Leg 2: Gondar
After 3 nights in the Simiens, Dan, our new friend Katie and I headed back to Gondar for a quick afternoon of exploring and an early morning flight out. We spent a few hours meandering through the neat little town, stopping in markets and coffee shops along the way. We also did a couple laps of the Gondar castle and a massive tree in the middle of town. We stayed in a tiny “hotel” that wasn’t much to speak about but that provided some new friends, card competitors, and dinner companions from New Zealand, England, and Finland.
Leg 3: Lalibela
The next morning, Dan and I woke up early to catch a flight to Lalibela. I thought we were pushing it when we showed up to the airport just 90 minutes early, but we ended up waiting behind a closed gate for 15 minutes before the staff started rolling in. Promptness is overrated over here… or nonexistent to begin with!
With one full day in Lalibela, we hit the road as soon as we landed to explore the monolithic rock-hewn churches the city is famous for. There are 11 in all– 2 clusters of 4 and 5 each and 2 on their own, and they were created in the 13th century to offer Ethiopian Orthodox Christians a more accessible holy land. Lalibela is now known as “The New Jerusalem” and has become a high place of Ethiopian Christianity.
Carved entirely by hand, the stone churches are easily the most impressive human creation I’ve ever come across (barely edging out the bejeweled leprechaun trap I made in elementary school. We did good, huh, Suz!?). It was difficult to grasp the reality that human hands carved such intricate structures out of massive pieces of stone in the ground, and further chiseled down the rock to create doors, tunnels, elaborate designs, and small rooms where Communion was prepared.
The coolest church in my opinion was St. George, which is probably the best recognized of them as well. It’s in the shape of a cross and features a beautiful church inside, accessible only through a narrow stone passageway. Dan and I happened to be the only tourists there at the time and an old woman escorted us into the church so we could sit in on the end of a service. Those 15 or so minutes were pretty powerful and inspiring, and one of those special travel moments you can’t possibly plan.
We also enjoyed moseying around the streets of Lalibela. Their “supermarket,” ping-pong competitions on every corner, and music store where “DJs” burn mix CDs for their customers were some of the highlights.
Goodbyes in Addis
After an amazing trip up north, I had a few days left in Addis to wrap up life in Ethiopia and get ready for my next stint in Australia. Saying goodbye to the people who contributed to two of the best months of my life was hard, but I was fortunate to walk away with some unbelievable and hilarious memories and excitement for future trips to Ethiopia.
So here I am in Falls Creek, Australia, getting in one last week of altitude training before I finish off the month in Melbourne. I’m missing Ethiopia for sure, but having a really nice time so far in the land of the kangas!