North of Ethiopia
I left Addis on my birthday, I was 30 and I wanted to be cycling on the road. It was funny to cheer with people from Aleletu. It was my third anniversary in Africa. I thought it was possible to travel the whole continent in nearly 7 months, it was just an illusion.
I went to the route with a will, I was not tired and I was on weight again. The first ten days, I cycled in the provinces of Oromia and Amhara, their people are nice and I was constantly invited to their houses to have tea or to eat something.
Every house had its ground covered with grass; they explained me it was a tradition to begin the new year. The houses are built with stones including the main fence and the places for their cattle; this is the difference with the south.
Inland Ethiopia, places for sleeping are very simple and not clean. Travelling across the country, I got up with great itch every morning. It took a lot of days to find out what kind of itches I had in my body. I asked myself how they could multiply, if I slept with my mosquito-net and sometimes in my sleeping-bag.
There were some nights which I woke up desperately to scratch; up to I discovered a pair of fleas sleeping with me. What a fool man I was, who knew how long they were staying there? They were everywhere, in the beds where I slept, in my sleeping-bag and in my clothes that were carrying in the panniers. And it was not easy they leave me free.
The trip by the highlands of Ethiopia was hard, the ways are constant up and down and sometimes I felt without oxygen. I was cycling within the clouds at 3,500 mt and I didn’t have more strength. I asked myself how long I was going on cycling up. Where were the down?
I cycled no more than 60 or 70 km per day, it was cold, and the food was not enough for me. Local people only ate the traditional injera.
At last I arrived at Lalibela.
Lalibela – Km 26,695
Lalibela is known as the city of stone or the Petra of Africa. This is the most visited place by tourist in Ethiopia and I wanted to know it.
There were 21 churches which were built in the end of the century XII and the beginning of XIII with a feature that make them different of all the world, being for the Christians orthodox a special place, for most of them a kind of Mecca.
The churches were built in the mountain from the stones and from up to down. Because of this, four enormous trenches were done; building a solid stone and afterwards this would be sculpted from the outside to the inside. The guide told me that according to the legend, the 21 churches were built in 21 years with only 4,000 men, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The myth also tells that to make this possible the king Lalibela was helped with angels during the nights to advance with the construction.
It was amazing to go into these churches; it is like being a very big cave built from solid stone. Inside, everything is sculpted beautifully, its walls, the columns, the windows.
In the walls outside the churches, there were some holes where the monks live. This kind of people has abandoned material life and they prepared themselves during a year in different monasteries. The only requirement is to be older than 18 years old. When I saw this, of course, I couldn’t believe it, because it is a very small place and they are there the whole day studying the Bible.
My days in Lalibela were useful to have a rest and to wash all my clothes with boiled water, my panniers and my sleeping-bag.I had itches in all my body, my legs, my arms and my neck. It was very lucky for me to know a pharmacist who spoke Spanish. He has studied in Cuba and when he saw me, he said to me to take care because of the symptoms, as I had the problem in my blood, not only the itches. We were speaking for a while, he was very kind, he gave me some medicines as a present and he told me if you have temperature, go to doctor as quickly as possible, consequences could be serious.
The legend of Lalibela
According to the legend when lalibela was born a deep cloud of bees covered him in his cradle. Her mother look at the bees as a symbol that her son would be a great soldier and he was called Lalibela that means: “the bees recognise his sovereignty”.
From the very beginning provoked his brother envy, who was king, while Lalibela went to Jerusalem. There, he found marvellous constructions and he swore to build a new secret place in his kingdom when he came back.
But his brother the king Harbay tried to poison Lalibela. The prince entered in a deep dream and according to the myth, Lalibela was carried to the sky by angels where he received God instructions to build the churches. After 3 days he came back to the earth with exact instructions to start to build them. In this way the king Harbay reconciled with his brother and proclaimed him as the real king.
Soon, important artists and craftsmen of everyplace were joined to work and the big project started. The legend says that the great work, produced during the day by human strength, was replaced by celestial work in the darkness. This is the way how churches progressed in the construction in a miraculous speed.