The Churches of Lalibela


Last night part of 60 Minutes featured these churches.  Several years ago I went with friends from Ethiopia to see them.  We spent almost an entire day hiking through around and up and down all eleven of them. I decided to travel back a few years and relive my experiences there and share it here.

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800 years ago these churches were carved from the top down out of solid stone. They dug a trench deep all around what is now each church and then worked from there.  Everything is stone, including the interior columns and spaces.

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There are areas around all the churches and drainage canals so they do not flood in the rainy season.

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The inside of each church is decorated with carvings, frescoes, and wall hangings.

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Because 800 years of wear and tear and especially rain was beginning to take its toll, they covered them several years ago.  Now, according the the architect on 60 Minutes, they are experiencing the opposite problem.  The stone is getting too dry and contracting. They are teaching local people how to preserve the stone so it will last hundreds more years.

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Dino, my Ethiopia friend, and the guide, in white.

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Why the ridiculous looking socks?  Fleas are a problem.  Many of the churches have old carpet on the floors, thousands of people still workshop in them regularly.  We were told to spray our ankles, tuck our pants inside out socks, spray our socks. It worked.

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And here is probably the most photographed of them from up above. Yes, you do get to climb all the way down there if you want to go inside.  We did. The story goes that the king went to Jerusalem and wanted to create an Ethiopian Jerusalem.  There is a river nearby which they call the River Jordan. As you tour, they explain every detail and how they match passages and stories from the Biblical Jerusalem.  How did they build all of these out of solid stone?  With the help of angels.

 

 

 

 

You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends


This is my new book, published last month.  It is filled with stories, poems, and recipes–healthy food for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and meat eaters with photos and detailed instructions. Currently, it can be purchased at Burrowing Owl bookstores in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, and online at http://www.dreamcatcherbooks.com, Angel editions.

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What’s For Dinner


Thinking up new, healthy, creative dinners sometimes poses a challenge.  Last night I stood in the pantry door, looked around, went to the refrigerator to see what I already had available.  Although the vegetable combination is not unusual for me, I decided to use farro instead of pasta or rice.  Farro, a staple in ancient Rome,  has been called “the mother of all wheat”. I buy pearled, organic farro. It is chewy, a good source of fiber, and high in protein.  I do not follow the directions on the bag. Here is how I cook farro for two servings:

1 cup farro

3 cups water

1 Tsp. Better Than Bouillon

Avocado oil

Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with the oil, pour in the farro.  Turn heat on high, constantly stirring, saute the farro in the oil for a couple of minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the bouillon and stir thoroughly.  Turn the heat down but keep the farro boiling.  Do not cover.  Stir at regular intervals.  Do not let it go dry.  It should take about 1/2 hour for the farro to become tender.  Test and if needed, add more water.  Cook until the water is absorbed and farro is tender.

 

Last night’s vegetable sauce:

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil.  Add five cloves garlic, coarsely chopped and one medium sized beet, cut into medium sized pieces.  Saute until tender.  Add five to six sliced Brussels sprouts.  When Brussels sprouts are partially cooked, add one large poblano pepper, coarsely chopped, seeds removed.  Saute until pepper is tender but still bright green. Last night I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice, to jazz up the sauce.  Sometimes I use basil or other Italian spices.  I vary the vegetables, sometimes using sliced carrots, broccoli, kale.  Be creative.  Use vegetables you like.  If you want something non vegetarian, add chopped chicken or cod loins.

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Above is a photo of the cooked vegetables ready to serve.

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The vegetables served over the farro.  If you are not vegan, you can grate asiago or parmesan cheese over the top.

 

The World in One Room


 

Four jaguar heads stare at me,

Mexican, Costa Rican.

A third guards the mantel,

partially hidden in tropical plants,

attack ready, tail raised, jaws open,

teeth bared.

 

My feet rest on a coffee table

carved in Kashmir.  I look at the photo

of the young man whose family made it.

He took me home to meet his mom,

to the floating market.

Once peace reigned there.

Now I wonder if he is safe, alive.

 

The Hoop Dancer raises his arms,

the Acoma pot exudes ancient

black on white beauty, painted

by the tips of yucca stems.

The Thai Spirit House begs

to appease evil spirits.

I should put food and flowers there;

I never do.

 

Corn plant of life–for Navaho, Hopi,

me, painted, growing up my wall,

blue and red birds flitting through

the stalks, singing ancient songs.

Corn Maiden rug hanging on the wall;

an Isleta Pueblo girl won a contest

with its design.  Four Corn Maiden

Kachinas watch the room.

Corn everywhere–Sacred Corn.

 

Three Ethiopian crosses, St. George

and the Dragon, Frida Kahlo doll,

Argentinian Madonna, Tohono O’odham

baskets, a painted cow skull, Nigerian carved

wooden elephants, including a Chieftains chair,

the stained glass transom window from the house

where my dad lived from birth to ten.

 

In a room filled with windows, there

is little room for paintings, yet–

purple bison glide across the prairie,

an Iraqi woman flies through an azure

sky filled with dark blue birds,

a 15th century mystic, Kabir, tells

a tale in poetry, Navaho spirits,

pumas walking toward me–

my obsession.

 

Rugs scattered–Kerman,

an unknown Persian city, Afghani,

Egyptian, Indian, Zapotec, scraps of old

Turkish rugs sewn together.

 

In one cabinet, Grandmother’s china,

Mom’s Czech crystal–a wedding present

decades ago, Grandson’s painted art,

the silverware Dad gave Mom on their

first wedding anniversary,  Mom’s

everyday dishes–flowers blooming.

I use them every day.

 

These objects–a testament to who I am:

World wanderer, seeker, citizen.

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Celebrating Earth Day–Photos


I decided the best way I should share my reverence and love for nature and this precious planet on which we live is to share photos from various countries, states, and my own little piece of wonder.

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The three photos above were taken at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas about ten minutes from where I live.

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Above and below the Rio Grande looking into Mexico.

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Four photos above — Big Bend National Park.

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Between Marfa and Alpine, Texas.

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The Rio Grande north of Albuquerque on the Santa Ana Pueblo Nation.

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The above four photos taken in Simien Mountain National Park, Ethiopia.  The animals are gelada–the only surviving grass eating primates found solely in Ethiopia.  They actually “talk” to each other.

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Menelik’s Window, Ethiopia

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Awash Falls, Ethiopia

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Where the Blue Nile begins draining from Lake Tana, Ethiopia

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The photos above were taken at various places in Costa Rica.

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Northern New Mexico

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Grand Canyon North Rim

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The Missouri River running full.

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California dropping down from Sequoia National Monument

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Near Lake Marvin, Texas

Sunday Sunrise ©Dawn Wink

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The above photos were all taken within the last year on my little rim of wonder.

And finally below, my favorite animal.

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Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

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-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

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-a life I love

 

Ethiopian Journey–The Castles of Gondar


When my friend told me we were going to visit the Castles of Gondar, I thought he was kidding.  It sounded too much like a movie title, plus castles in Ethiopia?  Seriously.  Then I looked it up and sure enough, there are a lot of them, built by a series of kings, fathers and sons, and a queen.  Some remain in reasonably good repair at least on the outside.  Others crumble in the rain and humidity.  All are in a sort of compound arranged together.

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This castle is near the entrance and in rather good condition.  Restoration work is most complete here so it is safe to walk to the second floor.

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The view from a second floor window.  Because of the altitude and moisture–contrary to popular opinion, a large portion of Ethiopia is mountainous and green–especially during the rainy season, upkeep is not easy.

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The same castle, looking out the door onto the balcony which can be seen in the first photo.  The floors have been restored.

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Looking in the opposite direction from the first castle, several castles and the ruins of others show the layout of the compound.  Our hotel was near the top of the mountain in the distance. Many locals roamed around when we were here.  It is popular to take wedding, anniversary, etc. photos here.

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This photo shows the first castle–in the background–from another side.

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The style of some of the castles, like this one, is more intricate than others.

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This building housed the royal lions.  Tradition for keeping lions goes back several centuries.  The last Ethiopia emperor, Hailie Selassie, was often referred to as the Lion of Judah, the latter referring to the Ethiopia tradition of believing that they are descendants of Solomon and Sheba.  Ethiopian lions are a different sub-species than other African lions, smaller with darker, sometimes black, manes and tails.

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These castles provide a perfect venue for photography.  You can see my friends sitting on the stone wall.

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The royal stables obviously housed many horses.

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The royal dining hall currently receiving restoration work.

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The path to the exit.

The news the last couple of weeks from Gondar has not been pleasant.  Many people have been protesting the government which they view as tyrannical and favoring one ethnic group over the others.  More than ten protesters were killed during the first protest.  Just this past week thousands came out in another peaceful protest.

Gondar (sometimes spelled Gonder) is a business, commercial, and education center.  It is a main route for commerce between Ethiopia and Sudan.  For more detailed information about Gondar, the castles, and the surrounding area, see my blog posts from Aug-Sept. 2014.

 

 

My Ethiopian Journey–Simien Mt. Natl. Park


No way was I prepared for these mountains.  Do you think of numerous peaks over 13,000 feet when you think of Ethiopia?  Probably not. There are even a few over 14,000 feet.  The whole area is often referred to as the Roof of Africa.

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There is only one road into the park.  To get in, a tourist must stop at the park office, sign in, passport number, address, etc.  Plus, you will be assigned a guard and a guide.  Our guard in the photo above carried an assault rifle.  No, it is not to protect people, it is to protect their rare animals from people, from poachers.  Wonder why he is wearing all these clothes?  It is cold at 12,000 feet even if you are near the Equator.

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The drop offs are terrifying, thousands of feet, the vistas endless.  Even though I have lived and been all over the Rocky Mountains and been to the Himalayas in both Kashmir and Nepal, I have never seen anything like these mountains for beauty, green, and endless vistas.

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My friends near the cliff are much braver than I.  In the foreground stands our guide, Michael, who spoke excellent English and was super funny.  He had us laughing all the time. People live and farm in these mountains–if you look closely in the middle of the photo, you can see fields.  However, the government is slowly relocating people in order to make the park a refuge for rare wildlife.

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The above photos were all taken on a hike early one morning.  Everything was wet because it was either raining or misty or we were in the clouds.

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Because I kept slipping and sliding, I decided not to walk along the cliff with my friends and the guard, who spoke the same Ethiopian language as my friend.  Michael and I took off across a meadow and suddenly here we were in the middle of all these gelada baboons, who paid no attention to us at all.  They were very afraid, however, of a predatory bird that decided to fly over. How do I know?  They suddenly started “talking” to each other in frightened voices.  Experts now think these primates actually have a language and do talk to each other.  Gelada are the last primates that are herbivores.  They eat grass.  All other herbivorous primates are extinct.  Gelada live only in the high mountains of Ethiopia and no where else on earth, a reason for a guard.  At night they climb down the cliffs into caves to protect themselves from hyenas and leopards.

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If you look very carefully in the middle of this photo, you can see several duiker which are considered so common it seems no one thought to stop to really take a look so I took the photo as we drove along.

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Here we are above the timberline where some very unusual plants thrive.

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And some exceedingly rare animals whose camouflage makes them almost invisible until they move.  At this point we are about 14,000 feet just under one of the highest peaks in Africa.  Look carefully in the middle and you will see walia ibex.  People come from all over the world to see these endangered animals that live only in this park.  Sometimes the fog rolls in and no one sees anything.  We were lucky; we saw more than twenty of them. And then the fog rolled in.

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These giant lobelia thrive above timber line.  Some were considerably taller than I am.

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If you grow red hot pokers in your flower beds and think they are semi-arid flowers, think again.  Here they are growing wild.

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You can see red hot pokers in the middle of this photo by the stream.  These mountain streams run down to and often across the road, making the road a muddy mess.  Without 4-wheel drive and an expert driver we would have gone nowhere.  In fact, at one point we did have to stop because two stuck trucks blocked the road, one of which had a flat tire.

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The highest waterfall in Ethiopia is hard to hike to unless you are not at all afraid of heights.  My friends did hike there. Look a bit to the right of the groove through which the water actually falls.  You will see a sort of flat area.  It is only a few feet wide with a drop-off on each side.  Yes, that is where you hike.  When I saw this view, I was rather glad I decided to wait, look for birds, and chat with the driver.

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The fire pit at the highest bar in Africa is a very popular place on a cold night.  Even though we had beautiful rooms, with no heat at 12,000 feet it is not exactly warm.  Even the guides and guards were bundled up.  The only people who seemed toasty were Scandinavian tourists with their heavy wool sweaters.  The hotel staff gave us hot water bottles to put in bed with us at night.  Actually, it works.  Nevertheless, when you get up in the morning, it is really cold.

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The guards and guides live near the park.  We dropped off the guard here and watched him walk toward his house down where the trees are.  We dropped off the guide near his house in the town when we left the park.

 

Ethiopian Journey–Ancient Churches of Lalibela


In the 12th century the king of Ethiopia decided to build a New Jerusalem.  Eleven churches were carved out of solid rock on the mountain top in the village of Lalibela.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, these churches remain intact and in use.

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They were all carved from the rock top of the mountain down into the earth so that they remain invisible unless the person is only a few feet away.  This protected them from the vision of potential invaders, usually Muslims from what is now Sudan.  The above is probably the most photographed of these churches and stands separate from the others.

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My friend is standing near where the stairs lead down to the bottom where visitors and worshippers can enter the church.  Visiting all these churches in one day is not an activity for the faint of heart or for one terrified of heights.

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This is the first church we visited.  It still mystifies many as to how such incredibly intricate structures could me carved by hand out of solid stone.  Even these columns are carved out of the rock.  The “official” Ethiopian Orthodox Christian story relates how angels helped the builders.

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This and most of the other churches are connected by “waterways” where in the rainy season a sophisticated system of drainage keeps all of them from flooding and makes it possible for visitors and worshippers to walk along from church to church.

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Everything in the Christian churches in Ethiopia  symbolizes something related back to Jerusalem and the Bible.  Even though the guide explained it all in detail, keeping up with all the symbolism proved a daunting task.  Notice the swastikas.  They are ancient symbols of the eternal circle of life and death.  Hitler turned them backwards and into a totally different meaning.  There are also many different styles of crosses there, two of which can be seen in the windows of this church.

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This is a fertility pool.  In the past a priest got in the water–it is very deep–with a woman who could not conceive and bless her in the water.  At one point when it began to fill too much, they cleaned out the bottom and found many treasures buried there, apparently dumped into the pool to protect them from enemy invaders.

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The inside of the churches are intricately carved and sometimes painted.

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Two types of basalt exist on this mountain, soft and hard.  Churches carved out of the soft basalt have begun to deteriorate and as a consequence are covered.  As can be seen here, people still come to these churches to pray and attend services.

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Our guide lead us from church to church through these narrow passageways which are, as previously mentioned, used to drain water away from them in the rainy season.  If Ethiopia had a national color, it would be white.  It is not only worn to go to church and for religious purposes but in daily life as well.  It mystifies me as to how they keep whites so very white.

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The slit dug in the rock is part of the system of drainage.  The grass in the foreground grows out of a pool of holy water.  While we were there, a boy filled a plastic bottle with the water and left.

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St. George and the dragon are everywhere, not only in churches but also on beer.  He is the patron saint of the country, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity over paganism as symbolized by the dragon.

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The carving in many of the churches reveal a sophisticated knowledge of how to work in stone.  It is difficult to believe that this was carved by hand downward into solid basalt centuries ago.

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The road to Lalibela is rather daunting, climbing  higher and higher with no guard rails, nothing.  As you can see from this photo, patchwork quilt  fields cover even the mountainsides.

 

 

To learn more about Lalibela, see detailed information and explanations of their River Jordan and other religious symbolism, go to my blog posts from August 2014.

Ethiopian Journey–From Addis Ababa to Debre Birhan


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.

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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.

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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.

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Therefore, they farm the “old fashioned” way; horses or cattle pulling plows with a human behind.

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Houses in the villages in the farming areas demonstrate old ways alongside new.

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Winnowing the way we did in the USA a century ago.

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Much of the farmland is a picturesque patchwork quilt of browns and greens.

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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.

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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.

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To keep themselves busy they weave woolen baskets and hats to sell which they display in the grass.

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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.

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Except for the different vegetation, driving down the mountain looked a lot like driving through Colorado.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.