. OnHiatus.com > Journal 1 > Day Index > Journal Entry: July 11, 1999

Sunday, July 11, 1999
Lalibela, Ethiopia
Ethiopia's FlagWolo's Flag

Map
Lalibela, Ethiopia:
Latitude: 12° 2' 5" North
Longitude: 39° 2' 48" East
Altitude: 8176 feet
From Seattle: 9994 miles
Lodging: Hotel - Seven Olives

Map
Today's Travel:
Country: Ethiopia
Region: Wolo
Start: Lalibela, Ethiopia
Stop 1. Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela
End:Lalibela, Ethiopia
Linear:4 miles
Weather: Rain / Overcast / Rain

Available Photos:

Eastern churches from above Lalibela, Ethiopia

Western churches and town Lalibela, Ethiopia

Villagers on path to monastery Lalibela, Ethiopia

Mountains Lalibela, Ethiopia

Social group in village Lalibela, Ethiopia

Mountain village Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela and mountains Lalibela, Ethiopia

To / From Eastern churches Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest or hermit from Eastern churches Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela from above Asheton Maria trail, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Mountain village in mist Asheton Maria trail, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Hat salesmen Asheton Maria trail, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Tony buys a hat Asheton Maria trail, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Old man and mountain Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Village from above Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Mountain hut Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Flowers Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Bird of prey Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest Asheton Maria Monastery, Outside Lalibela, Ethiopia

Window Inside Bet Medhane Alem Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest Bet Meskel Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Bell and passage Outside Bet Maryam Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest Bet Danaghel Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest Bet Meskel Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Back of Bet Medhane Alem Church Eastern church group, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Window detail Bet Medhane Alem Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Outside of church St Michael's Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Two story huts Lalibela, Ethiopia

Jordan river Lalibela, Ethiopia

Beta Georgis Lalibela, Ethiopia

Beta Georgis Lalibela, Ethiopia

Beta Georgis Lalibela, Ethiopia

Beta Georgis Lalibela, Ethiopia

Window Beta Georgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest walking in passage Beta Georgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Dead monks Beta Georgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest Beta Georgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Beta Georgis Lalibela, Ethiopia

Two story huts Lalibela, Ethiopia

All photo images © 1997-2000 Anthony Jones - Images may not be used without prior written approval.

Click on map to Zoom in...
Map
Trip Stats to Date:
Day: 822
Linear Dist: 150259
Countries Visited: 60
Regions Visited: 237
More stats...
Hotels: 262
Friends / Family: 163
Camping: 118
Hostels: 217
Transit: 55
Other Lodging: 6
Beers: 3097
Hide...

Journal Entry:
It stormed all night last night, the works - thunder lightning and driving rain. This morning when I woke up I could here the birds singing and the light coming from around the curtains was bright - what a perfect day to hike up to the mountain monastery! Alas, when I pulled the curtains aside it was white. Some of the densest fog I've ever seen - and still drizzling as well. I walked out to meet my guide (Jimmy) and tell him that there was no way I was doing the four hour very steep and slippery (from the guide book - talking about dry season!) hike in these conditions. He agreed to meet me later to go look at the churches (Lalibela's real claim to fame) - hopefully the weather will break by then. Also if Dawn does show up on the plane today (seems very doubtful since she's supposed to work tomorrow) she should be here by then and be able to join us.

Had a leisurely breakfast then set out to track down the guys I bought things from yesterday. If I can get receipts I can go to the museum in Addis and easily get legitimate export documents - then I can avoid the hassle of trying to smuggle the stuff out (the guide book claims travelers have been arrested before). No problem getting the receipts and I even got to sit down and had a cup of tea with Eshetu and his brothers. Back at the hotel I decided to do some pushups since I decided to skip the hike up to the monastery. Unfortunately it wasn't until after I was done that I discovered the water was off.

Met Jimmy at eleven - still no sign of the airport shuttle. Hiked up a hill next to town to check out the view and waste time. Around noon the shuttle finally showed up. Not only didn't Dawn come, but no other tourists either. Now I have the honor of being not only the only farangi (white person) in town, but also the only tourist in town.

Since the churches close in the middle of the day until two I decided to do the hike up to Asheton Mariam Monastery after all. Of course just a few minutes into the hike it starts to rain - luckily it only lasted fifteen minutes. The hike is incredible steep, and muddy, and slippery, and stunning. I can't decide if it would be better on a clear day. The views would certainly be better, but the mists are cooler and add a certain mystery to the trek. About forty minutes of hiking brings us to a lush plateau with a couple small villages. Here we pick up an entourage of village children - all wearing silly wool hats. Of course I end up buying one - which led to some great photo ops.

After twenty minutes of relatively flat, if gushy, travel it gets steep again. This time it's even steeper and more muddy. The children (who are bare foot and literally running circles around me) are quite amused every time I slip - though I never fell down. Another forty minutes brings us to the monastery itself. The priest can't be found to open the door so we climb the last thirty feet or so to the top of the mountain to wait. This brings us to over ten thousand feet of altitude - which means we've just climbed two. The clouds drop down a bit and suddenly we're above them and there's even a bit of sun! The views are spectacular and the well deserved rest even more so.

After about thirty minutes of relaxing the priest shows up to let us in to the monastery. Actually I was pretty disappointed it's not much, just a rough room dug out of the rock. There are the usual treasures (crosses, King Lalibela's bible, etc.) but it's definitely the location that makes this visit worthwhile. The hike down is pretty uneventful and takes just under an hour (no rest stops!) I'm exhausted by the time we get to the bottom so I arrange a twenty minute break so I can use the toilet and get something to drink. This also gave me a chance to discover that the water is still off so I complained.

Now it's time to go see the churches! Visit the Eastern group first. This is a series of six churches in three courtyards linked by a series of tunnels. The courtyards are dug into the relatively flat rock, leaving the churches - so the entire complex is carved out of a single piece of rock! It's impressive, and it would be stunningly beautiful, except the churches are surrounded by scaffolding and covered with tin roofs as they're going through some restoration.

The first and largest of the churches is Bet Medhane Alem it's thirty five feet high and covers more than 8,500 square feet! It's also got 36 free standing columns on the outside and another 36 inside - still carved out of the same piece of rock. All the churches are impressive, but we can only go into a few others (Bet Danaghel and Bet Meskel) as the priests are disappearing for the night.

Next stop is the most famous of Lalibela's churches, Beta Georgis (St. George's). It stands by itself at another site. It's in the shape of a cross and very dramatic looking as you approach it (it too is carved down into the rock so you approach it level with the roof). The craftsmanship is amazing and as a bonus it's unencumbered with scaffolding! The interior is messed up with strung wires, but I guess that's part of the cost of it being a live church.

It's too late to see the other churches so I arrange to meet Jimmy at six tomorrow morning. I don't need to leave for the airport until after eight so that will give me a couple hours to visit the Western group of churches (four more) and revisit the ones I did see. The advantage is that there is a celebration of some kind early tomorrow morning so I'll get the full show. Plus being as tired as I am I'll definitely be in bed early!

To me the most impressive thing about these 800+ year old churches is that they're not recently discovered ruins - they've been in continuous use as churches since they were built!

Luckily the water was back on and I had one of the best showers ever before heading to diner. After diner it was working on the journal, packing, and in bed well before nine.


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