Friday, November 9, 2018
Ron had to work so my mom had to drive me to the train station so I left this for Ron! He would be 10 days without hope.
Saturday November 10, 2018 (about 9:00am)
We are about to board and are getting excited! So happy to be able to travel with Meredith on this epic journey
Sunday November 11, 2018
Day 1 started after a 13 hour direct flight to Addis Ababa where we were met by Peg, the head of Run for Water (https://www.runforwater.ca/donate#monthly). We landed at 7:30am local time but it was 11:30pm in our heads. We hit the ground running and were driven to The Monarch Hotel where we had some breakfast then all 16 of us drove back to the airport to catch a flight at 11:00 to Goba Bale.
This is the Arrivals in Goba Bale.
We either had to bring our luggage to the jeeps or there was a man with a wheelbarrow that threw your luggage in there and ran to the jeeps! Very efficient.
When we got to the area where the jeeps were parked, we were met by locals singing and dressed in costume and they gave each of us a bracelet.
We spent a lot of time in jeeps driving from place to place and had great drivers and got to know the people better in the group. The first drive was to our first hotel stay.
We were given our rooms and then were told to meet back at the dining room for lunch. I didn’t eat much because my timing was all off. After lunch we had the option to go to a park to see some wild animals. I wanted to take advantage of everything offered and was afraid to miss anything so I went even though it was rainy and I was exhausted. We didn’t see anything to extraordinary, some wart hogs and these.
It was good to walk after sitting for so long and at one point we were at 10,000ft elevation. Our drive back was about 1 hour and slept a bit. I had quite a headache at suppertime so decided to not to eat but go to bed. I was hoping to take a shower since it had been Friday morning since I last had taken one but there was no hot water. This was our bathroom.
Monday November 12, 2018
Day 2 began early; we had to leave at 7:00 am. So after a quick wash up, no water still, and a small breakfast we were off.
This was a full day and lots of driving on very muddy roads.
We stopped numerous times along the way to pee alongside the road as there was nowhere else to go. As we became closer to Gora Bantu, our first stop to inaugurate a well, the jeeps could go no further and we had to get out and walk the rest of the way. It was super muddy, like clay and our shoes were covered in it.
We arrived at this river where a truck had already taken some people across and was waiting for the rest of us. I asked how cold and deep it was and the driver said, come feel it. It wasn’t that bad so I decided to remove my shoes and socks and wade across. I thought, Hey, I’m in Ethiopia, why not!
I also convinced Meredith to do it with me. Someone has a picture of both of us in the water but at time of writing I had not received it.
After we crossed, these boys came up and poured water on our feet to clean them off before we put our shoes back on! So sweet.
We finally arrived at Gora Bantu Community where we were met by the whole community, singing and clapping and cheering. It was overwhelming and I cried. They had signs with some of our names on them, thanking us for giving to their well.
There were many speeches and interpretations and coffee and bread was made for us. As you know, I am not a coffee drinker but I did try this coffee and I am still not a coffee drinker.
The people did not want us to leave but we had to drive to the next village, Awash Kolati to inaugurate the second well, the one that Meredith and I were more associated with.
Meredith had her Polaroid camera with her and took a picture of this group of girls. The expression on their faces were unforgettable.
We stayed in the Awash Kolati Village for two nights, where tents were set up for us inside their new classrooms. We hung out with the village and they had a huge party and bonfire for us that night. These two young men kept asking me to take their photo!
At the evening party, each of us were given the cultural dress. They provided earrings, bracelets, necklaces and headbands as well.
Our dinner that night was cooked by our personal chef that stayed with us for three days. He cooked everything on the pots. All the food was very good. Any meat we had was killed an hour before we ate because they don’t have any where to store meat. We had goat mostly.
This was full of vegetables the first day and it was used up mostly before we left Awash village. We had great soups and rice with vegetables.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Day 3, we drove to Sheni- Kondola for the 3rd and final well inauguration This well was mostly funded by Calgary Run For Water Team. Teal and Heather were there from Calgary and were super excited to get to this village. On the way there, we had to drive through this area and on the right you see a group of people. They were washing their clothes AND filling up Jerry cans with water to drink. They know that it will give their children parasites but they have no other options unless they walk for days to get clean water.
Here are all of us with the village and the woman in the front is holding a bottle of water that they will drink.
We arrived an Sheni-Kondola and there were so many beautiful children carrying their school books.
In this village, there were a group of girls 13 to 14 years of age that started a girls club to support each other. Usually girls stop going to school when they get their periods because there is no clean water and no place to clean up. Since this village now has clean water, they still go. Two of the girls were forced into marriage and the rest of the group went to the parents and said the should not be married but go to school to get an education. Eventually the parents agreed and a divorce happened. The girl singing is one of the ones forced to marry.
We left there and went back to Awash Kolati where we stayed one more night. When we got back, we had a lesson in making coffee.
We picked the beans
We dried the beans
After the red beans are dried, they are squeezed and two green beans come out and they are washed then they are roasted as this woman is doing below. She used a cast iron skillet over open flame until they are quite dark. Then she grind them and pours them into a pot with water and then into the cups. I did not try this coffee but Meredith said it was amazing.
After this, there was a small photo shoot! LOL everyone wanted their pictures taken and they were beautiful specimens.
And even me playing with the clean water!
Wednesday November 14, 2018
Day 4 we left Awash community around 7:00 am as we had a 4 to 5 hour drive to the airport to fly back to Addis Ababa. Here are some sights along the way.
I was trying to get a picture of the women in the field but is woman was walking along the road and didn’t understand, until the driver asked her to move.
We often saw goats, cows, donkeys and then camels and baboons randomly walking on the roads
We arrived at the airport and this was my boarding pass!
We arrived in Addis and were driven to The Monarch Hotel, checked in and finally got a shower, after 6 days!! Oh how sweet it was! We got dressed up a bit and had some drinks in the hotel then went to an authentic Ethiopian restaurant. The food was very good. They had entertainment on the stage and this woman was a bit excited!
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Day 5 – Had a good sleep in a nice comfortable bed. We had breakfast at the hotel the next morning and met Zufam who is 20 years old and is in University and wants to own a Supermarket. Last year when Kenji went to Ethiopia, he heard that this funding was going to stop because no one was going to take it over so he said “Meredith and I will take it over” and they did. (runforwater.kindful.com) This fund of $10,000 per year covers accommodations, meals, hygiene kit and schooling for 4 girls to go to high school. They give each family 4 goats that they will raise and then sell to help pay for their daughters further education.
After breakfast, we took another flight to Mekelle and then drove about an hour on paved roads to meet Tirhos at a school in Wukro. Tirhos is in charge of using the money that comes from Educate a Girl fund. She encourages the girls to stay in school and go to University. We met three girls, one is studying to be a doctor, one a journalist and one a water engineer.
After leaving the school, we drove another hour to Gheraltra Lodge. This was a beautiful lodge with great food once again.
We had some lunch and Peg suggested we go for a hike that would take us to an Active Cave Church. He said it’s pretty high but there is only one part about 19 feet that is hard. Well, that was an understatement. I am not sure if I wasn’t listening or if he just wasn’t telling all of it.
This is what we were climbing! Abuna Yematu Guh, check it out, after you see my photos! At this point, I still wasn’t too worried. I’m pretty fit right??
It started out like a typical hike, low-grade then gets a bit steeper with rocks.
It’s not easy, but doable.
Then, after we are pretty tired and climbed for about 45 minutes, we reach an area where we have to remove our shoes as it is sacred ground and we are climbing STRAIGHT up! WHAT??? Someone said you don’t have to do this just because everyone else is and I am thinking, that’s EXACTLY why I’m doing it!!! There were harnesses and ropes but you didn’t have to use them so I decided not to. I have no idea how that decision came about. I think it was the dark angel on my left shoulder! In any case off I went! I just put one foot in front of the other.
On our way up there was this burial ground of bodies. They actually have funerals and baptisms in this church and services every Sunday.
This is the last ledge to go across before you reach the opening of the cave. It is situated at a height of 2,580 metres (8,460 ft) and has to be climbed on foot to reach. It is known for its dome and wall paintings dating back to the 5th century and its architecture.
A cross engraved in the stone just outside the door of the church.
These are some of the hand painted drawings inside the church. The paintings date back to initial traces of Christianity in Ethiopia and are themed around the nine saints and twelve apostles. The oldest date back to the fifteenth century.
This is the 71-year-old priest that climb this twice a day so I guess I should not complain. He is holding a 400 year old bible that is handwritten.
There was a guide that spoke for a while about the paintings and explained them but all I could think about was “I have to get back down”. We started back down and we heard some thunder and saw some lightning in the distance. Then it started to rain a little bit. we made it down most of the way before it got too bad. At one point I was on a rock beside Steve and I was shaking pretty bad and wondering how I was ever going to make it down the 19ft. steep part. Steve started with a harness and because I had to wait, I just decided to go without one again. Somehow, I made it down to where my shoes were and put them on and waited for Meredith as I knew she was nervous and now it had started to rain quite a bit and it was getting very dark. Meredith made it down safely with a harness and she was quite hilarious. Every time the guide said put your foot here or your hand here, she said “Excellent”, “Perfect”, “Awesome”….
Once she got her shoes on her and I and Lauren started the 45 minute trek back to the bus in the pouring rain and darkness. We did have a guide but it still was not easy. Everyone made it safely back to the bus and Peg said it had to be the worst conditions he had ever experienced.
We got back to the lodge later than expected and didn’t have time to shower but quickly changed into warm clothes and had an awesome dinner and then drinks in the beautiful library.
Friday, November 16, 2018
Day 6 was a lazy day at the Lodge. I woke with a bad cold probably due to the rain. We had a nice leisurely breakfast and then browsed the bags they were selling in the lobby. I bought a beautiful bag and so did Meredith. They were made from the Zebu cows; leather and horns and the fabric from the Afar region. We spent the day reading and walking around the property and getting a massage for $7. We were going to see the Sycamore tree but once we got there it started to pour rain so we turned back.
Saturday/Sunday, November 17/18, 2018
Day 7, we began driving around 7:45am to get to the volcano that was 600 ft below sea level. We drove in a bus for a bit then switched off to jeeps. On our way we stopped for lunch here.
We were a little concerned but our cook actually made the food and it once again was great.
We stopped for coffee later and had a chance to check out a market.
We had a new set of drivers and ours was great. Abbi was his name and he was 28 and called me mom because he knew Meredith was my daughter.
Every time the drivers come, they take turns bringing stuff to the kids. We could see kids running from far away when they saw the jeeps coming. Indy brought candy but sometimes they bring paper and crayons.
There are only 3 active volcanoes you can hike to in the world and we hiked to one; Danakil Depression in Erta Ale. This one is on the hottest place on earth and temperatures can reach to 50 degrees Celsius during the day. So, we arrived around 7:00pm after a very rough, bumpy ride over lava rock. We had dinner around 7:30 and after we cleaned up and got our overnight bags ready for the hike up to the base of the volcano, we began the “10K” hike. It was about 33 to 34 degrees at this point. It was a grueling walk that started in and/soot and then progressed to lava rock that inclined. We left about 8:30ish and we had two camels that carried our mattresses that we would sleep on. It took us about 4 hours to get to the top. We had to stop for pee breaks and water breaks and we went as slow as the slowest person. Once we got to the top, it was too smokey so see anything and we were wearing masks. The guides told us we would have to wait to go down to walk to the volcano as you would be able to see anything. So, we walked back down about 30 minutes and they threw the mattresses on the ground and gave us each a blanket and a pillow and we tried to sleep for about 2 hours. Peg woke us at 3:30 and we headed back up to see what we could see. We walked up then we had to walk down rock stairs and then another 30 to 40 minutes until we reached the lip of the volcano. We saw 3 openings that were bubbling. It was amazing.
Of course, the pictures don’t do it justice.
We started back to base camp for breakfast around 4:30am and on the way I took these pictures.
It was an opportunity of a lifetime and so glad to be able to experience it.
We had planned on going to the Salt Mines on Sunday but after not sleep and it was going to be another camping night and 2 hours out of our way, Peg decided to forgo that and go back to get a hotel. We were disappointed but also a bit relieved I think. We got to the hotel, showered and changed and then went to do some shopping. We stopped at a juice bar and paid $.70 for this fresh fruit smoothie.
Monday November 19, 2018
Day 9 started with coffee at a local coffee shop where we took up the whole place. The locals were not too happy with us.
We flew back to Addis and drove to the Monarch Hotel and got one room to put all our bags as we were all flying out that night. We got went out and shopped a bit for scarves and coffee then back to the hotel to eat together then head back to the airport. Meredith and I were the first ones to leave at 11:00 pm so we said our sad goodbyes and off we went.
Oh my gosh, I forgot to mention that we went to an Art Gallery for lunch and I found this beautiful piece of art that was quite expensive but Meredith thought I should buy it. I really wanted to talk to Ron because we don’t spend a large amount of money without discussing it, unless of course it is a bike and Ron is buying it!! In any case, Ron did actually text me back pretty quickly and we went back and forth and decided I would purchase it. If you know me at all, you know I love flowers so this spoke to me, then I realized that the Yellow Flower is the Ethiopian Flower and means Hope to them. Now you agree I should have purchased it right?? But, my mastercard wouldn’t work so the owner said not to worry, they would call the bank. That still didn’t work so he said just take it and e-transfer me! Unbelievable! But, Eyerusalem said she would pay for it and I would e-transfer her because they have such a good relationship with this owner she didn’t want to walk away without it being paid.
But, the story continues. I get back to Toronto and I then make my way to the train departure but first went to the bathroom. I boarded the train, got settled with my book and looking forward to a couple hours of down time before I hit the ground running. I was on the train for about 20 minutes before I realized I did not have the canvas!!! I literally panicked and started to cry (super mature!!) I found a train employee and couldn’t even speak because I was so upset. He told me to calm down and explain. I said I had forgotten a very expensive item I just purchased from Ethiopia and I needed to go find it. He asked where I left it and it took me a minute to realize I had left it in the bathroom before boarding. He said he was going to find the captain/chief, I don’t know what he said!!! LOL The head honcho came back and said I couldn’t go get it because we were leaving but he would call someone “in a minute”! This was not “in a minute” situation for me so I called Meredith and balled like a baby and she said she would call lost and found and not to worry, “People are more honest than you think”. In my mature state, I replied “No they’re not, someone is going to steal it”.
In the meantime, I called Union station and they said they would send someone to the bathroom and look for it and call me back. I got a text from Meredith shortly after and they found it and were going to send it on the next train to Kingston. Oh ye of little faith!! Oh My, what a relief. The Head Honcho came back and had finally called and told me what Meredith had already told me, “thanks for nothing!”.
Here is the beautiful canvas. I am getting it re framed and will then decide where to hang it! I may move it from my bedroom to the dining room depending on the day!!
This trip was so many things. Challenging, stretching, educational, enlightening and I am so appreciative to be able to share it with Meredith and that she was willing and wanted me to come with her. It is an experience I will never forget. The people I met from Ethiopia are a humble group of people who want to make their country a better place for all of them. They are hard-working and kind. The people I traveled with are so giving of their time and finances and should be commended for all they do.
I know this was a very long post and I understand if you skipped over a lot of it. It was more for me to remember the experience than any thing else. If you did read to the end, thank you and if you want to give to the fund that Meredith and Kenji have taken over it is here: runforwater.kindful.com
I know they would appreciate the help as well as each high school girl in Ethiopia.
Until we meet again.