15. Christmas in Ethiopia

December 25, 2009 - Gondar, Ethiopia


Merry Christmas to all. We are thinking of you all and wish we could be sharing this day with you.

Failing that, I am going to attempt to reenact our story of the last week. I only have an hour as internet is expensive and sporadic here in Ethiopia. Just know that this comes with love and wishes that you were here with us….

So, the last you heard we were in Addis which is where we stayed until Friday the 18th. We found a very cute little spot in Ankober Guest House which was clean and had an ensuite bathroom (bliss), a TV and an offer of room service. We woke up for our third year anniversary and headed off to the Sheraton for breakfast. We looked the part…my scraggly skirt and top (the best outfit of 3) and Blake with his ‘out of Africa’ hair. We took in all the lavishness and ate more than our money’s worth. The Sheraton gives a beautiful vantage point to view Addis which is sprawled over hills and valleys. I think maybe I am doing the wrong type of travel. I should be doing the ‘Cape to Cairo from Sheraton to Sheraton’ tour. We had some soppy sharing time together and then went into town to queue at the Sudanese Embassy. God’s little treat for us is that we didn’t have to wait the threatened 2 weeks for the visa but instead had it nestled in our grubby paws by the next afternoon.

We spent the rest of the week sampling the local cuisine (Patrick, Zebra’s was as good as you predicted, and what a panoramic view!) and browsing the largest open air market in Africa. Spices assail the nostrils, baskets are being made and coffee brewed. Did we mention that at R1.40 a coffee it is legit to need one every hour?

By Friday we were sated as we boarded the tourist bus at 5am. It was a cushy drive over mountain passes and through the fragrant fields of oregano that makes your mind and tastebuds concoct the most delicious pasta recipes. Oooh. We had to buy a bag…over coffee. Good thing, because it helped to mask the somewhat wafting emissions of an old lady seated behind us.

We reached the transit town of Dusse at about 4pm. We found a place to dump our bags and went to explore…the dust. We found a place to eat Injera (the sourdough pancake-like staple)and vegetable stews. We were then regaled of stories of long ago Ethiopia, we think, it is often hard to decipher which language they are talking. This is the town where we took the first of our photo’s for the ‘toilets of Africa’ exhibit. I wonder if it will be a hit.

We slept well and headed off to the bus station at the characteristically dark 4:45am. This time we found a seat in the more rustic bus. This time the driver was a little over eager on the accelerator and we clung to our unattached piece of foam with practiced skill. We passed scenes of England and Switzerland (okay, maybe not as pristine as that) and of Lesotho and Madagascar and suddenly POW!, sections hit you that were entirely uncategorical…they just had to be Ethiopia. The music on the speaker was a lilting song with flute and drums, the seeming soundtrack to the scenes we passed. The farmer and his cattle appeared to thresh the wheat in time. It felt like a bit of a party. I hummed along with the drone of the road affecting my tune. We soon reached the turnoff to Lalibela and it was without due caution that we sped into the village at 2pm.

Here the mountains remind me a bit of morija in Lesotho. The streets are cobbled and the people eager to help. We found a nice and clean room at the Alef Paradise hotel and settled in. Lalibella is famous for it’s rock-hewn churches and they really are magnificent. We dedicated Monday to a tour of them and were thoroughly blown away. It seems miraculous. I can’t explain them quickly I’m afraid. I just hope you get the photo’s.

We also spend some time visiting Tesfaye, a local boy who had also studied marketing, and enjoying the traditional coffee ceremony with him. This consists of sitting in a small room with him and his friends while coffee beans are roasted over an open flame. Incense is burnt over the coals too and it should be suffocating but it is surprisingly pleasant and enhancing. The coffee is then ground and boiled and then 3 cups of coffee with sugar are offered to us. This is a form of welcome and blessing and we loved it. We will have to emulate it at home.

We had a lovely and entertaining evening meeting Francesco, an Italian living in France and Juan, a Spaniard living in Ibiza. They really were a highlight. Wish I could elaborate…but it’s a ‘you had to be there’ thing (and I’m rushing a bit, sorry guys)

We left on Tuesday morning, after a long and frustrating fight with the ticket officer to get on the bus, by 6:30am hopeful to get to Gondar by nightfall. We got off the bus at the junction and began the 4 hour wait for a hitchable ride. Joan, your cross stitch gift has been a lifesaver and a conversation topic. I love you! Finally we bundled into a bakkie and began the speediest ride on a dirt road that I have ever undertaken. Brian, if you had been driving ,(like you do when you drive the short stretch to sunnyside farm) we’d still be on the road, albeit with the best company we could ask for. It was a road that sports bras should be road tested (literally) on. Hectic times. The mountains were majestic and the passes breathtaking (all 2 seconds of what our eyes could take in at that speed). We arrived a bit breathlessly 4½ hours later at the next junction about 100km from Gondar. Whew.

We then hitched another ride with a Land Cruiser laden with mielie sacks. It was a comfortable comparison as we drove in comfort on the tarred road and had time to take in the scenery. It was dreamy. By now the warm late afternoon rays were illuminating and beautifying everything. We could see a castle on a hill, beautiful rock forms that defied gravity and Lake Tana in all it’s splendor. I can’t explain much more than this, you have to see it…not from the armchair, Heath.

Finally, at around 7, 2 weary travelers donned their familiar packs and looked for room in the inn. We were in more luck than others in our situation have been and we found a little room with ensuite at the Queen Tyitu Hotel. A grand name for a simple shelter. Aaah. We slept deeply and well.

Blake by now had the sniffles so I managed to restrict him and force rest on him for the whole of Wednesday. It was with vigor we hit the town on Thursday, touring the Gondar Castles, the Baths and the Brewery (apparently it’s good for a cold). We had a scrumptious supper at the Golden Gate Restaurant (it’s as close to the Tucker family we could get) and ended with a soul satisfying chat to Mat, Heather, Mom, Dad and Aurora.

We woke up on Christmas day aching for home. We had a special time chatting to Brian, Lin, Nana, Mamsie, Warwick and Grayson who are in Clarens and then later to Jas and Sanna, Rog and Jax, Lee and Maquinna, Mom and Dad. We missed them all more but had a good time enjoying the reason for Christmas, what Jesus did for us in coming to earth so many years ago. It was humbling and stark.

Thank you for all of you that have kept in touch and have wished us well today. We treasure all your contact and can’t wait to see you all again.

We are off to Sudan tomorrow and cannot guarantee our next update. Don’t forget us though, okay

p.s. I hope Blake is having luck with the photo’s, it can take 20mins to upload one if at all. If not, we’ll do a slide show when we get back, okay?



December 27, 2009
Love and miss you rach and Blake. Good to hear you had a great blessed Christmas and I totally understand missing family.I enjoy Reading your creative wonderful writing rachi and love your photography project of toilets through Africa. Ha ha ... hope Sudan is adventurous and exciting!!! Big hug...jen&sean
December 29, 2009
You make we wanna pack my bags today! :) Sorry you were far from family on Christmas Day. Wishing you a blessed rest of your trip!

Love Margie
Ryan TerMorshuizen:
January 2, 2010
love you guys so much! come home already! love reading your stories, you write so well my friend
Naomi Thurtell:
January 3, 2010
Miss you guys like crazy!!! What an awesome adventure you too are having! Thinking of you and praying for you! Happy 2010! Much love and missingness. Mwa xoxo
The Berries:
January 4, 2010
Wow guys!, sounds so cool what an amazing adventure, (Blake, Daniel likes the beard :-) ) We connected with Chris & Anita yesterday, though not quite the same without you, we missing you guys, cant wait to hear your more of the adventure, but we looking forward to catching up and seeing you again. love Dave ect ect
Craig Graham:
January 4, 2010
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I have just got back to work from leave and am overjoyed that there was an update from you guys. You have convinced me, I have to cross Africa on my Pajaj. Cheers, Craig
January 6, 2010
Hey guys
Great to hear of you, as usual. We missed you at Christmas. It is also fantastic to hear your news of later in the month....looking forward to it.
Nelleke and Michael:
January 8, 2010
oh my goodness, I don't think I can let Michael read to much of this.. he'll start packing straight away... we miss you guys and so awesome to hear how blessed you have been along the way! It's bringing back many memories of our trip! We can't wait to get all the tips from you for The Elston's Africa Adventure - which is in the planning stage! Much love Michael and Nell
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