The walk to Wajela from Aterow is about 5 hours long, again mostly on flat terrain. Fortunately, my body got used to the altitude and the exercise, so this walk turned out to be quite easy for me.
We left Aterow early in the morning and crossed farm land, enjoying the fresh air of the mountains. The guides and donkey changed at the lunch stop where again we ate some injera.
Although the sun is very strong, when you stop under the trees that line up the path the fresh breeze helps to cool you down, while you take some pictures, or drink a sip of water.
It’s advisable to always carry water with you since you can get dehydrated pretty easily up there. Also, as important as the sun screen, is the chap stick for your lips. You don’t want to end up with cracked painful lips, believe me.
I was lucky to see some wildlife, including the famous Gelada baboons that share the land with the locals and their crops.
I also learned a lot about agricultural practices; from composting after the harvest to preventing erosion by building up rock walls. Agriculture is mostly done in the traditional way and depends a lot on the weather, specially the rain season. The farmers however have built reservoirs to collect the rain water that they will use during the dry season. Also some plants sit in big holes to retain the water in while the plant grows.
On the walk to Wajela, we crossed a village where it was market day, so I took advantage of that I bought some things.
De los sitios que visite, Wajela es el menos espectacular. A pesar de que esta al borde de risco, la vista no es tan abierta como Aterow.
From the three sites I visited, Wajela is the less spectacular. Although it sits at the edge of the escarpment, the view is not as open as in Aterow.
In this place is where I had my first meltdown…
After I arrived, a group of four tourists arrived from Mequat Maryam, two Italian women and an older British couple. One of the women didn’t looked well, she had a headache, fever and stomach problems; probably a combination of food poisoning and altitude sickness. The older couple, wasn’t so good either, specially the woman who had to rent a horse to finish the trip because she was exhausted.
They were sitting outside chatting about the walk, Ethiopia, and travel in general and I joined in merely as a listener. They had wonderful stories about traveling the world, where they went, what they did and what places they will visit next, Thailand, India, maybe China and also about how poor people were in these places. The couple then complained that they had to “pay a lot” for the horse. The man was angry that the horse owner told him he was going to charge him 200 birr (about 11.5 dollars/8.7 Euros) but now wanted 300 birr instead (about 17 dollars/13 Euros). So there they were, sitting in their expensive trekking clothes drinking cold beers brought by underfed donkeys and men that probably don’t make more that 2 dollars a day, yet complaining how unfair were the locals with them…
I couldn’t take it anymore and left the table. The guide noticed that I was upset, and I tried to explain to him the cause but I think he didn’t get it, but seeing that my connection with Ethiopia was totally different, he invited me to visit the house of one of the women working at the site. We went there and this amazing lady cooked food just for me while her four children amused us by singing and dancing. I took some pictures of them and promised to send them prints back with the guide. While we were inside, the woman’s husband came back from working the field, extremely tired, looking much older than his real age and that really broke my heart…
After I left the house, I couldn’t hold my emotions anymore, and all the feelings that were brewing inside me since I arrived in Ethiopia exploded and I began to cry. I just couldn’t hold the tears and honestly felt a little embarrassed since I’m not much of a crier. There I was all messed up unable to stop crying…
I mean, just the contrast between this rich British tourist complaining for 5 extra bucks he’ll had to pay because her wife was tired of walking and this hard working Ethiopian man, aged by the hard work who barely had enough money to feed his family was the last straw I needed to my emotional breakdown (little I knew then that there was still another meltdown waiting for me in Gondar…)
Maybe I’m different than the rest, I don’t know, but how can these ferengis not see the stupidity of their problems. I feel that Ethiopia is part of my history, its people are my people. Those children in the hut are my children too. Even if I didn’t have a connection through adoption, I see Ethiopians as my fellow human beings, my brothers and sisters, I understand their struggle and could never ever complain about 5 miserable dollars that I’m sure will do more good in the horse owner’s pocket that in that overfed British man who is unable to empathize with the working people of Ethiopia. And honestly 17 dollars for renting a horse with a guide in the mountains to take you for at least 3 hours (maybe longer)? How much will you pay here in the US for something like that? As far as I know, renting a horse without a guide, costs about 25 to 30 dollars an hour in the States.
And besides, there is certain amount of money that you should set apart when you travel for this kind of contingencies, for example if you need to see a doctor, or buy medicine, or pay a cab, etc., but I guess he considered it was unfair to pay 5 extra dollars that probably he can spend in a magazine while he waits at the airport. Tell me about privilege…
Sorry for the rant, but the whole situation just got me.
I ended that evening hugging and thanking all the people working at Wajela, specially the woman who invited me to her home. They probably think that I’m a bit crazy, but aren’t we all?
I don’t want to end this post on a sad note, so I will leave you with some amazing pictures of this place in the mountains and forever in my heart. More photos on Facebook!
BTW, the couple and one of the women couldn’t end the trek and had to spend even more money on horse rentals until they caught the bus back to Lalibela. They missed the most amazing site of Aterow, I’m sorry for them…