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March 3, 2002

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Our itinerary planned for us to drive from Lalibela to Mekele. Our car had a different idea. It conked out on a deserted dirt road high in the mountains, over 60 km from the nearest village. We spread our sleeping mats on the road side and worked on our tans. Brook, our driver, worried because not many vehicles used this back road. He thought it could be days before someone drove by. Thinking we could use a pack animal in case we needed to hike out of here, we tried to rent a donkey from a passing sheep herder. Instead, the herder bedded down next to us - stranded foreigners make great entertainment. We shared a beer with him. After a few hours some Swiss doctors passed by in a 4 WD. Great luck, we caught a lift. These doctors happened to be driving to Lalibela today, a four hour journey from their village base of medical volunteer work, because they needed to use a phone and Lalibela had the only phones in the region.
Before breaking down, we drove to this remote church, called Yemrehanna Kristos, located in the recesses of a cave on a mountaintop. The exterior showcases whitewashed marble panels and the foundation sits on olive wood panels. In the back, under overhanging rock, rest the bones of dead pilgrims. We stood amongst live pilgrims as they waited outside the church for priests to appear and grant them blessings.
The sheep herder who found us with our broken car had never tasted beer before. He'd heard of it, but never actually seen the stuff. What did he think of it? He didn't seem to be too impressed. Next time we'll give him Budweiser.
The hotel rooms is cheap, no more than a dollar or two per night, but the bed has fleas. We pitch our tent every night even if it takes up the entire room. The maid gives us a perplexed look.