Ethiopian Escapades – Day 6 – Hungry Hungry Hippos & Crocs

Lake Chamo in Arba Minch is home to thousands of crocodiles up to 18 ft (5.5 m) long and weighing in excess of 1,100 lbs (500 kg). We were fortunate enough to get within a few feet of these kings of the lake without becoming an afternoon snack.
Growing up in Florida, I’ve seen my fair share of over-sized birds in the form of pelicans, but I had yet to witness any fowl that could gobble up a few babies in one swift swoop – that is until I got to Ethiopia.
Zebras – the red-headed stepchildren of the Equidae family.
This rambunctious troop of baboons appeared suddenly in the road. After arriving first to the scene, the alpha male was shortly followed by a clan of more than 30 primates.


Ethiopian Escapades – Day 5 – Welcome to the Jungle (Arba Minch)

The view from Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch. I felt like Simba – being hoisted up to survey my kingdom.

View from Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch

These humble dwellings housed us and a mischievous baboon named Clepto.
Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch

Ethiopian Escapades – Day 4 – World’s Largest Monolithic Church (Lalibela)

Dating back to the 12th century, the Church of St. George in Lalibela was carved from solid red volcanic rock and built underground to conceal it from intruders.

Church of St. George in Lalibela

The misses and I playing hide and go seek. She won.

Tourist in Lalibela

The view from our hotel, Tukul Village, which is a modern version of the traditional African thatched huts.

Tukul Village Hotel in Lalibela

An old man resting near the church. His solemn expression still lingers in my mind.

Old Man in Lalibela

Ethiopian Escapades – Day 3 – The “Wasteland” (Addis)

Prior to visiting Ethiopia, I envisioned it as a barren wasteland, devoid of any life. However, what I found was a diverse landscape splattered with colors. Mt. Entoto, for instance, offers a variety of stunning views and hiking trails, and is home to a colorful group of herders.ImageThe view from the top of Mount Entoto, overlooking a nearby village. ImageA man herding cattle from about 3,000 meters above sea level. ImageThe children featured above eagerly greeted us and asked if they could guard our car in exchange for tips. Most children in Ethiopia make extra money by watching cars and posing for pictures. These kids must have been professionals as they quickly posed in their kung fu style positions.

Ethiopian Escapades – Day 2 – Feeding the Beast (Harar)

The scavenger, salivating at the scent of raw flesh, crept closer. Without apprehension, I inserted a short stick into my mouth and placed a sliver of raw meat at the end. Eager to satisfy its appetite for blood, the creature edged closer. Its stench was overwhelming. An ungodly blend of burning garbage and rotting carcasses pervaded my nostrils. The beast unlatched its jaws and devoured the piece of meat. At that moment, I looked the devil directly in its eyes and felt a sense of awe at not only its sheer ferociousness, but also its self-control. After that, I gained a greater appreciation for my own life.
ImageJust me feeding raw meat to a wild hyena.

The “ghosts” of Harar

(Fun fact: Spotted hyenas (above), kill as much as 95% of the food they eat, and have been known to drive off leopards or lionesses from their kills.)

Ethiopian Escapades – Day 1 – Meskel Square on Fire (Addis)

Shortly after arriving in Addis, I went to the historic Meskel Square to witness the festival commemorating the discovery of the True Cross, which according to Ethiopian legend, is the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Approximately 200,000 Ethiopians and spectators celebrated the religious holiday by taking part in a candle-lit vigil. Chanting in unison, the crowd anxiously awaited the lighting of the tree. Once lit, the massive bonfire erupted creating a mushroom cloud of smoke.

After the ceremony, the mob poured into a narrow gate on their way out. My friends and I were dragged into the mosh pit and carried along with the crowd. To avoid being trampled to death, we seeped through the mass and waited in a corner until the crowd died down.

Meskel Festival

Guy at Meskel Festival

(Fun fact: The Meskel Festival has been celebrated for over 1,600 years.)