I got up early to climb to the Asherten monastery and church. We hired a kid, which sounds really really dodgy, but we’d discovered that hiring a kid as guide means his family gets money and we pay a fare price! Although we knew the route and didn’t really need him we figured at only 20 Birr each which was really cheap his family would appreciate it.
The walk was very hard going especially as the kid had endless energy and ran as quickly as possible. In the end we got to the church in one hour 10 minutes, practically half of the time the guidebooks suggest. First we headed up and climbed to the peak of the mountain. The views were really amazing. It was a shame that there always seems to be a dusty haze hanging in the sky, I don’t know if this is usual for this time of year but even with this hanging in the air the barrenness of the view, sparsity of the shrubs, the inhospitable nature of the environment really stands out here at this altitude. Below us were little islands of villages surrounded by small stones looking so isolated, so vulnerable. After taking in the views and having a bit of a rest we headed back down to the monastery where typically the local madman, everywhere touristy has them, wanted his picture taken….. for a fee!
At this point I stopped a small kid, who had been following us for over an hour up from Asherten and back down and would not stop, and asked him what he wanted and amazingly for the first time ever on this trip he said nothing and just smiled. I just think he just wanted to go for a walk with us. The strange thing is I didn’t think about it at the time, but this child was probably no more than four or five years old and had come on this journey with us without knowledge of his family. Maybe it’s an innocent way of life but maybe it reflects more that when you have nothing what is there to take? I took a picture of the kids when we got back to his village and met his friends or family, well the other children anyway.
Getting back to the hotel I grabbed a quick shower and we headed out to the local pastry shop which took a bit of time to find. I guess it’s a symptom of what you can afford and what resources you have but I have to be honest that the pastries were not very nice at all but I have to be realistic, I’m halfway up a barren mountain in the middle of Ethiopia in the heart of Africa, just coming out of another famine, why would I expect Parisian style pastries! The only real difficulty here was around trying to eat them as you end up eating small flies and pastries. That is one thing I never appreciated before. When you see images of people in Africa starving for food you will often see flies all over their faces and they don’t even raise a hand to wipe them away, obviously this is partly to do with the horrible condition they find themselves in but also, I myself and others here find themselves eventually giving into the flies. You wave them away and within seconds they are back again and you keep doing this and again and again. And then at certain points you just don’t do it any more, you could feel the flies crawling on your forehead your nose the edges of your mouth but you just let them. There are just so many of them.
Walking back up the hill to the hotel a child who had followed us from the hotel and was now following us all of the way back again, ironically, considering the distance he’d covered following us, he had been asking us for shoes but we noticed this suddenly stopped. Looking back we saw a local policeman had seen the boy following us and took a massive stick and whacked him on the back of his legs, ouch. I know the policeman probably meant well as the hassle in Ethiopia for a tourist is pretty intense but surely there’s a better way to deal with this.
But then nearing the hotel some kids kicked bottles at us and tried to steal our bags….. I have this on video. Now where’s the policeman when I need his stick! I have no idea what the kids were trying to achieve or what they were thinking, but they were demanding money! Really bizarre!
In the evening we all went together to a local bar and a hand some Tej, which is Ethiopian honey wine. It’s very nice and at altitude, very dangerous. We then had some traditional Ethiopian coffee after the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. After this it rained really heavily again so we just headed to dinner where I had some really disgusting Tibs (a local dish) far too spicy for me. Had a couple of beers back to the hotel and got the squits not a good sign, I’m hoping it’s the beer rather than the Tibs.