Walking a river!

Trip Start May 31, 2006
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Trip End Oct 14, 2006


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Tuesday, August 1, 2006

30th July saw a breakfast ready for us at Chez sophie per our request the night before, and a trip to the airport with our friend from the previous day. The plane was a little late but only about an hour this time and when we boarded Greg was there waiting for us...so caught up on the news from Gondar and about half an hour later we were in Axum. We got free transfers to our chosen hotel - the Africa Hotel - with rooms at 35birr per night each we were happy...and we had ensuite with real toilets...things were just getting better! We decided to make the most of our first day and headed straight out to the Stele field. These are monoliths that were built looking like buildings...like skyscrapers really...but built in around 4AD...so a little before we started building skyscrapers. They were carved out of single pieces of rock and were really huge. Lots of photos and larking around under one of the fallen Stele (guys pretending to lift it and us all taking photos) and we were ready to move on...to Queen of Shebas bath, a reservoir carved out of the rock, but about a millennia after the Queen of Sheba...they are good with naming things! Then we moved on to a red shack part way up a hill, which contains an inscripted rock, which is in 3 languages Ge'ez, Sabaean and Greek and part of it says that if moved the person will come to an untimely death...it's not been moved! So we carried on up the hill to the Tombs of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, who were from the 6th Century AD. These Tombs were quite impressive, and we were shown some carvings and some sarcophagi, before we found the bats...and then the guide lost us...but we had fun! It was then a long but beautiful walk back to the hotel where we stayed for dinner.

31st July saw us with our busy day. We started fairly slowly as Marc wanted to go to the Mary of Zion Church which girls aren't allowed in, so we went to the bank and sat around having a relaxed breakfast until he returned and we started our self guided tour (using Ronnie's guidebook). We walked up the main road and just off the main road not far from our hotel was King Bazen's tomb which is hewn out of solid rock - suggesting it's older than the ones we'd seen the previous day. We were let in but not accompanied so we walked down the 16 Rock Hewn steps - 17 if you ask Greg - down to an arched doorway. Inside there were several burial chambers - one of which Greg and Tracey, then I climbed in for photos - we laughed lots and had our reading of what the book said before moving on to King Ezana's Garden just up the main road. It is a very small garden which has a stone with inscription on it again...we thought we'd found it and took a photo and then found the real one...so we had our reading at the wrong one...oh well! After a juice stop we carried on out of town to Dungar - otherwise known as Queen of Sheba's palace even though it is also about 6th Century AD - long after the Queen, and was rooms and staircases from an old palace in the area. We then crossed the road to the Gudit Stele field where we had our next reading and found the Stele named after Queen Gudit who was said to have invaded Axum in the 10th Century AD, and marks her burial site - according to local legend. These Stele were much less impressive than those in the town that we had seen the night before. We'd had a kid (called Kbrom) with us since we left town, so we now asked if he could help us find the Lioness of Gobedra and the Ancient Quarries as the guidebook advised they were off the beaten track up a part of the hill side over rough ground. As he guided us we were joined by other locals and they guided us as we clamboured over rocks and round undergrowth...far further than we were imaging - about a km - then on the side of the rock we saw the lioness...well worth the walk. We then went a little higher up to where we found the Ancient Quarry with the blocks partially cut out and illustrating how they got their stele. Unfortunately at this point the rain started...and kept on coming...so our guides led us to a local house where we were told we could shelter until the rain died down...an hour later and we were starting to think we might just have to leave regardless...when it started to ease...so we made a move and discovered the 'path' we'd followed up was now a small river gushing down the side of the hill...so slipping, sliding, jumping leaping and getting wet we made our way back down the hillside! Once down we were contemplating the walk back to down...about 5km when Greg flagged down a pick up truck who agreed we could ride on the back...so we got back into town in no time...and then having stopped to get our shoes cleaned we went to a restaurant...who tried to rip us off by adding 50% onto our bill...before heading back to the hotel.

The next day...we couldn't believe it was 1st August already. The guys got up early and left for a monastery on a rock which you had to abseil to reach...which wasn't permitted to women...so we planned our own day round axum. We started fairly late after Cake and Tea for breakfast and headed (via the post office) to the Archeological museum. There are plans to renovate it, and it needs it, but there was some good info panels, and some neat lion gargoyles. After that we headed to the Ethnographical Museum, which is a house opened up by a local to give info on local life and customs...as we were trying to find our way their a guy asked if we were going to Grandma's house, it was when he elaborated that this was the museum that we realized yes we did want Grandma's house...and he led the way. It was an impressive museum as it had all sorts of things in it, from her wedding robes to a baby carrier, and injera holders and more...as we were leaving we asked where we could have a coffee ceremony and were told his sister could do it for us...so with this working for us, we stayed and had our coffee ceremony performed...where they make the coffee from scratch and you have 3 cups...it's a social thing for them. Once that was finished we had a relaxed afternoon with Juice and cakes, showers and more post office and souvenir shopping, until the guys got back and we had some dinner at the restaurant...a most successful Axum visit and our flight back to Gondar the following morning.
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