18 March 2008

I've been sucked in by the internet. I'm intending to go south of Addis Ababa today, but it's 10:30 and I'm playing on the addicting high speed internet.

The original plan was to stay this week in Lalibela, famous home of 10 churches carved down into the rock (accessed by tunnels and trenches). Unfortunately, Lalibela is also the home of unbelievable number of young men who will not leave you alone, with the phrases "I love you!" and "Do you need a husband?" featuring prominently next to rather more vulgar ones. I visited the churches (one afternoon) and then I rode a mule/climbed up to a set of cliff churches (one morning and half an afternoon), and then I had done everything there was to do within a reasonable radius of distance and cost, so I sat in the Ethiopian Airlines office until 6 pm when they were certain that the last person was not going to reconfirm the flight back to Addis the next day, and then they put me on it. Especially convenient was the fact that they somehow managed to work my flights so that I got $75 of a refund back.

We flew a Fokker 50 two-prop from Lalibela back to Addis. By "we," I mean about 30 Polish tourists, an older Italian dentist coming back from making pretty smiles for kids in Tanzania, a few Ethiopians, and me. I learned the following: 1. Polish women apparently do not believe in hair colors that exist in nature. 2. People who haven't flown much in Africa are freaked out by prop planes and African turbulence, which is oddly more swoopy than the bumpy turbulence further north. In the bus from the plane to the airport, they were repeating loudly in deliberate English, "All. Is. Well. That. Ends. Well." The Fokker 50 happens to be the same plane that the UN flies from Juba to The-Town-Formerly-Known-On
-this-Blog-as-Central-Location, aka Rumbek, in Southern Sudan, so I've seen it buffetted around a bit before. Plus one of my colleagues when I worked in Rwanda was the son of a pilot and told me about how much tougher the prop planes are than jets.

The best part of Lalibela was not the churches, although they are pretty amazing. The best part was the climb up above the cliff churches. My guide asked me if I wanted to climb the rocky outcropping up above, and I looked at it for a while and thought about my already-tired legs, and then said yes. I am one of those stubborn people. We hiked up the side for a while and then we started scrambling up the rock face. "Be careful." my guide kept saying, "Do not be afraid." I was not the one who was afraid. (He later admitted to not liking heights and having only gone up the outcropping three times, during guide training, because most people don't bother with the extra climbing.) Finally I popped up through a hole in the rock and I was on the top, looking out over what seemed to be all of Ethiopia. We sat on the top, looking out. I looked and thought, and the guide looked and called people on his mobile phone, which apparently has better network coverage than anywhere below. I wondered why everyone doesn't choose Ethiopia for their vacations.

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