Many blessings beautiful people,
Today I’d like to tell you about an experience I had while in Ethiopia. Hope you enjoy it 🙂
So my friend Gil was volunteering on an Israeli farm in Butajira. Butajira (for those who don’t know) is a town in south-central Ethiopia with a pretty small population. My friend, being the curious adventure-seeking counterpart, became eager to explore the mountains he had noticed in this area. As fate would have it, it was on my trip back to Addis Ababa, that we crossed paths and he shared his curiosities with me. I listened to him attentively as he poured out his intentions to make the visit up the Butajira Mountains. I read the fascination on his flushed face, his persuasion was absolutely flawless, however, I actually didn’t need much convincing; there was something alluring about those mountains that captivated me when I first got here. And so, the decision was undisputed and we quickly made our preparations to leave later that day.
We arrived late, with the sun already setting, but I had realized earlier that the moon was going to be full and the conditions were faultlessly set for a beautiful moonlit hike. We gathered basic supplies – snacks, drinking water, compass and an extra pack of batteries for the flashlight – just what we thought was absolutely necessary for our short trek. Once we had secured all the needed items, we made our way to the base of the mountains. It was there that we encountered our first adventure, the inevitable predicament of language barriers. “We want to see Butijira tall lands,” I poorly translated in my very juvenile Amharic (the mother tongue of most Ethiopians) to one of the bajaj drivers. Now if you have never seen a bajaj, it’s basically a three-wheeled cabin cycle that looks like a minivan on scooter wheels and the engineering still baffles me. Despite my premature translation, we managed to get a ride reasonably far before the bajaj driver gave up due to the marshy terrain and we had to continue on foot.
As we donned our camping bags in the chilly night air, looking up at the mountain, the moon perched just over the mountain peak on a wispy cloud with an intoxicating ambiance that beckoned us to “come thither”. Up we walked in complete silence taking in all that was around us, the crispness of the air, the way the trees gently swayed in tune with each other. Glancing over at Gil I could see on his moonlit face a look of awe and wonder, what a night! Our steps and the crunching leaves underfoot were the only noise in our surrounding.
“OOOOOOuuuuuuuuuuuuuWoooooooooo” suddenly broke the serenity. “What was that odd noise?” I thought to myself.”Hyenas….” Gil chimed in as if we were sharing minds. The silence resumed, this time with a more ominous air to it. A note of seriousness took over. I was pondering whether we had enough combined knowledge to handle an encounter. Locking eyes with Gil, his stern look made his face completely unrecognisable to me, I never seen him like this before. The shock that my expression showed lightened the mood somewhat as Gil’s face slowly contorted to a contagiously sheepish grin. We shared a hearty laugh, shrugged our shoulders, and decided that we wouldn’t let paranoia poison our night. So on we continued on our waltz with the majestic mountain.
After some time, we entered into a small village with sparsely spaced huts. All huts but one were shrouded in darkness. One candlelight was all that illuminated the hut as the light danced around from a central point in an enchanting manner.
We were curious to meet some of the people on the mountain but the need to find a camp spot began to take priority in our minds.
In choosing camping ground, it is wise to select a spot that is reasonably flat, no rocks and not in in the direct onslaught of the wind. On the steep windy side of the mountain this was going to be a challenge, and the mountain was too wide to simply walk to the non windy part. We would have to find a place on camp on this side and we would have to find it soon.
The perspiration from our hike so far drenched our shirts and the wind was beginning to chill it. My goal was to set up camp before I started shivering, but the way my teeth ground together like stones trying to spark a fire, I could tell this outcome was unlikely.
In the distance we saw a string tall tree that was lent into the wind. To my grateful eyes, this would be the needed shield to protect us from the wind. On walking closer. I could see a lush layer of grass for us to nestle over. It looked as if this spot would provide comfortable conditions for a recuperative rest. On reaching the spot, my heart sank, the layer of grass concealed beneath it a cemetery of old volcanic stones that would provide little besides chiropractic malpractice. The spot was definitely not for our sleep.
I was getting cold and tired, I didn’t want to have to go further, uncertain of any ideal conditions in that direction. I told Gil that we should turn back around as I had seen a spot about a mile back past the huts that wasn’t ideal, but it would do for tonight. After some back and forth, he agreed and we made haste to walk the way we came to this fabled ‘spot’.
A few minutes past and I was sure we should see the spot soon, but bend after bend it didn’t come into view. Just as I was beginning to doubt myself, there she looked in the distance. This spot was better than we first gave it credit for. We were both freezing and I was shivering uncontrollably, so we did not waste time to set up camp. I threw my ground mat down, then I took my tent out of its bag and unrolled it.
Then, all the hair on my body stood on end.
Not one hyena this time, but two, and they were a lot closer than the howl we had heard earlier.
Now I don’t speak hyena very well, but I’ve watched enough Discovery Channel to know that they only communicate like that with each other when they are coordinating an attack.
“Hyenas don’t hunt humans do they?” I pondered out loud. Gil replied, “not typically, they are probably hunting some gazelle or someth…..”
My freezing face was alleviated by the blood that rushed it. They were much closer this time, and we were the deer or something.
Anyone that know me knows that I take my time doing pretty much everything, but in less than 20 seconds my tent and ground mat were neatly packed in my bag on my back. Gil’s actions reciprocated the same anxiousness as mine.
About to make our retreat, we paused to take one more look down the mountain.
There they went again. The noise this time included the snapping of twigs and rustling of bush as the hyenas separated the distance from us.
Up the little slope we scrambled to the trail we hiked before, this time in a full run towards the hits, praying that the one candle light in the hut was still lit and that we might find haven there.
We quickly reached the huts but to our dismay the candle was extinguished.
This did little to deter us though. We started to frantically make noise until the candle was lit and a few heads cautiously peered out of the hut.
“Hyenas are chasing us!” we shouted. The blank shadowed expressions in their faces informed us that they did not speak English.
“Jibs Alé! Jibs Alé!” I cried. (Hyenas exist!)
Still they looked puzzled.
Gil then mimicked the hyena noise and ran towards me while I screamed and ran away.
This pantomime brought a few laughs and the galvanise gate bellowed as it creaked open. Thanking everyone, we kissed their knuckles while bowed as we entered their yard.
Danger now removed, a wave of exhaustion rose up and throughout my body. It was bed time. I tried to set up my tent but the family that saved us wouldn’t allow it. They ushered us behind their hut to a larger hut that was perfectly circular. The place had almost a temple air to it. Bingo, it was. It was this family’s personal temple that they held their ceremonies in, and they were letting us sleep in it. The gesture touched me. The kindness of the Ethiopian people knew no bounds in my mind. After giving them the thumbs up, our hosts left us and we unrolled our sleeping bags, and we slept.
Let Us continue to rise in Love together,