Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 3, Part 2, The Nile

The next leg of our journey was comparatively uneventful, covering a lot of ground across wide-open barren fields and clusters of huts. Occasionally we passed through a village where people were gathered around old ping pong tables waiting for their turn amidst the crowd. Goats and cows seemed to be scattered, searching out the few patches of grass they could find. The one strikingly amazing thing about these far-away areas in rural Ethiopia is that they are still full of life. We would be miles past a village and still pass many people (though fewer and further spaced apart) who were herding their cows, goats, or horses down the long stretches of roads or women walking with many jugs tied to their donkeys in search of water. Our driver said that some of the women walk miles a day to fetch their water. We made a quick lunch stop (which we believe later became the source of our demise!) and were back on the road. We at last arrived at the top of the grand Blue Nile Gorge. We took some time to take photos and handed food out to the many children who had come running across the rocky barren landscape (again, with no shoes!) in search of Ethiopian 'Birr', which is the currency or food. Sadly, these children ranging in age from approximately 2-10 years seemed to wear the rough terrain of the land on their bodies with their dry cracked lips, cuts, bruises, tattered clothes and dust-covered skin. They were devouring the food and water we left them before we even stepped foot in the car. For the next 15 minutes we climbed down an incredible decline, making our way down the 1,000 meter drop to the Nile. Sections of the asphalt had literally crumbled and fallen away, leaving partially dirt roads, making it difficult for the big rigs to haul their gas supplies from Sudan. We passed an over-turned bus, tipped on it's side and whose top had come off, partly falling down the incredible drop below. We could only imagine the terror of the people inside as they tipped and nearly fell straight over the edge. Lammergeier vultures soared in and out of the incredible wind currents that whip through the gorge. Every couple of meters we could feel the air become more still and unbelievably hot. Despite the heat, young boys were still driving their cattle and goats up the steep gorge road! They would yell for water as we would pass, and our driver would throw a bottle out of his window for them. We could hear their shouts of excitement at the sight of a bottle flying toward them. When we finally made it down to the incredible bridge that hovered above the Nile, connecting the provinces of Shoa and Gojam I felt like I was baking. I wrapped my head in my scarf and understood why the desert nomadic people of the mighty Sahara were always covered head to toe in cloth in such hot weather- it really helps! We crossed the bridge by foot, and felt a rush of relief as we approached the center where the rush of wind current whipped through the gorge. We stood for some time whipping rocks down to the green waters below and watching the birds fly back and forth between the high red rock expanse of the cliff sides. We can now say we have been to the longest river in the world- the mighty Nile, which flows upward, making it's way through Africa all the way to the shores of Egypt, emptying itself into the Mediterranean Sea.

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