The Ethiopian Highlands are a continuous landmass of rugged mountains and plateaus between 5,000 and 15,000 ft. It is the home of coffee, distance runners, and of an ancient sect of Christianity. Our first stop was Lalibela, home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of monolithic rock churches. These churches date from the 7th to 13th centuries and are hewn from solid rock. We spent a day running and hiking through the mountains around Lalibela with a local guide, Desta. We were able to cover a 3-day trekking loop before dinner because running is awesome.
We then traveled by car to Aksum, the ancient capital of the Aksumite Empire, and onward to the Semien Mountains. We were eager to see the Gelada baboons because of the segment about them in the BBC Planet Earth series. They are large herbivorous monkeys with sculpted faces, large teeth, and a luxurious coat. By coincidence, the manager at the Limalimo lodge in the Simien mountains was an old friend of a friend. He had played lacrosse in college with Dylan Bowman. Small world!
Ethiopia is a country with tremendous potential. In the capital, Addis, there is a hum of excitement about future ventures. But it is not the easiest country in which to travel. The roads aren’t that great and although we loved the food, not everyone does. We got fleas when we visited the churches in Lalibela, and it can be difficult to say no to every boy and girl that asks for help so they can continue their studies. But the Ethiopia we saw may not exist in 10 years, and I am so glad we were able to experience it and am excited to see what comes next.