This morning was another early start. Laura and I woke up at 5:30 to go to a prayer service with our guide Terry. Today was the feast of St. Michael, so the locals were gathering at the rock church named for him at dawn for prayers. Terry arranged for us to get the beautiful big white prayer shawls that they everyone wears so we would be respectful of their traditions. It also helped us to blend in and not stand out as tourists. Ethiopians are incredibly spiritual and their faith is very important to them. As we entered the church and could hear the melodic chanting pf prayers it was as though we had traveled back in time to the 12th and 13th centuries when these churches were carved from the stone hillsides.
We returned to the hotel for breakfast and left with Amedeo for our morning excursion. Farther afield from the churches in the town of Lalibela lies the monastery of Ashetan Maryam. This remote monastery lies at an altitude of almost 4000 meters on Abuna Yoseph, the high mountain overlooking Lalibela. The church is carved out of a cleft into a cliff face so the best way to get there is by mule. So we set off on a two hour ride up the mountain. Several times during the journey we had to get off the mules because the trail was too steep and rugged. But it was well worth it – the views from the top were breathtaking!
After our adventure we went to Terry’s family’s house and met his parents and brothers and sisters. One of his sisters made coffee for us – what a treat to share an experience like this in someone’s home. This amazing day ended with an incredible sunset from the balcony on our rooms at the Mountainview Lodge. It’s moments like this that I have to remind myself this isn’t all a dream!