Friday, February 14, 2014

Hiking to church

The title might lead you to think we are super devout.  Only when we are traveling in Ethiopia!  Hiking to rock-hewn churches is the site seeing aspect of Gheralta.  You could definitely go to the lodge just to relax for a weekend, but both times we've visited, we've spent a day with a shuttle driver and a guide showing us the way to one of the ancient churches in the area.  
All the five children from our two families were hiking with us so anything too rigorous was not an option.  We chose the same church we'd seen two years ago.  Two years ago our girls were that much younger and the easy hike was our only option then as well.  
The "easy hike" turned into what Emily coined the "death march".  We walked for an hour and a half to get to the church in the heat and then about 45 minutes back.  The entire trip took over 3 hours.  We were low on water and we had a local village of children following us the entire walk.  The idea of mingling with the locals brings to mind some interesting photo opportunities and we'd like to think we are open enough to let the kids hold our daughters hands etc.  But the truth of it is that this element can add a significant amount of stress to the situation.  As much as we ask the guide to help us manage the crowds of local kids following us (sometimes much too closely) and touching our children, it doesn't help.  At one point Bella slipped and fell and had a swarm of little boys crowding over here to help her up.  It terrified her and she started crying.  
But we hiked along and once we reached the gateway to the church, the villagers had to stay put while we continued the rest of the way.  For as long and as hot as the hike was, all the kids did remarkably well.  There was very little whining or crying.  All the kids walked for a portion of the hike.  Addie and Bella, the two oldest, walked all the way and most of the way respectively.  I was super impressed with their endurance. 
Luckily, there was shade under the cliff where the church had been built.  A group of Germans were exiting the church after their tour as we were arriving and it gave all four of the adults in our group a healthy dose of pride when they expressed their shock and amazement that we had just completed the hike with five children.  Yeah, we're pretty hard core and so are our children!  

We took our tour and rested a bit before the death march back.  Phew!  It was just about all the hiking we needed to do that weekend.

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