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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Getting to know Gondar and the road to Lalibela

I really liked these "principles of ethical service" outside the NGO's office

Nigisti, the heart and soul of "Yenege Tesfa" outside the NGO's office.

We have had an absolutely amazing time in Ethiopia so far. We spent Thursday morning meeting with a local NGO in Gondar, “Yenege Tesfa.” It was really enlightening to speak with Nigisti Gebreslassie who shared her insights with us about the many social problems plaguing Ethiopian society. Nigisti is an inspiring woman who is directing her passion for humanitarian service into improving the lives of vulnerable children. It was wonderful to hear about the amazing work this NGO is doing in their community and the hours passed by quickly exchanging ideas and stories. Yenege Tesfa, like Earthchild Project, has a very holistic approach to development and so it was interesting to see how the two programmes employ similar ideas.
Yenege Tesfa focuses on orphaned children and Nigisti shared some harrowing stories with us about how many of these children end up vulnerable to the common presence of slavery and prostitution. The NGO provides a very comprehensive programme which in brief includes safe shelters for orphans, funding for over 300 children’s school fees, a feeding scheme for street-children and life-skills training (which includes HIV awareness, health and hygiene, skills development and personal development.) It is clear when speaking to Nigisti that she has a very genuine passion and empathy for the plight of these children. It was wonderful connecting with this inspiring woman and it is clear that although she suffers from the same angst as many social or development workers, feeling like our efforts are but a drop in the ocean of humanity’s suffering, her passion is going a long way in significantly transforming the lives of many children.

Should anyone want to know more about this great organization you can check them out at:

There are opportunities for volunteering should you ever be in Ethiopia or you can support their efforts through much needed donations.
Taking in life inside the church

Children waiting for the service to begin.

The beautiful ceiling with hundreds of smiling cherubs!

After our wonderful encounter with Nigisti we set off to rub shoulders with more Gondarians! Our drive through the beautiful town took us to Debre Berhan Selassie Church where we were able to witness Ethiopia’s very unique version of Christianity at this beautiful and serene church, tucked up on the mountain. We were lucky to arrive just an hour before the daily ceremony to see people flooding into the church grounds wrapped up in beautiful white embroidered cloth to congregate in the building, on its steps and even in the beautiful and peaceful garden surrounding the church. Although the church is quite exquisite (adorned with the smiling faces of cherubs that look sweetly down on you), watching the people who have managed to cultivate and conserve a completely distinct version of Christianity was the real treat. A few hours passed by being silent observers to this wonderful spectacle of smiling faces, soulful chanting and the intoxicating smell of incense. It was only the sudden downpour of rain that managed to convince us to retreat back to the shelter of our mountain guesthouse.

Quite the entrance that the priests made....

Some enjoy the sermon from the garden surrounding the church....

The next day we left early-ish to begin the drive for Lalibela but we had no idea what was in store for us… breathtaking views around every corner! Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get more sublime…. there it is, another scene to totally mesmerize you! I think it would be a sin to drive the road at night…. you would be missing out on what we both agree was the most beautiful road we have ever had the fortune to ride on! I think I may have stated this in the previous blog but wow…. This drive really was quite something! The road takes you weaving up and down green mountains where you climb over 2500 meters past the height of Gondar until you enjoy the view only eagles should be lucky enough to reach, only to descend into one after another picturesque little village.
Taken with our head-cam... herding cattle.

Encounter with a very cute child during our tea break

This area of Ethiopia is strongly focused on rural life, agriculture and life-stock production. Most notably it is quite striking how every generation is heavily involved in sustaining this system especially the young children! It is a very common sight to see a tiny child of 5 years old herding a large group of cows, goats and donkeys down the road. I guess this explains why only 33% of children attend secondary school because it seems like the children account for the largest section of the workforce here.
Taken with head-cam. Cattle and paddy-fields...

The dirt-road to Lalibela....

And the rain breaks through... every afternoons ritual during rainy season.

Taking shelter in a shed... when will the rain stop...

After riding for around 400kms on a fairly good road where your most dangerous obstacle is definitely the children and their animals, that seem to come out of nowhere and all of a sudden flood the whole street with a frenzy of live obstacles. We reached the dirt-road turn off to Lalibela, which we had heard from many over-landers was quite churned up since the rain. Perhaps it was the magical mountain views that make you feel like you have entered some kind of alternate universe but the road felt like quite a gift. Despite a brief interlude where the heavens opened and we were forced into shelter under a shed we reveled in the wonderful open vistas stretched out before us and the dirt-road definitely seems like a fair payment of labour to be rewarded with such beauty.
Head-cam pic.... magnificent scenery!

We finally reached Lalibela after a full days ride! This little town perched upon green peaks is really a sight to behold… and we can only say that seeing is believing… it is very hard to do justice to this place in words!  


  1. Hey guys

    Looks like an amazing trip, great blog, am really enjoying it. Was at DR KLR yesterday, he sends his regards and hopes everything's going well.


  2. Hey there it sounds like the trip is going well and the people you are meeting and the places you are seeing certainly make up for the strenous riding. Glad that it is going well and wishing you safe riding and great company for your journey. Loads of love Monique