Lalibela is known for its cluster of rock-hewn churches, reportedly built with the help of angels, but the surrounding landscape actually offers more interesting sightseeing options. We obliged our sense of historical and cultural significance by checking out the churches of Lalibela on day one, but used the next two days to get out and see more than the average visitor. Day two saw us renting an old, rugged Land Cruiser and necessary driver for perhaps the most scenic drive I’ve ever experienced, before reaching a remote village, some 40km outside of Lalibela. From there it was 12km of off-roading (what our guide called an “African massage”) in order to access a church made of marble and cedar wood, located in a cave in the middle of a mountain. And since we didn’t get quite enough spectacular from that experience, we set off on a hike to reach a rock hewn church situated atop a mountain overlooking Lalibela on day three. In both cases, we encountered only one other set of tourists, which afforded us lots of bragging as we closed off our time in the town with a night at a Torpedo, a popular tej house, in the company of fellow travelers from Canada (see: highfiveadventures.com), France, and Spain.
Pilgrim village near Lalibela Churches
Yemerhanen Christos - Church made of really heavy materials, hundreds of years ago, in a cave in the middle of a mountain. Kind of looks like a dollhouse, no?
Crypt of mummies behind Yemerhanen Christos
Pretty much what the whole drive out to Y.C. looked like.
|Overlooking Lalibela (the cluster of buildings afar on the right)|
|Ethiopia, Spain, Canada, U.S.A., France|
|The Valley below Lalibella, toward Y.C.|
|Mount Soloda Expedition Team|
|The inaugural TITTY!|
|First pizza delivery in Adwa history!|
|Approaching Mount Soloda|
|One of the scorpions that nearly killed us|
|The cliff that nearly killed us|
|Our lovely hosts|
Four days and 20 minutes on a mini-bus later and we were back in Axum. Word on the street was that Axum is the least impressive of the three big historical areas in Ethiopia (as it’s currently only about 5% excavated), so we were preparing ourselves to be underwhelmed. While we had a blast checking out the obelisks and unearthing tombs, sans guide, it was the time with spent with Joel and company that really defined our time in Axum. We were even lucky enough to be on hand for the weekly Wine Day Friday tradition!
|Puttin' that Insanity to work!|
|King Kaleb's tomb|
For the final stop on our northern tour, it was off to Gondar, a one-time national capital. Known for its 17th century castle, Gondar is also home to the Dashen brewery, Debre Birhan Selasie Church, and is within spitting distance of the Simien Mountains. We were lucky enough to take in all of these sites, though suffered the misfortune of being completely enshrouded in cloud during our half day hike in the Simiens, robbing us of some unreal views. But we did see baboons and met some RPCVs from Mozambique on their COS tour before returning stateside, so that’s cool. We also got to spend quite a bit of time with “Mama Heater” Morgan, bringing the total number of “PCVs with whom I spent my Peace Corps training” visited during this trip to four (Dan & Danielle and Joel). Can’t imagine a better way to cap off the Great Northern Expedition!
|Sharing beers with Moz RPCVs|
|Just chillin' in a lion cage. NBD.|
|Inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church|