01 November 2012

Lalibella Pt 3. Mule ride and more churches

We woke up early morning, ate breakfast, and waited for our mules. We would take them up the nearby mountains to see church sites at the very top. The trek up would be 2 hours on the mules,  2 hours on foot back down, maybe more. Afework would do the whole thing on foot, to test himself, but more likely to save the $10 mule rental. The sun was just coming up, a whole mess of kites were perched along a wooden fence, and local kids wanted to speak in English with us. The mules arrived, we mounted (a bit awkwardly, I broke the stirrup during my first attempt) and went off through the town. It was market day and there was a steady stream of people hiking down the mountain with things to sell. We passed by dozens of rural folk who must have started out before sunrise.

We scrambled along cliffsides on foot to reach the churches. We were shown old relics - icons and books. The church is carved into the stone of the mountaintop. It is apparently one of the first that was constructed in the area. When it was finished, there was a beam of light, like a rainbow, that arched out of the church to the mountaintops below - and this is where Lalibella decided to build the rock-hewn churches of my previous post. After checking out the church, we climbed on top of it and Afework and one of the mule drivers danced the traditional Eksta dancing - shoulder dancing - to our clapping and laughter. The views from the roof were breathtaking - like being on top of the world.

We returned to the churches, finished our tour. It is hard to describe being at the churches, touching the stone, barefoot on the worn stone floors, worn out from centuries of feet. I try to wrap my mind around how these buildings were made, and I cannot. But I appreciate their beauty and mystery.  

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