Some of the things I learnt in Ethiopia include:
Ethiopia is a big country – it can take 12 hours to drive two inches on the map 😉
The Ethiopian people are very varied. Even within an hour or two’s drive down south, the people seem to change physically. This is almost as if the MacLeods, the McDonalds, the McLeans and the Mckenzies all had distinct physical features, two hundred years ago in the Scottish highlands.
The food is tasty, and comes in large portions. Njeera is fine. You quickly get used to eating with your fingers.
The various groups of people don’t always seem to get on together very well, but the one thing they are all agreed upon is that they don’t like the Eritreans.
Some people we spoke to thought that things had not been so bad under Mengistu.
There is quite a lot of poverty in the country. We saw food aid being delivered, and warehouses where the food is stored for emergencies. We hardly saw any overweight people.
Ethiopia is a very populous country, Wherever you go, even high into the mountains, when you look up there are more houses and villages.
Each region of Ethiopia has its distinct characteristics, which makes travel in the country so enjoyable and interesting.
On the way from Addis to Bahir Dar we stopped for an hour at Debre Libanos, an ancient religious site which was rebuilt in the early 60s by Haile Selassie. There are many monks in residence, and a number of them still live in caves in the nearby cliffs. What is it about monks and caves? I shall have to ask Fat Mac, who’s ambition is to live in a cave for a year. One monk, Tekle Haymanot, who lived in a cave at Libanos in the 13th century, supposedly stood on one leg for 22 years until his right leg turned rotten and fell off. I have not told Fat Mac about this in case it gives him ideas.
The road towards Bahir Dar, before we came to the Blue Nile Gorge, reminded me of Lesotho – a high plateau, fairly poor, horses and blankets, etc. The scenery was magnificent.
There had been some serious disturbances in Bahir Dar the month before we went there, with several deaths, and we were still a bit freaked out by the State of Emergency being announced a few days before we arrived in the country and what it actually meant. We didn’t see any trouble in Bahir Dar but didn’t hang around in town for too long. Instead, we took a boat trip over to an island on Lake Tana to see the Entos Eyesu monastery, and then on to the Zege Peninsula to see another, even more impressive one, Azuwa Maryam.
After looking round the monastery, we enjoyed buna (coffee).