I’m a blogging machine today.
“13 months of sunshine” is the motto of the Ethiopian Tourism Department. I like it. The Ethiopians actually have their own calendar which has 13 months. In Ethiopia, the year is currently 2003. What’s more, they have their own clock as well: one hour after sunrise, it’s 1 o’clock; 2 hours after sunrise, 2 o’clock. Four hours after sunset: 4 o’clock at night. Cool, eh? But, it also adds to some confusion. Any time an Ethiopian tells you a time, you need to ask if it is Ethiopian or faranji (“foreigner”) time.
A little while ago I did a 4-day trek in the Simien Mountains. It was an escarpment trek and much of the trail was along the edge of cliffs, with the scenery falling away thousands of metres below. The views were killer. It was the first time I had done a multi-day trek with rental gear. Which made me realize how good I have it (and how much of a wimp I am) with my fancy-pants gear that I usually use.
Compared with my gear, this Ethiopian rental gear was all twice the size, twice the weight, half the quality and really old. I imagine this is what trekking in the 70s must have been like. Holy shit, the mattresses and sleeping bags were bulky! … and yet not very warm. The stove and steel pots were big, heavy and couldn’t boil water. (by comparison, my pot back home is made of titanium… titanium, for God’s sake!)
But, the point I want to make is, even with less than top-of-the-line gear, you can of course still do it. Your pack might be heavier than usual, but you can carry it. You might freeze your nuts off at night, but the dawn will eventually come, and the sun will warm you. Maybe the shitty stove won’t boil water, but you can eat sludgy pasta, or survive one more day on that stale bread. You can still have a great time. And that’s what I did.
One of my trekking partners, Nathaniel (USA), provides a little human interest
An armed escort is standard for many tours in Ethiopia. This is our scout in the Simien Mountains. “Stoic” is the word one of my trekking partners used to describe him. For 4 days he ate almost nothing, drank little water, slept without a sleeping bag, carried a Kalashnikov, and walked with his toes literally sticking out the front of his shitty shoes. I called him Mr. Scout.
This barefoot girl is carrying a sack bigger than she is with a rope tied around her shoulders. She makes me with my Gore-tex boots and $500, high-tech trekking pack look like a bit of a wimp… just a bit.
You should sit down for this one. At a place called Lalibela there are churches that were carved out of rock solid rock 900 years ago. But that’s not even the big deal. They were not built from the ground up. They were built from ground level… wait for it… *down* !! They are monolithic, free-standing churches that were carved into the ground; not even into a cave. Can you imagine how much work it would have been to build these 900 years ago, with hammer and chisel?!? I would have quit my job for sure. Those guys were nuts.
Bet Giyorgis Church, carved INTO THE ROCK GROUND! The photo was taken from ground level.
From this picture I don’t think you are understanding how awesome this is. Let me try another:
I fell through a foreign diplomatic crack the other day. I wanted a visa for Djibouti, but their embassy in Addis Ababa told me that they had a new policy (as of Jan 1st, 2011) that requires a letter of invitation (LOI) from my embassy. No problem. I wander over to the Canadian Embassy to ask for one, but am told the Canadian Government’s policy, as of a year ago, is that they don’t issue LOIs. So, to review, Djibouti has a policy of requiring LOIs of all countries, and Canada has a policy of not issuing LOIs to any country. This silly situation I call “foreign diplomatic deadlock.” After a couple more trips back and forth, I get them to talk on the phone to each other. It turns out that Canada had no idea of Djibouti’s new policy, and apparently I am the first Canadian trying to get a Djibouti visa this year. The Canadian Embassy Worker had to message Ottawa to figure out what will be Canada’s policy to this issue going forward.
Anyway, this whole situation, all because of some burocratic baloney, is a bit annoying. But I find it amusing that, as I type this, there are a bunch of politicians in Ottawa trying to figure out what to do about this issue I brought up. There you go, I’m forcing Canadian Foreign Policy meetings — just another day in the life of a World Traveller. Folks, I think I’ve finally hit the big time.
Just because I love it so much, here’s a random pic of some friends and I riding the roof of a truck in Southern Ethiopia. (It brings me back to my roof-riding days in the Terai of Nepa!) Who do I talk to about making this legal in Canada?? Woo-hoo!!!
Well, I’ve been in Ethiopia for about 2 months now and I’m due for a change of scenery. I made an album of pics you can find here. On this trip I’ve never had such a difficult time getting the album down to a reasonable size. Actually, I think it’s still too big, but I don’t have the heart to cut any more pictures from it. Enjoy.
Just recently I was walking around Addis Ababa and spotted a sign for the embassy of a country called “Burkina Faso.” Wow, what a cool name for a country! That’s a good enough reason for me to visit. The next day I went in to the embassy, got the visa and bought a flight to this place.
Until a little over a week ago I had never even heard of the country… and tomorrow I’m going. That’s how I roll… just like that.
See you in West Africa.