Thursday 4 PM:
Utako and me leave to pick up Julius from school. And then we are heading straight for the airport.
Flight to Bahir Dar without trouble, just annoying double security checks and they take one of my lighters … I asked them why they then did not take my matches and I pass them to them. Another lighter in my carry on they did not notice.
We arrive in Bahir Dar on time and find our ride, nearly forgetting about our luggage .. the airport in Bahir Dar is a mess right now, they are building a new one .. there was no security whatsoever after we left the building and went back to get our luggage.
A short ride later we arrive at the wonderful Kuriftu Lake Tana Hotel, meet Ritsu and marvel at our rooms. The package Ritsu had booked included massages and mani-pedis … so, after dinner (so so, but nice setting) I had my second pedicure in my life, and it was great!
Good night’s sleep, but like pretty much everywhere in Ethiopia, early wake up call from several churches.
After breakfast we meet our guide Zenah and we take a boat directly from the hotel’s pier and ride for an hour over the lake to get to the Zege peninsula to visit the Ura Kidane Mihret monastery which is known for its beautiful paintings (actually, the current 5th edition of the Bradt travel guide‘s cover is a picture from there [there is a 6th edition now])
The boat ride took us past an island with another monastery, but since only men are allowed on that island, we did not stop by. Once we arrived at the Zege peninsula, it was a 20 minute walk up the hill, passing by many little souvenir ‘shops’. The monastery itself from the outside is not that impressive, but the paintings inside are. There is also a small museum and they are in the middle of building a new museum.
The ride back was another hour, but this time, the guide and the boat driver tought Julius how to ride the boat.
In the afternoon, Utako and Julius went to the Blue Nile Falls (see earlier post)
Early wake up, quick breakfast and then off to the airport. As mentioned before, the airport in Bahir Dar is currently a mess and such was the whole double security + check-in and then wait procedure. The flight to Lalibela is only 25 minutes … but the whole before and after made that a 5 hour journey.
Once we arrived at Lalibela airport, we found out that it is nowhere near Lalibela really, it is a 30km drive up the mountains (from 1800m to 2600m) on a, what the driver called, “dramatic” route …
The closer we got to Lalibela, the road got more congested with pedestrians, schlepping their goods to the market. It was quite a ride. But soon we arrived, met our guide and checked in quickly to our hotel (Mountain View Hotel) and then headed of to visit the famous rock hewn churches.
Those churches have been built around the 12th century and within 23 years (allegedly) .. and totally carved out of the rocks. Also of interest was that King Lalibela back then tried to transform the city into a copy of Jerusalem, calling a river Jordan (where Jesus was baptized), 2 small mountains are called Mt. Olive and Mt. Tabor and so on and so on.
The churches are set in 2 different clusters (ok, wiki says 4 groups ), so it is easy within one day to visit cluster 1 in the morning and cluster 2 in the afternoon (no visits allowed between noon – 2 PM) .. and the spectacular finale is Bete Giyorgis (Church of St. George, who is very famous for slaying a dragon and is prominent on pretty much every beer bottle here). This is probably the most photographed and most recognized artifact of Ethiopia.
I was somewhat surprised that there were not more souvenir stands (or places that sold water, we got very dehydrated). So, once we were done, we went to a very interestingly shaped restaurant close to our hotel just to have some water and freshly made lemonade & watch the sunset. (see earlier post)
The night was surprisingly quiet. This being the religious capitol of Ethiopia, we were not woken up by the church noise that we usually hear around the country. Maybe because most of the nicer hotels are hanging on a cliff edge on the other side of the city.
Very early get up. The night before Ritsu asked what time is breakfast and was told ‘6:30’, which was our time to leave for the airport. But when I checked around 6 AM, I saw many people already eating (since there is only one morning flight back to Addis and many people from this hotel were on this flight)
So, Ritsu complained with the management and the travel agent, we got some food in and then it was back on the bumpy road to the airport. There the usual security song and dance and then we were off back home. Once we arrived in Addis, our luggage took forever to show up, but all was there.
(I will try to add some more pictures later … or even upload a whole album, once I get better internet)