Horse riding in torrential Wenchi

From guest blogger, my mom Rita: Today we left Addis and went by a different route to Ambo. What a glorious drive. The country was fascinating with a series of clean villages, fatter animals and varied crops. We were driving through a series of escalating mountains broken by steep valleys. Along the way, we came across an accident. A van had swerved to avoid a child and rolled off the road. Every vehicle on the road stopped to see what was happening and to offer help. Thank God no one was hurt.

After arriving in Wenchi we stopped briefly at a small “restaurant” – a small home converted over. The walls were painted and the food was fresh. A satisfying lunch.

Next we headed south to Wenchi Crater Lake. There we rented horses. (They were small, sturdy mountain horses.) descending from the rim of the crater down a narrow road to the lake, we could see homes, cultivated and planted steep sloped farmland, and islands in the lake below. Many of the fields had false banana growing, sometimes with potatoes planted below the trees.

[Edit: note that the prices were much more than on their website. It was 715 birr for the three of us, and total 1600birr including tips… Still a good deal, though.]

I felt very guilty burdening one of the horses, but enjoyed the ride down to the lake. Once we rode into the community at the bottom, we left the horses and walked down to the lake. It was raining by this time, however we took a boat, propelled by two men at the bow with oars. The wind forced the boatmen to work very hard. We were soaked. So inside a hut, they built a fire out of eucalyptus branches and leaves. Smelled wonderfully and warmed us up. The rain lessened and we climbed up to the 14th century monastery on the highest point of the island.

More pictures to follow, as Arnica’s camera was left in the dry van and mine doesn’t download to the iPad.

The art work at the monastery was gorgeous – bright colours in 200 y old styles. It was a rounded church with a covered deck surrounding it. People were seated on the deck, all with their heads covered with white natella (head scarves). There were religious paintings on the deck leaning against the church and some people prostrated in front of them. We covered our heads as best we could, removed our shoes and entered the church with our guide. People were seated around the outer wall; the centre was enclosed on the three sides we saw – it seemed as if there was an altar in the middle and visible from the far side of the church only. This central enclosure was also covered in religious paintings. After making a donation, we returned to the boat, left the island and made our way up the hillside to where Arnica and I once again climbed (more accurate than “mounted” for me) aboard a horse. Tanya walked for awhile to stretch her legs.

If I felt sorry for the horses riding down to the lake, my feelings were vastly multiplied for the horses that carried us back up to the rim of the crater. Unfortunately it rained all the way. There was the usual squabble over tips at the end of the ride.

The road back to Ambo was fine until near the city. We slid around on the clay soils of that area, then sped down the pavement to Addis. I definitely don’t want to drive anywhere near Addis in the rain and the dark! Due to the traffic, lack of lanes and slick, reflective road surface I was very grateful to our driver for delivering us safely back to the guest house.

A full day …. I was thrilled to see the incredible scenery and experience more of the Oromo culture.

Tomorrow is another day … massages, manicures and pedicures to come!

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