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Day 202 – Throwing Stones, English Wives and Bed Bugs

11th April 2012

sunny

The churches had been coming thick and fast, we’d seen twelve churches and two monasteries in three days but we hadn’t yet lost our hunger. It was time to leave Lalibela but in order to feed our apparently insatiable ecclesiastic hunger; we set our route so that we would pass one more church before traversing the mountains of northern Ethiopia.

The church was in fact a third monastery, Yemrehanna Christos. Set at an altitude of 2700 metres, Yemrehanna Christos was a monastery built inside a cave and it looked like a big layered cream cake.

It had apparently been a pilgrimage venue for thousands travelling from ‘...as far as Egypt, Syria and Jerusalem’ and at to the rear of the cave lay thousands of human skeletons some whose skin had cured in situ. It was a bizarre dance macabre, one that was difficult to really place in perspective. The skeletons became surreal rather than gruesome and the monasteries exterior provided an almost cartoon feel to the building. Whether the pilgrims died naturally is difficult to know, there were a few cracked skulls strewn about which gave the appearance of either a rough afterlife or a sorry end.

The remainder of the day was spent driving; yet more gruelling, stony, bumpy and incredibly dusty driving. (Imagine putting your head in a vacuum cleaner bag and shaking it around all whilst being sat on the handle bars of a pneumatic drill.) The scenery was sublime affording tremendous views for kilometre after kilometre. If the views seemed to be consistent then the hairstyles of the local ladies were providing our variation. As we left Lalibela, the close plaiting that travelled the full length of the natural hair, and often ventured further into the artificial, had now begun to stop at the back of the back of the head before ‘fro’ing out into a big bush from there. We also witnessed women with goitres so big that they appeared to be smuggling mangoes beneath the skin of their throat.

Our first stone throwing episode was suffered when a young boy using pebbles as his ammunition found us to be a suitable target. We stopped and I jumped out and shouted, but he’d legged it as soon as our brake lights had shone red and the locals, not privy to the incident, only appeared confused. Further along yet another shock absorber turned itself into nothing more than a cowbell despite the fact that we had reduced ourselves to driving like pensioners on the way to Sunday Mass. With no spare and no chance of a spares shop until Khartoum we’d just have to bounce along with the one remaining shock that had suffered in the loose wheel episode in Kenya.

We were extending ourselves in order to eat up the slow kilometres and to keep to our tightened schedule in Ethiopia. After an hour of night driving, dodging children, cattle and camels we arrived in Mekele.

Mekele was a big bustling town that we were able to see lots of as we did laps trying to navigate one way streets and a road system that seemed to have been designed by a blind man and an unwavering faith in one way systems. We eventually found our chosen abode, The Queen of Sheba Guesthouse, but since it was signed in Amharic and its owners spoke little English we couldn’t actually be sure we were in the correct place. It didn’t matter; we had a secure compound, a bedroom with no running water, a three quarter size bed which we would soon find out to be the home of a community of hungry bed bugs and a view over the street that offered no joy.

We were bloody starving and with that we set out on a mission for grub. We ended up just around the corner in a restaurant owned and run by a chap whose name meant ‘Mercy’ in English. He was a bit of a talker and sat with us whilst we ate, he ordered Laura a salad ‘on him’ and we enjoyed good food at honest prices. An honest Ethiopian is a man anyone could get along with. After a while and shortly after a suggestion that we might find him an English wife, a suggestion that was more serious than it should have been, we left.

Posted by ibeamish 06:51 Archived in Ethiopia

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