Monday, February 1, 2010

Trip to ET Day 13

Day 13 - This morning the driver and Abraha picked me up at 7:30am and we started out trip about 45 minutes north to Wukro where we then took a turn onto a rock road to Abraha As… (something or the other) to see an Orthodox church from the 1st century B.C. I was AMAZING! EVERYONE needs to fly to Mekele but don’t stay in the city, hire a driver to take you North and you can stop in Wukro for the day and stay at a brand new hotl there called Lwam Hotel. A single room with a queen sized bed and very nice bathroom is only 100 birr/night. There is a restaurant and café associated with the property and I looked at the menu and they have a few things that Westerners could eat. From there you can drive out to the country side to see that church in the city I mentioned and drive on to Gheralta Lodge about 2 hours north of Mekele where there are many more old churches. The Lodge I’m told is owned by an Italian and is nearly always booked so you have to make a reservation well in advance. The outside of the lodge is in the architecture mimicking that of the local people (basically square houses made of stacked rocks with very small holes for air to pass through) but the inside is completely modern and everything is from IKEA. Everyone tells me I should have gone there so next time it’s a MUST. So back to my day…
We drove North through/up/down/and around the mountains on a WONDERFUL paved road. The entire was to Wukro is paved and it’s lovely. You’ll pass through some small villages along the way and see how people live with their animals in compounds surrounded by rock walls and inside are either very small one room homes in most cases or tukuls (circular stone towers with thatch roofs) I saw a few people walking with their camels down the road and it was really surreal. It felt just like I’d stepped into a National Geographic. The terrain is dry, dusty, and ROCK but I’m told that in the rainy season everywhere you see brown is lush and green and alive with song birds and flowers. I would love to come back during that time though I would be quite scared to take the rock roads during rain b/c of landslides or the car slipping off the side of the mountain. WORD OF WARNING: hire a driver you trust with a 4WD with good shocks and good tires. Also the drive is not for the faint of heart. Many times I thought I would have a heart attach even though I trusted my driver implicitly after spending 10 days with him. There are many sharps turns and blind spots so when you turn all of a sudden there may be a big truck coming or a herd of animals in the road and you have to brake suddenly then you skid. Also when you’re leaving the church and going back up the mountain it’s trying on many vehicles so they actually have to speed up to take the curves uphill and it’s ridiculously scary. But sooooooooooooooooo worth it. That was the best thing I did the entire time in Mekele was to leave the city and get out to the country side.
Abraha wanted to stop and eat lunch so he and the driver ordered injera (I declined) and the wat was made up of intestines and the reticulum of a sheep!! YUCK! I’m not at all an adventurous eater and it may be amazingly good but I couldn’t bring myself to eat that. I also saw actual cactus farms! Abraha said that in the spring they eat the cactus and make cactus juice. There are several beggars around the church including children. It is not encouraged to give them money as they don’t go to school b/c it’s so profitable to beg. Also in my guide book it said the churches typically charge 5 birr to enter and this one charged 100 birr!!! I was quite surprised it was so much but didn’t know when the book was published so I didn’t argue. I was sad to leave the country side as I wanted to see more churches but many are nearly inaccessible and you actually have to have climbing equipment. The theory is that for Christians to get to heaven it should be a struggle, so the same with the church, they put them in hard to reach places b/c it should be a struggle to be closer to God. Also I learned all about the instruments the orthodox church uses and their symbolism, it was extremely interesting. I filmed the tour guides explanation so I will post that as well. We were there at the same time as a tour group from Korea so we had to wait for the Korean to translate the Ethiopians words and it took FOREVER. We then went back to campus and I waited for them to finish their day. The dog I’d diagnosed with a likely splenic tumor came in and they opted to try surgery but when they opened her up they found that the cancer was already on the liver and mesenteric lymph nodes so they just didn’t wake her up. It was very nice to be proven correct and the owner is going to go back to the Ethiopian vet and let her know nicely that for 4 days she missed a huge abdominal mass so hopefully she won’t make that mistake again. We then went to the Axum Hotel for dinner and let me just say that it is VERY nice. The next time I’m in Mekele I would likely stay there simply b/c they have a much wider variety of food and it was quite delicious and I didn’t get sick. The Castle is nice b/c it’s up on a hill so it’s quieter and the staff are very nice, but the restaurant is very poor and there is rarely a receptionist that speaks English if there’s even anyone at the desk at all, there’s no internet access either, and it’s government owned. So even though it’s cheaper to stay at the Castle I think it would have been better for me to have been at the Axum Hotel.

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