Monday, February 1, 2010

Trip to ET Day 15

Day 15 - Left Axum this am and arrived in Lalibela at about 12:30pm. I initially hoped to hit the ground running and go immediately to sight see but of course everything here stops for 2 hours b/w 12-2 so I had to wait for lunches to finish first. I’m staying at the Mountain View Hotel which is new and very nice architecturally, but the rooms are a real bummer. Though they are clean and the view is amazing, the bedding is just okay and there is no TV, telephone, lamps or anything. For the $542 birr/night for a twin bed I think it’s WAY overpriced. Also the restaurant has a very limited selection and today I opted to try the chicken soup and it had PINEAPPLES in it! J The drive from the airport to the city of Lalibela is long and scary! You zig-zag up, down, and around the mountains on very narrow roads with blind spots and there’s a lot of human traffic as well. Plus our driver for some reason thought he was in Nascar and was speeding along like a mad man. I was very scared the entire time and just kept praying for it to be over. Honestly if I’d had a good driver it would have been quite enjoyable as there are tons of tukul villages and it’s much greener then in the Tigray region and I could have taken loads of pictures but I just kept concentrating on not dying. There were only 2 Africans on the flight and the rest were British and German. I was the only American. In fact none of the other tourists I’ve met that are white are American. I can’t believe I leave tomorrow!!! The only depressing thing is that it’s not until really late at night L So it’s basically like leaving Saturday really and I just realized that I didn‘t print out the last page of my flight itinerary so I will be scrambling in Washington D.C. The internet here costs 1birr/minute and it’s dial up and by the way, it doesn‘t work. Also there is little to no water pressure so the shower head doesn’t work so I will have to bathe and wash my hair via the sink. And to make matters worse I accidentally dropped my toothbrush IN THE TOILET! So luckily I brought dental floss and will try to clean my teeth with that at least until I get the little travel toothbrush that you get on the flights from Ethiopian Airlines. I got some really neat souvenirs yesterday in Axum so I’m quite excited about that.
So Lalibela was really neat though I have to say that it was a bit of a disappointment only in that many of the churches look the same as far as their interiors. There is only 1 that I saw that had paintings inside on the walls. The stone work and carving is amazing, don’t get me wrong but it wasn’t the shock and awe moment that I expected. I think today I saw 11 churches for $30.00. They say that there are many more to see along the outskirts of the city and that you really need 3 days to see all of Lalibela but honestly I felt like I was seeing the same thing over and over so I’m happy with my one afternoon here I think. What I really enjoyed seeing were the nun’s single room homes carved into the side of the mountain along a short cut we took. And also seeing the tukuls and the way people live here. I’m always more interested in the people then the architecture though luckily I did get to see a bit of a mass while we were touring one church and I got some video of that. Technically if you are going to take a video camera into the church it’s an additional $10.00 AND if you take photos of the priests they expect a small tip. Also there are guys who will take your shoes for you from church to church since you have to take them off before entering and you give them a small tip as well. Since the steps are often very steep and very narrow and slippery it is nice to have someone there to help you put your shoes on and off. Also unlike Axum around Lalibela there are almost no beggars. The government has given them help to try to dissuade them from being here so that makes the time more enjoyable. If you are planning to go with someone elderly think again. The climbs and descents are VERY difficult in most cases and I just kept thinking… geez if I’m having a hard time with this there’s no way an elderly person could make it. You may want to practice the stair climber for about a month before making the trip to Lalibela to get your muscles ready, especially at the high altitude with decreased oxygen. My tour guide used to be a Deacon at one of the churches in the 2nd phase (the newer churches) so he took me in this underground tunnel that connects one church to the other. It was pitch black but really cool. The only obstacle was is that at the very end there is a huge boulder and if you don’t have a guide that can prepare you in the dark then you could really hurt yourself. My guides name was Tadessa and his other job is working at the Seven Olives Hotel. He said that they have the best food there and many people go there just to eat. They are known for being home to many bird species and I actually saw 2 hornbills there. In Botswana they are an ill omen and people often kill them, but I guess in Ethiopia people aren’t as superstitious.

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