We left at 6:30 in the morning for a 558 km drive. It was supposed to take about 10 ½ hours. Although I knew that roads in Ethiopia would be rough, I wasn’t fully prepared for the road conditions. The traffic leaving Addis Ababa was very dense. We slowly made our way out of the the city and eventually onto the dirt road. There were people lined up all along the opposite side of the road waiting for busses to take them into Addis for work. There were also hoards of Bajaj (tuk-tuks) picking up people.
After several hours we arrived at Debre Libanos Monastery. There was a sign on the door where Ayu was purchasing our tickets that stated some rules about entering the church.
- Rule # 1 said that women during menstruation period are not allowed to enter the church.
- Rule # 2 said that men and women who had sexual intercourse are not allowed to enter the church or the cave within 48 hours.
After we removed our shoes and covered our heads, a monk gave us a tour of the church. The monk told us about Saint Tekle Haymanot who founded Debre Libanos in the 13th century. According to myth, he meditated in a cave for 29 years. After the first 27 years, one of his legs fell off from about the knee down but he continued to stand for another 2 years. The monk told us that the original monastery had been completely destroyed. None of the original buildings survived. I think it was Emperor Haile Selassie who rebuilt the monastery in about 1961.
The church has many glass stained windows depicting both the Old and New Testament. The inside of the church is divided into 3 parts. During church services when you are facing the front of the church, the right side is for woman, the center is for priests and monks, and the left side is for men. I mostly took photos of the people who came to pray.
The white-stringy thing in this man’s hands is used to keep the insects off of him.
We also toured the museum part of the monastery. The grounds of the monastery are very large and include the hilly areas around it. We were told that 5000 people are served by Debre Libanos Monastery. The grounds have housing for the monks and also a cemetery
There is a cave located about a 15 – 20 minute walk from the monastery. This was where Saint Tekle Haymanot lived in the nearby cliffs and it contains a spring with water that is considered holy. Sadly we did not have enough time to walk there because we had many more km to drive..
The roads were very, very rough. Even the parts that were paved had many potholes and were covered with ruts. We were bounced around on both the potted gravely road and on some of the paved roads also had rutts almost the entire time. Sometimes it was very dusty and we had to keep our windows closed.
When we went through towns and I took photos. Although I was sometimes able to open a window, the photos are mostly taken through the closed windows.
We drove down to the bottom of Blue Nile gorge descending over 2200 meters and then crossed the new bridge built by Ethiopians. It was much warmer at the bottom (about 37 Celsius.) but the temperature cooled down again as we drove back up the other side on a road that was still pretty rough.
We stopped for the view at the top.
It was pretty hazy in the distance so we used the opportunity to ask Ayu to take a photo of the 3 of us..
You can see the road (a well paved part) as it descends.
We saw several baboons along the road but I didn’t get any good photos..
We saw some people who were working in the fields threshing the hay
The thistles along the road had the largest blooms I have ever seen..
Each time we came to a town, there were people along the road. They were carrying things on their heads, leading donkeys that were carrying large loads, selling things, and many of them were going to church. Today was a holy day and they were celebrating Saint Gabriel.
At one point Ayu stopped and asked women to bring over some teff, which is the grain, they use to make injera (flat, crepe like sour bread made from the grain). After we each had a chance to see the teff, he gave the handful of grain back to her.
At one point we saw more vultures than I have ever seen in one place. They were devouring the carcass of what we thought was a cow.
It sure seemed like a very long time before we stopped for lunch in Debra Marcos where we ate injera and vegetables.
This is a religious period during which many people are fasting and can only eat vegetables. I even tried a small spoon of the coffee this time – not bad tasting but not my choice of beverage.
One time when we stopped to look at the view, Ayu asked a couple of women to be in a photo with me. It was sure fun to show the photo to them.
It was a very long drive but we stopped to look at the sunset.
We continued to go through small towns. A couple of times when we were driving very slowly, children surrounded our vehicle begging for money. Ayu kept driving very slowly as they moved away. At one point at dusk a very large group of children and teenagers surrounded us. They were pounding on the vehicle and one of them hit it with his stick. Ayu jumped out and was yelling at them perhaps about damaging our Land Cruiser when some of them yanked open one of the back passenger doors. It took both Sue and Leigh to pull the door shut again and we locked the doors. I took one photo of Ayu when he was outside of the car. We heard him say the word, “tourists” and we think he was lecturing them about how bad their behavior was for tourism. He finally got back into the vehicle and we were able to drive off slowly. Ayu told us that because of the holy day, the teens might have been drinking too much.
Sue, Jane, and Leigh were concerned that they might injure Ayu. Finally he got back into the jeep and we slowly were able to drive off.
We didn’t arrive at Abay Minch Lodge until after 7:00 where we had a buffet dinner and went to our rooms.