Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.


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Tour of Axum Jan 2nd

Aksum was once the center of a great empire and the seat of learning for the ancient Ge’ez language and literature.

After breakfast Ayu drove us  to Northern Stelae Park, which was recognized as a UNESCO site in 1989.. The park contains about 60 stelae. They are made from granite. Rafael, our guide, began our tour by telling us about Aksum. He said that the meaning of the word Aksum is water chief – all the springs were under the chief. He told us that Aksum is the birthplace of civilization under the Aksumite Emperor. It covered a huge area and was the center of trading because they owned the Red Sea.

Up to about 1906 there were over 100 people living in the area of t Stelae Park. These amazing stelae are each made of a single piece of granite and the tallest standing one is 78 ¾ feet (24 meters).   All of the stelae face south and watch the sun in its daily journey across the sky. They date from around 300-500 AD and early ones seem to predate the arrival of Christianity to Ethiopia. They are most likely funeral monuments for Axum’s ancient rulers who may have been buried in tombs beneath them. There are locals who believe that they actually date back to 1000 BC

Some of the stelae are carved. Others are rough or smooth granite. The carved ones are made to look like buildings that are intricately carved on the front and sides to look like windows, There are .rows of log-ends dividing each story, and a false door at the base.

The largest of the stelae (108 feet long) has fallen and lies shattered across the ground. It is estimated to weigh 520 tons. If it were standing, it would be the tallest stelae in the world. Rafael said that it is believed that it actually fell before it was fully raised.

The second largest stelae (recently returned from Rome in 2005 after being stolen during Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia in 1937) stands 78 ¾ feet high. It is estimated to weigh 170 tons. They believe it had also fallen because it was returned in 3 parts. The Ethiopians put it back together and restored it.

The third stelae is about 75 feet high and weighs about 160 tons. The Ethiopian has built supports around this one to protect it.

Seeing the largest stelae on the ground allowed us to get a close-up of the carvings.

The first 2 stelae are on all 4 sides. The 3rd one is only carved on 3 sides. Perhaps a decision was made to raise it before the 3rd side was carved because it was easier than rolling it over to carve the 4th side.

Amazingly it is believed that these humongous pieces of stone were transported on giant logs and pulled by elephants at least 5 km to this site.

At the apex of each stelae is a carved semi-circular shape – perhaps symbolizing the heavens. Scholars believe a metal plate with the image of the sun engraved inside a crescent moon was affixed to the front of these top semi-circles.

Here are some photos of the carvings on the stelae.

 

We also saw the False Door Tomb that was buried until 1972. It is known locally as the tomb of King Ramhai. It is the largest megalithic tomb on earth. The capstone of this tomb is 360 tons and is the second largest stone to be utilized by the Askimites or by any early civilization. There are carvings on the slab that are identical to those found on the stelae.

The tomb underneath the slab was covered until 1994. It is believed that it dates back to the 4th century AD.

We descended into the tomb’s chamber on a stone staircase.

Notice the false door at the top of the staircase.

Rafael told us that by the 2nd century the Aksum started to melt metal clamps.

We could see where they engraved the stone before they poured metal into it

The base of the tomb is a special stone called phoneolite. It is a solid piece of stone that has a sound when you strike it.

There were actually skylights in the tomb.

Here we are waiting our turn to enter.

Rafael showed us a stone that had evenly spaced marks on it. This stone had been used for measuring other stones before they were cut.

This is an example of a small rough stelae without any carvings.

 

At the place where Leigh had coffee, this little girl was helping her mom grind the coffee.

Then we went to St. Mary of Zion Church.   It has historic roots back to the 4th century when King Ezana promoted Christianity. The first Church of St. Mary was built in the 300s AD. In 1635, St. Mary of Zion was reconstructed by Emperor Fusillades on the ruins of the church that had been destroyed by the Muslims. In 1955 Emperor Haile Selassie founded the new Church of St. Mary of Zion next to the old one and it was completed in 1964. Unlike the original St. Mary of Zion, the new church allows entrance to women.

We took off our shoes, put scarves over our heads and entered the church.

A monk unwrapped the book with drawings for us to see.

This chandelier was given to the church by Elizabeth II.

November 29th each year is the celebration of Santa Maria. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Aksum to this church because the original Arch of the Covenant is kept in the nearby church.

There women in the church and around the church. Some of them were here to pray and some of them may have been here to beg.

In 1965 King Selassie built a separate church for women. That is where it is believed that the Ark of the Covenant is kept. A specially chosen priest stays in the church to guard the Arch and even he is not allowed to ever see it.

A while ago somebody tried to get into the church so it is now surrounded by barbed wire fence. We saw some men praying in the front of the building but outside of the fence. No foreigners are allowed to even approach the fence in front of the building.  There is a ravine between St. Mary of Zion Church and where the Ark is kept.

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Rafael took us through the Aksum Museum near the church and it was very interesting. We could not take photos in the museum.

Before we went to lunch I took a photo of a spotted pigeon.

We ate lunch at the Antica Cultural Restaurant. The food was so delicious. We also loved the atmosphere of the restaurant.

The chairs in the restaurant were wonderfully carved.

 

 

 

In the after noon we visited what the locals call the ruined palace of Queens Sheba (or Saba as the locals say). It was discovered in 1980s. When the archeologists did some excavation in 2011, the dated some pottery to the 6th century and said it is actually the palace of a noble. It is named Dungur. But the locals still believe that if they continue exploring, they will find the palace of Sheba underneath.

This is the stove in the kitchen.

This beautiful tree is a Euphorbia Candelabra, which is near Dungar.

Queen of Sheba’s Bath. According to the Old Testament, the Queen of Sheba was born in Axum but travelled to Israel to meet King Solomon. It is said that their son, named Manlike, later became the first emperor of Ethiopia and that it was he who brought the original Arc of the Covenant back to Ethiopia from Israel. This reservoir was romantically named “The Bath of the Queen of Sheba” and the people of Axum still use it. Rafael thought that the actual pool that Queen Sheba used was much smaller and was expanded by Emperor Haile Selassie. It is used for Timket.

This photo is of a string of mountains named Adua. It is where the Ethiopians defeated Italy in 1906 using only simple weapons that the farmers brought from their homes. The women provided a pepper substance that could be thrown into the eyes of the Italians.

Then we visited the Tomb of Kink Kale and his son, Gabre Meske. The tomb consists of one chamber and five rooms. Inside are three sarcophagi.

 

We accessed the tomb via a long straight stairway. Although King Kaleb created this tomb, it is believed that 9 saints arrived and the king welcomed them. It is said that his body lies at Abba Pentaleowon monastery.

It is also believed that King Gabre Meske is also buried at a monastery. In his tomb, which as 3 rooms, there are several different crosses carved into the stones.  I can’t remember which of these crosses is similar to the Axumite Cross.

This is a view looking up the staircase from the tomb.

The last place we visited today was the Ezana Inscription. It belonged to an Askumite King of the 4th century AD known as Ezana. It is inscribed with Greek, Sabean, and Ge’ez. The inscriptions tell the story of Ezana’s victories over his enemies and the story is written three times.

On the way back to the hotel, Ayu took us to a market to buy a watermelon. He also chose 4 oranges for us. Then he asked the woman to give him and extra orange. She said, “No,” but then agreed.

 

There was a woman near the market who was sitting on the ground with a shallow bowl of teff on her lap. She would shake the bowl until some teff that was not as good sifted to the top and then she would remove it. She did not want me to take a photo of her but she let me take photos of the teff.

Ayu took Sue and I back to the restaurant where we had lunch so we could see the cultural dancing. We both had the same soup for dinner. The dances that were performed by young local men and women were fantastic. It seems like they have no bones in their bodies and it is so hard to believe how they can move the way they do. I took a couple of photos they are a bit blurry because they are moving so, so fast.

This evening is another example of how wonderful Ayu is.  It was so nice of him to spend his evening with us.Another wonderful day in Ethiopia.


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Drive to Aksum – Jan 1st

Sue and I got up early to see the sunrise. Jupiter was still out and I had to take a photo of the moon.

 

I loved seeing the birds

and even caught one in my sunrise photo.

We left Simien Lodge at 8:30 and first took the park ranger back to the town. We learned that not only did the park ranger have to accompany us into the park; he had to accompany us back out of the park.

Today’s drive to Aksum (also spelled Axum) was absolutely spectacular. The first part of it was 40 km of gravel road, but the amazing part was the hairpin turns all the way as we descended.

We had fabulous views all the way. These photos barely catch the beauty. It is very hard to photograph from a moving vehicle.

I love this baby sheep.

People and markets in villages along the road.

Here is one shot of the road.

There were beautiful hillsides

One of the hairpin turns.

I like that rock formation in the background

I finally got a shot of one of the hairpin turns

Even after we left the gravel road the paved roads were very windy.

We stopped at a viewpoint. In the distance you can see that even the paved road was very windy.

The man shepherding cows in the valley below caught my eye. 590 and 591

When we stopped for a green doorstop on the side of the road, we saw a plant with this beautiful flower.

The views just continued and continued.

I love this lone tree.

I just never tired of the rocky hillside.

Sometimes we passed small housing complexes.

And people doing their daily jobs.

And, of course, there were always the donkeys on the road.

Ayu is an excellent driver. We all know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and we very often took those curves on the left side of the road.

I continued to take photos of village people. 624 and 628

Ayu pointed out Ras Dashen peak is the highest peak in Ethiopia and the 10nd highest in Africa.

There were many places where there had been rockslides and we just had to take the middle of the road.

Most of the houses are now made of stone because wood is not available.

The people grow sorghum in the rainy season. When there has been no rain for a couple of years, the government supports them.

The people are busy with their daily lives. 534,

 

This is just one of the times we had to wait for the cattle and other animals. They are taken down to the river for water once every day. It is a wonder that we didn’t hit some goat that would run in front of the jeep. It is impossible to count the number we have seen. 

These women are certainly dressed fancy.

We drove through an area that was inhabited by Eritrean refugees. We are about 200 km from the Eritrean border. Now that the treaty had been signed between Ethiopia and Eritrean, things are better. But the government in Ethiopia is democratic but Ayu said that the Eritrean government is a dictatorship.

This is an Adam’s Apple or Sordum plant which produces fruit.  It is the same plantat the top of the cliff that had the beautiful flower .

How’s this for an interesting carport.

Ayu told us that people cut the bark from the Banyan tree for frankincense incense.

Camels are used in this region.

 

More scenes from the window of the jeep.

 

Each school day we have seen many children (mostly in uniform) walking along the road either going to school or home from school. School is mandatory in Ethiopia and the children go to school for ½ of the day. At the time we drove by this school, some children were walking home and some were walking to school. They walk such long distances in such dusty, hot weather.

We stopped for lunch at the Shira hotel in Shira. I am now learning the word for “Thank you” in Tingray – ykinealsy.

We arrived in Axum at while it was still light outside.

All in all, this has been a fantastic day.


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Simien Mountain National Park – Dec 31st

We left at 9:00 and headed to Wolleka Village. We stopped at the Plowshare Training Center for Women. It was created about 12 years ago and since then they have trained over 2100 women to do pottery and weave. Many of the women who have been trained here have been victims of fistulas. Sue is a potter. They gave her some clay and she created a bowl on the wheel.

We watched a woman weaving.

Sue explained to us that woman was scrapping the hard clay on a stone and grinding it.  Then she would add water to the powder so it could be used.

This woman was creating a bowl.

I purchased a small trivet to remember this place.

Then we went into the Walleka Village. It was once the village of the Beta Israel (literally “house of Israel” in Geez) who were Jews who lived in Ethiopia for centuries.   These were the people who refused to convert to Christianity during the rule of Abreha and Atsbeha who were the monarchs of the Kingdom of Aksum. The Jews do not live here anymore. Most left for Israel in the 1970s. The people who showed us around were all Ethiopian Christians.  I was a  ig disappointed because I thought we were going to see the Beta Israel.

There is a stone which has words I cannot read.

Here is the synagogue.

The place where the Torah used to be kept has been covered-up.

These are some of the houses.

The people who are at the village now sell things.

Then we continued to drive through several villages. We went through Amba Georges and Debark, which has a University. I took photos from the jeep window.

We stopped at the office of Simien National Park where we all had to sign the register. Then we had lunch. Since we finished our lunch quickly so we took a short walk down the street until Ayu was ready. Walking on the sidewalks was not easy because the pavement is broken and uneven.

We picked u our guide and a park ranger and all crammed into the jeep for the rough gravel road drive to the park. It is a requirement all visitors to the park have an armed ranger with them.

Simien Mountains National Park has rugged terrain, which include escarpments, deep valleys, and a high plateau. It was established in 1969 after Clive Nicol wrote about his experiences in From the Roof of Africa. UNESCO made Simien NP a World Heritage Site in 1978. However, due to serious population declines of some of its characteristic native species, in 1966 it was also added to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

We checked into our cabins at the Simien Lodge, which is known as the highest elevation lodge in Africa.

Jane, Sue, our guide, and I went on a hike in the park with both our guide and the park ranger. We asked the guide if the ranger carried a gun because of animals. He told us that there were no dangerous animals. Apparently when the NP was first opened, there may have been vandals around the park. It is safe now but requiring the rangers help to employ people.

The guide pointed out various trees and plants – none of which I remember. There were beautiful views.

 

We came to a field that was full of Baboons. It sure was fun to walk among them. The ranger said we could get within a meter of them but just not to touch them.  Of course we weren’t going to touch them..

The guide noticed that Sue, Jane, and I were moving pretty slowly because we weren’t used to the elevation so he led us on the shorter version of the hike.

Ayu picked us up and we returned to the lodge. I was very happy to have enough Wi-Fi to finally work on my blog in the lobby.

The Simien Lodge is a beautiful place.

A man who I assume was the manager gave me (and Leigh) the password to his Wifi that made it easier to upload the photos if I sat in the restaurant. It got pretty cold outside. They built fires both in the restaurant area and in the bar area.

After dinner there were people who played music and showed us Ethiopian dancing.

When I was on my way to the bar area to see the Ethiopian dance performance, the same man who helped us with the Wifi gave hot water bag to me so I would stay warm during the cold night.. He said it would be my boyfriend tonight. I told Jane and Sue about it when I went to the bar area. The hot water bag also actually kept me warm as I walked back to our cabin.

 

We wore long underwear and had extra blankets so I was pretty cozy with my hot water bag.

It was a very enjoyable day.

 


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Dec. 30 Gondar

Today we drove to Gondar where there are at least 40 churches. . The road was paved all of the way there so no African massages today.

On the way Ayu stopped in a small village along the way so that we could take some photos of the people and their houses. We wandered for about 15 minutes.

 

We  drove a ways and then passed this woman who was making local beer.

A fruit stand along the road.

This woman is drying red peppers.

The load on the donkey looks so bulky but at least it is not a person.

Donkey’s carrying loads like this is one thing but there are also many people like this woman who carry incredible loads themselves.

We saw this tall rock formation in the distance and I used the zoomed to take a photo.

Then we stopped near a group of people to photograph it again.

I think these women came up to the jeep because they wanted money.

The close up of the tree makes the rock formation look small.

We arrived in Gondar in time for lunch and after checking into the Goha Hotel, we drove to The Four Sisters Restaurant where we had a wonderful traditional buffet lunch. All of the items were labeled so it was easy to make choices. I loved the string beans, lamb stew, and lentils, all of which I ate with the injera.

Then we drove to the walled Fasil Ghebbi Fortres. We had a wonderful guide named Bekele. Facilides is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was built during the 17th and 18th centuries. Ethiopian people did all of the work to build the castles.

Emperor Easilides built the first castle which combines Portuguese, Indian and local architectural styles. The Ethiopian royal family built all the castles within the walls before Gondar lost its power and the capital was moved to Addis Ababa in the late 19th century. The people who actually built all of these places were Ethiopians and I read on a website (so who knows if it is true) that many of them were Ethiopian

Some of the castles we saw were built by:

  • King Fusillades built in 1632. He reined the country for 35 years up to 1637.
  • King Fasilides son and successor, King Yohannes 1667 – 1682. He built his own palace. He was very religious.
  • King Iyasu built the third palace form 1682 to 1706.
  • King Dawit was the fourth generation or great grandson of King Fasilides from 1716 to 1730.

Bekele also showed us the:

  • Library
  • Music auditorium
  • Reservoir
  • Stables
  • Turkish Bath (which was quote an amazing structure)
  • Lion Cages
  • Women’s Vocational School.

The walls surrounding all of the buildings have 12 round towers, which symbolize the 12 Apostles. All of these places were quite amazing.

These are the photos I took.

Lion Cages

Sauna

 

 

 

I was finally able to get a photo of a Pied Crow.

Then Bekele went with us to Debre Berhan Selassie Church. It was built by Emperor Eyasu II (also known as Birhan Seged, “He to Whom the Light Bows”) The name Debre Birhan “Mountain of Light” is after the Emperor’s nickname as well as in honor of the church of the same name in Shewa.

I read that the Mahdist Dervishes of the Sudan sacked the city of Gondar in 1888. They burned down every church in the city except Debre Birhan Selassie. According to local legend, when the Mahdist soldiers approached the church, a swarm of bees descended on the compound of the church and kept the soldiers back, and the Archangel Michael himself stood before the large wooden gates with a flaming sword drawn. The walls depict biblical scenes and saints. Bekele explained many of them to us. The ceiling is covered with the faces of hundreds of angels.

Bekele explained the use of the systrum, drum, and prayer stick.

Our final destination was the Fusillades ‘Bath. This is where baptisms are performed. Also on January 18th and 19th the people would come to the pool for Timket. The entire pool is filled with water and many, many people get into the pool. The priest splashes others with water from the pool. Timket is an elaborate religious celebration and we hope to see it when we are in Yirgalem on Jan 18th and 19th.

I think that in the time of King Fusillades, he would stand on the platform and talk to the people.


The Banyan trees roots growing around the walls of the pool remind me of the ruins in Angkor Watt, Cambodia.

Bekele told us that many marriages take place at this time of year. When a man sees a woman they admire and throw a lemon towards her. If she likes him, she will catch the lemon and he knows to approach her. If she is not interested, she will not touch the lemon. I think he said that this actually takes place during Timket when they are in the pool.

Bekele was a fantastic guide who was not only very knowledgeable but also very curious. Whenever we said words that he had not heard before, he wrote them down. We exchanged contact information so that I can recommend him on Trip Advisor. And when I got confused about some of the names and dates, he took the time to send information to me through Whatsapp.


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Dec 29 Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls

This morning we left at 8:00. Ayu drove us to Lake Tana (a short distance from the Abay Minch Lodge) and we took a 90-minute boat ride across Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile.

 

Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia with an area of 3600square kilometers. The lake hosts 27 islands and 37 monasteries that were founded between the 11th and 16th century. We passed two islands that were close to each other. One was for the nuns and the other was for the monks.  You can barely see the one for Monks in this photo.

 

 

We docked on the Zege Peninsula and walked up the hill from the boat dock to the Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery. There are 10,000 people living and working on this island including the monks, nuns, priests, and people growing coffee beans. The name of the village is Azua.

 Although Jane, Sue, and Leigh each had a hiking pole with them, I had left mine in the room so I had to hike without a pole.

Our guide showed us that coffee beans are ready when they turn red. Each seed has two coffee beans inside of it.

We arrived at the Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery, which was established in the 14th century. First we looked at the hanging stone on the outside of the monastery, which is used to call the monks.

The Monastery is conical shaped.

 

 

On the top of the Monastery is a sculpture showing seven Ostrich eggs that represents the 7 miracles of Christ.

The people pray in front of the monetary.

We took off our shoes, covered our heads, and entered the Monastery through the floor doors that were made out of 1 piece of a Sycamore tree.

There are floor to ceiling murals that were painted using natural colors in the 16th century and have been restored in the 1990s. Our guide told us that the paintings were created to help the people who cannot read understand the stories of the bible.

Some of the murals were small squares depicting every day life of the people.

As we walked around the circle inside the monastery, our guide explained the 4 sections. The north section depicts the martyrs; the west section is about Mary; the south section is about the exile of Mary; and the east section is about the miracles.

Only the priests can enter through the main doors. Just like churches we saw yesterday and the day before, there are 3 sections (one for woman, one for men, and the center for priests and Monks.

We walked on a path through the coffee bushes towards a second smaller Monastery. The path was beautiful.

The people who harvest the coffee beans live near the field.

I was doing a great job walking without any pole until I tried to get my hat off of my fanny pack and tripped on a root. I am so lucky that I did not get a FOOSH because I fell forward right onto my hands. But I picked myself up, dusted off my hands, and was just fine.

At the end of the path was the second monastery, Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery.  It is smaller than Ura Kidane Mihret and the murals are not as colorful.

.As we walked back to the boat there were many people selling things. Leigh bought a small drum and a bell.  Jane bought a small cross.

A young man named Sale was painting small pictures.   I took a photo of him doing a painting and of the natural dyes he uses. He wanted me to mail the photo to him and the natural dyes he uses to paing..

On the way back across the lake the boatman took us to see Hippos.

We also saw pelicans.

A guy in a small papyrus was feeding the pelicans.

We went to a lovely restaurant where we sat by the lake.

I loved watching the red dragon fly land over and over again on the same branch.

 

It took them a very long time to bring us our lunch but it was delicious grilled lake fish.

After lunch we drove about 30 km. Ayu told us we were going for an African massage just as he began driving over another gravely, potted road. We passed the fields of sugar cane which is grown in this region.

This was market day in the small villages we passed. We had to keep the windows closed because of the dust. We say a man covered in a white cloth being carried on a platform. Ayu said they were taking him to the doctor’s office. I think they had to walk about 5 km to get there. If the doctor doesn’t know how to help him, he will call an ambulance.

We arrived at Tisabay (the town by the Blue Nile River which means “smoking water”) where Ayu bought our tickets to walk to Blue Nile Waterfall that is on the Blue Nile River. The river is known as Tis Abay in Amharic, which means “Great Snake.”

We walked up the very rocky path along with many people who were going home from the market and they had donkeys with them.

Again I was walking without a pole and doing a great job.  So happy that my balance still works.

 

I really did a great job walking up the very rocky path without my poles.

.The guide warned me to be careful about the donkeys pushing me over. When we were crossing the stone bridge that was built in 1620, one donkey bumped tight into my butt.

We made it to the overlook of the waterfall.

Of course we needed a photo of ourselves.

We came to the new suspension bridge that was built in 2011. Much to our surprise, there were 5 or six cows being led across the bridge toward us. One woman said that it was very fitting because the bridge was constructed y the Swiss.

We took a very short boat ride back to the where we met Ayu and the Jeep. Then we bounced along the gravel road again and back to Abay Minch Lodge for a delicious fish and vegetable dinner. They brought the fish wrapped in aluminum with a fire on top of it in foil.

They just threw the fiery foil onto the floor.

Being driven by Ayu in a private group with only the four of us with private guides at each place is so fantastic. We are so privileged.


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December 28th Addis to Bahir Dar

We are finally at a place with Wifi.  I have just enough time to do one day’s post.  It is very difficult to write a post from 3 days ago so I hope I have remembered.

We left at 6:30 in the morning for a 558 km drive. It was suppose to take about 10 ½ hours and I wasn’t fully prepared for the road conditions.  The traffic leaving Addis Ababa was pretty dense.  We made our way out of the town but the traffic was still pretty slow.  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 continues 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.

There are 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 there are 5000 people are served by Debre Libanos Monastery.  There is housing for the monks and a cemetery

There is a cave located about a 15 – 20 minute walk from the monastery.  This was whereSaint Tekle Haymanot lived in the nearby cliffs and it contains a spring whose water 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 were potholed and covered with ruts. It was a such rough ride and we were bounced around on both the potted gravely road and on some of the paved roads that were rutted almost the entire time.  Sometimes it was very dusty and we had to keep our windows closed.

 

When we went through towns and I tried to take photos, but it is not easy to take photos from the car window.

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 ourselves.

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 gathering 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 got to look at it, 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 shoe 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 about damaging our jeep and 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.

It got pretty scary and we 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.


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WiFi too limited

The WiFi here is way too limited to post anything with photos.  Just wanting to let everybody who is actually reading this know that I am writing everything up and getting photos ready.  I will try if we are at places where I have adequate Wifi or do it all when I get back to Portland.  Roads are very sketchy.  All is well.