Din cauza masivului Mt.Yosef de 4190 de m, Lalibela nu pare ca s-ar afla la 2630 de m altitudine. 8 secole dupa de regele Lalibela din dinastia Zagwe a visat sa fondeze aici un al doilea Ierusalim, acest indepartat orasel ethiopian isi implineste, in sfarsit, destinul. 11 biserici si zeci de cripte si pasaje au fost sapate in roca vulcanica. Astazi nu doar pelerinii si calugarii, cu si turisti din toata lumea sosesc in acest sit protejat UNESCO.
With the impressive 4190 m Mt.Yosef in the background, Lalibela may not feel like it’s situated at 2630 m altitude. 8 centuries after king Lalibela of Zagwe dynasty dreamt to build here a new Jerusalem, this remote Ethiopian town is finally fulfilling its destiny. 11 rock-hewn churches, narrow passageways and crypts were carved into the iron-rich volcanic rock. Today not only arduous pilgrims and monks flock to this UNESCO World Heritage site, but also tourists from all over the world.
Bazaltul moale se intareste dupa ce a fost taiat, dar ploile ethiopiene sunt necrutatoare. Unele monumente s-au deteriorat ata de tare din cauza apelor meteorice incat UNESCO a amplasat sarpante mai mult sau mai putin reusite, pana cand se va gasi o solutie la problema.
The soft basalt hardens after carving, but Ethiopian rains are merciless, so, in time, some of the churches deteriorated so severely, that UNESCO has temporarily installed protective roofs. Some of these roofs are quite unfortunate looking, given the context, some give character.
Nu poti sa faci pe simplul turist in Lalibela. Ca si in indepartatul Angkor, desigur ca aici la o scara mult modesta, trebuia sa te implici. Urca, mergi, transpira, pierde-ti echilibrul, rataceste-te, afunda-te in bezna, fii coplesit. Adulmeca piatra si muntele, admira maiestria si dedicatia artizanilor de odinioara, scrise in piatra care e mentinuta vie cu ardoarea a nenumarati credinciosi si invatacei. Este interesant cu planimetria e de factura crestina timpuri (ca si boltile), straiele sunt de influenta semitica, dar incantatia versetelor te face sa te simti intr-o moschee.
One cannot simply come and see Lalibela. This special place makes you work, like Cambodia’s Angkor, on a more modest scale, of course. Climb, walk, sweat, lose balance, get stuck, become blind, be dazzled. Smell the rock, smell the mountain, admire the craft and dedication, written in a stone kept alive with faith by present-day worshipers and students. It’s interesting how the layout reads from early christianity, the clothing has semitic flair, and the chanting of verses makes you feel in a mosque.
Monumentalitatea bisericilor este coplesitoare, interiorul si decoratiile nu prea. Mirosul de tamaie si lumanari ne-a amintit de atmosfera uneori lugubra din bisericile ortodoxe. De dincolo de ziduri, insa, ruga din incaperi ascunse umplea aleile subterane cu armonie divina.
If the play of shape and proportion is quite spectacular, the interior of the churches left us unimpressed, as did the decorations. Lots of incense and beeswax candles reminded us of the gloomy hopelessness from the Romanian churches. The chanting reverberating from hidden praying chambers were, on the contrary, mesmerizing.
Biserica Sf. Gheorghe este cu adevarat speciala, o aparitie monumentala, simetric decupata in pantecul muntelui. Acoperita in licheni, parca vibreaza.
Bet Giogios is particularly stunning, emerging, symmetrical and monumental, from the gut of the mountain. The lichens on the outside walls make it even more beautiful and more alive.
Langa labirintul de biserici, unul secular: satul traditional tukul. Din cauza lungului sezon torential de la munte, casele contemporane pastreaza acelasi design: unul sau doua caturi, asezate pe o fundatie inalta, circulara, din bolovani. Un adevarat satuc de strumfi.
Next to the labyrinth of churches, a rather secular one: the traditional tukul village. Because of torrential rains last for many months per year in this region, contemporary homes have similar design. One or two floors, on top of a round, rock foundation. A real life smurf village.
La sfarsitul circuitului sacru, un drac de copil, simpatic foc
At the end of the pious circuit, this devilish kid
Si prietenul lui, fiul paznicului dealtfel, murdar la gura de berbere
And his best friend, the guard’s son, with berbere smeared around his mouth
Noi eram gata sa incepem coborarea catre vale si drumul principal, dar gata era si ploaia. Cerul, negru de nor, luminat orizontal de fulgere de-a dreptul inspaimantatoare. Ana mi-a atuncat o privire. ‘Ma intreb daca nu facem o greseala”, s-a indoit ea. Ingrijorarea i se citea pe fata. Si ca sa fiu sincer, nici eu nu mai eram prea convins ca mai putem continua catre Wadi Halfa in ritmul asta, pe vremea asta. Dar i-am fortat un ‘e in regula’ de incurajare, si am strans chingile. ‘De ce n-om fi cautat poncho-uri?’ a mai intrebat ea. Cand i-am raspuns ca nu ne trebuie - doar ploaia nu o sa tina la nesfarsit - a zis: ‘trebuia sa e fi rugat nitel in toate bisericile astea’.
Ready to give the descent a go we were, but unfortunately for us, so was the rain. Sky was black with cloud, only lit by even scarier lightning. Ana looked at me. ‘I wonder if this is a good idea’ she said. I could tell she was worried. And to be fairly honest, my own confidence we could make it to Wadi Halfa under such weather was weakening. I was ready to rock, packing up gear and squinting at Ana when she mentioned the rain, making an ‘are you serious?’ face. ‘Why haven’t we looked for ponchos?’ she asked. When I replied that we didn’t need any ponchos — the rain couldn’t last forever — she said: ‘we should have prayed in all those churches’.
A inceput marunt. Dar nu ne-am dat pacaliti, toata valea bubuia de tunete. In curand s-au rupt cerurile , si a inceput sa toarne cu furie. Inainte eram atent la declivitatea terenului si la curbe, acum abia daca mai simteam cum pamantul imi fuge de sub roti. Noroiul parea solid, dar iluzia se limpezea la prima atingere. Parca as fi condus pe sapun amestecat cu piure de viermi. Mi-am vazut de treaba, patinand la buza haului, cu dintii inclestati, degetele bocna, tot tacamul. Nu, nu era deloc fun. Nu stiu daca se observa bine in poza pungile de plastic infasurate pe mainile Anei. Am folositi si eu acelasi truc inspirat de metaljockey ca sa fac fata vantului.
It started like a drizzle. We were not fooled, the whole valley was shaking with thunder. Soon the skies broke, and water started pouring furiously. Before I had been mindful of declivities and tight bends, now all I could barely feel was that the road was disintegrating into mush. I would see that soggy bog and hope it was solid, but my front wheel would sink into it, knobblies covered, mud bubbles rising. It was like riding on soap and smutted worms. With the bike sliding and drifting, we just hung in there. Pounded by cascading rain, teeth clenched, fingers and toes frozen, head spinning, the lot. It was not pretty. I don’t know if the plastic bags covering Ana’s hands can be easily spotted in this pic. I used the same metaljockey trick to cope with the wind.
Nu imi amintesc cum am ajuns la intersectia cu soseaua. Daca nu am fi tremurat incontrolabil, am fi coborat sa sarutam asfaltul. A mai durat inca o ora sa cumparam cativa litri de benzina de la mafia locala (de fapt de la un tuk-tuk pe care l-am oprit), pentru ca benzinariile erau pe gol si urmatoarele se aflau la 100 si respectiv 140 de km in ambele directii. As mentiona ca ploaia a reinceput de indata ce am pornit mai departe, dar devin redundant. Pentru cine mai tine scorul, marcam a doua saptamana de ploi fara oprire. Intr-o ora s-a intunecat, si am oprit, usor deliranti, in fata unei incaperi in care licarea o lumina. Amira, patroana micutului magazin, avea nu doar ceai dulce, ci si o paine pufoasa cu seminte de susan proaspat scoasa din cuptor. In cinci minute de condus insa, efectul ceaiului si painii si a caldurii umane s-au dus. ‘Un hotel!’, m-a atentionat Ana. Abia mai tarziu mi-a marturisit ca facuse fata frigului si ploii imaginandu-si confortul si caldura dintr-un hotel, nimic mai grozav de trei stele, gen Ibis, dar unul adevarat, nu glumele in care mai statusem prin Africa. Isi imaginase curatenie standard, asternuturi si prosoape albe, dus cu apa calda, o saltea buna. Ei bine, drumul pana in Lalibela nu a fost degeaba: fantomatica aparitie s-a dovedit a fi, ca prin miracol, chiar un hotel ca in fantezia Anei, dar caraghios de ieftin. Nu ne-am instalat bine, ca furtuna ne-a prins din urma: geamurile clantaneau, intreaga cladire gemea, afara fulgere dintr-o parte in alta a lumii. Ne-am luat in brate: cum ar fi fost sa fim afara acum! Am devastat camera, folosind toate prosoapele, papucii si paturile, am facut interminabile dusuri, pana am cazut, lati, pe cele mai confortabile paturi in 400 de zile de viata nomada.
I don’t know how we made it to the junction with tar. If not shivering uncontrollably with cold we would have stepped off the bike to kiss the asphalt. It took another hour to buy petrol from the local mafia (actually from a bajaj driver I decided to stop), as the gas stations were out and the next ones were at 100 and 140 kays in both directions. I should probably mention that, as soon as we took off, it was raining again. For those of you who keep track at home, that is another full week in the wet. In one hour it was dark, and we stopped again. We had spotted a dim light coming from what looked like a tea room. Amira had not only sweet, hot, live preserving tea, but also two freshly baked loafs of bread, with aromatic black sesame seeds in the crumble. Back in the saddle, it took a mere 5 minutes to lose all heat, contort and hope.’Look, a hotel’. Ana shook my shoulder. Only later it would come out that she had coped with the insane weather imagining a chain hotel, nothing more fancy than an Ibis for instance. She fantasized about standard cleanliness, white linens, hot water, a good mattress. Well, our visit to the mystical town of Lalibela would pay off: the ghostly building was indeed a hotel, looking like Ana’s fantasy, clean, but dirt cheap. Before we could settle in, windows were screaming with wind and torrents, sky was lit with dramatic lightning. It was scary to think we could have been outside, riding. We devastated the room, using all towels, slippers, blankets and hot water, until our sorry-asses failed asleep like dead people, on the best beds we had seen in 400 days.
A doua zi a fost sublima. Fortarete impenetrabile, varfuri semete, muchii imposibile. Parauri si cascade decupand canioane pentru viitor. Abisul abisinian. Dupa ce arta umana ne ingenunchiase, eram coplesiti de perfectiunea inimitabila a naturii. Drumul continua sa urce, oare cand urma sa ajungem la campie? Pe urmele noastre furtuna de noaptea trecuta isi aduna fortele, pregatind o noua rafala
The next day was sublime. Impenetrable fortress of escarpments, pinnacles and protruding ridges. Streams and waterfalls gushing through gorges. The mighty Ethiopian highlands. The Abyssinian abyss. We had arrived in the ethereal kingdom of sky, and it had taken our breath away. After leaving our nighttime oasis we were still going up the mountain, sometimes passing the 3000 m altitude, wondering if we would ever reach the plains again. Behind us, the dreadful storm from last night was regaining composure, preparing to hit hard.
De cate ori ne opream sa admiram terasele cultivate, parca cerul se incrunta mai tare. Mirosea violent a ploaie, alearga, Forrest, alearga! Abia cand am coborat de pe platou in vale ne-a ajuns ploaia. Un cer blond atarna deasupra noastra, dar dupa potopul de ieri, ploicica asta ni se parea o burnita dulce. Care a incetat brusc, ca si cum cineva ar fi inchis un robinet gigantic. Vazduhul se limpezea rapid, si temperatura crestea cu fiecare metru.
Everytime we would stop to get the green terraces of tef in focus, the sky seamed to darken in anger. We could smell the rain, run, Forrest, run! Only when we were off the plateau and into the valley, seemingly out of danger, rain caught up. A blond sky hovering over our heads let out a gentle drizzle, or at least that’s what it felt like, after the pounding of past days. But soon rain let up as abruptly as if a giant tap had been snapped shut overhead. We kept rolling under a changeable sky that was quickly loosing cloud and accumulating heat.
Aproape de granita, a fost musai sa ne tragem pe dreapta si sa ne dezechipam. In mai putin de o ora termometrul trecuse de la 14, la 32 de grade. Am terminat mancarea din traista (banane si paine) si ne-am pragatit actele. In asteptarea vamesilor plecati in pauza de masa, un bagator de seama ne-a sugerat ce ne asteapta: ‘nu v-a placut ploaia?’, a zis, ‘duceti-va in foc!’.
A couple of dozen kays before the border we had to stop and strip. Temperature had been climbing like crazy, from less than 14 to 32 in one hour. Time to eat whatever we had left (banana and bread) and sort our papers out. While waiting for the customs officers to finish their lunch break a wannabe fixer told us: ‘you didn’t like rain?’ ‘Now go to fire’.