Thursday, May 11, 2006

Zanzibar and Ethiopia

After three lovely days on the mystical island of Zanzibar, we left Tanzania and flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia via Africa’s central hub and one of my least favorite places in the world, the Nairobi International Airport. Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis, is quickly beginning to creep onto that list as well, but luckily we only stayed here for two nights before embarking on a swift two week journey around rural Ethiopia.

After meeting Trish & Kevin, a lovely Irish couple and later our new French friend Laurent, we traveled in a clump to the quaint town of Bahar Dar. We spent the first day cruising around Lake Tana exploring the many ancient island churches. After another day in Bahar Dar of biking around and taking it easy, we pushed off for Gondor.

Apart from some intestinal troubles… and finally some self-prescribed antibiotics, we had a grand time walking around Gondor’s “Great Enclosure” fortress from the 1600s.

After a few days of haggling with teenage-con-artists-cum-travel-agents we finally settled on an overpriced trek in the Simian Mountains… but the fog was so thick on the peaks that we could barely keep an eye on our machine-gun totting scout and guide, so we bailed out early.

From there, Sierra and I said our goodbyes to the rest of our group and headed off to our northernmost destination, the high-altitude town of Lalibela. For four eventful days, we made the rounds of the many thousand-year-old rock-hewn churches, the highlight of which was at the top of a mountain 45 kilometers out of town: A church hidden in a cave called, Yemrehanna Kristos, which housed not only two intricate buildings, but also a sprawling open mass-grave. The piles of half decaying pilgrims gave us the creeps, but combined with the altitude and my reading of the (soon to be published) manuscript of my father Andy Karr’s new book on contemplative Buddhism, it was a visceral opportunity to consider my own mortality.

Now, a few days later, we’re back in Addis Ababa. Tomorrow we travel to Dubai where we arrive in the middle of the night for about 20 hours and then on to Mumbai, India. We are thoroughly sick of Injera and Doro Wat and can't wait to reach India and chomp into a lamb Big-Mac or at least a camel burger in the Emirates.

(Next Post: Waking to the sound of explosions, as nine terrorist bombs go off in Addis Ababa. Two of them a stone's throw from our hotel...)


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