The morning view from my balcony was so stunning that I decided to make the most it by doing some stretches and yoga (I’m supposed to be in training for a triathlon…..even being in the running heart of Ethiopia didn’t inspire me to get my trainers on however!). I soon realised that I was being watched and found myself re-enacting the Romeo & Juliet scene with the hotel gardener who had picked a bunch of flowers for me! Needless to say my training session was cut short!
An outlying cave church of Nakuteleb near Lalibela is a relatively simple church built around a shallow cave in which several holy pools are fed by natural springs. It has many treasures and again we had a couple of very obliging priests happy to model for us.
On our way back to Lalibela we popped in to visit a local primary school. We had brought some pens to give to the head master and he proudly showed us around (you get hounded by kids everywhere asking for pens but its much better to give them to a school to distribute than hand them out to kids begging). I think the children were as fascinated to see us as we were to see them.
They gave us a gorgeous song before we proudly sang ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and ‘if you’re happy and you know it’. We were all very impressed with the school which seemed to have some really good faciliities. Ethiopia has many success stories not least its education policy. 15 years ago less than 50% of the Ethiopian kids went to school whereas now over 90% do.
One thing which really struck all of us who had traveled around Africa extensively was how clean and tidy Ethiopia seemed to be with none of the usual plastic bags dotted around the place like in other African countries.
After another delicious lunch of Ethiopian buffet at the Mountain View Hotel, we were energised enough to tackle the second group of churches. These churches were more challenging to access with the group climbing through holes in the walls and tunnels. My favourite was House of Emmanuel which was designed by Lalibela’s wife and is considered to be the most challenging architecturally as it is freestanding but still attached at the roof.
Our 30 minute drive up to the Asheton Maryam Monastery took us up some incredibly stunning scenery and we climbed to an altitude of almost 4000m.
The final ascent into the monastery
The 20 minute walk up to the monastery gave us the opportunity for some great photo ops including some Gopro group selfies!