Lauren (the English teacher from the midwife college, who hails from Duluth, MN) and I had decided to take a day trip to the city of Weliso on Sat. There are hot springs there and so the plan was to meet at the Ethiopia hotel by 8:45 on Sat morning and then try to hire a driver for the day to take us there. It sounds easy but for me to figure out how to get a taxi is a whole other story. I walked up from the hotel to where we had gotten a mini bus to go to the mercato the other day. However before I got there I ran into Tekabe, the hotel manager, who stopped me to see what I was doing. He thought “I was very clever” for trying to figure this out on my own. You honestly can’t imagine how confusing it can be (can’t explain all of this now but will later). So he walked me over to the other side of the “ring road” so that we could catch a taxi going in the right direction. Since it was the time that everyone was trying to get to work it was very difficult to get a taxi or even a minibus. Finally he flagged down a taxi and got him to agree to take me to the Ethiopia hotel for 20 birr. Unfortunately he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Amharic so it was a quiet ride for us. It was a saint day for the Orthodox church so there crowds of people coming out of church around that time as well causing a traffic jam around the church. Because of the holy day all of the people who beg station themselves around the church at that time in hopes of getting some money. Its very difficult to see.
I arrived at the hotel at the same time that Lauren did and so after speaking to a man outside of the hotel that owns a bunch of taxis he was going to find a driver for us. Ten minutes later we had suggest after negotiating a price and giving half of the money to the driver up front. The driver suggested that we go to Wenchi first because it was much better than Weliso and so Lauren and I said ok. We didn’t realize that first we would have to go and get a permit for the driver to be out on the road and that was across town so we didn’t leave Addis until after 10 am. It was wonderful to see the countryside. There’s plenty of cars, minibuses, and big trucks out on the roads but also plenty of people walking because most people can’t afford a car. The road was in great condition and Lauren and I had a great time talking in the car. Luckily she had brought along some snacks and I had brought a power bar because there really wasn’t any place to stop along the way to get food.
Once we turned off of the main road, it was gravel road for the next 38k. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot but most it was washboard condition so we had to drive very slowly. We passed through many small villages. It was market day so many people were out selling or buying goods for the day. There were always plenty of cute kids outside playing and when we would drive by they would start running and yell hi to us. Unforunately they have become accostumed to having tourists give them money so that’s also why they are running alongside the minibus because they want money…..In the country you see plenty of farming going on (they grow wheat, hay and tef) as well as banana plants growing. The houses are called tukuls and are made out of wood with a thatched roof. Along the road plenty of people are selling bundles of wood. Either for cooking or for building. The amount of deforestation that is going on is unbelievable and they need to begin replanting the trees or there won’t be any left.
Along the way I saw plenty of signs indicating that World Vision was helping work with those communities. Some specifically with water projects.
We finally pulled into the visitors center where the children had bundles of flowers they were trying to sell us. Instead of World Vision, a program called GDZ was working with this community. Inside there was a sign stating that the people (and specifically the children) were not to be begging. So instead of begging they were trying to sell the tourists small bundles of flowers.
Wenchi is a crater lake created from a volcano and the scene was breathtaking! You can either hike down to the bottom to reach the lake or take horses. We opted for the horses so we hopped on and started down the trail. It was just unbelievable how beautiful it was! It felt we could be in the Swiss Alps because of the mountains and the lake. The trail took us alongside people’s tukuls as well as an orthodox church where all of the horse handlers stopped outside of, bent a knee and made the sign of the cross. It was around that point that the handlers got our horses to gallop which was so much fun.
Once we got down close to the lake we had to get off the horses and walk the last way where we got into a boat made out of a hallowed out tree to take a short boat ride over to the island. On the island is a monastery as well as a few houses. Not a bad gig to “have to” live on the island as the priest for this parridge. (sp?) The lake was as deep as 78K at some points. The water was very clear and clean (no motorized boats on this lake). They catch tilapia and catfish out of this lake. Its too bad they don’t have a restaurant right there because we definitely would have eaten then if we could. While we were at the monastery the priest came out and blessed us. Then as we were walking off he wanted to know if we wanted to taste some of the honey they harvest. So we went into a small hut and he brought a bowl of unprocessed honey to us with two spoons in it. Luckily Lauren was smart enough to look at me and say, I don’t think we should eat off the spoon (later she told me she saw teeth marks on the spoon) so we both took a small amount on our fingers and tasted it. Inside the hut they had small split logs to sit on that were arranged around a fire pit. It reminded me so much of being up at a cabin in MN and at night sitting around a campfire. Our visit to the island was very brief and I really didn’t want to leave the place. The views were breath taking.
After departing the boat we started walking up the hill and there was donkey that had just thrown itself on the ground and was rolling around in the dust quite a few times. It was very funny to see. Speaking of dust….Lauren only had capris and sandals on because we thought we were going to the hotsprings so her feet were just covered in dust. I had regular shoes on and jeans but I still was covered almost to my knees with dust from the trail we took down to the lake.
So back onto new horses for the walk back to the top. It takes close to 2 hours roundtrip to the lake so the poor horses had a long way to go on the trip back. My horse handler was 13. I asked him if they had a school in their community and he said yes. He was very proud that he was in 5th grade and then after 8th grade you go to a larger community to finish high school. As we were walking back he showed me where he lived with his parents and 2 siblings.
When we finally got back to the minibus it was around 4 pm and we still hadn’t eaten. Lauren was starving. It took us another 1 1/2 to get to Weliso and we had no desire to go to the hot springs…just to get something to eat and then back to Addis. We ate at a local but very nice restaurant and all felt better for it afterwards.