When in Labuan Bajo

We spent 10 days in around Labuan Bajo and though we are no experts for every little corner of the town like some expats working in dive centres, we did get to try enough to have some recommendations, should you ever decide to visit this place. I admit, we could have eaten out more, gone…

Seeing real life dragons

One of the main reasons we came to Labuan Bajo was to go to the Komodo National Park and see the Komodo dragons. They only exist here and are very old as a species and seem to be gifted with the genes for survival. They can swim, but not far, which is why they only…

Wir brauchen ein neues Auto

Unser Renault Kangoo ist in die Jahre gekommen (9!) und hat viele Kilometer auf dem Tacho (230 000). Wir haben kaum bemerkt, wie lange wir ihn schon besitzen. Na ja, wenn ich mich auf den Straßen so umschau, dann sieht er ein wenig aus der Zeit gefallen aus. Das Design ist eher gestrig, die Sitze sind jetzt ...

The post Wir brauchen ein neues Auto appeared first on Christine Graf.

Driving aimlessly and jumping off a rock

What a whirlwind of a few days it has been. We’re now on day 5, but spent two of those getting to this incredible place. The plan was to be in Lombok right now and get over the initial shock realisation that we’re actually doing this. Instead, because of the earthquakes, we changed things around…

The 11 Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela.

Lalibela’s 11 churches are carved out of a hillside, which is made of soft reddish volcanic rock. The churches can be divided into two complexes—a northern and a southeastern complex—that are connected through a series of carved passageways and naturally occurring wadis.

Six churches are featured in the northern complex and four in the southeastern complex. The 11th church—Beta Giyorgis (Church of St. George)—stands alone and is not part of either interconnecting complex.

The northern complex is composed of 6 churches.

Beta Madhane Alem (Church of the Savior of the World)

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Beta Maryam (Church of Mary)

 

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Its two weeks of fasting and churches here were very buy with worshipers coming to pray.

Beta Masqal (Church of the Cross)

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Beta Danagel (Church of the Virgins)

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This is the only church that we couldn’t enter, it is being renovated.

Beta Mika’el (Church of Michael)

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Beta Golgotha (Church of Golgotha)

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The southeastern complex consists of four churches.

Beta Emmanuel (Church of Emmanuel)

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I took this picture from across the bridge, my wife could not handle the height, so she ren.

Beta Abba Libanos (Church of Father Libanos)

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Beta Merkurios (Church of Mercurius)

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Beta Gabriel and Beta Rafa’el (the twin churches of Gabriel and Raphael)

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Located west of the other complexes, the final—and most famous—rock-hewn church of Lalibela is (11) Beta Giyorgis (Church of St. George).

Shaped like a cross, Beta Giyorgis sits on a stepped platform inside a 72-by-72-foot courtyard that is 36 feet deep. Originally, it was accessible only from the west by means of a long approach—measuring nearly 100 feet—that led uphill and connected the church to the wadi below.

Standing at the same level as the church, it is not immediately apparent that Beta Giyorgis is shaped like a cross, but from above, it becomes clear that not only is it shaped like a cross, but that Greek crosses have been carved into its roof as well. Beta Giyorgis has three doors and twelve windows.

This is the masterpiece by king Lalibela.

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This master peace can be seen from very far, the view from up here is breathtaking.

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Each of the windows is adorned by a cross and floral motif carved in relief above its opening. An additional nine false windows are carved into the exterior of the church at the same level as the doors, but they do not open into the church’s interior. Of all the churches at Lalibela, Beta Giyorgis is the best preserved.

Dated to the late 12th or early 13th century, it is also one of the latest churches at the site. The other churches are estimated to have been built over a span of several centuries—from the 10th through the 13th centuries or later.

A few days in Brighton before our big trip

Oh man, I had no idea it was going to take me this long to get the video on Brighton edited and uploaded. It always takes about 5 times longer than you think! But I did it! Yay/applause/pat on the back and thank you to lovely husband for making lunch. Last summer, we’ve been to…

Taking time off

Taking time off from work is strange. I don’t mean vacation, but literally stop working for a few months. We’re being raised our entire life learning different skills in school, all to be able to go to work and make a living. Working is what you do until you get really old. And not working, … Continue reading Taking time off

Everything is in a box in a box in a box

Today we moved everything into a box. Which means we’ve now officially switched over to camping-and-living-out-of-our-backpacks mode. I don’t think I’ve properly realised what is happening. For about a month, my focus has been to get everything organised, packed and ready to go and I am very good at compartmentalising, i.e. keeping the eye on…

A Visit to the African Jerusalem-Lalibela.

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I always listen to BBC in the morning, 6:00am. It is a 30 minutes swahili news that has been on for as long as I can remember. Many years back, maybe 5, there was a feature on the rock carved churches of Lalibela. That morning still in my sleep, I told myself, I have to visit this place – Lalibela.

Many things have changed since then. Meles Zenawi the then Prime Minister Died, Hailemariam Desale was forced to step down and now Abiy Ahmed has taken the reign of leadership in Ethiopia.

Under Desale, Ethiopia and Kenya agreed to rescind the visa requirements for Kenyan business travellers in July 2015 making it possible to travel without the trouble of acquiring a visa. It’s only Djibouti and Kenya who can travel to Ethiopia without a visa.

It was then time for me to travel. Maybe you have had about Genna, the Christmas in Ethiopia that happens every January 7th. Maybe you have not, then we cannot blame you, because this was not the reason for my visit to Lalibela.

Our journey started in Bahir Dar, 5am in the morning aboard Level 1 bus. It was dark, but i am starting to get used to Ethiopia’s early morning travel. At 4:30am it was just me and my wife in the bus, but some seats had been marked for occupation. Then people started walking in one by one. Then it was Glen, the tourist from China.

The bus was about full when we finally departed at 5am. At sunrise, it was easy to see Lake Tana as it welcomed a new day. The journey took us to Dabre Tudor, then to the hills and mountains, to the clouds and back and we were finally in Gachena……65km from Lalibela. This was our fueling station.

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We took sometime to get something to eat and interact with other passengers, at least those that were easy to talk to. Its not common to find English speakers in Ethiopia, many have only managed a few English words. Amharic is what they know and what they speak.

From Gachena it was 65km of semi-tarmac road. Parts of it are still unders contraction so they were really challenging to the car. Some parts are complete. I said to myself…..looking at the amount or construction taking place. The people who will visit Lalibela years to come will have an easy way, especially if they will be using the road.

The landscape is breathtaking. Its one waterfall, then two and suddenly three….all on one mountain. Our driver with years of coming to Lalibela could manage the terrain very well. It seemed far to me, maybe more than 65 km but at about 2pm we arrived at the small town.

The bus park is a long way out of the town. When we arrived, we had to take a Tuk Tuk to our hotel. There are no taxi….just Tuk Tuks and some few personal cars. Lalibela relies purely on tourism so everything is designed to attract you into blowing your dollars.

There is an airport 25km away making it very easy for those who don’t want to endure a whole day on the road, or just dont have the time to do so. A few minutes later we settled ourselves at Villa Lalibela and 5 minutes from the villa, there was Kana restaurant. We made it our home too.

In the evening we walked around, and just saw the churches we were to tour from afar. With the help of a young student we were able to walk to the second group of churches and from the top of the hill, we had a view of the famous St George Church.

The hotel organized a tour guide for us, and we agreed to start the tour 8am the following morning. We went to bed, after a long day of travelling. It has not been possible to travel to Lalibela from Addis Ababa in one day unless you are flying.

But for us we managed to include Bahir Dar into our itinerary making it possible to have a day to Bahir Dar and a day to Lalibela. If you want to have discounted fares on domestic, its advisable to book Ethiopian Airlines on the international flight. Ethiopians or those with International tickets get discounts only enjoyed by citizens.

 

 

The Road To Bahir Dar and Gondor.

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The view of the new bridge

Many reviews online discourage you travelling in Ethiopia on the bus. But my friend Glen says “A good tourist takes the Bus” and thats what we did. Truly we did not even look for a bus office, it just found us.

We were changing some money and I asked the lady where to buy a sim card, she pointed at the building opposite. I asked again, where to find the bus to Bahir Dar and she said the same building.

It was like a “one stop shop”.

The reason why were are going to Bahir Dar is because its not possible to do Lalilela in one day. I found somebody who has done it, but it was by luck. Bahir Day became our fuelling station in between trips to Lalibela…….the highlight trip.

But Bahir Dar has a lot to offer, what is called the Blue Nile is born here…..right in the middle of the Lake Nile. There are two island on the lake where the monks have made a home, build churches and made it holy place.

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3am International time, 9pm Ethiopian time.

Bahir Dar also has the Blue Nile Falls, one of the biggest………it used to be before Ethiopia build a power plant on it diverting 75% of the water leaving the falls with only 25%. But even that is really big.

The trip to the falls is very expensive, you have to hire a private car, pay entrance fee and pay for a guide. You can decide to go there by boat which you pay or by trekking though the mountain. Time is of essence here.

Back to the bus.

We woke up at 3am which was 9pm Ethiopian time. Our taxi took us to Meskal Square where the bus picks and drops people. The bus was ready…..but it did not leave until 6am. Bahir Dar is 495 km from Addis, 10 hours on route 3 and route 30.

The road takes you to Africas most beautiful landscapes. The say Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills, I think Ethiopia is the land of a million hills.

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We travelled to the cloud and back.

The hills and mountains are endless, with rivers meandering in between and the landscape breath taking. Two sights where the bus will stop for you to take pictures are the waterfalls and the recently completed bridge by the Ethiopian government in partnership with Chinese government. The views are to die for.

The bus was comfortable. With two screens we watched everything the driver wanted us to watch. We even watched The Gods Must be crazy 2 which was really funny. Everyone gets a soft cake and two bottles of 600ml water.

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Finger of God

Bathroom brakes are just in the bush, the bus stops somewhere, the conductor announces 5 minutes of bathroom break and we are all in the bush.

The interesting thing about Ethiopia is that its very common to see people taking their bathroom break on the side of the road…..man and women. The only place you will find a real bathroom is when you stop for lunch…that will be in a restaurant.

Its also common to see people showering along the rivers, and when I say rivers….Ethiopia has millions of them.

After 10 hours of sight seeing, three bathroom breaks, one lunch break, dozing and waking up….we were finally in Bahir Dar. My wife said it felt like being at the coast of Mombasa…..for me it just felt Bahir Dar.

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Breakfast

The lake is 10 minutes walk from where we were staying, the street busy with Hotels and restaurants and its here that we planned our trip to Gonder and Lalibela.

We were in Bahir Dar first three nights then one night after Lalibela. The first day we visited the Lake and in the afternoon the waterfalls. The following day, 5am in the middle of the pouring rain we were picked with a van headed to Gondor.

The road to Gondor starts from the shoes of Lake Nile, just like other roads in Ethiopia, its full of beautiful landscapes married with endless rivers. Everybody competes for the road, the vehicles on one hand, the animals on the other……dogs, donkeys and horses. The casualties always the dogs…..but sometimes the vehicles too. There are two beautiful sights on this road, the finger of God and the nose of David.

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Castle in Gondor

Our car stops in the a small shopping centre, the conductor jumps out and after a few minutes he is back with a plate full of bread. Its breakfast…….with his smile I know the bread is on the house, everybody gets it, and we continue with the journey.

We arrived in Azezo and are greated by a small town, here the horse has the right of way. As a common means of transport here, they are everywhere and its difficult for the car to manoeuvre the road.

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The road is for everyone.

We finally after 187 km see the Castle standing right in front of us, and we knew we were in Gondor. The air was fresh, the view from the top of the castle was breathtaking and the people were nice and friendly.

Life was just good in Gondor, and my wife was still with me.