Friday, January 31, 2014

Around Yabelo. A Salt Lake, a Singing Well, and a Village.

I asked these Borana two women if I could pose for a photo with them because I loved their colorful dress and jewelry
 which is typical Borana.  They agreed, for a tip of course.  Netsanet had the honor of snapping the photo. I gave a smile
 but they're not looking all and the young girl actually looks a bit pissed.  I should've done something
to make them feel more comfortable before taking the photo.  Awkward or not, I still love the picture!

I just looked at the calendar and realized that today is January 31 which means that I only have three days left in Ethiopia. I cannot believe how quickly time has flown by - I'm enjoying this trip so much, I don't want it to end!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Road Trip to Yabelo. A Hamar Village and a Benna Market.

We left Turmi bright and early this morning - we had a long day's drive ahead of us. By day's end, we would be in Yabelo.  Pat and I were in Car 3 today with Negatu though we should have been in Car 2 and we lost Jean; Marianne was with us instead.  Somehow it didn't feel right.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spending Time With The Mursi and The Ari.

Mursi Family.

I awoke to another beautiful morning in Turmi. It's a nice time of day to take a short walk because once the sun rises, it gets incredibly hot here! Our rooms are located about a 5 minute or so walk from the hotel's restaurant. I took a leisurely stroll to the breakfast table - taking in the views around me. It's amazing what crosses your path here - a person or two or perhaps, a donkey or two.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Visiting the Dassanech and the Karo.

My portrait of a Dassanech girl.  A small ray of loveliness amidst the dusty rubble.

Good morning from Turmi! Heat or no heat, mosquitoes or no mosquitoes, I had a great night's sleep last night.  I think it was because I had such a great afternoon yesterday.  I'm still reliving the images of the Hamar whipping and bull jumping rituals in my head.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Hamar Celebration. Whipping and Jumping Bulls.

Young Hamar men relaxing before the Bull Jumping Begins

This afternoon's plan, which was not on the original itinerary was to attend a bull jumping ceremony that the Hamar are known for but that only happen on occasion. As I found out from Netsanet later on, he found out through word of mouth that the ceremony would be taking place today and adjusted our itinerary accordingly. We were lucky that Netsanet found out and basically, lucky to be at the right place at the right time to catch this ceremony.

Introducing the Hamar.

Hamar girl - a small bag of eggs in one hand and her wooden stool in the other.
She wears a beaded neck collar which means she is not married.  She shyly posed for me. 

Barely 5 minutes down the road from stopping and taking a photo of an Arbore girl, I had Danny stop once again.  We're in Car 2 today; I'm sure the folks in Car 3 were wondering what the heck was going on.

Meeting the Arbore.

Arbore family.  That cute little boy....stole my heart.

Our drive today took us further into the heart of the Omo Valley. Netsanet has repeatedly been telling us that our days will be filled with a lot of long drives. I don't mind.  Our first stop today would be at a Arbore village.  The Arbore or Ebore are a small tribe living in the Omo Valley who survive as pastoralists - the land they inhabit is not sufficiently arable for growing crops.  The Arbore share cultural and ancestral associations with the Konso which makes sense given their geographic proximity to each other. The women are known to cover their heads with thin, black cotton cloth and adorn themselves with colorful, beaded necklaces.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two Villages, New York & a Flat.

Young Konso child.

We had another nice, leisurely lunch today. It was one of those times when it was just too comfortable to leave the table. My cup of tea was perfect for sipping, the weather divine and the company, just awesome. But, Netsanet was hovering near by - we had to leave as there was still a full afternoon of activities ahead of us, including a visit to New York, not that New York but another place by the same name.

You, you, you!

Those two innocent looking faces followed me around from the time I got out of the car to the time I got back in!

he Ethiopian Swarm. Everywhere we went, in the Omo Valley, we were absolutely mobbed by people - mostly kids.  To get your attention, they would often shout, "You, you, you" or sometimes, in my case, it was *You, you, you, China* or sometimes *You, faranji*.  Faranji means *foreigner*.

The Road to Konso.

Daily ritual for Konso women - bathing and doing laundry in a nearby river.

We were short one car and one driver today. Car 2 and Danny, the driver, were involved in an accident last night. By all accounts, it was the other driver's fault. Fortunately, no one was injured and our car is okay but apparently, it has been impounded until the owner can provide all the requisite insurance and title information. Danny stayed behind in Arba Minch to take care of whatever needed to be done.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Where the Dorze Live, Play, & Work.

A small group of Dorze men and children entertaining us and they were entertaining indeed!

After our leisurely lunch at the Arba Minch Tourist Hotel, we were back on the road, heading towards a nearby Dorze village. We were accompanied by yet another local guide but this one was a member of the village. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name.

At the Market With the Dorze.

The Dorze market in Chencha.

Ahhhhh.....fooood.  After spending our morning motor boating on Lake Chamo, we were treated to a nice lunch at the appropriately named Arba Minch Tourist Hotel.

Wild Boars, Hippos, Crocs & Pelicans!

The Great White Pelican quintet on Lake Chamo.

Pretty plumeria blooming - this tree's got some age on it!
S-t-r-e-t-c-h and y-a-w-n and stretch some more and then rollover a few times and repeat. It was a lazy wake up for me this morning. Last night, Netsanet had told us that breakfast at the restaurant would end at 8a. I pushed it and only made it to the dining table at 7:45a. The Mongol horde must have arrived before me because there was barely any food, and I mean barely, left on the table. Not even a scoop of scrambled egg, just some really hard croissant like things. It was bad. So, I had restaurant cut up the pineapple we bought in Addis. That and one of the croissant things and a cup of coffee was all I had for breakfast.

As we were at the breakfast table, Gale brought up a great idea to get 125 birr from each of us for local guide tip money. She had done some reading the night before and based on our itinerary, calculated how many villages we would be visiting and therefore, how much we need to have in the tip kitty which was 1000 birr which divided by 8 comes to the 125 birr per person.  If we end up short, then we'll have to each pony up more money and she would let us know if that happens.  Such a practical idea and saves each of us from having to figure out the tip on a daily basis!  Thanks Gale!

Friday, January 24, 2014

On the Way to Arba Minch. Meeting The Halaba.

Halaba children and women waving us goodbye as we leave their small compound.

Today was another long day's drive. Our guide had set our expectations that our trip through the south would indeed involve a lot of road trips. I love road trips so I don't mind at all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

To Lake Langano.

Herds of animals heading back to pasture from a lake in Bishoftu, formerly known as Debre Zeyit.

There's an Ethiopian restaurant, near where I live, called Langano. I never knew what the name meant but this afternoon, I stood before the lake that it's named after.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Back to Addis.

Interior of St. George's Cathedral.

It was an early rise this morning. I had a good night's sleep thanks to air conditioning - the first we've had on this trip. This morning though, the electricity cut off intermittently. We had to be in the lobby by 7:30a - we have to catch the 9:30a flight back to Addis. I grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and then spent a few minutes in the lobby checking email.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bahir Dar. Dinner and Dance.

Pat getting ready to down some tibs and injera.

Tonight was suppose to be a night filled with a bit of adventure but it didn't quite turn out that one.  Nonetheless, I had fun.

Exploring Bahir Dar. Blue Nile Falls.

Blue Nile Falls.

After our lakeside lunch in Bahir Dar, we all got back into the van for the bumpy ride (yes, another unpaved road) to a spot from where we would walk the rest of the way to see the Blue Nile Falls.

Exploring Bahir Dar. A Lake and a Monastery.

Painting of Mary at Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery.

We left our hotel in Gondar at 6:30a. I had gotten up a few minutes early to head to the lobby so I could send out emails and post up photos on Facebook, something that is quickly becoming a morning ritual for me, before leaving town.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Meeting the Felasha.

A Star of David greeted us to Wolleka Village

I's been a really interesting day so far - started with village Timket festival, then hiking in Simien National Park followed by a picnic lunch and watching gelada baboons feeding and frolicking. It's late afternoon as we leave the Park with one last stop before we return to our hotel in Gondar - a brief visit to a Felasha village.

Hiking and Searching for Geladas.

Gelada Baboon, Simien National Park

Our road trip to Simien National Park continued after an unplanned stop at a field where villagers had congregated for their Timket service.  Pat, Jean and I were all seated near each other.  Jean kept us entertained with stories about her llamas.  Fascinating how it all came to be that a former hospital administrator living in big city Texas, retired and then built a new home in Hill Country and started raising llamas.  Every now and again, I would look out the window just to make sure I wasn't missing out on seeing anything interesting.

Timket in the Field.

Posing with the women I met in the village of Gondar Kossoye Kebre.

Road trip day! I love road trips and this is the first one we've had so I was really looking forward to it. We all piled into the van for the two hour to Simien National Park where we would get to have a bit of a hike and (fingers crossed) meet up with some gelada baboons which can only be found in Ethiopia and only in this region.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exploring Gondar.

Angels painted on the ceiling of Debre Birhan Selassie church.

Bellies full and senses refreshed, we spent the rest of the afternoon sightseeing. Our first destination was Debre Birhan Selassie church. Considered by many to be the most iconic and most beautiful of all of Ethiopia's churches, Debre Birhan Selassie was built by Emperor Iyasu II in the 17th Century.  Thanks to Google Images, I know it as the church with the gorgeous mural of angels on the ceiling and I'm excited to be able to see the mural in person.

Wrapping up Timket Festivities.

Clergy leading the Timket procession of the Arks.

Our day started with morning mass at the Palace Pool. That was followed by breakfast back at the hotel with a short rest break. Then, it was back to the hotel to meet up with Haile. One thing I have to say about this tour group is that everyone always arrives on time which means we always get to leave on time.

More of Timket - Sunday Mass.

We left the hotel at around 4:40a this morning.  Today is Sunday and we were heading back to Fasilidas's pool to attend Timket mass.  This should be an interesting experience.

Though it was an early departure time, I had hit the sack early last night so when I got the 4:00a wake up knock on the door followed minutes later by a wake up call, I was already in the bathroom brushing my teeth.

I made it to the lobby 20 minutes later and was the first to arrive. One by one, everyone else trickled in.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Let the Festivities Begin. Timket!

Clergy, choirs and umbrellas.  Some of the hallmarks of Timket festivities in Gondar.

we left our hotel in Lalibela at 9am this morning to catch our 11:30a flight to Gondar where we will be spending next few days experiencing Timket and doing a lot of sightseeing. The flight was only 30 minutes. Our guide in Addis, Belay ("buh-lai"), who everyone tells me is the owner of the local tour company that is running our tour and was suppose to accompany us from the get go but was not able to, was waiting to meet us. It was good to see his familiar face.

Friday, January 17, 2014

More to do in Lalibela.

After our visit to the churches, we took a short drive followed by a short walk to arrive at a local establishment where we could sample some locally made honey wine, arak and Ethiopian coffee.

More of the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela.

Bet Abba Labanos

I finally got a good night's sleep last night even though I woke up a couple of times to drink water. It's so arid here. The laundry that I did last night was completely dry by the time I woke up!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lalibela at Last!

Me, posing in front of Bet Giyorgis (Church of St. George), the most iconic of the Lalibela churches.

Ihave been waiting for this day to come for months! I was so excited when I woke up this morning!

I was up before the crack of dawn today and was eating breakfast by 6:45a. We had to have our luggage ready for pickup by 8:30 and ready to leave for the airport by 8:45. We had a plane to catch to Lalibela at 10:45a.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Afternoon in Aksum. Stelae and Church.

The Stelae Field.  Pat in the foreground - she was my scale model.

After lunch, we headed to the main stelae field to take a closer look at the famed cluster of obelisks. Getting of the van, it was also our first taste at the souvenir vendors who approached each and everyone of us, shoving one item after another for us to look at and buy. I've faced this enough times that I know to not make eye contact and just walk on.

Morning in Aksum. Palace and Market.

Ruins of the Palace of the Queen of Sheba.

Today's travel destination was Aksum. Aksum is both Ethiopia's ancient and religious heart. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site because  its contribution to global cultural heritage.  A good description of the city can be found on UNESCO's website.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Addis Bound!

Church of Maryam (St. Mary) on Entoto Mountain.

Travel days are both exciting and boring at the same time. The flight to Addis was scheduled to depart at 10:15a. I was up at 5:30a and quickly got ready for the long day ahead of me. I had stayed up til 2a last night and though I was groggy when I woke up, I was too excited to even linger in bed. Up and about, I handled my last minute chores which included washing up some glasses from last night before shutting off the main valve to the water. After the flooding fiasco following my Baltics trip, it's now deeply etched in my travel brain to turn off the water before I leave!