Addis is the second highest capital in the world. Only La Paz, Bolivia, is higher. To a large extent, altitude determines climate in Ethiopia. Addis and the surrounding area, much of which is high altitude farmland, receives a lot of rain this time of year and looks totally unlike what a lot of people think of when they hear the word Ethiopia–not desert but rather miles and miles of green.
We had not driven far from Addis when we crossed a river, an area of which is considered healing. Many people had come for priests to bless them and to experience the healing power of the water.
I saw only three tractors in ten days of criss crossing farmland. Why so few? One reason is rocks. Many of the fields remain rather full of rocks in spite of many having been removed.
Therefore, they farm the “old fashioned” way; horses or cattle pulling plows with a human behind.
Houses in the villages in the farming areas demonstrate old ways alongside new.
Winnowing the way we did in the USA a century ago.
Much of the farmland is a picturesque patchwork quilt of browns and greens.
Before dropping down to lower country, we drove by Menelik’s Window. The drop off here is steep and far. I did not go near it–I had not yet become used to the endless drop-offs or even realized that I would need to do so. This is one of four places in Ethiopian where you can see gelada baboons. They are extinct elsewhere. Menelik was an Ethiopian emperor. This “window” allows one to look from the high country for miles and miles to the landscape beyond.
The large tufts of grass provide food for the gelada which are grass eating herbivores, the last of the grass eating primates. All others are extinct. This same grass is used by the locals for roofing material so boys stay in these areas all day chasing off the baboons.
To keep themselves busy they weave woolen baskets and hats to sell which they display in the grass.
This ten year old boy happily donned the hat he had made. I bought it for my grandson who was the same age when I took the trip.
Except for the different vegetation, driving down the mountain looked a lot like driving through Colorado.
Down from the mountain the landscape appears quite different and considerably drier. We drove through several smaller towns on our way to Debre Birhan where we stayed the first night.
Driving in Ethiopia requires navigating around animals. Everyone drives their cattle, camels, horses, all livestock down the road whenever possible. The roads are generally very good. Many, built by the Italians, have stood the test of decades.
Along the road we saw many of these “apples”. My friend told us how they played with them as a child. However, the adults all warned the children not to touch their eyes when they did–it will make you blind. They are called Apples of Sodom–so many things in Ethiopia have symbolic meaning.
These fruit could be seen all along the road and even on the road. After driving through this drier area we rose above a huge valley with miles and miles of grass.
A semi-nomadic group brings their immense herds of cattle here in the rainy season to graze. When we drove further on above the valley, I saw the first tractor working a field as big as this grazing land.