Humbled

The amazing Semien Mountains National Park

We did a short trek in the amazing Semien Mountains National Park

At times over the past ten days, I’ve felt our extended road trip through the hinterland of Ethiopia may have been a bit too adventurous, given we’re almost seven months into our journey and feeling quite travel weary. For example,

–          The time we drove for five hours at an average speed of 20km per hour over what can best be described as the debris of a 100km-long avalanche. In fact it’s the site of road construction, but beyond any sort of reason, traffic continues to pass. At one point we arrived at a hairpin turn where a digger was removing some large boulders from the road. No warning. No flag people. The equipment operator spotted us and reversed a few feet – just enough for us to pass. And pass we did. We can now say we survived the Limalimo Road!

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Some pretty cool views though

Some pretty cool views though

–          The day we drove for 10 hours, mostly on “dirt” (read: rock) roads and narrow mountain passes, where mere inches (and air) separated us from drops hundreds of metres to the valleys below. Passing the occasional wreckage of a truck that missed a turn and tumbled down the mountain-side served as a sober reminder of the very real risk.

–          On more than one occasion, being kept awake late into the night (or wee hours of the morning — the worst was 4am) by raucous music playing in bars across the street from the guesthouses we stayed at. Who knew Ethiopians liked to party so much at night!?

But – and it’s a major but – Ethiopia and its people have a way of capturing your heart. And so they have. Our experiences are too numerous to recount, but include:

–          Our quiet, yet profoundly kind and seriously cool tour driver (Getu), who has shepherded us across this country.

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Our ride

Our ride

–          The family that welcomed us into their modest mud-floor home and served us coffee… and wheat snacks… and injera and wot. When they saw that the kids loved the snacks, they rushed outside to roast a kilo for us to take away with us.

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Enjoying coffee inside our hosts home. Yes even Karl has taken to drinking coffee since being in Ethiopia

Enjoying coffee inside our hosts home. Yes even Karl has taken to drinking coffee since being in Ethiopia

Delicious wheat snacks being prepared for us to take away

Delicious wheat snacks being prepared for us to take away

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We were quite the scene pulling up in this small village and were literally surrounded in minutes

We were quite the scene pulling up in this small village and were literally surrounded in minutes when trying to leave

Our hosts, who were family of our driver Getu, outside their home

Our hosts, who were family of our driver Getu, outside their home

–          The owner of a tiny, below-ground restaurant who embraced us (literally and figuratively), serving the most delicious food and making us feel at home. On the second night we ate there, her young son taught the kids how to make injera. In fact, they ended working as servers.

Unique Restaurant in Lalibela

Unique Restaurant in Lalibela

Hanging with Abel (the owner's son)

Hanging with Abel (the owner’s son)

Making injera

Making injera

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–          The universally joyous response from everyone who learns Meskerem is Ethiopian and adopted into our family.

–          Watching countless people, young and old, carrying weight well above their own (water jugs, wheat stacks, wood)… and walking distances difficult to fathom.

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–          And the children. Oh, the children. Kids have waved and smiled and danced for us everywhere we’ve traveled. Each time we stopped the SUV on the side of what appeared to be a deserted road to take a break or a photo, kids appeared out of thin air. Most remarkable are the children, some who look as young as 5, herding large numbers of goats and cows and donkeys – all alone.

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–          The stunning geography of this country (we had no idea it was so mountainous), and its remarkable political history. This was the seat of one of the world’s great civilizations. Ethiopians are rightly proud of both – and the fact that, unlike many African nations, they have never been colonized.

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–          And perhaps most breathtaking of all – the architectural genius and spiritual devotion that inspired the stelae, tombs and rock-hewn churches in Aksum and Lalibela. (Note: If you haven’t been to Lalibela, especially if you are Christian, you really should add it to your travel wish list. If you’re not on a tight budget like us, you don’t have to travel the roads mentioned above – you can fly direct!)

At Aksum infront of one of the massive stelae that are around 1,700 years old.

In Aksum in front of one of the massive stelae that are around 1,700 years old. The Kingdom of Aksum was one of the great and powerful kingdoms of the ancient world

Each Stelae marked huge royal tombs

Each Stelae marked a massive royal tomb

St. George Church, one of the many monolithic rock-cut or hewn churches found in the rocky hills of Lalibela

St. George Church, one of the many monolithic rock-cut or hewn churches found in the rocky hills of Lalibela

At the base of St. George's Church

At the base of St. George’s Church

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Being in this country, though at times difficult for us pampered Westerners, has truly been a master class in the capacity and generosity of the human spirit.

We’re are exhausted, but more than that, we are humbled.

We even saw lots of camels!

We even saw lots of camels!

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And donkeys!

And donkeys!

And mountain monkeys!

And mountain monkeys!

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Categories: Ethiopia | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Humbled

  1. Angela K.

    Meskie, what a beautiful culture and country of origin you have!

  2. Breathtaking!

  3. Donovan

    Dear Gloria & Karl, Kate, Cen & Meskie, It is so incredible to read your story & see your pictures, as you have traveled so far. Donovan loves checking in on your updates & adventures when ever he is visiting. Together we have learned so much from your sharing. Thank you. We’re thinking of you & we wish you the happiest of Christmases & continued blessings as you begin the New Year! Dawn & Arthur

  4. sdlc

    Thank you for sharing! Totally amazing! Feliz Navidad! Yours from Mexico…Abbie

  5. Marguerite

    Wow! This is simply amazing! Taking adventure to a whole new level. I am so happy that all of you can experience this together as a family.

  6. A big hello to all the family,

    Happy to have read your blog and hear your impressions of Ethiopia. I am writing this comment from my parents home and they are all sending their greetings. We managed to see some of your pictures that I never had to see after you returned to Addis. Your impressions and views will also help me in my future endeavors.

    I will check up on your posts from time to time and Cate don’t forget to send me your first book because I am sure you will be published very soon.

    Tefera

    • Good to hear from you and say hello from us to all of your family. Hope everyone is doing well.

      Karl

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