Chapter 6. Bahar Dar & Lalibela - Michael McCaskey Photography

After seven hours on the road, we reached Bahar Dar and a lovely luxury resort on the shore of Lake Tana. Staying at the Kiriftu Resort was a joy after the long trip and the girls loved the pool. The rooms were housed in two-story rock and cement structures covered with abundant flowers. We all took advantage of the spa and had massages. What a treat!

Visitors come to Bahar Dar to see the Blue Nile Falls.

In the rainy season, the water falls across the entire face of what you can see here. Even so, for us, it was an impressive sight.

Also of interest are the island monasteries on Lake Tana, some of which date from the fourteenth century. Monks guarded and maintained Christian traditions while the region was under pressure from Muslims. The outer wall of the sanctuary is typically covered with brightly painted scenes from the Bible or Ethiopian tales. A favorite of ours was the story of Belai the cannibal who had eaten many people but he had done one act of kindness. At his death, the shadow of Mary fell on the scales of justice in his favor and he was therefore admitted into heaven. Here is the tale retold. In one episode a farmer (in the lower right panel) is too strong for Belai and drives the cannibal away.

No flashes were allowed inside the church, but this monk was very patient in letting me set up a tripod to take his picture. The light and the setting were heavenly.

Next we flew on Ethiopian Airlines to the remote town of Lalibela. There one can see a world heritage site of rock-hewn churches. Stone cutters in the thirteenth century cut down into solid rock to fashion the outside of a church and then carved out the inside to create rooms and hallways.

Of course, duty for the attendants can sometimes be tedious. Notice, too, the swastika-like symbol carved into the window behind.

Like Fiche, Lalibela is situated near one of the Rift Valley gorges. It’s hard to fully absorb the immensity of the gorge – several Grand Canyons could here be encompassed – without walking into the gorge. So we arranged a two-day trek with Tesfa, an eco-touring company in the region. Handlers packed a portion of our gear onto donkeys (remember the eleven million donkeys in Ethiopia.) We hadn’t planned ahead for this detail, so among the duffel bags we have a square-sided suitcase. Next time we’ll prepare better.

Early in the trek, we came to a stream where some of the stones for fording had washed away. In short order the guides moved new stones into place and helped us cross.

We began at an elevation of about 7,000 feet and then walked up and down hills for four hours, occasionally passing tukuls or thatched huts and beautiful birds. Below is the Greater Blue-eared Starling.

Our destination was a cluster of tukuls with cement floors, no running water and no electricity.

After we arrived, Mark’s daughter, Tory, led us through stretching exercises, trying to help our bodies recover from the arduous walk. After a very sound sleep, we headed back.

On our return trip, we were fortunate to pass a village meeting in progress. We waited patiently for a proper interval of time and then our guide and I approached the head man.

I think it helped that I spoke some Amharic and had a history of teaching in Fiche. They consented to picture taking then resumed their meeting about collecting taxes. After the meeting, two villagers headed to their tukuls and I had just enough time to take their picture.

They are carrying their dulas across their shoulders in traditional style. Dulas serve as walking sticks, body rests, and weapons if need be. I was delighted to see the Rift Valley made the picture just beyond the tukuls.

For me, the walk into the gorge and seeing the village meeting were some of the highlights of the trip.

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