It was a bumpy two hour flight (via Bahar Dar) and we landed at an airport in the middle of nowhere in Lalibela, Ethiopia. We didn't book anything in advance (I would recommend booking something) so we didn't have a hotel come and pick us up. The airport is 23 km from Lalibela town. Fortunately the hotels run their airport shuttles when the only flight of the day comes in because they know some people didn't book ahead. It's no problem, though. The only time you will be caught without somewhere to stay if you don't book a room is during the pilgrimages. We hoped on the Tukol Village shuttle and it was 30 Birr each to get to town, way up in the mountains. We checked out the hotel whose shuttle we road on, saw the room, bargained down to 350 Birr ($40), from 450 Birr, for one night, dropped off our stuff then headed out. We walked up the windy, cobble-stoned road to the top of the town and had dinner at Seven Olives Hotel - a fasting meal (means no meat) of different types of lentils. The power kept going out so we ate by candlelight. Because Lalibela is a tourist hot spot the children know English and greet you with "Halo" before asking for things like pens and money.
24 November, 2007
After breakfast of yummy fried eggs and bread, we walked with our hired tour guide (300 Birr for the day), Balay, up to the rock-hewn churches where we paid 200 birr each to get in. You would probably get a lot more info by reading about it on wikipedia - just click on the above link. Although I must say they are quite amazing. We visited all 11 churches (well, I visited 10 as women are not allowed in one of them), taking our shoes off before entering each church (I covered my head with a scarf - not necessary, but respectful), and listening to our guide talk about each one. The churches are spread over a small area so they are all linked with tunnels. We were only able to pass through one of the tunnels and it was very dark - couldn't see a finger in front of your nose dark. The churches themselves were carved/dug out of pure rock by angels, as the story goes. Most of the churches were under construction as they were covered in scaffolding (making pictures not so great) in order to build a permanent cover so when it rains the churches do not suffer any more damage from water leaking into them. Oh well. One church, Bete Giyorgis (St. George's Church), has a ceiling that is 2 meters thick, which is enough to prevent water leakage and therefore does not need a cover.
After a lunch of cliff bars and water, we took a nap (Russ wasn't feeling well) then we went to the southern group of churches (we did the northern group in the morning). At the end of the day we walked around the few tourist shops and found the prices to be outrageous (didn't bargain at all) so on our way back stopped at a local tej (locally made honey wine) house, had some to drink, then had dinner at Roha Restaurant. We love Ethiopian food to begin with and at every single place we went to eat at, it was a hundred times better than Ethiopian food in the states or Tanzania. We just couldn't get enough! The power kept going out at our new hotel, the Lalibela Hotel (100 Birr) so we just went to sleep.
25 November, 2007
We were flying back to Addis Ababa today so we walked around the churches again (our pass is good for the duration of our stay) and rested as Russ was still ill and the elevation makes you tired walking all the time. Back in Addis Ababa we checked into Lido Hotel (not recommended) and finally got our room after they kept changing rooms on us and cleaning it, but the shower was hot. We walked to Dashen Restaurant (recommended in the Lonely Planet) for dinner and had Doro Wat (chicken stew with berebere sauce and hard boiled egg), wine, soda, tea, all for $7! The food was so good and so cheap. We walked back to our hotel at night and felt completely safe. There were lots of people out and about and it felt like we were back in the states with wide sidewalks and illuminated streets. Stay tuned for Uganda...