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Lalibela Hudad

DAY 21


View Ethiopia on tia-saz-fitz's travel map.

Yared told us he had organised a mule ride to 'the lodge' which was lovely and overlooked the town of Lalibela. Tia would ride and we would walk.
It sounded great so we used the hotel WiFi to Google some info and up came the Lalibela Lodge which fitted his description and looked excellent.
The website said it had WiFi so we packed only a few clothes and took all our gizmos so we could do some blogging in the lounge that night over a cold St George beer.

Two hours later as we scrambled up a steep, rocky mountain with the town of Lalibela both far behind and far below the novelty mule ride to a lovely hotel on the outskirts seemed to have somehow been lost in translation.
More than once I had a good laugh with Sarah and our guide, Abby, about a woman on Travel Advisor who said the Lalibela Lodge was only a 5 minute walk from the Ben Abeba Restaurant - she was obviously an idiot as I could barely see the restaurant way below us. She must have flown there !
I kept asking Abby where the road below went around to the lodge for deliveries and guests' vehicles but the language difficulty just left me more confused every time.

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As we climbed, groups of exotic villagers were gliding past us as if we were struggling up a sand dune in swim fins while they were on an invisible escalator.
Women carrying bags of vegetables and men carrying sacks of potatoes.
All in Indian file groups of about 5, heads down and concentrating on following the leader picking the right way over or around the volcanic rocks.
The men all carry their loads the same way - load on the left shoulder and walking stick on the right, both crossing over behind the neck with the bag resting on the stick and right elbow crooked over the front half of the stick to allow for load adjustment, levelling and balancing.
The walking stick is a symbol of manhood and all the men have one.
A boy walked past carrying a plastic bag with 3 tins of tomatoes.
All that way for 3 tins of tomatoes !
A man carrying a neat roll of corrugated iron sheets for his roof.
And kids calling out "hallo !" from every hill.

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Finally we threaded our way up along tiny tracks on the very edge of scary, gaping drops between giant boulders to find a corrugated iron door hanging on a few eucalyptus saplings.
With only the sky above us and big, round boulders all around it wasn't obvious if the door was really hanging on that crazy angle or we were.

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I whispered to Sarah " There's no way there's a lodge up here - something isn't right"
Abby repeatedly knocked on the shaky tin door and I was disappointed when the face that appeared was that of an Ethiopian farmer instead of Peter Finch welcoming us to Shangri-La.
Through the door we went - to find ........ no road and no Lalibela Lodge - just grass and trees !
Crestfallen that we had obviously come with no equipment to a camping site by mistake, we were not sure what our next move could be so late in the day.
Abby told us to keep walking.

And then we saw the Lalibela Hudad - also known as 'the lodge' hence our confusion !
An amazing retreat sitting high on a huge plateau with steep drops all around and wondrous views down to massive valleys far below.
A kitchen and dining hall and tukuls all built out of beautiful, local stone.
We walked the whole plateau perimeter as close to the edge as we dare marvelling at the sights and seclusion.

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From the giddy edge of the plateau, I saw the man with the rolled up corrugated iron far, far below winding his way to the next climb.
He was probably going to do what we had just done several times until he reached his village and he would think nothing of it.

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We sat back stretching with great satisfaction that we were modern day Burton and Spekes venturing into the unknown.
Then I noticed a guest book - or two.
My sense of importance rapidly diminished when I found we were tourists number 839 behind a group of 5 year olds with their grandmother.
And she'd published a book about it !

We enjoyed a terrific meal of spaghetti and I did get a beer after all - but without the WiFi !
All the supplies have to be carried up to the Hudad !

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We had fun by firelight listening to traditional Ethiopian singing and music provided by a group of local farmers who also work as Hudad guards.

This farmer even showed us a very lively sample of 'Eskesta', the traditional Ethiopian shoulder dancing.
Tongue-in-cheek I suggested that his dancing was good but it was much better when the girls did it.
When the translation of this comment was completed, he stared intently straight at me and then jumped up to his feet.
He stood there looking at me again and then suddenly both hands shot rapidly down towards his waist.
I was sure he was about to whip his sickle out from under his shawl and whip off my head at this heinous insult by a heathen westerner.
He put his hands on his hips, heaved a big breath, said "You are right" and doubled over in fits of laughter.
Phew !

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Revelling in the adventure and complete immersion in local culture, we felt about as far from the pressures, gadgets and silly fads of the western world as one could get.
In the darkness our rustic, peasant farmer musician was in full flight on his single string masenqo when creeping up through the wailings came a strange, muffled sound.
He put down his bow, fumbled around under his shirt, pulled out his mobile phone and started talking to his mum.
We were in hysterics !

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Later, we settled into our huge bed in our cosy tukul and decided not to go outside again when we heard a hyena's "woop woop" !

Posted by tia-saz-fitz 19:00 Archived in Ethiopia

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