Location: Seven Olives Hotel, Lalibela
Miles travelled: 325 miles (over two days)
Weather: 28ºC - cooler at altitude
Today we mostly listened to: The Beatles
So after a somewhat nervous sleep amongst the wildlife noises at Kim and Tim's, we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over the lake, which we watched from the comfort of the roof tent. It was lovely until abo ut 7am when the suns rays came streaming in to the tent making it unbearably hot.
We spent the day relaxing and used the opportunity to clean out Monty (which took me several hours because of the thick layer of dust that had accumulated). Craig laughed at me lots saying it would only get dirty again straight away so why bother - I found out the next day that he was correct.
In the afternoon we bathed in the Lake (after being assured there was no Bilhartzia there) and enjoyed a supper of fish cakes - from fresh fish caught that morning. Several beers followed.
The next morning we planned to set off around 9am to get to Bahir Dar to drop Mitch off at a secure parking spot. Pim and Git dont think he will make it to Lalibela, on account of the road being God awful, so they hitched a ride in Monty. Things didn't go quite according to plan when Mitch decided not to start. After much consternation about the problem and a couple of hours trying different things we finally got him up and running. Turns out they had run out of diesel and air had got in the system - well that was my understanding of it although I'm sure Ric, Pim or Craig would correct me slightly.
Anyway, by midday we were away and Ric and I decided to make a detour to a particularly interesting village we had heard about. Awramba is quite possibly the only aethist village in the whole of Africa (I can't clarify that for sure, but I can't think of any others). It was set up about 30 years ago by a small group of Ethiopians who decided that the best way to live your life is upon the basic principles of being nice to all human beings, getting a good education and working bloody hard. We couldn't completely understand the guide that took us around the village but what we could make out was the following. They have no church, mosque or other religious buildings. Life in the village centres around the school and library. They have a big weaving industry (and men and women share the weaving), they have an old peoples home, a clinic, contraceptives and no beggars. Decisions on how to spend collective monies (generated from guiding tourists around the village) are decided by a committee, but as far as we could make out individuals do have some private income - so a sort of semi-socialist society. Our guide made the staggeringly obvious statement of 'why wait for paradise in heaven, when you can create it on earth', how nice.
So we found ourselves extremely drawn to the little village of Awramba and if it weren't for their 'no beer' and 'no holiday' rules we might have fitted in here quite nicely. But we dont like to work so hard and Ric comes out in a cold sweat if he doesn't know where his next cold one will come from, so after donating some books to the library - we thought Animal Farm appropriate - we moved on.
We made it to Bahir Dar in the evening and had our first real taste of Ethiopian cuisine - which is....different. Injera pancakes seem to be the stapple. They are made from Tef flour and water and taste like soggy cardboard. The worst thing though is what they look like when you unwrap them - like a Buffolo Bill, Silence-of-the-Lambs-style strip of flesh - yuk. The food is also extremely spicy - particularly this little red paste (the name escapes me at the moment). Personally I haven't really liked the Ethiopian food we've had so far, but Pim loves it, so its clearly a matter of taste. The best restaurants are in Addis by all accounts, so I'll continue to persevere and maybe I'll change my mind in the next blog update.
After a night at the Ghion hotel in Bahir Dar (where we camped) we headed off to Lalibela nice and early. We had heard that the road was awful and would take us about 7 hours to do 250km. Despite this, we remained stupidly optimisic that we could do it quicker. After 7.5 hrs of bone shaking, fat wobbling road - along some of the most stunning sceneary we have seen so far incidently - we rolled in to the hilltop village of Lalibela where our pilgrimage ended.
Lalibela has 12 rock-hewn churches built in the 12th century by King Lalibela, who apparently built them after visiting Jerusalem, so that Ethiopians didn't have to go on long pilgrimages anymore. All are carved out of the rocks by hand and still operate as working churches today. I may be completely ignorant here but I never really realised that Ethiopia has such a rich, cultural history that dated back so far - you just dont hear about it for some reason.
We spent today wandering around the different sites and also visiting the local Saturday market. We've also had several conversations with the local boys about 'broken footballs' and them needing 200 Ethiopian Bir (about £10) to buy a new one so their team can play again. I think we spoke with five unlucky teams in total who had this exact same problem. Ric suggested that whoever the man was to finally set-up a 'football puncture repair shop' in Lalibela would find himself very weathly very quickly.
Apart from this amusing little scam, there does seem to a definate reduction in begging here - I think because the Ethiopian Tourist Board is actively trying to stamp it out. The rest of Ethiopia seems to be another story! We've had three tiny kids literally climbing through my open window because they spotted some sweets and everywhere you go the youngsters hold out their hands and shake them in front of you shouting 'give me money, give me pen'. And children are everywhere! We stopped on the side of the road on the way to Lalibela so I could have a wee break and after looking and thinking no-one was around and therefore commencing my business, children suddenly started coming out of the bushes and asking for money - I blame Bob Geldoff for my interupted pee.
But don't get me wrong, this country is still awesome, and not how you would imagine it if you just think about the 1980's famine. What has struck me more than anything is quite how beautiful the landscape is. In the places we have been so far, it has been lush and green. Can't wait to see more on the way down to Addis and the South.