The day before yesterday i was sitting in a pleasant cafe near the centre of Lalibela when a local guy showed up and started talking to me. I politely if a bit tersely went though my rote answers to the usual questions: Canada. Vancouver. Just about 3 weeks. Ethiopia is very beautiful and the people are very friendly. (All of which is true.) but this guy persisted and i actually gave him the time to talk. I had been planning on going on an excursion by car the next day to see some pf the countryside and outlying chuches, but this guy had a better idea-to go into the mountains by mule and visita monastery and a village. This sounded like a way better idea, so i agred to meet him early the next morning.
When i pictured a journey by mule i imagined leisurely strolls down wide forrest paths on my trusty...mule.
It certainly started out that way but when we started to really as end the mountain the mules were climbing up very steep inclines over not so much paths but trails of jagged, large broken rock. At times the trail was comfortably wide but in many places it narrowed to about 3 feet with a mountain face on one side and a sharp drop off on the other. As i have little or no experience riding beasts of burden, at times this was nerve wracking, but also exciting.
Finally we reached a place where the path became too narrow for the mules so we continued on foot on narrow path hugging the cliff face until we reached a short, daylit tunnel, climbed up a scramble of rocks and reached a monastery where the on duty monk or priest showed us many religious texts and items by candlelight.
After that there was more hiking; the sort that requires one's focus not to pick the wrong rock to step on and slide to one's doom. It was good though.
When we reached the next flat bit we rode the mules again to a village where we went to a local traditional house where a family of four lives. The house, made of mud and straw with a peaked wooden roof, is about 8 feet in diameter and contipains one rrom on top (where the family lives) and one room on the bottom (where the livestock live). It was pretty cozy, but it's hard not to think about 4 people living in this tiny mud room with no electricity or water and the fact that it is about an hour's hike down a tricky mountain to the nearest town.
The two girls and mother did not speak English, but the boy did and he told me about their village and his school which his sister handled the coffee ceremony. They also provided injera and some spicy wat, as well as spiced wheat berries for snacks. They were very hospitable and it was a great experience.
The rest of the way down was a combo of mule riding and hiking when the decline was too steep.
It was a fantastic day, but left me thoroughly exhausted, with only enough energy for dinner and tea.
This morning i fly back to Addis Ababa, and just in time as i have come down with a most unfortunate and unpleasant case of what i hope is food poisining. (It was inevitable, i suppose.)
There are still some things in Addis i had hoped to see, but if i have to spent the next day in bed, i'm ok with that too.