Kenya and Ethiopia – Part 8: Lalibela
Today we fly to Lalibela, to see the famous rock churches tomorrow.
Along the drive from the airport to our hotel, at large crowd of people were marching in our direction. It was a funeral procession. When someone from these villages passes away, the entire community mourns. I discreetly managed to get a video of the procession from inside the van.
No disrespect intended. I merely wanted to document what a funeral procession in Ethiopia is like.
We arrived at our hotel, the Fikir and Ray Lodge
The hotel was a little further from the center of town than some of the others, but it was a little more quiet and secluded, and very close to an amazing restaurant that we ended up visiting three times.
Here’s our hotel room view:
We decided to stroll into ‘town’.
We passed little shops.
There were also small convenience stores.
We arrived at a small area where a wall was being constructed.
There were rocks all over the sidewalk next to the wall.
Most of the construction workers for this wall were women. Hauling bricks and equipment in their colorful outfits, I thought they made good subject matter for photos, and I asked if they minded. They were super-friendly and didn’t mind at all!
Heading back to our hotel, there were a lot of kids on the street and they, too, didn’t mind being photographed.
One thing I noticed on this trip that was very different from Addis Ababa, and from pretty much everywhere we’ve been in the last five years, is that no one here was consumed with looking at their cell phone. In Lalibela, cell phones are just unaffordable for everyone except the folks who really need it for their work – tour guides and taxi drivers. There is no cell phone culture amongst the young kids in Lalibela.
I saw two boys who were clearly best friends. I asked if I could take a photo, and they hammed it up for the camera. It was one of my best photos of the entire vacation.
Then, I came upon a mother and her adorable daughter. I imagine tourists visit here a lot, but they still treat it like a thrill, and the little girl spotted me and Mark. I asked if I could take a picture, and the girl ran over to me and took my hand very affectionately, and then posed for some photos. I was really taken with how genuinely sweet she was.
As we got closer to the hotel, we ran into two kids who lived in one of the houses a few doors down from the hotel. The girl said that tomorrow was her birthday. The kids were pretty friendly, and of course, they readily posed for photos.
I liked the t-shirt: “All Cats are Gray in the Dark.”
Then, the girl asked if I had any extra clothes, like t-shirts, for her dad. The boy then handed me a note written on notebook paper saying that his school was raising funds for school supplies. There was a little donation section, where two or three other tourists had written their name, the country they were from, and how much they had donated. I donated a little money.
A staff member from our hotel saw me and Mark approaching the hotel with these two kids in tow, and he came out and politely told the kids to go home. The hotel guy proceeded to give me the scoop on the kids in town.
When tourists go for a stroll through the town, local kids often follow along. They don’t panhandle right away. They chat with you, ask you where you’re from, and eventually they let you know that any help you can offer would be appreciated. They’re really happy to get anything… pens, notebooks, etc. That’s why I was so surprised when the girl asked if I had any t-shirts. No one had ever asked me for anything other than money. “Tomorrow is my birthday” is apparently a very popular line that is told to many many tourists. Another one is that they need money to buy a dictionary for school, and some will actually take you to a store where you can buy the dictionary. I later found out that they then sell the dictionary back to the store owner for a little less money than the tourist paid. In this way, the store owner makes some money, the kid makes some money, and the dictionary can be re-purchased by the next tourist. Later in the trip, our guide told us a story about a tourist couple who bought a dictionary for one of the kids. The couple wrote their name in the dictionary so the kid would know the name of the people who bought him the book. Four years later, the couple was back in Lalibela visiting, and they took another kid to the store for a dictionary. They purchased one, and when they went to sign the inside, they saw their own names inscribed. One can only imagine how many times that dictionary had been purchased and resold by these enterprising Lalibela kids.
The next stroll, we left the hotel, and headed in the general direction of the restaurant we were scheduled to eat at, Ben Abeba. It is the most well known restaurant in Lalibela due to the absolutely stunning views it has to offer.
The walk there was beautiful, with great mountain views.
Then you come upon the restaurant, and it’s really a sight to behold.
The restaurant is on multiple levels, and each level offers a beautiful, unique view. We were up there checking out the levels and taking photos, and we ran into two women, Amy and Julia. Amy was Australian and was traveling solo, with quite an itinerary. A few minutes before we met her, she met the other woman, Julia, a tourist from Germany. We chatted a bit, and then Amy asked if we wanted to join them at the restaurant for dinner. We said yes, of course. We ended up having a really nice dinner.
I took some nice photos of the landscape at the restaurant.
As soon as the sun set, it got really dark, really fast. We were eating dinner in almost total darkness, except for these little lights that the waitress brought to each table.
The walk back to the hotel would have been totally impossible if Mark and I didn’t have cell phones with flashlights on them. We headed back to the hotel to prepare for the main event the next day, a tour of the Lalibela rock churches.