January 30th, 2009
MOst of this stuff happened before this date, but I'm only just entering it now. So first we'll back the truck up:
January 29th, 2009
I am very sick, and don’t feel like doing anything today. Still, I am dedicating my time to keep you informed as I recuperate. In which case I have to change the date back to:
January 27th, 2009
Didn’t sleep most of the night. I don’t think it was because I was sick, but when I have to get up to do something, say, like, catch a plane, I wake up every hour until I have to get up. Which is the case today. I got up at 6:30, had a shower and packed my pack. It doesn’t seem to be quite closable, and I don’t really have a heck of a lot of souvenirs. Still, I guess it’s enough to swell the pack. It seems to be expanding with the heat. Still, what the hey, hey?
I got on the internet and wired myself some money western union around 7:30AM and had coffee. While I was sitting there, I started thinking about what the Lonely Planet Guide had said about no banks at Lalibela, and remembered when I wired money to Cindy in Winnipeg from New Orleans via the net; it was ready in about an hour. So I walked to the bank and checked to see if the money was ready. After filling out the forms and stuff time was clsoing in on the 9AM taxi ride back at the hotel. The long and the short of it was, the teller got a message that the transaction would not be ready for 140 hours! Ok so that kinda freaked me out. That would mean I would have no money in Lalibela. I had to kinda jog to get back to the hotel in time to catch the minivan to the airport.
I rationalized the whole thing thinking it musta been a decimal place out of place, and maybe it meant 14 hours. The other Western Union money I sent myself, I picked up on the day after I was on the Internet, and my search for Western Union offices has given the Ethiopian Central Bank in lalibela as an outlet. Security check in Ethiopia is a little tighter than in Canada. I took a couple of ineffectual stabs at taking video on the way out. After getting dressed and undressed at the airport and having them open my bags to check out ALL THOSE WIRES, I had a coffee made by a lady at the airport in the coffeee ceremony thing with incense and all. She wanted to sell me some incense and I wanted to buy some, but two things stopped me. One, I wasn’t sure if I had enough cash for the rest of the trip (don’t ask me where it all went, I have receipts but I haven’t tallied them. And second, I had decided my souvenirs were being mailed home and I didn’t want customs hassling Lee about the substance tat looked like crack mixed with bark. Chances are it would have ben confiscated.
Anyways, there wasn’t a lot of us on the plane, we took off on time, and only I and a young German couple got off the plane at Lalibela. I had already decided I was going to stay at the Seven Onions because Karsten had mentioned he and Kristine were going to stay there, but there was a weird moment as I came into the airport. There was a guy holding up a piece of paper with my name on it! It was spelled wrong: “Richard Kelley”, but I immediately figured out this was Happy, the guy I wasn’t gonna phone when I got there. I still don’t have that journalist’s reflex, and I didn’t take a picture, but I shoulda!
So, I rode into town with Happy and a gang of guiders, me the only paying customer. It was only 40 Birr to the hotel. Happy did a good job of trying to get me to go to the Asheton, but The Seven Onions had a Restaurant and I stood firm. It was more expensive: $15US a night. When I got there I knew I’d made the right choice. It was a really pretty place with a balcony, and the bank was right outside the front gate!
Happy wanted to talk me into going on a trip to a place ending in Kristos, but I put him off till 7PM There were some beautiful turquoise birds that held my attentionon the patio. I took some pictures, but I don’t seem to have them on my computer. I’ll search for them later and see if I can find them for the journal. The German couple showed up later and stayed at the hotel. I slept for a while after drinking a tea and wrote my blog for a bit. I got up later and had porridge, bananas and honey which was very good but E-spensive (my word now for expensive for Ethiopia but still quite reasonable in dollars ($2.70). Happy showed up and I agreed I would go with him to Yemrehanna Kristos, and the only reason I agreed is that it has from 8 to 10,000 corpses piled behind it in various degrees of mummification! It was just too Indy Jones to turn down, no matter how sick I felt. I told him I had to go to the bank and see if my money had come through. He agreed to take me out for $850 Birr and I gave him a 100 Birr deposit, which was kinda dumb because I didn’t have enough to pay him if it didn’t. I figured I’d use some of my US dollars to pay for the hotel.
January 28th, 2009
I’m still sick. I got up early and worked on this blog, Western Union had my money, about 2,000 Birr and I went back to the hotel and had porridge with bananas and honey. I chatted with a nice girl from New York, Nicole and invited her to come along. For some reason when Happy showed up with the driver, she changed her mind. Which was weird because when I gave the driver my email address later, he had her email address. Maybe something happened. She said she had some stuff to do. I took video along the way, cause stills from a moving vehicle just don’t work out. The road was really bumpy and I got seasick. I was quite nauseous. I didn’t throw up, but I was really, really, glad when we got there. We sat for a while at the bottom of the uphill path. Someone whould tell these monks that God is everywhere, and ya just don’t need to go to the top of a mountain to get closer to him!
We stopped a few times, because my lungs didn’t seem to like the climb. It’s gotta be the higher elevation, cause it’s the second time I had to rest after just a couple of hundred meters. Nepal is gonna be a killer! Met the same Italian priest from Debra Damo on the way up as he was coming down. There’s quite a few beggars along the climb to Yemrehanns Kristos. So we finally reached the top. For some reason, I thought our driver was a local guide. Beats me why I made that mistake, I’d been sitting beside him all the way there (two hours), and tried to tell him what gear we should be in when we lost traction on the last part of the hill.
I took pics and video, but the area where the mummies was too dark for stills AND I only had one battery for my flash camera! Sorry about that. Still, trust me when I say it was suitably creepy at the back of the cave. There was a low wall that had been built to keep the corpses from spilling over into the rest of the compound at the back of the cave. I guess I should mention the church is built under a recessed cave beneath a cliff. There’s a really old building beside it that is used for storage, but once was the monk’s quarters. I was down to one last still shot on my video memory card and the driver (who I still thought was a guide) asked me to take a picture of him in front of the church. I thought it was weird, cause how would he get the picture from me, but I took it and he seemed happy looking at it.
The priest brought out the cross, which was the best I have seen, artistically speaking. Anyway the driver/guide guy bared his back and the priest place the cross on his bare skin, and he also blessed Happy. We went back down the hill and I gave a couple of old begging ladies the last of my little cash. We reached the bottom, and I had a ten birr Mirinda orange pop. An old woman carrying a big buncha sticks told Happy she had been walking a long way and asked if we could give her a ride to her place down the road. They asked me, and I didn’t see why not and said if it was OK with them, it was OK with me. They explained some tourists don’t like doing that cause they have “paid” for the exlusive use of the van. She had already stared without us, so we had to catch up to her to give her a ride, and she seemed pretty happy when the driver and Happy put her bundle in the roof rack.
I was seasick on the way back, but it wasn’t as bad cause the road got better the closer we got to town, and that in itself brought me some relief. And every time I lifted up my cheapo still camera, the driver stopped so I could take the picture. It was quite nice. We stopped in the town that marks the turn of to Yemrehanna Kristos, and picked up some guys there, and eventually we got back to Lalibela. The town itself is perched on the top of a high cliff overlooking a badlands type valley.
I went and lay down as soon as I got back and fell asleep. I woke up late, and went to the restaurant and order pepper steak, but the chips were awful, and the steak itself wasn’t great. As the power was out, I went back to sleep.
January 29th, 2009 (again)
So I’m still feeling sick. The fever’s gone but I still have a headache and feel a little queasy. Stayed in bed to write this blog. But there’s only so much I can do. The window s face North so even though it’s sunny out, it’s still kinda dark in here, and I need some fresh air.
That was then though; this is now. Three Australians came out to the patio, one called Matthew and I forget the others’ names and we started chatting and I ordered a coffee to go with the chat, and after I had a couple of cups, I realized my headach had disappeared and realized I hadn’t had any coffee for a couple of days, and the headache part of my flu was actually from caffeine withdrawal! So I was feeling better already. Then Sean and Arlene showed up at the hotel. They had gone up to see the Tigray churches overland with Sandy, the Australian who was still enroute. The day brightened quite considerably when they arrived and Sean was set on seeing the St. Giorgis site at sunset, so I wlked down there with them. Other than going to the bnk it was the first time I had ventured out on the streets of Lalibela since I got here. My mood improved considerably, as they are both quite adventurous socially and physically. We stopped at the bank so they could change some traveller’s cheques, then walked down the hill to buy tickets to see the churches. It’s 200Birr for five days and heaven’s sake it was 300 Birr for my video camera! To make things worse, I had NO MEMORY STICK in the darn camera! It was back at the hotel. So I shot video and used my cheap 35mm. So until I can get the pics digitized you have no way of seeing them. I am sending them back to Lee to take to Walmart as soon as I get back to Addis Abeba.
So, it was great fun exploring the church with Sean and Arlene, and on the way back up the hill to the Seven Olives (I had been calling it the Seven Onions till Sean pointed out I was staying at the Seven Olives. We met three Greeks on the way up that Sean and Arlene knew, and they started talking and eventually went in to a church service at one of the churches, so I headed up the hill to find the Blue Nile Restaurant where we would meet later. I ordered a Coke, and chatted with a kid who worked there. He was in the last year of high school. They played Teddy Afro on the stereo and it was quite wonderful sitting there in the twilight, listening to Teddy. He’s in jail here for opposing the government and still has five or six years left to go before he Cn get out. It was quite a while later when Sean came, bearing Greeks, and I had just finished off a plate of lamb with a Coke. We sat for quite a while and a woman made the traditional coffee thing with incense and all, but I think I was the only one who drank coffee. One of the women was called Athena, which I thought was pretty cool and she promised to send me the name of a couple of really nice hotels in India to me. It was quite wonderful there. We sat outside under a tent canopy and the restaurant was up a slope from the road. I shot some video there that turned out pretty great I think. Shots of passers by. The welder across the street making a metal sign, stuff like that.
It was great fun, and we got back around 21:45 and agreed to meet in the morning and tour the famous five, the northern set of churches.
January 30th, 2009
I woke up around 6AM. I’m feeling better. Still abit queasy though. I couldn’t get any water from the taps and kept playing with them, and suddenly, a miracle! HOT WATER! I had porridge, bananas and honey and coffee for breakfast and Sean and Arlene joined me. We toured the churches all morning and decided to walk to the Tokul Village Hotel so Arlene could make a phone call. We ended up stopping at a restaurant. There were two Dutch girls there and we chatted to them for a while, ordered pizza and Coke, and then a French couple showed up who Sean and Arlene had met, and as Sean and Arlene are originally from Montreal, we all cahtted in French, though whenever I said something in never seemed quite a propos. Still, we got a ride back in the van they hired and it turned out to be the same one happy had hired to go out to Yemrehanna Kristos. Weird.
We ran into an Israeli couple Sean and Arlene knew, and chatted, finally Arlene had to make her phone call to the place she’s gonna be working at in Senegal, and Sean had to go to the bank. I bought a bottle of mango juice and water, and as we were walking up to the Seeven Olives Hotel, Arlene spotted Sandy the Australian in an Internet café, so we all went back to the patio for coffee. Found out from Sean (he’s a doctor) I didn’t need to be taking my malaria pills, and that one of the side effects was that your skin would burn in the sun. Gaaah! That explains my particular blend of lobster.
I was pretty tired, so I left them and went for a nap. I woke up around 8 (20:00 HRS) and all the lights were out. I went out on the patio and joined Sean and Arlene, chatted with Sean. He’s studying Law at University in Austarlia. The two Israelis were there. Nice couple, and another guy, also Israeli, and an American called Rachel, who was quite pretty.