*¨*•☆ After travelling on my 19 month World Odyssey I fell in LOVE with Africa and wanted to go back and do some Aid or Charity work. I have chosen Ethiopia, and will be moving there in January 2013. I have the challenge of learning a new culture, a new language and making new friends and this blog will follow the trial and tribulations of my exciting new beginning. Follow my journey....☆•*¨*
BUMMER OF THE DAY: 36 hours in planes and airports makes for a BIG day
WORD OF THE DAY: Saudi Arabian Airlines
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 8816km
Today I leave Addis Ababa Today I leave Zeme Today I fly Saudi Arabia Airlines Today I head to Phuket....... I will be back-you can count on that
My flight departs at 2pm today. It is the first time out of my three visits that I have had a day flight and the last time I left Addis Ababa it was mayhem at the airport so I decided to leave the hotel a little early to account for any snaffu time. Zeme and I say our good-byes now at the hotel, as public displays of affection is frowned upon, so with promises made, some tears, hugs and plenty of kisses is all done in private and I think I really like that, especially when there are tears as I hate crying in public. It is sort of nice to get the farewell done, and as a bonus I still get to spend time with Zeme with the drive to the airport and still get a quick hug and kiss anyway when he drops me off. People are not allowed into the terminal unless they are travelling, so the quick good-bye is all done in the carpark, Zeme gets me a trolley, I load up the monster and my other 2 bags and it is good-bye now and the new countdown begins with only 68 days until I return in the middle of November. Hopefully to collect Zeme for our trip to Australia, if not I get another precious week with him, before I head home for Christmas. It is a win win for me and I’m happy with our next plan of attack. Now I just need to take with me the memories of another great trip and look forward to my last 8 weeks of travel. I didn’t really do any of Asia on this Odyssey, with its close (well 8 hours) from Australia, I have done a lot of the Asian continent already including China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Brunei, Hong Kong and Indonesia. My Tran Mongolian trip took me out of Beijing and we were in China for around 5 days, but that was all of my Asia extent. Now I am heading back to Asia, as it is cheap, I have a wedding to go to, it is cheap, and it was not far for me to then travel home to Australia at Christmas time.
So with a wave and a toot Zeme was out of the carpark as I made my way to the terminal building when I was topped at a small security check point booth as I left the carpark. He asked where I was going, asked to see my passport and my ticket and then I was waved through with have a nice flight. Your bags are scanned before you are permitted to enter the building and as I did this, with my Ethiopian bangle causing a ruckus in Ethiopia, I looked around and there were more staff than passengers. The airport was deserted. I hate that feeling as you then start to think did I miss my flight? Am I early? Am I late? Was it cancelled? As you wander in with that lost look someone came over to me and asked where I was going and where I told them Riyadh he pointed me in the right direction, so it was still going and I was in the right place. There was only one man in front of me already at the counter and he was taking forever, fishing around in his bag for paperwork etc… Seriously I was there for like 15 minutes, but the supervisor was really nice and pulled some-one from somewhere else to check me in as this dude fluffed around. They were all so nice. I got my window seat; my bag checked only through to Singapore and the BEST news my bag only weighed 22kg!!! I had successfully unloaded 6kgof stuff with Zeme and I think my day pack was lighter as well, so I think I should be able to slip through Jetstar Asia with only 2kg over what I had paid for. If they make me pay it isn’t the end of the world with it being like 15AUD a kilo, I can handle that if it comes to it. So my travel day was starting out brilliantly.
There was not a single person at customs and I was processed in 3 seconds. I am waiting for them to ask me why I keep coming back as I now have 3 visa’s in my passport, and you can’t miss them, they are the big stickers that take up a whole page in your passport, but not once have I been asked which I am fine to say why, but I wonder if that would create some concern at all? I don’t know but as long as they don’t keep asking I won’t be saying anything. There were a few people in the departures area, but again it was like a ghost town. My flight was due to depart at 2pm with us having to be at the gate at 1.15pm. Because there was no-one around I was at the departures at 11.35am. I had some time to kill and thought I may as well get some food while I can. All the shops and duty free stores were closed and a handful of restaurants were open. It’s obviously not a busy time for them to be open; I guess I can see why with only 30 of us in the terminal!! I was lucky the café that I picked had free Wi-Fi so over lunch I was able to keep myself busy. This was New Year’s Day, a public holiday in Ethiopia (maybe that was why it was so quiet, doesn’t work like that in Australia) and the café had a coffee ceremony for the airport staff where coffee is brewed on a little open fire, popcorn and cake is passed around and as I left they were cranking some Ethiopian tunes and I could hear clapping.
I got to my gate at 1.05pm-keeping in mind we didn’t have to be there till 1.15pm and besides 2 staff members there was not a soul in sight. My first reaction was that I was the only one on the flight! But I could see through the glass onto the aero bridge and they had started boarding early. As I made my way down the aerobridge there were about 10 Arabian women in front of me and 2 men. I was surprised as I thought that I would have been travelling predominately with men based on their culture. Our bags were inspected at the aircraft doors on a small table by 2 security guards and the men were also scanned with security wand before they were allowed on the aircraft. I thought maybe they don’t scan the women, but once we were on board the women were taken into the galley, the curtain drawn and then that was where we were scanned. Once I was on my boarding pass was checked twice by the crew before I could take my seat. Talk about security PLUS, but I don’t mind as it is all for a reason and for our own safety. We were sitting on an Airbus A320 with a seating configuration of 3 x3 and have the capacity to seat 120 economy passengers, when I counted heads there were 28 of us!!! I would say 20 of them were females. I wonder what brings Arabian women to Ethiopia. So not only did I have the seat next to me free I had the whole dang row!!! Woo hoo this trip is just getting better by the minute. My travel gods have come back and it is good to have them on board. As everyone was on board the doors closed at 1.20pm and we were in the air at 1.35pm. Not bad for a 2pm departure and I don’t think I have EVER been on a flight that leaves 40 minutes early. The plane seemed quite new and anything would be luxury after my hell flight with Ethiopian-ugh I still shudder about that flight. Well while Saudi Arabian Airlines were on a roll they served us lunch 20 minutes after taking off and we had a choice of beef, chicken or fish, drinks were served and then we were able to settle in for the 2 hour and 45 minute flight to Riyadh.
Saudi Arabiais the largestArabstate in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of theArabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in theArab world (afterAlgeria). Saudi Arabia has an area of approximately 2,250,000 km2and it has an estimated population of 27 million, of which 9 million are registered foreign expatriates and an estimated 2 million are illegal immigrants. Saudi nationals comprise an estimated 16 million people. The kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference toAl-Masjid al-Haram(inMecca), andAl-Masjid al-Nabawi(inMedina), the two holiest places in Islam. Saudi Arabia has the world's secondlargest oil reserveswhich are concentrated largely in theEastern Provinceand oil accounts for more than 95% of exports and 70% of government revenue. It has also the world'ssixth largest natural gas reserves. In short they are quite a wealthy country but not without their own internal issues and tensions. A rare independent opinion poll published in 2010 indicated that Saudis’ main social concerns were unemployment (at 10% in 2010), corruption and religious extremism. The physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such asbeheading,stoning,amputation andlashing, and the number of executions have been strongly criticized and the death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder, rape,armed robbery, repeated drug use,apostasy,adultery,witchcraftand sorceryand can be carried out by beheading with a sword, stoning or firing squad, followed by crucifixion. One in fourchildren are abusedin Saudi Arabia.TheNational Society for Human Rightsreports that almost 45% of the country's children are facing some sort of abuse and domestic violence. It has also been claimed that trafficking of women is a particular problem in Saudi Arabia as the country's large number of female foreign domestic workers, and loopholes in the system cause many to fall victim to abuse and torture and lastly there is widespreadinbreedingin Saudi Arabia, resulting from the traditional practice of encouraging marriage between close relatives, has produced high levels of severalgenetic disorders including thalassemia, sickle cell anemia,spinal muscular atrophy, deafness and muteness. I guess the saying is true that money can’t buy you everything. Anyway I wasn’t visiting the country, I have not burning desire to visit this country, it does not sound like a country for a visiting single female (I didn’t think you can anyway) and I was just happy to pass through the airport thank you very much.
I like the day flights as I can look out my window, I can take pictures and it was good to see our decent into the country of Saudi Arabia. Once we had cleared the clouds we had 40 minutes where we could get a small aerial view of the country. And all you could see was sand, as far as the eye could see was sand. Not the nice beach yellow sand, this sand had a red tinge to it and it was everywhere. You could see housing estates as we flew over and there was no grass to be seen anywhere, their backyards were sand. Sand, sand, sand. I am not sure I could live in a place like that. There were brief, very brief glimpses of green, but we aren’t talking the sweet green grass of home, they were shrubby looking trees and certainly nothing you could rub your toes through like you can with soft green grass. You could see the road network and the main road we were following in was like a black marker pen line drawn on the sand, it was straight as a die and no houses or service stations on this stretch of road, I tell ya you wouldn’t want to break down there that’s for sure. And the estates that we did see were perfect satellite cities, all perfectly laid out in big massive squares with all the roads running in a beautiful grid style pattern. Nothing like being able to plan a city from scratch. We landed at 4.30pm with the welcome to Saudi Arabia information (the English version is very short and sweet) we were told that the current temperature outside was 41C. WOW. I was sitting there thinking thank goodness I won’t have to go out in that heat when I could see from my window buses coming to pick us up. So much for not getting out in the heat. I must say it didn’t feel like 41C when I stepped off the plane and down the stairs to the waiting bus (only one for 28 of us) and the bus wasn’t really that air-conditioned either but it was a quick 10 minute ride to the terminal where we all got off and as we exited into the terminal proper we were swept up in another plane disembarking and they were all men. I swear there would have been 100 of them, all dressed in their PJ looking day clothes and this is when I first thought-okay, what have I got myself into? I could see customs from where I was standing as I tried to get some form of bearings and they were all men, there would have been 300 of them down there with a pinch of a few women…. I was then rescued by a staff member asking where I was going and when I told him I was a transit passenger, he pointed me down this empty wide corridor where I could see a security check point at the end. I can’t be the only transit passenger out of all these people surely? So I made my way down to the security booths that were empty when a security man popped out from down the hall and started walking towards me with a smoke in his hands, he had a piece of paper in his hands and welcomed me to his country and asked for my name and destination, checked I had a boarding pass and then asked me to sit on some chairs to wait for the other transit passengers. I waited around 20 minutes, and was joined in dribs and drabs by about 20 other people where we had to throw our stuff through a security scanner and walk through one. Well as usual I beeped and I was waved into a small room where a lady sat covered head to toe in her black burka, all I could see were her eyes where I was checked with a security wand, asked where I was going, cleared and as I left she said to me to have a nice trip.
We were all then herded up an escalator right into the oncoming traffic of a boarding flight. That couldn’t be good. So we had to wait to one side as they got the travelers through the gate, if we didn’t have our wits we could have been making a trip to Dubai instead. That was a cock up I rekon as the check-in staff were saying something to the guy that had bought us upstairs. Welcome to Riyadh GOOGLE INTERNATIONAL NAME where I had the next 9 hours to kill before my flight to Singapore. It was an old terminal that was going through a makeover, but there seemed to be plenty of seats, a few small duty free shops and a handful of food outlets. As I did a lap to orientate myself the first thing I noticed was the men, I rekon I was out numbered 100 to 1. There were women around as well but not as many as the men and I only saw 1 other western woman and she was wearing leggings with a short top, I would never do that in a country like this, even though she did look good. I was feeling bad enough with what I had on and I dressed with care this morning to make sure I wasn’t showing to much skin with ¾ pants, a shirt with sleeves and no cleavage and I made sure I remembered my scarf, and I still felt bad. I was certainly attraction attention but it wasn’t leery attention it was just a white woman at the airport attention. The next thing to check was if they had Wi-Fi and the answer to that was no. They have a site undergoing construction but it was not yet released to the public and some of the juice places and takeaways claimed to have Wi-Fi but it wasn’t working. So I had 9 hours to kill with no internet, gee they were making it hard. So I found a table overlooking one of the gates, O had purchased a drink and I set up the computer to get some serious blogging started. No more talk, I had to get it done. So I sat there for 1.5 hours till my computer went flat and I had to pick up stumps and find myself a power point. I found one right near the juice guy, so I asked if I could use his table and he said that was fine and I sat there for another 2 hours, blog, blog, blogging away. There is only so much typing one can do so after I finished my 3rd blog I played some games and updated my IPod with some recent photos and by this time it was 10.30pm. My flight was departing at 2am and boarding time was at 1.15am. I still had 2.5 hours to go. Because I was so early in arriving there wasn’t a gate number assigned so I decided to pack up, stretch some legs and find out what gate I was going to be leaving from. As I walked around the terminal each gate had TV boxes were TV’s used to be but they were all now empty. Every single one of them, so I went to the main entrance and they had LCD TV’s just through security, but they were all in Arabic, even the numbers, so there was no way I could tell or read a single thing on the screen. I waited for the screens to click over twice, as they normally show an English version as well, but not this time. So I walked to the Customer Service desk to ask them, and the first gentleman couldn’t understand I was saying Singapore, the second man next to him abruptly told me gate 25 without making eye contact and I was on my way to gate 25.
When I got to gate 25, there were a lot of people (mainly men) already waiting, so as an extra check for me I was trying to read their boarding passes to make sure that they too were going to Singapore? I probably looked like I was staring or a weirdo but I wanted to make sure I could find other people on my flight, cause sometimes they gate change and with no TV’s and not a lot of announcements in English I didn’t want to miss this flight. I couldn’t see a single one, but there were a group of men sitting across from me with bags labeled to Bangladesh. Is that where they are going or have come from? I had a sneaking suspicion that all these people were not on my flight; I couldn’t even see a single Singaporean or Asian person in amongst the 150 or so people at gate 25. Well I would give it till 1.15am when we were supposed to be boarding and then I will ask a staff member. I was listening to music and playing solitaire till around 12.45am when I figured I better start listening to the announcements that were blurted out of the speakers, I couldn’t really understand the places the man was saying but I could hear the number and the gate, so I got my flight number in my head and just listened. At 1.25am, I was just packing my stiff to make my way to the man behind the counter when he got up and called people travelling to Singapore….. that was me…. It wasn’t over the big speaker and I was the only one to get up….WTF………….. was no-one else travelling to Singapore? When I got to him, he checked my boarding pass and there was another man behind me and that was it. They opened the gate, let us in and then closed and locked the door. Ummmmmmmm where is everyone else. When I got to the aircraft there was no bag check or security scan and when I boarded the plane there were a few people already on, they must have come from somewhere else, but not many for such a large aircraft. I was seated in row 44 and when I got to 35 the hostee said I could take a seat anywhere, there were no people to come, and I think they wanted to condense the few people that were in this section which makes sense. I felt a little awkward this was a Boeing 777-300 with a seating configuration of 3x4x3 and as far as I could count there were 10 of us in economy where the capacity was for 250 economy passengers. So not only did I have a seat to myself, a row to myself but just about a whole section. I felt like I was on my own personal flight as you really couldn’t see the people in front, I was the last person in row 35…… have I stumbled on the world best kept airline secret? All I can say is they must have a crap load of cargo in this flight to make it profitable. I want to fly them again just to see if it was a freak flight or if it is like this all the time….. I only paid 350USD from Addis to Singapore so I know it aint my ticket helping them pay for the flight.
So with no further a-do we promptly took off at 2am-destination Singapore. It was an 8 hour and 10 minute flight and it was going to be a very comfortable flight indeed. The aircraft had in seat TV’s and a great movie selection, but by the time we were in the air and dinner had been served I had been on the go for nearly 16 hours. I still had an 8 hour flight, 5 hours on the ground in Singapore, a 2 hour flight to Phuket and then an hour’s drive to the hotel. I was just about half way…….. I did start to watch a movie after dinner, and out of all the seats I could have picked on the plane, mine had a bad flicker. That would be right, so I moved into the middle seat and started to watch Safe House before I started to nod off to sleep, so I moved back to the window where I could lean and I bunkered down for the night and got 6 hours sleep and woke to the smell of breakfast wafting through the cabin. I did wake up a few times as the turbulence was pretty bad and as they tried to serve breakfast it was suspended twice because of this and at one stage when I opened my water we hit a massive air pocket and I nearly lost the whole thing over my tray. We had a choice of pancakes, chicken and rice or poached eggs. It has been 24 hours since my check-in at Addis and already it seems like a lifetime ago. This continent jumping is a tiresome job.
We landed into Singapore at 3.35pm local time. There is a 5 hour time difference between Saudi and Ethiopia and we came into Terminal 3. I had to collect my bag and get myself to Terminal 1, but I wasn’t in a rush as I had a 5 hour connection here even though I hadn’t done the collect your bags and change terminals here in Singapore before. I guess I will be good at it by the end as I have to do this 4 more times in the next 6 weeks. Singapore have a lot of free internet stations located around their airport, so I thought I would quickly check my Facebook while I had a few minutes before having to get my bags. There were 2 messages from Zeme, I replied back, checked my email and 7 minutes later I was in the escalators down to customs. I was the only one in this massive hall going through and I am starting to believe I am travelling through some parallel world. Where are all the people? I asked the customs chick about getting to terminal 1 and it all sounded quite easy, so after locating a trolley, popping the monster on, getting stopped for a random bag scan, I was on my way to the train station. I knew you probably couldn’t take the trolley on the train so just before the station I lugged the monster on my back, got to the station and there was a train waiting, travelled the 5 minutes to terminal 1 and when I got off someone had left their trolley right at the train, so I popped monster back on a trolley and I was on my way again. It could not have been any easier if I had tried. I found the Jetstar Asia counter and thought I would try and off load my bag early as I was 4 hours early for my flight, but they took it no dramas and didn’t bat an eye lid at me being 2kg over and after passing through customs again for the second time in an hour I was pretty much back where I started as T1, 2 & 3 are all joined together.
I now had 4 hours to kill here, but Singapore is an amazing airport to kill time. I have to say I was a little hungry and I have this thing for chicken drummettes from Burger King. I went mad on them when I was in Spain and I know I can get them here in Singapore. So I bee-lined for Burger King via the customer service counter where you need to pick up passwords if you want to use the Wi-Fi as they have to register you before they can give the code out. You need one for each device so I got 2 with the idea that I would blog some more and keep my IPod also on the go. So with my delicious chicken drummettes, my passionfruit iced tea and internet connection I was a happy camper. This also sucked an hour of my time-woo hoo. 3 hours to go. They have a Pandora shop here at Changi (well 2) and I thought I would just go for a LOOK to see what new beads they had in. I am trying to expand my already fill bracelet with travel beads and I was looking for the evil eye bead to represent Turkey, Greece and Egypt. When I walked into the store she told me that it has been returned and you can’t buy it anymore (I’ll check EBay) I then saw a whole bunch of beads that were perfect and 3 of them you could only get in Singapore. I won’t tell you what I ended up walking out of that shop with but I think I need to ban myself from there in future, especially as I have 4 more transits through here it could prove fatal to the credit card. But I managed to kill another hour. 2 to go. I did need to buy a new watch, so that was next on my shopping list and I am a big fan of Swatch watches. So I found one that wasn’t too expensive and wasn’t to bling bling and with that helping to kill another 45 minutes I needed to start working out where the hell I was and where my flight was leaving from. It is easy to get disorientated at Changi. You can always find your way-everything is well signed but you can lose your bearings all the same. My flight was now on the departures board, so after getting a snack and some water to drink before my flight I sat outside my gate till we had to board at 7.45pm. I am not sure if it is me becoming late or not, but again there were no people in the departure lounge and I got to walk straight on the plane! Maybe my timing is getting better. Either way we left on time. This was a low cost airline so no food or drink are included in your price, not that it worried me as I had only paid 65AUD for the ticket, I was FULL and the flight was only 2 hours. It was a full flight, but I had my window and I think I slept for most of the flight anyway.
We arrived into Phuket at 9pm, 20 minutes early and then it was the final push for me-FINALLY I was in Phuket. I have 11 wonderful days here. I have no plans of doing any tours, I just want to chill, get my blog up-to-date and then I will be well rested when the Elkins and Randall’s arrive on the 22nd September. I have sent a gazillion people to Thailand in the course of my travel agent life and I knew that Australians didn’t need a visa, but I had a small panic when we got to customs there was a booth saying for you to get your visa’s here… WTF-when did that change!? But it was for certain passports and Australia was not one of them. After collecting a trolley and the monster I armed myself for the onslaught of taxi drivers pushing for a ride. I had googled what the cost would be for a taxi to Kata Beach when I was in Addis, so I had an idea and got the tip to use the taxi desk as you come out of customs. It was exactly as the internet said and I went to the taxi counter and asked how much for a taxi to Kata Beach and the man showed me pictures of cars and pointed to one that was 1650Bhat. The price I was told was 650Bhat. So I said not that was too expensive and then he produced a second sheet with cars that read 750Bhat. You have yourself a deal, I wonder how many people fall for his ploy of offering the most expensive car first, I guess if people have no idea they are caught unawares and get ripped off. Kata Beach is approximately an hour’s drive from the airport and I think 22AUD is worth the price.
We made it to the hotel within 50 minutes, there wasn’t too much traffic on the roads at 9.30pm and we also took the back road to Kata by passing Patong and all its craziness, I was expected and I was in my room 10 minutes after arriving. I just crashed in the bed for a few minutes, like a snow angle, glad to be at my final destination. Addis Ababa seems like a life time ago already but I take comfort that I am back again in November and I have left the man who I know I am supposed to be with at this moment and forever more. Is there a better feeling than knowing you are loved? I don’t know about you but I love being loved.
I finished reading this book the other day
and it took all my will to not shed a tear at the restaurant I was eating lunch
in in Thailand. I sometimes find it hard
to put into words how and why I want to move to Ethiopia when people ask me and
all I can say is that Africa changed my life and there must be a way somehow
that I can help these people achieve a better quality of life and in the
process enrich mine further. Open up the
beautiful country of Ethiopia to people who never would have imagined to travel
here – bring tourism to a country that is still, learning the tourist ropes and
spread the word it is safe to come and if I can help, in turn get others to
help, if it only changes one life then we have been successful.
Below are the last 4 pages from the book
Where There Is No Comfort, Seven Days in Ethiopia-Juliann Troi-Eloquent Books
2009 and it sums up my feelings pretty much to the letter. If you think you can help in anyway after
reading this please get in touch with me.
All it takes is one person to start the ball rolling……..
The next logical question;
How can one make a difference in a world so seemingly
Early in the 2003 film ‘Tears of the Sun” Bruce Willis’s
character cynically states that ‘God already left Africa’. For reasons I didn’t understand as I watched
from the safety of my living room, that scene stuck in my mind. I have revisited and mulled it over from time
to time over the years since. Perhaps,
deep down all that time I wondered if it really is. Has God abandoned Africa? Left her to founder and drown in a sea of
darkness. In the opinion of a Nigerian
friend, Africa is not dark at all, but rather blessed because there is a much
greater opportunity for good here. Light
is indeed brighter and more effective at night than during the day.
This trip showed me two important things:
God has not left Africa.
He is alive and well and working diligently on behalf of His people. While in need of help, Africa is not in need of anyone’s
quick fixes.She is in need of slow,
healing tender ministrations.Perhaps it
is a continent ravaged by disease, many preventable.Or it is ripped apart by hatred, brutality
and greed but, what if, as poets and optimists believe, love truly can
effectively nurture the dying and counter hate?What if little acts of genuine, heartfelt kindness made by people willing
to give of their resources or even leave their places of comfort and be
uncomfortable for a week or two, can right the worst wrongs.
It is true that during my seven days in Ethiopia, while I
developed a ‘new and improved’
definition of discomfort and lost many of my illusions, I found along the road
of this adventure something deep inside myself that refuses to be contained in
the limitation of human words. Is it
curiosity? A desire to know what makes this indomitable people so
indomitable. I don’t know, perhaps I
will never will. What I do know is that
they suffer unspeakably, yet their smiles are wide and genuine. They look different and speak a different
language, yet now I see that we are not so different as we might like to
imagine. We all have hopes; we all have
dreams, desired outcomes for our trips, whether it be around the world or down
the road to the market. Each life, whether
here or in Africa, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, is a rich and
varicolored tapestry, an amazing picture that cannot be reproduced by anyone
else, only experienced and remembered.
My tears are gone.
In their place is resolve, a resolve to share what I have seen and do
what I can to help. But that is for
tomorrow. I see the country folk in their
small circular huts of mud and thatched straw scattered in seemingly random
fashion throughout the hills, the city dwellers to the cramped square rooms of tin
or crumbling mud brick. But they remain
with me. I fear they always will, to
curse me with their want.
Or is it a gift they’ve given me? Had I not seen them I would never truly
appreciate how blessed I am. I can feed
my two children, my daughter is tall and beautiful and more worried about what
to wear to school than cheating the death and deprivation that relentlessly
haunts them. Again I am confronted by
the hopeless eyes of a mother who knows that for her child there is no bright
I desperately fight with the anguish that suddenly
threatens to pull me under again. Though
terrible, this too is a gift I realize, for to see and feel nothing would
signal an inexcusable callousness and frightening lack of compassion, cold
indifference born of a life of self-indulgence.
I cannot help but wonder how you, the reader, will take
what I have shared. Will you become
indignant that I would appeal to you for help?
We do, after all, have so many problems of our own. I have heard so many say “why should I waste
money on a people who lack industry and breed like rabbits’. They are only
getting what they deserve. Ashamedly, I
must admit that I have even thought it a time or two myself in the past. Perhaps you have looked past the enormity of
the issue and decided it’s just too big for one person to fix. You wonder what can you possibly do to make a
difference. I know I have been caught in
that web as well.
Thanks to Pat Bradley, I went and saw for myself what one
convinced and determined person can do.
You see, Pat learned of the plight of the Ethiopians in 2003 after
reading a news story in the growing famine there. He landed in Addis Ababa a short time later
not knowing a soul, with only a phone number in his pocket. Today, through his tireless efforts to raise
support and activate others, he has adopted an Ethiopian family numbering into
the thousands and through ICA’s work is transforming the barren landscape and
giving many of Ethiopia’s children a future and hope for it.
I saw for myself there is nothing to fear, that they are
only people, a once mighty people part of Kish, Nubia and Axum. Each was a great empire that ruled much of
East Africa and even rated prominent mention in the Christian Bible. They have fallen into disgrace and despair,
becoming a nation crippled by need with hands out to receive crumbs and scraps
from the great foreign table.
I would assert that it isn’t a situation entirely of
their own making, that they are not merely ‘getting what they deserve’. Rather, they are victims of circumstances
largely beyond their control-the men can’t control the weather, that sometimes
the rains don’t come, or they come too greatly and wash away the crops or make
them rot in the ground. The children can’t
control the fact that their parents grow sick and die leaving them without
shelter or support.
Perhaps the saddest fact of all is that the Ethiopian
people have been in the grips of hopelessness for so long they have forgotten
what hope is. If they are only getting
what they deserve, then how much worse could we, who have control of our own
destiny and they, deserve for seeing their plight and doing nothing or, worse,
not caring at all.
I think of young America with our pioneering spirit and
our willingness to help a neighbor in need.
Are we not all neighbors in this ever shrinking world? The Ethiopian man being consumed by leprosy
is no less human and able to feel pain and the devastation of his disease than
you or I. Perhaps he and the rest if his
people feel pain more acutely because they are so intimately acquainted with
it. Perhaps they bear their burden so
gracefully because they have felt it for so long they have become numb to it
and simply accept us as an immutable fact of life.
Perhaps, this generation is hopeless but the next need
not be. With a little help for our sick
and dying sister, Ethiopia can become a beacon of hope, a bright light in a
very dark place. Call it terminal
optimism if you like. I prefer to think
of it as a good start on rescuing all of Africa.
It is a grand vision I have. But I realize it is not one I can accomplish
on my own. I can only put words to paper
and tell you of their suffering. It is
you, the now informed, knowledgeable reader, who must take my words and give
then substance. You must make them into
something real and give them power by joining them to your actions. Perhaps you have no such vision, are not
equipped or even desire to go, but then you don’t have to. Perhaps you have a little extra that you can
give. Therein lays the real power as it
puts resources into the hands of people, like Pat Bradley, who choose and
desire to go and meet the Ethiopian people at the place of their need-a place
where there is no comfort.
For more information on Pat Bradley and the International
Crisis Aid’s work in Ethiopia and around the world go to www.crisisaid.org
Listening to every little sign I see
You are so bright, shining above all the city lights
You know, it's right when all of the stars in the sky align
If you and I, we are together as one tonight
So get up, stand up
What you waiting for?
Let's go, jump in
We gotta live like live in to begin
We've got a love like no one knows
Now I'm with you
Now I'm with you
Now I'm with you
Sitting on top, sitting on top of the world
Saved me from me, gave me everything I need
You'll be forever in my heart
So get up, stand up
What you waiting for?
Let's go, jump in
We gotta live like live in to begin
We've got a love like no one knows
Now I'm with you
Now I'm with you
Now I'm with you
Sitting on top, sitting on top of the world
All is quiet at night
We say only things for us to hear
So get up, stand up
What you waiting for?
Let's go, jump in
We gotta live like live in to begin
We've got a love like no one knows
Now I'm with you
Now I'm with you
Now I'm with you
Sitting on top, sitting on top of the world
Sitting on top, sitting on top of the world
Sitting on top, sitting on top of the world
HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: Spending the last day of the year with
BUMMER OF THE DAY: My last night in Addis Ababa
WORD OF THE DAY: HAPPY
Happy New Year.
Today is the last day of the Ethiopian calendar.
The date is the 10th of September.
The year is 2004.
So how does that work?
The Ethiopian Calendar is 7 years behind the Georgian calendar, so when
you come to visit the country you are 7 years younger and the Ethiopian Tourism
Board claim 13 months of sunshine a year…..
The Ethiopian Calendar is based on the ancient Coptic calendar
and still in use today. It includes twelve 30-day months and a 13th month of
five days (six days in leap years). So that makes the current year
according to the Ethiopian calendar as 2004, which began on September 12, 2011ADof the Gregorian calendar. Does
that make sense? So I was really born in 1967 and I am really 7 years
younger than what I actually am! I knew I would love this country.
But I guess that makes Zeme 7 years younger and those numbers don’t look
healthy at all….. Oh well I guess you can’t have it both ways. Me being
30 or Zeme being 18? Hmmmmmm moving on……….
The Ethiopian clock is also different it still has 24
hours in a day, similar to it’s the western clock. However, Ethiopia has
shifted their clock by six hours so that the clock rolls over at 6 am - the
start of the day. This is an entirely sensible approach given Ethiopia is
located near the equator and the sun comes up at the same time every day of the
year. To convert between the Ethiopian and western clocks, simply subtract six
hours. So midday for the western time is actually 6pm Ethiopian time-okay
that will take just a little getting used to. Both on tour and on my
second return Minalu and Zeme would give Ethiopian times and just at the end of
my last trip I was starting to get the hang of it and I would tell Zeme the time
based on the Ethiopian clock when he asked what the time was.
The Ethiopian New Year, also known as Enkutatash, new yearinAmharic,
the official language of Ethiopia, while it is calledRi'se Awde Amet(Head Anniversary) inGe'ez,
the term preferred by theEthiopian Orthodox Church. It occurs on
September 11 in the Gregorian calendar, except for leap years, when it occurs
on September 12. This date correspondence applies from the Gregorian years 1900
to 2099. Generally, because every fourth Ethiopian year is a leap year without
exception, while Gregorian years divisible by 100 arenotleap
years, a set of corresponding dates will thus apply only for one century.
However, because the Gregorian year 2000isa leap year, then in this case the
correspondences continue for two centuries.
Do what did we have planned for New Year’s Eve. Well I actually got ONE blog written and
uploaded. And I had to get all my gear
together and start to pack this morning as I fly tomorrow and while I did that
Zeme ran around and picked up the photos, bought some vodka for celebrations
tonight and washed the 4WD that was filthy as from yesterday’s drive out of
town. I decided I could no longer carry
a 27.5kg bag and instead of off-loading some clothes in Phuket to Shelly, for
her to bring them to Australia, for me to bring them back to Ethiopia in
January made no sense what so ever. So I
will leave the clothes and the things I don’t need/use with Zeme and he can
look after them till my return. I was
happy with my cull and I hope that it has made a difference to the weight of my
bag. Firstly I will have Jetstar Asia to
deal with if I have too much weight, as you pay for your luggage with them
anyways and I had only purchased 20kg and secondly when I get to Sri Lanka we
are using public transport for some of the legs we are doing and I just CANNOT
be carrying a 27kg bag-I think it will kill me…… and I will look like a loser
with such a big bag. I may even be able
to zip up my extender section of my bag that was let out before I even left
Australia. Loser…… I should know
better. But I have off loaded now, so it
will be interesting to see how much the monster weighs tomorrow. I also got some washing done and they picked
it up at 10am and I had it back at 3pm.
Now that is a fast wash and the total cost for like 20 pieces was
So that took the morning up and then Zeme was back at
lunch time. Ethiopians don’t celebrate
New Year’s Eve like we do. There are
functions that are held and they do have fireworks and a concert most years but
their Prime Minister died a few weeks ago in Belgium and his funeral was on
Sunday, so the country is still in a state of morning and a lot of things have
been cancelled this year. Music shops
are still not allowed to play music from their massive speakers and there is a
TV channel dedicated just to him, interviews, pictures etc. 24 hours a day. Meles Zenawi was a loved man here, especially
with the farmers and this was another reason for us to stay out of the city as
there could be some political unrest in regards to the selection of the new
So we decided to stay in for the night and just spend
what last hours we had together, rather than raging around on the town and this
suited me fine. Chombe was at a
function, Minalu had gone home for the week and Lemma was with his family-so it
all worked out in the end and over some vodka’s, some text messages and phone
calls from Zeme’s friends as we said goodbye to 2004 and welcomed in 2005. It
is pretty cool I am actually here for the last day of one year and here for the
first day of the next year, in September.
So HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE.... Good-bye
2004 and Hello 2005. I was just happy to
be here to celebrate this with Zeme and may it be a new year blessed with love,
compassion, consideration and new beginnings. It was nice to go to sleep in the arms of
someone who loves me unconditionally.
WEATHER: Rainy and wet, sunny and then rainy and wet
HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: Getting my most favorite photo of Zeme
and I so far
BUMMER OF THE DAY: Not making it to Debre Zeyit – another
WORD OF THE DAY: Bumpy
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 110km
We were heading out for the afternoon today, so we had
Sunday morning to have a sleep in after our mammoth driving day yesterday,
breakfast and then I had to start to think about getting all my stuff together
as tomorrow is my last day in Ethiopia before I head to Phuket-Thailand via
Saudi Arabia and Singapore. It sounds
like a long way round and there is a direct flight from Addis to Singapore with
Ethiopian Airlines but they were 3 times the cost of me flying via Saudi and
having a 9 hour stop there. To save
800AUD I thought that was well worth the extra time.
Zeme and I get photos from our trips printed when we come
back from the road. So I popped 40 of
them on a flash drive and then he headed out to get them printed, visit home
and swap the rental cars back as we didn’t need to keep the 4WD for my last 3
days. This gave me time to go through
some of my things and just watch some National Geographic in TV when I really
should have been putting some fingers to a keyboard and getting a blog
done. As it stands I am currently still
in Brighton, which is bad, bad, bad but I won’t feel bad as I use this
important time with Zeme and I will just have to knuckle down when I get to
Phuket. But it is quite daunting that I
will have around 22 days to catch up on and I would be totally at a loss if I
lost my trusty notebook-that would be disastrous.
It started to rain just as Zeme got back before lunch and
he didn’t seem to perturbed that it was coming down like cats and dogs, I was
thinking that maybe we would have to call off our afternoon trip. As it works out we had to keep the 4WD as our
little 1980’s Mazda had been given to someone else and with it being New Year’s
Eve tomorrow there is not much left available, so we will just keep the big car
till I leave. This was a blessing in
disguise as the rain had dumped a lot of water in the road, like serious amount
of water that it all just pooled in the dips in the roads and some of the
puddles we had to pass through were huge.
We invited Chombe along for this afternoon’s drive; he wasn’t working,
so we thought it would be nice to have him see some more of his own
country. So after wading through the
streets of Addis Ababa, picking up Chombe and encountering HAIL-who would have
thought, 35 minutes later you would have thought we were in a different city. It was dry as bone-dusty and not a single
rain drop to be seen. If you had of been
asleep for the first 40 minutes of that drive you wouldn’t believe that we were
swimming in rain puddles and seen some hail.
Really it was quite bizarre.
I have travelled on this road before that we were using
to get to Bishofte. It is an industrial
road and is the main road artery that connects the Port of Djibouti to Addis
Ababa. Being a land locked country; this
is where a lot of Ethiopia’s trade comes from.
So that means lots of trucks, lots of pollution, lots of factories, lots
of people and really bad roads. You
think that they would look after a pretty important road but how can you fix
such a busy road that has traffic 24 hours a day? I can see they will just wait until the
absolutely have to fix then they will. A
perfect case of this is one of the bridges is getting fixed and the traffic had
to converge from 3 lanes to 1 lane to cross and the backlog of traffic around
this area is murder. All the niceness is
gone from people that have been sitting there for 20 minutes as they all try
and shimmy their way past busses and the massive road-train trucks.
It took over an hour and 20 minutes to travel 45km to the
town of Debre Zeyit also known as Bishoftu. Since the late 1990s it has been officially known by theOromoname,Bishoftu, which was its name until
1955 at an elevation of 1,920 meters. It
is aresort town, known
for its fivecrater lakes:Lake Bishoftu,Lake Hora(a base for
watersports, manywater birdsand an annualfestival),Lake Bishoftu Guda,Lake Koriftuand the seasonalLake Cheleklaka. Debre Zeyit is also home to theEthiopian Air Forceand theHarar Meda Airport.
The township has had telephone service since 1954.
We turned off at the town with the purpose of heading to the
mountains and seeing a church that is located there. Every year there is a big celebration up at
this church and the roads are graded and fixed in the anticipation of thousands
of people commuting for the festival.
Once the festival is finished the road is left to its own devices again
till the next year when they will fix it in time for festival again. So it has been a few months since this year’s
festival and the second we left the main road we were on a dirt road and the
condition of this was shocking. Poor
Chombe was bouncing around in the back of the car and then Zeme mentioned that
the road was 30km to our destination!
ONE WAY. We then had to bump and
weave our way back the 30km to get back.
You should have seen this road it was in such bad shape and the bumps
were just too much to handle. Chombe and
I just looked at each other and then 11km into the trip we all decided that it was
just too much and we decided to cut our loss and we will come back when the
festival is on and see the church then.
I can’t remember the name of the church (hence it is omitted) as I left
my guide books in Addis with Zeme and I am writing this 2 weeks later. But I was happy with the decision and not all
was lost as we had a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains and the
plains and there were some rain clouds on the horizon that made for some great
photos with the blue/black of the sky, the lush green of the grass and trees
and the brown of the dark soil. We also
saw some birds that I haven’t seen before and I am more determined than ever to
find a bird book on Ethiopian birds so that when we see the birds we can tick
them off and look at some more information.
UH OH I think Zeme and I have turned into ‘twitches’ aka bird
watches. Early stages but hell they have
some great looking birds here and endemic ones that can only be found in
Ethiopia, so why not?
There is another area to visit while you are in the
Bishoftu area and that is the 7 crater lakes they have here. Acrater
lakeis alakethat forms in avolcanic
craterorcaldera. Lakes located in dormant or extinct volcanoes
tend to have fresh water, and the water clarity in such lakes can be exceptional
due to the lack of inflowing streams and sediment and that is what you find in
these lakes, they are alkaline and are supplied with rainfall and underground
waters. The 3 main lakes are: Bishoftu Lake which is the deepest of the
craters lakes and is rich in Tilapias, a type of African fish. Hora Lake which is the largest of the crater
lakes and is well known for hot water springs and Babogaya Lake which is known
as the surroundings used for famous Ethiopian Music video-clips. We were just going to head to Lake Hora today
which was a wise choice. You are
required to pay a fee to enter each of the Lakes and Lake Hora also worked out
to be the cheapest at 12Birr for the 3 of us which is like 66c but the other
lakes charge 200Birr per person so it’s like 33AUD for the 3 of us per
lake. The reason Lake Hora is way
cheaper than the others is it owned and managed by the government and is
subsidized the other lakes are privately owned and that is why their fees are higher. We decided that Lake Hora was fine for today,
it was beautiful with large Eucalyptus trees and I really thought I could have
been in Australia. There were a few
brave souls swimming in there and you can catch a boat to do a cruise if you
wish. It was nearly 4.45pm by this time,
so we just took some photos but it would definitely be a spot I would come back
So it was time to hit the road and run the gauntlet back to the
capital city. I am not sure if there is
any such thing as peak hour as there is just traffic all the time on the roads
during the day. But it was busy and as
we lined up next to local buses in the traffic I would get looks from its
passengers and drivers as we sat in traffic to which I would give a small wave
and a smile to them and I was rewards with a smile and most times a wave as
well. I feel like I am the bearded lady
or the elephant man but again, I say this all the time it is something I am
going to have to get used to.
We were back to the city just after 6pm and I needed to get some
more cash out of an ATM. So we pulled up
to the first one and I think it may have been out of money, as it came up with
a machine error rather than my card having something wrong. So Zeme just decided to take me to an ATM he
knew would work and give me a small tour of that part of the city I haven’t
seen before, more of the major chain hotels were here. The Radisson Blu was here, The Hilton and an
Ibis hotel. We were heading to the
Sheraton Addis Ababa and wow it looked amazing.
It reminded me of the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi or The Palace Hotel
at Sun City in South Africa. It was
amazing. There was a security gate we
had to pass and obviously just having me in the car was enough to get us
through with no questions asked, Zeme dropped me at the fancy front door and
then went to park on the side while I ran in, well I had to pop my purse on the
security belt and walk through a scanner, and then I walked in like a lady who
had a room there. I have seen a lot of
hotels in my time and this one looked very luxurious and totally not like a Sheraton. I have always said of big chain hotels, you
could be anywhere in the world their hotels all look the same. Well not this one and it was interesting to
note that there weren’t a lot of farangees around. The lobby was busy; there were people
everywhere but not many western people in the mix. I located the ATM without having to ask
anyone, used it and on my way out one of the doorman opened the door for me and
said I hope you enjoyed your stay. Yeah
I wish-but thanks anyway. I got back in the car and made a vow that Zeme and I
would stay there for one night just to experience it and then I said hell,
Chombe you can stay with us as well. He
would not have seen anything like that in his life and I am serious. I know it is an expensive hotel, but I wonder
if I can somehow wrangle an agent rate. I’ll
check with the guys when I am back in Brisbane-but WOW. Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve, I’m going
to check the prices for tomorrow night anyway, and maybe we may get lucky with
a rate? Yeah right!!!
As it was my second last night we decided to try the pizza place
again for dinner and hope that it was open this time which it was. It was too cold to sit outside so we sat
inside and ordered garlic bread, 2 pizzas to share between the 3 of us and 4 drinks
and the grand total was 17AUD that’s total for the 3 of us and that is a
western meal as well. We dropped Chombe
home and once I got home I checked the rates for the Sheraton tomorrow night
and being New Year’s Eve the cost was 492AUD for the night! Zeme looked like he was about to pass out and
he worked out that would pay for a WEEKS accommodation here at Baks. Yes it is a lot of money, so I will need to
work on the agent rate.
So even though we did have a failed attempt at getting to the
Debre Zeyit church we still had a pretty good day all round for what was to be
my second last day in Addis Ababa till November.
BUMMER OF THE DAY: 12 hours on the road is a long day
WORD OF THE DAY: Zna-rain
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 560km
It’s Saturday today and time to head back to Addis Ababa
today. We have a long drive ahead with
it only being broken towards the end of the day at Debra Libanos and the Portuguese
Bridge just out of Addis. I do like
drive days as there is so much to see and being in the front seat I have my camera
next to me at the ready and I can just snap away as we drive through. I try and take care in when I take photos as
I don’t want to be in people’s faces with a camera, it is part of my East
Africa coming out of me where they HATE having their photo taken which is to do
with superstition, the Ethiopians are more likely to see it as unpaid revenue
than anything else, especially from children.
We were on the road at 8am this morning having paid the
hotel bill and breakfast. Bahir Dar is a
busy town and I do like driving around as they have more baja’s (tuk tuk’s)
than cars driving the streets. I love
those things and to see so many all the time driving around is really cool to
see. As we head out of town it is market
day for this region today, so the roads are busy with the usual traffic but
there seems to be more donkey and carts with long branches of wood trailing
behind them today. So of the village men
are standing on their carts and directing their animals, others are running
beside theirs. I love market day as
there is so much to see. Another thing I
saw a lot of were chickens being carried.
There are several different ways that this is done. On a stick over the shoulder is one way. They tie the chicken feet and then hook them
over the branch that is on their shoulder.
Some just carry the chickens by their feet and some chickens sit high in
a basket like the Queen of Sheeba with its feet tied so it can’t go far. I have to say the chickens don’t look like
they are in pain or stressed out but I guess they have been carried like that
all their life, put an Aussie chicken in there and it would probably be a
different story. It’s cold this morning
(13C) so all the villages are rugged up in blankets as they make their trek to
the markets. I saw yesterday and now
this morning there are women and girls wearing silver looking coin around their
necks. I want one. So Zeme stopped a few times to ask them where
they f=got them from and they literally are an old coin that they have made
into a pendant. They suggested the
market, but if you see that place when we drive past there are thousands of
people in there. We may have to look
into it a little further when I get back.
Maybe I could get Minalu to have a look around on his next tour
south. We stopped at 11.45 at Debre
Markos and we had lunch where we stayed last time we were here. I ordered chicken breast and you should have
seen the size of this thing when it came out-it was massive. It must have come from a super
We really were just hauling arse back to the capital
today and at 12.30 we were back in the road.
It is interesting to see how much and how people carry their goods on
any day, nit just market day. Not
everyone has a donkey so they just carry as much as they possibly can the best
way they know how. The women will have
baskets on their head and if they have a lot to carry will also carry things on
their back wrapped in a blanket that they tie on their fronts and also the 10kg
of water is carried on their backs with both their arms supporting the yellow
jerry can hunched over. The men carrying
the sacks of food or charcoal carry the bags on their shoulders, some of these
sacks are massive and they use the length of a stick to take most of the load
from their shoulders and distribute it onto the stick-quite smart really. So most ways it leaves their hands free for
small children or to keep their herd of sheep and goats in line. The usual rule applies as we pass through,
Zeme gives a toot if there is a car coming the other way or if the village
people stray too far onto the road, and it must just be instinct the second
they hear that noise they move over straight away, including 95% of the
time. The donkeys can be a bit of an
arse (ha ha ha ha) sometimes and we have to stop or some stray goats cross
over. The small villages we have to go
slow as they are packed with people and animals and there were even some police
officers stopping traffic to let people cross the road it was that busy. I seriously have seen nothing like it before
anywhere. The push of humanity all in
one spot is just surreal.
Crossing back across the plateau before getting back to
the Abbay Gorge we hit fog!!! It was
1.30pm in the afternoon and you should see the line of fog ahead, like a brick
wall and then we drove through it for about 20 minutes. It was so thick in places we couldn’t even
see past the bonnet of the car. It was really
eerie and we had to be careful as we couldn’t see people on the side of the
road till we were right on top of them, but then we couldn’t serve too far on
the road because you couldn’t see what was coming the other way. Who would ever think you would get fog in
Northern Africa, but then we are quite high up-I would say higher than 1500m
above sea level so I guess you would expect it at some stage. The country Ethiopians are always prepared
for the rain. There are a lot of
umbrellas floating around but there are also what look like plastic sacks and
what they do is they wrap them in the shape of a hat (looks like a pirate
shape) and they wear them on their heads and then when it rains they unfold
them, find a tree if possible to hunch under and then they pull this 1m bag
over their heads to keep themselves dry till the rain passes. I have found when it rains it doesn’t hang
around all day. It may rain more than
once, but they get a down pour and then it stops and then it rains again. There hasn’t been a day that I have been here
that it has just rained all day continuously.
We hit the Abay Gorge again in the afternoon and I don’t
think it matters how many times you see it the views still take my breath
away. There are trucks coming up the
hill just jammed packed with locals, like seriously you couldn’t fit a small
child in there it was that packed and as we hit the bottom of the valley there
were people everywhere, buses, more trucks loading with people (seriously they
are just standing in the tip trucks tray) just mass moving people. There was a church tucked away at the bottom
that O hadn’t noticed before and there was a festival on there hence the mass
of people around. There were like 3
people here 2 days ago and now there were hundreds. We crossed back over Japanese built bridge
over the Abay River. It was financed by
a 14 million dollar Japanese government grant, the new structure has been
constructed alongside a 60-year old bridge built by an Italian construction
firm; the government of Italy covered the cost of the older bridge as a
compensation for war damages it had caused during its brief occupation of
Ethiopia in the 1930s. The new bridge is
55 meters high, standing 22 meters above the existing one and you could see the
old bridge was very busy with foot traffic today due to the festival.
The Northwestern and Southeastern plateaus of Ethiopia
are separated by the Rift Valley. Along the western margin of the Northwestern
Plateau is the Blue Nile Gorge aka Abay Gorge and this is where we found
ourselves for the second time in 2 days and we now needed to ascend this
massive mountain. The Abay Gorge spans
an altitude range of 2500m to 1200m and is over a mile wide and deeper than the
Grand Canyon of the United States of America. The
Abbay or Blue Nile Gorge is known to be the most stunning gorge in Ethiopia and I really can see why. You aren’t supposed to stop on the road, but
at one of the best vantage points on the climb and where it was safe for us to
pull off the road; we stopped and got some great photos of the view with the
bay River in the background. I should
pull out my March photos to just show you the remarkable difference between the
wet season and dry season of the same area.
It really is like you are in a different world. With a wave to our baboon friends we wound
our way up the escarpment back to cooler weather leaving the chaos of the
festivities behind us.
We arrived at the turn off to Debre Libanos just before
4pm. A big day of driving and we still
had another 2 hours or so to go after this stop. Driving our way down it is a little more than
four kilometers long to the church we saw some Gelada monkeys. This is a pretty big deal as they can only be
seen in numbers in the Semien Mountains further north. Thegelada, sometimes called thegelada baboon, is aspeciesof Old World
monkeyfound only in
theEthiopian Highlands. Like its close relatives
thebaboons, it is
largelyterrestrial, spending much of its time foraging
ingrasslands. The gelada is large and robust. It is covered
with buff to dark brown, coarse hair and has a dark face with pale eyelids. Its
arms and feet are nearly black.The
gelada has a hairless face with a short muzzle that is closer to a chimpanzee's
than a baboon's. It can also be
physically distinguished from a baboon by the bright patch of skin on its
chest.This patch is hourglass-shaped.
On males it is bright red and surrounded by white hair; on females it is far
less pronounced and is endemic to Ethiopia, they can’t be found anywhere else
in the world. We were able to stop briefly
on the way down for some snaps but they didn’t hang around too long. I also noticed on our way down that the small
village we had to pass through had a different feel to it. The people here seemed sick, walking on
sticks, older and half of them had some deformity-the Debre Libanos is known
for the amount of miracles performed here and they all wait here in the hope of
in the thirteenth century by SaintTekle
Haymanot, according to the belief, he meditated in a cave for 29
years. He is frequently represented as an old man with wings on his back and
only one leg visible. There are a number of explanations for this popular image
that the saint "having stood too long, one of his legs broke, whereupon he
stood on one foot for seven years. The
monastery's chief abbot, called theIchege, was the
second most powerful official in theEthiopian
Churchafter theAbuna. The monastery complex sits on a terrace
between a cliff and the gorge of one of the tributaries of theAbbay River.
None of the original buildings of Debre Libanos survive. Current buildings include the church over
Tekle Haymanot's tomb, which EmperorHaile
constructed in 1961; a slightly older Church of the Cross, where apparently a
fragment of theTrue Crossis preserved; and five religious
schools. The cave where the saint lived is in the nearby cliffs, which is
around a 20 minute walk away.This
cave contains a spring, whose water is consideredholyand is the object of pilgrimages. Emperor Haile Selassie's interest in Debre
Libanos dates to when he was governor of the district ofSelale. The Emperor notes in his
autobiography that during the reconstruction of the church at Debre Libanos, an
inscribed gold ring was found in the excavations, which he personally delivered
to then EmperorMenelik II. Following the attempted assassination on his
life on 19 February 1937, governorRodolfo Grazianibelieved the monastery'smonksand novices were involved in this
attack, and unwilling to wait for the results of the official investigation, orderedItaliancolonialiststo massacre the
inhabitants of this monastery. On 21 May of that year, 297 monks and
23 laymen were killed. We paid our
entrance fee for the church and the extra money for me to be able to take my
camera in and the entered the 1950’s Emperor Haile Selassie's built
church. As impressive as the church
looks, it doesn’t have that much historical value, but once inside there were
paintings and relics from the original 12th century and following
churches after that time. I kept asking
if it was okay to take photos as I didn’t want to offend the guide that was
taking us through. After the tour of the
church we made our way to the museum also on the church grounds and got a tour
of that as well with more relics from the other churches that were on this
site. We weren’t allowed to take photos
in here and after 20 minutes as we were leaving there was security and church
staff near the door and they asked if I would like to sign the guest book. As a joke (I hope) they said I need to put my
name, my country, a comment and my weight…. Yes my weight. I told you I am a bit of an attraction
myself, so I took it in the form I hope it was given and told them I would be
happy to sign less my weight with a laugh.
When people stare I know it is not out of meanness with me being larger,
they are just intrigued-I am yet to see an over-weight Ethiopian and Minalu
once said that Ethiopian men like the ‘larger’ women so I just have to take all
in my stride and get used to it, unless I lose 60kg and then they will need to
find someone else to stare at. I have
plans of getting to a gym or walking when I move here, but that will just have
to wait till January. By this time it
was nearly 5pm and we didn’t have enough time to climb to the cave where the SaintTekle
Haymanot meditated for 26 years and I had a feeling from what Zeme
was saying that it wasn’t an easy climb and maybe I will just have to come back
one day to see the cave.
Our last stop as the day stated to fade was the Portuguese
Bridge. The dirt road for the bridge is right near the Debre Libanos turn
off so it was only 10 minutes away.
There is accommodation located at the top of the walk that drops down to
the bridge and the view from here was breath taking overlooking a massive
canyon. It would be magic to stay here
and may need to add that to the list upon my return. Because we were so high up and we were going
to see a bridge, I didn’t know just how far we had to trek to get to the
bridge, it was a long way down to the valley floor and for a fleeting moment I
was wondering if we had to walk to the bottom of the valley, which is crazy
because that would have taken days and after asking Zeme it was a 15 minute
walk. So we started out and to get there
we had to hike along a rocky slippery path that lead down slightly before it
evened out for a magical walk in the side of the mountain. The path seemed rather close to the edge of
the 1000 meter cliff and Zeme freaked out when I took a step closer to get a
photo. There were no guardrails and I
wouldn’t want to be there with active children. You normally have to pay as you
pass through a gate to get to the bridge but the ranger guy wasn’t there and we
got a guide to tell us a little about the bridge. He also came in handy as the path (or lack
of) was very steep, no steps and full of small and large rocks so with Zeme
holding one hand and the guide holding my other hand I made it down safely to
be able to walk across the bridge. The
bridge was intriguing. It is said to be partially constructed from
eggshells and constructed in the 16th century by the Portuguese but the most
impressive thing was the view. The river
flowed roaring underneath the bridge and then the water fell 30m away down a
waterfall that we couldn’t see. It
looked like a natural ‘infinity’ pool that you see in fancy hotels, but the view
that followed the ‘infinity’ pool was SPECTACULAR. After some magnificent photos I had to climb
the neck breaking rocky slope to get back to the top and I had a man and sheep
overtake me on this, and we circled back to the accommodation buildings and to
make the most of the view Zeme and I bought a beer each and just kicked back
and soaked it all up. I was speechless,
it was so beautiful.
But we still had around 110km to go, around 2 more hours,
and as it was nearly 6pm we would be driving the last section into Addis in the
dark. It doesn’t seem like such a big
deal but there are no street lights on this country road and not all the cars had
their headlights on as the sun set. I
was on high alert. There were a few
brave souls walking along the side of the road, but I think they know it is
unsafe to walk the roads at night and we didn’t have to worry too much about
people but rather cars now that the sun had gone. The truck look even scarier at night and when
they try and overtake on these dark roads I can see how easy it is to have
accidents out here. I was a little
nervous to be honest and it had nothing to do with Zeme’s safe driving but what
other people do on the roads. But just
after 8pm we made it back to our home in Addis, Baks Hotel and it was good to
be back. We were checked back into ‘our’
room and I was able to get all my bags that I left behind tomorrow. Needless to say dinner was at the hotel and
after a few beers was in bed by 11pm.
What an amazing 3 days.
I love getting out of the city as it is so different and there is so
much to see and keeping in mind this was my third trip back I never get tired
of seeing the friendly people doing their daily routines and it just reiterates
back to me just how lucky we are with what we have and I am more determined
than ever to help out some way, somehow upon my return in January.