25-26-27 January 2018
I leave the north. Flying above Ethiopia, my perspective is of zigging zagging canyons with a sliver of river at the bottom; huge buttes with small villages on top; ridges; endless brown; rocky, volcanic topography – what looks to be an incredibly inhospitable landscape. I see few tilled fields that seem ample enough to feed the population. Wars were fought on this land and woe to the ignorant of its ups and downs, steep escarpments and narrow valleys, and what looks to be a single ribbon of road into the distance. Italian invaders learned the hard way, taking days and back-breaking labor to move their trucks and tanks but a few miles. From up here, I can see why.
Flying back to Addis, I will escape the “on the ground” experience of Ethiopia’s roads. I am not sad about this. At times, our travel between cities averaged as little as 35 mph and that is on a “good road.” Two-lane roads always have room for more be it trucks, busses, pack animals, tuk tuks, horse and donkey carts, or walkers. Bumpy roads and horn honking are the norm. Bathrooms? Not yet.
23-24 January 2018
A 40-minute southerly flight takes me over astonishing landscape from Aksum to the remarkable Amhara city of Lalibela. The view of the Simien Mountains, Tekezé River and 200 miles of rugged Ethiopia is amazing.
The city of Lalibela is small, about 30,000 people, but one of the most important in all Ethiopia. There are hundreds of rock churches in Ethiopia, but Lalibela contains 11 monolithic churches (built of a single large block of stone). These 12th century churches are carved out of pink volcanic tufa which is softer than granite. As a group, the rock-hewn churches and surrounding tukul stone and grass huts have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ethiopians look upon the entire city of Lalibela as a “sculpture” dedicated to the glory of God. Read more…
22 January 2018
I leave green, fertile fields for dry, barren, rocky Tigray. If there is one thing this region has, it’s rocks: a plethora of rocks on top of rocks used for building and terracing. Oh, and an occasional camel.
Ethiopia’s Kebre Nagast (Book of Kings) recounts how Aksum was the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided as early as the 10th century B.C. It is written that the son of Sheba and King Solomon (Menelik) brought the Ark of the Covenant to Aksum where it remains in a sanctuary to this day. Famous long before the time of Jesus, Aksum was the capital of the Aksumite region, one of the oldest African empires, and acted as a strategic bridge between Africa and Asia for a thousand years.
After witnessing the festival of Timkat in Gondar, I am eager to visit Askum – its ancient buildings, stelae, baths, churches and, according to Ethiopians, the site of the true Ark of the Covenant. Because of the Ark’s presence, Aksum is considered the holiest city in Ethiopia. Read more…
20-21 January 2018
An arduous climb out of Gondar has brought me to the massive Simien Mountains. According to Google Maps, which tells me what my stomach already knows, I have ascended up 7450’ just to descend down 3,668, up again and down again and around and around to reach my 10,735’ mountaintop lodge. The sunset which welcomes me has made the drive worth it.
I awake to the brisk chill of the Simiens. I am eager, but winded at this altitude, to explore this spectacular landscape; its mountainous passes and rugged beauty has earned Simien Mountains National Park the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read more…
18-19 January 2018
We drive this amazing countryside north from Bahir Dar around Lake Tana. The road wends its way up, as high as 7500 feet as we slowly travel to the medieval city of Gondar. Nothing earthbound goes quickly along these roads.
17 January 2018
Distances in Ethiopia are deceiving. This is a land of spectacular but rugged landscape, much of which looks like the Grand Canyon on steroids. The reports say there are over 20k miles of roads. However, that doesn’t mean they are all paved, lit, dual lane, wide enough for trucks and buses to pass, nor that drivers or animals follow any rules. Cows and goats have the right of way and they just don’t care that I may be in a hurry. One travel site warned about the presence of land mines on some of the more isolated roads. Ethiopia’s roads have never been easy, something the Italians found out when they thought they could easily conquer these noble people using roads better suited for donkeys than tanks, when it took days to go a few score of miles.