29.06.2016 20 °C
With much trepidation, I ventured into the chaos of Addis Ababa. I tried to book an organized tour but I appear to be the only tourist in Addis today. All the companies needed a minimum of 2 people. So in the end, I just asked the concierge to appropriate a taxi for me. After much negotiation, I still got shafted - but isn't that part of the fun? Actually it worked out OK. Although not especially communicative, the driver still kept an eye out for me, showed me where to buy my tickets and waited around to drive me back to the hotel.
My first stop was the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
It is the 2nd most important church in Ethiopia and I expected it to be packed full of people. In fact, I was the only one there! I wandered around for a while and then a wizened old man appeared out of nowhere and gestured for me to follow him. I normally wouldn't trust some random old fellow but he seemed safe and I was in a Cathedral afterall.
He took me up to the very front of the church and unlocked several padlocks before showing me into the Sanctuary. In this area, hidden from general view, were the massive granite tombs of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife; as well as his throne. I was even encouraged to take a few photos. I couldn't believe my luck!
Nearby I found the Selassie Museum full of fascinating relics from the reign of the Emperor.
Fun Fact: Emperor Haile Sellassie was previously named Ras Teferi Makonnen. For some strange reason, a movement began in Jamaica in the 1930s. This group called themselves Rastafarians and they viewed the Emperor as their Messiah. They believed he would lead all the people of Africa (and those African descendents outside of Africa) to freedom. Check out the colours of the Rastafarian movement and compare them to the Ethiopian flag. Fascinating!
Back in the taxi and off to the Ethiopian National Museum.
Now I don't remember much from 1st year university; particularly the evolution component of Human Biology. However, I DO remember Lucy!! It was so exciting to finally meet her.......
For those of you who don't know about Lucy, she is a 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis. She was discovered in Ethiopia and is maybe the most famous of our earliest ancestors. Again, there were no tourists and I was able to spend quality time with this fascinating specimen and her two (almost as famous) friends Selam and Ardi (Ardi pictured below)
I had big plans in the afternoon to go to another museum but went for a walk and got distracted. I love big cities at the best of times but this one is fascinating. It is total chaos! I was initially anxious about safety but I started to relax after a short time. Despite being almost the only white person walking the streets, I was mostly ignored. I would normally catch public transport when I'm away, but the system here is totally confusing. The buses are unscheduled, unmarked and people are packed in like sardines. The trains are no better. I decided to walk! Even this was not easy. Many of the footpaths are just rocks and mud. It is fascinating to watch the adeptness of the well dressed women in their high heels as they negotiate the landscape.
Unfortunately I got caught in a thunderstorm. And I thought it was chaotic before the storm! The rain did not phase anyone - cars, people, animals - all just carried on regardless.
I thought maybe a coffee stop was in order.......
After a short afternoon rest, I decided to venture out again for dinner. I went looking for an appropriate 'last supper' prior to my month of Ethiopian food in Bahirdar. Sadly, most of the restaurants did not look like places that my sensitive bowels should be introduced to. I was about to return to the hotel when I stumbled across a sign pointing towards "The Hard Rock Cafe". Although somewhat suspicious, I couldn't resist checking it out..........
Sadly it wasn't the real thing. But, it was clean and obviously popular so I took the chance. There were no burgers or chips so I settled for a pizza. Pretty good for $6!
Having taken so long to find my dinner, it was dark by the time I finished. I was somewhat anxious but ended up finding the walk home exhilarating! The streets were packed and exciting. As it is unsafe on the footpaths in the dark, everyone just walks down the road; intermingling with the traffic and animals. It is total mayhem. Not another white face anywhere to be seen. I took to following closely in the footsteps of locals; thereby avoiding any major mishaps. I admit I was pleased to finally see the front entrance of The Capital Hotel & Spa!
Tomorrow I leave 'lovely' Addis Ababa and fly for an hour to Bahirdar where my real adventure begins. I am anxious and excited and terrified. I'm wondering if this really was a good idea. But, there is no turning back now. I suspect these feeling are similarly experienced by many pregnant women as they near their due date; knowing that labour is approaching but unsure what to expect. Like I often advise my patients, I will enter with an open mind, go with the flow and try to enjoy the experience. No (birth) plan in sight!!
Those of you who are avidly following this blog, please be patient. I have no idea what to expect with regard to internet access or free time. It may take a few days before the opportunity arises for me to post. I'm guessing the entries will be much shorter, less frequent and more serious. I will do my best......