Sunday, December 4, 2016

To the root of humankind - Ethiopia - with the Wandering Writer!

What I am going to tell this time is another amazing, extravagant adventure of the wandering writer, which is me. At my side, my unreplaceable companion of adventure: my husband.
This time was the time of Ethiopia, where humankind originated from a furry monkey to the one we are now.
We had a good deal, and we were going to fly from Helsinki to Frankfurt and from there straight to Addis Abeba. I was thrilled and couldn't see the time to visit the natural environment and, of course, the rock-hewed churches of Lalibela.
If it is true that you can see how things will end by the way they begin, I should have to be worried. Not for the safety reason, as that was not an issue; Ethiopia is a touristic country and is living in a peaceful way. Nevertheless, everything can happen during a trip, and as we were hanging around in the Frankfurt airport, we didn't notice the change in the terminal, so, surprise of the surprises, we missed the plane.
luckily the air company let us leave with the next flight scheduled for the next day; the only thing that buggered me was to inform the staff of the hotel in Addis Abeba and the travel agent of our delay and that we had to find a hotel in the nearby where to spend the night.
From that point on, I hoped that everything could go finally smoothly, and indeed without any further problem we reached the airport of Addis Abeba, and from there, we easily reached the hotel.
It was already evening, and we were quite tired, but we needed to meet out travel agent, who would have helped us to see the most using a small budget. We were not concerned about the accommodations, as we could adapt to many situations, as we did in the past.
After dinner, a tiny young man arrived introducing himself as our guide; Million. I have to say that sometimes the name is given for a reason and never like in the case of Million, it was right on the money, so to say.
There were too many things we wanted to see and, unfortunately too tight budget to fit everything in it; nevertheless, Million was able to create an alternative plan to see as much as possible, and we were set to leave Addis Abeba in a couple of days with a local flight.
We were set to leave and once again excited to be at the gate to reach Lalibela. However, we were also quite tired as the previous night we couldn't sleep properly.
"We will sleep on the plane," I said to my husband, knowing that to reach our destination it would take at least one hour and a half.
The plane left, and almost immediately we both fell asleep.
We slept so deep that we were awakened by the touch of the wheel on the ramp.
As soon as we exited the plane we realised something strange; you know that deja-vu feeling that this is not the first time you come in this airport.
"Wow, this looks exactly like Addis Abeba," he noticed.
"Indeed, maybe tin this country they thought of making all the national airport in the same way; you'll never know."
All the other passenger went to another gate, and we found strange that everybody had a connection flight via Lalibela.
The weird feeling that something is not right started to grow, and the more we walked, the more we felt uncomfortable, even because we could not find the baggage claim exit.
It was like in a weird dream, where nothing is following any logic, and none of us had the courage to say a word.
"Is it possible that we are back to Addis Abeba?" I asked.
"I don't think so," he replied, looking around with a lost expression "I don't even dare to ask anyone. They evidently believe that we are crazy."
Then suddenly, I saw the name of the airport: "Addis Abeba."
"Is this some kind of joke? Have we returned to the starting point?" I wondered.
In the end, I grabbed all my courage and asked information at the desk at the same gate where all the other passengers were gathered.
Well, what do you know? We slept so deeply that we didn't hear the captain saying that because some problem to the engines we were going back to Addis Abeba, waiting for another plane.
Just insane!!
Finally, we reached Lalibela, our hotel and Million.
Another thing we learned quite fast was that in Ethiopia the time as counted in a different way then respect the rest of the world. Practically, they count only 12 hours from the dawn to dusk and other 12 from dusk to dawn. For this reason, when we asked at what time were we supposed to meet the day after and he replied at 03:00 in the morning, we remained for a moment silent.
"Are you kidding me?" My husband dared to ask
"Oh," he said smacking lightly the palm of his hand against his forehead, "that is Ethiopia time, it will be 9:00 EAT."
He explained us briefly how did time count worked in Ethiopia, but we agreed that from that moment on we would have used the EAT, just to be sure that we would have all understood what we were talking about.
The following day we went to visit the famous rock-hewed churches and... Oh... Marvel!!!

Thinking that this churches had been hewed entirely on the bedrock was amazing e and still does, and even more considering the lack of tools we would have used nowadays to complete such a project.

However, when just I thought it was an incredibly ambitious project to dig a church underground on the bedrock, I had to reconsider the term ambitious and incredible for what I was going to see inside the church:
Vaults, columns, walls entirely decorated with the finest motifs all sculpted on the rock and painted with beautiful colors. The feelings, I could never describe; it was like being brought back to the past, I could almost hear the many voices of the people who worked in the realization of such a wonder, I could feel the lives spent on that project.
The legend tells that angels and men built the churches, as men were working on it by day and angels continued by night, and that in this way they could be finished in the matter of 24 years. Of course, archaeologists (and also common sense, if you ask me) consider it impossible.
However, whether they were built in 24 years or 100 years, they remain a real wonder, and a must see once in a lifetime.
The day after we left heading to the national part towards the Danakil depression in the Afar region. Our aim was to reach the spectacular hot springs, or the volcano Erta Ale, nevertheless, the guide said that perhaps we could not see everything, but he would have done everything to give us a great experience.
Ethiopia, besides having a very peculiar political history, as also a peculiar geological history and makes its natural environment one of a kind in the entire world.

And finally the first taste of the big depression:
The rest of the trip was continuous descending under the sea level until we reached the incredible elevation of -114m. I had my altimeter with me, and it was funny to see it going down that way. Of course, with that also the temperature increased. We reached the first stop, and the driver suggested us not to go any further as the tires of the car might not have been able to stand the heat. The heat was indeed scorching, but you never know how it is until you do not have a look at the thermometer, and when I did, I was quite shocked to realise that it was over 50C.
Now, to make you understand what 50C may feel like, consider to drink 2l of water and have it evaporated from your body in the matter of one hour. My finger started soon to get swollen, and we searched immediately shelter in a local "restaurant."
But where were we? We were not in a resort; we were in a small village where people who extract salt from the lake lived and worked. The place was full of shacks where the families of the workers lived, and we were wondering where we would have been lodged; you know that was not the place for any hotel.
In fact, we didn't have any hotel, but a camping place... in the middle of the Afar Desert...
Our rooms with view :-)
The showers and restrooms...
and the salt mine.
The only luck was that we had water with us and the "restaurant" was not lacking water. The night our beds were taken out from the shacks, and we were going to sleep under the stars. Let me tell you one thing. You have no idea about the many stars you would be able to see if we wouldn't have all this light pollution overwhelming the beauty of a night sky.
I could see the milky way as I've never seen it before, and it was amazing. That was not a five-star accommodation; it was a thousand-star accommodation, and I will never forget such a perfect time as falling asleep in the middle of the Afar desert, with a light breeze soothing me, and the best view of the world.

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