Posts Tagged ‘travel’

The Trip

Ok so we did go on a trip. We were in the land of saguaro cacti!

Steve and saguaro cacti

Remember my friend Mary who we visited in Phoenix on our road trip?  Well she got married!  So we made the trip to Phoenix again, this time by plane.  We went down a week early so that we could visit with the happy couple before they started to get busy with wedding stuff.  Then we rented a car and did a mini road trip.  We had two specific spots we wanted to see – Zion National Park (yup! we loved it so much the first time we had to go back!) and Antelope Canyon.  Photos to come as I process them!



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The wayfaring passport

Remember my M.I.A. passport?  It found its way back to me!  I have no idea where it has been in its 3+ month journey since it left its cozy home in my bedside table.  I only know where it ended up – the public library.  But not the public library across the street from where we live.  Nope, one of the other many libraries in Ottawa.  How did it get there I wonder?  Who did it meet along the way?  Near the end of its journey some nice stranger must have picked it up off the ground somewhere and turned it in to the nearest official looking place, and then some nice other stranger thought it wise that such a handsome looking passport should be kept snug and secure in the safe (no cardboard box lost and founds for this lost booklet!).  I wish its pages were filled with stamps from all the places it went before finding its way back to me.  I may have gone to Africa with another passport, but this one still had an adventure all on its own!  And with it, an old boarding pass folded safely inside.

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We ended up leaving Nairobi late the day we were to head out on our safari.  It was my fault, or rather my tummy’s.  At some point during the night, my food poisoning reared its ugly head and made a fierce comeback.  So come morning, I again loaded myself up with all the drugs on hand and we waited for them to kick in before setting out – because there was no way I was heading into a 5-hour drive when I had, at best, a 10 second warning before I needed to find a toilet.  In the middle of rural Kenya, I don’t even want to think about what that toilet would look like.  I’m guessing I’d prefer a bush!

Actually we did end up at some pretty nice toilets along the way. They were at the “curio” shops.  I’m not sure where this term comes from (enlighten me if you do), but they were the name for the souvenir shops along the drives to the safari parks.  They had some amazing stuff, at great prices (if you’re willing to haggle).  Having brought only backpacks, we weren’t really in the market for many things, so often we just wanted to use the facilities, which were always clean and well-stocked.  But to get to the facilities, we *had* to go through the shops, and to get through the shops, we pretty much had to encounter one of the salespeople, who tried their darndest to convince us to buy something.  But it was worth it.  And we did end up buying a few small items.

(I swear when I started this post I had no idea it was going to be mostly about toilets)

Our driver and safari guide, John, was very understanding of my tummy troubles and even suggested his own home remedy of rice water with sugar to keep hydrated.  Despite feeling awful, I couldn’t help but stay awake and watch the scenery roll by.  We stopped at one lookout point to take in the Great Rift Valley, which we were about to descend into:

The Great Rift Valley

This is a panorama shot, so its worth the click to see it larger

For the last hour of our drive, we lost the paved road and gained a whole lot of bouncy pot holes and dust.  But we also started to get glimpses of the amazing wildlife we were about to see in abundance.  We saw our first zebras and gazelles!  By the end of our safari, gazelles were a dime a dozen and barely turned our heads, but on that first drive into the park we were excited to see them!

More on the safari soon!  For now, you can check out the photos from Masai Mara on my SmugMug site.

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Our first time to Nairobi I don’t have very fond memories of because I spent most of it sick.  But of all places to recover, we certainly had some nice digs in this part of our trip.  Rockr and Junkii’s friend booked the hotel for us – she is from Nairobi and chose a place near to where she was staying.  We were in our own little apartment, surrounded by lush plants and walkways.  I was thankful for the clean and fully-functional bathroom, and the humongous bed.  I got a kick out of the leopard print sitting room.

Our bedroom

Where I spent most of my time in Nairobi

Leopard print sitting room

Leopard print sitting room

Rockr too was suffering from TD, the fruit shake’s effects hitting him a little later, but no less vehemently.

Junkii and Rockr in their roomWe were a sorry pair.

Despite the two sickies, we did have two excursions during our time in Nairobi.  If you’ve heard about Nairobi, then no doubt you’ve heard about its questionable safety.  The hotel provided us with a driver for everywhere we needed to go, so we felt safe enough to go out in the evening with, as it turns out, one of the managers who needed to go to the supermarket as well.  The local supermarket chain is called Nakumart, and that is where we sped and careened toward with our driver, Omar.  He was as carefree with his driving as with life in general.  He was full of energy (or stimulant) and talked a mile-a-minute about his life in Nairobi.  He must have been fairly young (19 or 20) because we took a slight detour to his parent’s house, where he lived, to grab his laptop.  It was an entertaining experience and gave us a sense of a young local Nairobian’s life – at least an affluent one.  I kind of hope he wasn’t representative of his generation because he was a little classist, not to mention racist!  Rockr missed out on this outing because he was still feeling awful 😦

The second outing was the next day and even Rockr managed to make it out.  Again we had a driver, and again he was a pretty aggressive driver.  Driving in Nairobi is nuts.  Nobody obeys the rules, so it’s complete chaos everywhere you go.  It takes several hours to get anywhere in rush hour.  So we pretty much spent the whole afternoon arranging our safari, most of it just driving.  But again, it gave us a glimpse into Nairobian life, and we got to see a bit of the downtown.

The next post will be about the safari!  But it might take awhile.  Junkii wrote a post explaining his process and why the photos take so long.  My process is similar, so check it out if you are curious about the hold-up.

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I have one last post about Ethiopia, although I still feel like there’s so much to share about this amazing country.  Did you know that the Rastafarian Movement is based on the belief that one of the emperor’s of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ?  Neither did I.  I wish I’d known more about it before going to Ethiopia because I got a lot of curious stares due to my dreads while we were there, and it would have given me a better understanding of why.  Not only did I get surreptitious glances, people often whispered behind me “psst…Rasta!”  And if they spoke English, they would often ask me if I was Rastafarian.  My favourite was the guy who called me “rasta sister” – it just rolls off the tongue!  That got the guys jokingly calling me “Rasta Krista” throughout the trip.  Despite it’s relation to Rastafarianism, we didn’t see any Ethiopians with dreads, perhaps making me stand out even more.  We did see locals, and lots of tourists with dreads in Zanzibar.  There too I often heard the “Rasta!” whispers.

Rasta Krista

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After Lalibela, we headed back to Addis Ababa for a pit-stop before heading on to Nairobi.  As usual, we had an early morning flight before the sun woke up, so we got into Addis in the morning with the whole day to see some more of the city.  We all wanted to do some souvenir shopping before leaving the country, so our plan was to hit up the market.  Even without wanting any souvenirs, it’s always fun to visit an outdoor market in a new place.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday, the only day the market is closed.  Our hotel was able to direct us to another area with souvenir shops that would be open.

By shops, I mean squished together stalls packed ceiling high with handicrafts.  Most of them were so cramped and full of stuff that only one person, plus the shopkeeper, could fit inside.  The more aggressive sellers used this to their advantage and placed themselves in the doorway, insisting you haggle with them over something, anything that caught your eye.  Because I dislike these types of tactics, I only bought from the shopkeepers who left me alone while I looked, showing aggressive selling only when we entered into the haggling stage. I forgot how much I enjoyed wrestling over prices from my days in China.  I spoke just enough Mandarin to be able to give them a hard time for trying to rip me off and this usually tickled the merchants.

Tired from our purchasing but not yet ready to go back to the hotel, we looked in the guidebook for some suggestions and learned that there was a juice bar nearby.  When we found the street it was on, it took us awhile to figure out which place was the juice bar, since it was tucked inside an unassuming fruit stand.  All the fresh fruit outside wet our appetites and we were eager to try the colourful smoothies placed in front of us.


They were fresh and delicious and exactly what we wanted.

Except for one minor detail.

We suspect they made the smoothies with tap water and later that night my body vehemently disagreed with that detail.  All night I had to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes.  By 2am I wanted to die.  By 2:30am I was asking Steve if I had malaria.  He went down to wake up the front desk staff to use the internet and confirm that I had food poisoning (*cough* Traveller’s Diarrhea) and therefore whether or not I should take the antibiotic prescribed by our travel doctor.  I took it and by 4am I was finally able to get a little sleep – we had to be up in an hour or so to get ready to fly to Nairobi.  Because I still felt like death when we woke up, we consider cancelling our flight and going the next day – who wants to fly when they have to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes?  But Steve drugged me up – antibiotic, anti-malarial pill, Immodium, and Gravol – and the guys helped me with my bags and we went for it.  The airport is a blur – I stood as long as I had to and sat whenever I saw a chair, ledge, planter, etc.  When we finally got on the plane, I was out within seconds and didn’t wake up until we arrived.

This was my first, and unfortunately not my last bout of TD on the trip.  Nor was I alone in this – we all got sick on the trip, and all of us twice.

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Lalibela, Ethiopia

View of Lalibela from our hotel

Lalibela is a beautiful place.  Driving in to town from the airport is a winding, uphill drive giving glimpses of the town and nearby mountains.  We saw many people walking the steep hills into town, this because it was market day.  I have forgotten to mention in previous posts that there are always animals on the roads – goats, cattle, chickens, etc.  This is especially true when people are travelling to the market.  Usually the animals are free to roam willy nilly along the road and many times we all gasped and clenched our eyes shut because we thought our taxi was going to hit one.  Luckily this was never the case.  On our drive to Lalibela, many people had their goats on leashes, like dogs. I’m guessing because it is a narrow road up a hill, there isn’t much room for the goats to roam and it’s safer to keep them tethered.  We didn’t see leashes being used anywhere else.

View of the countryside from outside one of the churches.

What makes Lalibela so special and why people visit this small town in the middle of the mountains are it’s rock-hewn churches.  11 sacred buildings have not been built, but excavated out of the ground.  This amazing feat was commissioned by King Lalibela in the 13th century – mere hammers and chisels created these remarkable buildings.  We spent the entire day roaming from church to church, which are all connected by tunnels and walkways with openings to catacombs and hermit caves.

The first rock-hewn church we visited - Beta Medhane Alem

The first rock-hewn church we visited - Beta Medhane Alem

Steve outside the entrance to another church.  I loved the colours and textures of some of the churches walls.

Steve outside the entrance to another church. I loved the colours and textures of some of the churches' walls.


Door in the rock.

Door embedded in the rock wall

One of the rock-hewn churches with mandala details.

Church with mandala details

The churches were just as fascinating inside.  They were often decorated with richly coloured curtains and rugs, and the stillness and quiet inside evoked a sacred atmosphere.

Drums and rich colours inside one of the churches.

We saw these drums inside many of the churches.


Wall detail in one of the churches.

The churches’ roofs are level with the ground, with trenches cleared out around each one and the buildings themselves carved from what was left.  The large canvas-like structure pictured below is a cover for protecting the building from the elements.

Rockr at Beta Medhane AlemPhoto by Steve

Rockr at Beta Medhane Alem. Photo by Steve

The churches are all still in use today and each one has its own dedicated priest.

The priest reading scripture outside the church.

A priest reading scripture outside the church.

As we’d encountered at the mausoleum in Addis, we had to take off our shoes when entering each of the churches.  I tied and untied my laces a lot that day!  Sandals would be a better choice if it weren’t for the precarious footing in some of the pathways and descents down to the churches.

Shoes outside the church of Saint George.  You were not allowed to wear your shoes inside any of the churches.

Arguably the most impressive of the 11 churches is St George’s.  It has been carved into the shape of a Greek-style cross and over time has developed a vibrant yellow lichen.  We arrived in the later afternoon, just before closing time, and with the rolling countryside in the background, it was a breathtaking sight.

Church of Saint George

Church of Saint George

Wall detail - imagine carving this out of the ground!  Amazing.

A room inside the church of Saint George.

A room inside the church of Saint George.


The walk back to our hotel from visiting the churches was a long walk uphill after a whole day of walking.  Also, at an altitude of 2630m (8628 ft), we weren’t free of the effects of altitude and were easily out of breath after a couple steps.  But the walk back was interesting in itself.  We got to see more of the town, including many traditional-style homes like the one pictured below.

Somebody's house.

As well, we picked up a ragtag gang of young boys who surrounded us and wanted to chat.  We each got to talking to a different kid, but as it turns out, they were all telling us the same tale.  They were all in school and knew all the capitals in the world – I was very impressed that someone actually knew that Ottawa (where we’re from) was the capital of Canada, let alone a young boy.    It’s a common misconception that Toronto is the capital – all you non-Canadians remember that and impress the next Canadian you meet! 🙂  But I digress.  Each one was from the countryside but wanted very much to go to school to be a veterinarian, and upon completing would return to the countryside and take care of the peoples’ farm animals.  The point of the story was that they didn’t have enough money to buy books for school and wanted us to buy them books.  We all extricated ourselves from the conversations at that point, reaching our hotel by then.

Children frolicking nearby.

As usual, there are a bunch more photos on SmugMug should you care to look at them.

Next in our whirlwind tour, we headed back to Addis Ababa for a pit-stop before heading on to Nairobi, Kenya.  Not having many photos of that, I’ll be able to post on that sooner rather than later 🙂  but bare with me as I go through the hundreds of photos from our safari!

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