Many overhanding guides say that welcome from Ethiopians is not very warm. The language barrier is not helpful and sometimes you can expect occasional showers of sticks ans stones…
Well…We experienced the whole range of different behaviour from local people, especially kids… But to be honest we didn’t see many Ethiopians with angry, full of aggression faces. Most of the time, their acting, when they saw us, was funny and little odd.
Reactions on us and our van by Ethiopians
§ Waving towards us
§ Passing a kiss (mainly girls)
§ „you, you, you”
§ „pen, pen, pen”
§ „birr, birr”
§ „Farang” (foreigner)
§ Spitting on our car
§ Once we were hit by a stick (old lady didn’t lke a car in the village)
§ Once a girl was screaming: „I love you”
§ Throwing mud/ rocks/ animal poo
§ Once hit by a whip
§ Staring at us like on UFO
§ Running along the car/behind or running away leaving on the road a huge herd of cow
§ Showing a tongue.
§ Dancing, showing acrobatic stuff, standing on a head
§ One kid was walking on the stilts
So that was what we experienced:)
Due to the fact that lots of Ethiopians cannot afford to buy a car( they rather walk or run), therefore they don’t really get used to many vehicles on the roads. Firstly we thought that those reactions were only addressed to foreigners, but even a car on Ethiopian number plate can meet some reactions listed above. Of course sometimes people (mostly kids) were trying to throw a stone into our car, but then instead of driving faster, running away we were waving and smiling towards them. And because of that, such a person or child automatically was drooping a stone or animal dung down and he/she was waving back to us…Simple solution, which allowed to save our windscreen in that country:)
We also were thinking, why actually kids or young people throw stones/sticks into cars…The reason for that in our opinion is:
-roads in Ethiopia are various…nowadays, there is plenty of tarmac roads, but before asphalt times, gravel was dominated. Now..Imagine…when a car is driving fast on gravel road, some rocks may shut out from the underneath and hit people, who are on the road. Therefore, they are throwing stones into vehicles as a payback.
Short video of Ethiopian Kids (you will be able to hear something what they scream)
In Bahir Dar, we had to split up with Terri as we wanted to drive to Lalibela and explore the famous rock hewn churches. The distance between these two places is around 300 km, nevertheless GPS suggested about 6 hours of driving (about 240 km is a nice tarred road and 60 km is a gravel road). After 3 hours of driving we noticed a first, wild vervet monkey. I asked Charlie to stop the car as I wanted to take a photo. I got off, but unfortunately monkey ran away. I came back to the car and saw weird Charlie’s face expression – Charlie discovered that our engine was….MEOWING!!! We opened bonnet and saw a little kitten!! We wanted pull him out, but he was too scared and he was very quickly moving from the engine to different van’s parts (like the wheel).
According to our Ethiopian rule on the road: You think you have stopped in a deserted place, but it is just a pretence as not even in 3 minutes you will be surrounded by people, lots of people who come from nowhere. That thing happened when we were trying to get the kitten out from the engine. Lots of kids came running and trying to help us with the cat. However, when the kitten saw and heard that amount of people, he was getting more and more frightened. For nothing in the world he wanted to be pulled out, therefore we drove few kilometres further, where we finally managed to catch him. We decided to take him with us and find him a new home in Lalibela.
Road to Lalibela was amazing. Beautiful landscapes and green highlands. Especially the last 60 km on gravel road (not bad condition) which was full of stunning views.
Lalibela (sitting at 2630 m) seems to be isolated place and not well developed, although lots of tourists have been coming here for ages. That place is definitely one of the greatest religious and historical sites in the Christian world.
In Lalibela we found a cheap accommodation – We were camping at the courtyard of the Asheten Hotel. That place also became a new home for „our” kitten – people who were working/living there, adopted him as a solution for mice (I think kitty didn’t like a „new” home that much as during our stay there, he was still sneaking to our car and sleeping on Rusty’s engine)
I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but in Ethiopia it was cheaper to eat it local restaurant than use our „cooking gas”. Therefore, we were asking Ethiopians which place with food they would recommended to us. In Lalibela we were dining at the Blue Nile Restaurant. Food was really good and also cheap, the problem was the waiting time. Once, we were waiting over an hour, and when we were finally served our meals were actually cold, but somehow still delicious. Charlie ordered national food – ingera with meat, while I decided to try a local pizza, which also contained the grilled carrot and honestly – I loved the taste of it, even cold. Nevertheless, the food is not the only one reason, why I am writing about that restaurant. When we went to pay for food, we noticed, behind the little bar, a bottle of polish vodka „Wyborowa” (it was already empty, probably just a decoration). We asked the girl, where did she get that from and she said that actually that vodka was from her brother as he had been studying and living in Poland, additionally in Warsaw! We were so nicely surprised:D
Walking around Lalibela allowed us to observe how Ethiopians’ (especially young ones) daily life looks like. Once, we noticed some old tennis table and excited boys playing ping pong. Another time we saw happy teenagers playing footballers game on an old machine. We had feeling that time in Lalibela was passing slowly and people were happy.
The other things we discovered were: plenty of different shape and size butcheries and amazing taste of DELICIOUS Ethiopian honey.
From our observation, it seriously seems that Lalibela is tourism oriented and local people try to benefit from that as much as the can. Some of them just beg tourists for money or other things just because they are claiming to be poor, but some of them see different opportunities in foreigners. We had two interesting situations:
Once a young boy asked us where did we come from and when he found out that we are originally from Poland he started saying all polish words he knew!! That was impressive as polish is not a widely spoken language! He also added that he would love to learn more of our native language and asked us for a book in polish. Because we took some polish books and magazines with us, we gave him one. Who knows maybe he is studying from that:)
Another time, we met a boy who firstly asked us whether we could buy him a book as he wanted to study and gain more knowledge about the world. Because we heard similar things from other kids many times, we asked what he already knew about the world. He said that he had learnt all of the Europeans capitals…We didn’t really believe him, nevertheless we started asking…We started from the most known European countries such as: Great Britain, France and Germany…He answered correctly.. then we started with countries located in the middle of Europe…Slovakia, Hungary and ect…He answered correctly again…A the end we asked for the capitals of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and he seriosuly knew the answers again!!! We were very impressed and we gave him some of our National Geographic magazines. Other boys who heard our conversation were trying to do the same trick with capitals, but when we even asked for well – known countries of Europe, they were not able to answer correctly.
Lalibela is also special place to us as we met there two, amazing, Dutch girls Sabine and Puk, who were on their way from Cape Town to the Netherlands. Those wonderful girls were driving their Land-rover – Willem across Africa making their huge, common dream come true:
Citation from their blog: „Biking our way to school at the age of 14, we planned big adventures together. Over the past years we have explored the world, but now – 14 years later – we embark on one of the biggest adventures of our live”
It was really great to meet them and spend some time together. It probably sounds funny , but when we were doing research in the Internet for our trip we found information about them and I said to myself that it would be awesome to meet them somewhere on our way:). Moreover the Polish family, we met in Sudan, told us that they also had this pleasure to meet Puk and Sabine in Uganda. This is a real example that the World is small:D
According to the legend there was a King Lalibela who had vision from God to create rock hewn cities.He wanted to fulfill that comand and Construction work begun with remarkable speed, which was scarely surprising. It was believed that angels joined the laborers by day and at night did double the amount of work which the men had done during the hours of daylight…
Today Lalibela’s rock hewn churches are real treasure of Ethiopia. UNESCO identifies 11 monolithic churches, which are divided into 4 groups. They are spectacular and unique for two main reasons
- they are not carve into the rock, but freed entirely from it (hewn from the living rock of monolithic blocks)
- buildings are so refined
In order to protect churches, its frescoes from water erosion, UNESCO has built horrible (in term of attractiveness) scaffolding and roofing, which makes taking photos more challenging.
We paid 700 Birrs for the ticket, which was valid for 2 people and for 4 days (We finally spent 2 days). Photo below: (have no idea what is written there except the price and Charlie’s name, but this is scan of our ticket:))
We normally don’t take a guide while we are visiting attractions, but in case of Lalibela site it was a quite good decision. Our guide showed us many hidden tunnels and secret passages between the churches, which we probably would not even noticed walking alone. On the first day we were exploring Lalibela with Sabine and Puk (WOW– women on wheels), who already had arranged a guide. We joined them and shared the costs of a guide as well (I think the guide cost around 300 Birrs as we contributed 150). On the second day we were sightseeing on our own, which was also great as we could explore the site on our own terms.
Photos selection first day:
Useful things about Lalibela churches:
- Some churches/ rooms can be visited only by man (Woman are NOT allowed)
- The best known church of Saint George (Bet Giyorgis) was carved from solid red volcanic rock and was built as the last one.
According to the legend: Kind Lalibela firstly was supposed build 10 churches, however when he was nearly finishing, he was unexpectedly visited by Ethiopia’s patron saint George on a white horse. The saint was piqued as none of already built churches was dedicated to him. King Lalibela profusely apologised and promised him to built especially for him the most beautiful church of all. Today the priests show the hoofprints left behind the saint’s horse (permanently imprinted in stone on the side of the ditch)
Photo selection second day:
The road back from Lalibela to Addis Ababa – the capital of Ethiopia was really interesting. When we got off the gravel road we needed to stop and increase tyre pressure. Our compressor was very handy, but also very noisy, therefore when we started our procedure lots of kids came running and they were staring at as like on the UFO…We looked for them like Aliens, who just had parked their space-ship in the middle of Ethiopia…The situation was really funny… We finally started waving to them and they somehow got more convinced that we were actually humans, not someone from outer space. At the end,they started coming closer to us, smiling and willingly posing to our camera:)
Little advice for 2WD: reducing pressures in tyres gives you a bit more traction on on corrugated, sandy, muddy, snowy tracks.
Here is the photo of the tyre pressure on different surfaces. We found it useful, so you might use it as well (especially when you get stuck somewhere)
The road to Addis, we took was even more surprising the than road to Kossoye in term of height. We were driving again in the clouds at the 3340 m above sea level.Views were incredible and stunning – as always in Ethiopian’s Highlands
We were camping at the courtyard of a hotel we found in Weldiya and next morning we were driving through beautiful mountains again. We also noticed that the more east we were in Ethiopia, the more accents from Arabic culture we had seen. For instance: we saw mosques again and women who were wearing scarves on heads and in general were more dressed. Additionally, we saw plenty of camels, which mostly were carrying big containers with water:)