A Travellerspoint blog

Day 201 - Monastic Mountains

10th April 2012


We had seen Lalibela’s churches but the immediate surrounds held more for the discerning traveller. The hill top (4000 metre high mountain) behind our hotel was home to the monastery of Asheton Maryam. We were already comfortably above the three thousand metre mark and had decided upon a morning stroll to find out if the monks had a more comfortable spot in Asheton Maryam than we did in the Asheton Hotel.

Our intentions were to go it solo. There really was a limit to how much wittering and subservient pursuit of a guide’s words and directions that we could take. Tilahun was a gentleman of faith and a guide of note but Somers and I wanted a little ‘alone time.’ So with a lonesome walk in mind it was little surprise when we were joined, just one hundred metres out of the hotel, by a boy called Abi who insisted he would guide us up the mountain. An explanation that he would receive nothing but our company was given along with the terms that he was welcome to join us as long as he was back in time for school.

And so with our new, and quite useful, friend we scaled the heights of Mount Abuna Yosef passing two groups of men and wailing women, each group carrying the wrapped body of a child into town. At the monastery we found a fairly uncharismatic monk who first showed us his treasures and then showed us his donations tray. The monastery afforded some fantastic views but Abi insisted we could summit the nearby rock tower for even more special views at over four thousand metres up. We did and after scaling some vertigo inducing, but relatively straight forward (or upward), rock faces we sat on top of our immediate world watching time pass by. We couldn’t stay too long as Abi had to be back down by twelve and he wouldn’t leave without us; again the polite restrictions of being ‘guided.’ Back in town we took exception to our guide’s request for money, clothes and sponsorship and explained that he had joined us, on our walk and that we had repeatedly made it clear that it would be a ‘not for profit enterprise’ on his behalf. We conceded and gave him some of my old clothes as a reward, undecided as to whether that was a noble gesture or encouraging the rewards of persistence on his part. Back in town we took lunch in Johns Cafe eating pancakes and drinking fresh mango juice.

The afternoon was a second monastery, Nakuta La’ab. Part cut into a rock face, part built by bricks it was a pleasant end to the day and the highlight was the extremely nice priest showing us a crown of gold that had a peak not unlike a baseball cap. I couldn’t help but think that ‘If Scousers had a king...’

We drove back to Lalibela, Redvers being chased by smiling and squawking children before eating out in another of Lalibela’s ‘guidebook-celebrated’ restaurants, The Blue Lal; it shouldn’t have been so celebrated.

Posted by ibeamish 06:13 Archived in Ethiopia

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