece of the Njera and with it take some of what is on top.
The landscape from Ethiopia is astonishing, but the busses..... They are from the Stone Age, the maximum speed is 50km/h (we have been overtaken by a agricultural tractor once!)
and each 10 km stop to take more passengers(Even if you consider the bus is already more than full)
. A 200km trip takes around 12 hours (Don't think the roads are bad!They are much better than other african countries!)
! As the Ethiopians are short they put three passengers every two seats, and the leg
Bete Giyorgis Church hole
The churches are carved from a single stone in amaysing sizes.
room is so short your knees hit against the rosted bolts from the next seat.
Besides the bus itself, the people take everything inside: soap boxes, chickens, cooking oil, chickens, packs, chickens, flower bags, chickens, gallons, more chickens. (sometimes even a few goats!)
The buses also don't travel at night. We learned that luckly not in the hard way. Around six o'clock coming from Gondar (No, has nothing to do with the Lord of the Rings... hehehe)
to Addis Ababa. We stopped in a petrol station on the side of the road and suddenly everyone started to run away from the bus. We watched and wondered that may have happened? Why is these people running? After a few seconds when the bus got almost empty, a friendly Ethiopian that was traveling with us started to shout for us to run with him. - What about the bags on the roof of the bus? - We asked - Forget them! Just run!! - he answered. We got out of the bus and we saw that the streets were full of people running. We were getting scared, what is happening? After a few hundred meters run, our friend explained us that the
A priest reading the holy book (written in Ge'ez) for the pilgrims that visit the churches in Lalibela.
buses don't drive at night and because the city was very small and many buses stop overnight there, would not have place in the hotels for everyone. So we needed to find one as quickly as possible. Around one kilometer of marathon we found a hotel for us.
The desert if beautiful, but is hot, veeeery hot. Open the windows? No way! "Make you sick" Say the locals. The good thing is at every stop there are dozens of people selling every kind of food trough the bus windows. Cookies, mineral water, carrots, chat (a stimulant plant, they chew it all the time), sugar cane, corn, bananas, etc. Very handy! But rubbish bins are nonexistent, so they throw all the packeging and garbage on the streets ("for the goats" someone told me)
or inside the bus. By the end of the trip there is dirt everywhere, on the floor, on the seats, and often on your lap (Usually not yours)
!! Because they don't eat the whole plant of chat, just a few leaves, in the end of the trip you find yourself in the amazon jungle with all the remainings thrown all over the place.
In this buses we spend
Careful work in the carving of the windows of one of 11 Lalibela's churches.
two days from Addis Ababa to Lalibela. One day in Lalibela and three day to the border with Djibouti. This 5 days from 5 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon to run around 1100Km.
Ahhhh... it's so good to leave the bus and stretch the legs! So lets find a hotel.
We are half way between Ethiopia and Djibouti. Locals are a bit apprehensive with the conflicts between the two countries taking place in this area. There was some kidnapping a few weeks ago, so mercenaries take the bus to security (until we discovered that they were security, we were very uncomfortable with the 15 years old boy, wearing just a skirt and a machine gun, sitting on our side.)
But all these tension doesn't change the people's habit of, on the hottest hours of the day, seating around chewing chat very confortable and relaxed. We think even the rebels must do the same, so no danger at this time.
The sun begins to set, but the heat remains the same. The hotel owner starts to take the beds out of the rooms and dispose at the courtyard. After a while she asked me if we also
The work inside the churches are also amazing. Some of them have fine carvings on many columns
wanted my bed outside. But why? - "Because with the heat you can't sleep inside the rooms!" - She was right, with open door and window I could appreciate the stars in a clean desert sky, but sleep? No way! Too hot!!
The last picture we took is from the courtyard with the beds outside. The hotel is very cheap but look the standards he he he! In the red barrel was water for shower. Just take a bucket and a mug!! Ha Ha Ha
At the end there is something everyone has to agree: travel in Ethiopia is fun and can be "ridiculously" cheap!!
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