It’s taken me a while to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard rather!) since returning from an amazing experience with 6 incredible women in Ethiopia!
As soon as I got back, I downloaded the smorgasbord of memories from my trusty Canon onto the computer and started editing. There were some 1700 odd photo’s, and I managed to whittle them down to around 560 of the best. As I sorted through the incredible images that I was lucky enough to be present in the moment to experience, incredible waves of emotion overcame me.
As I put myself behind the lens, it was almost as if I was sitting in the Gold Class section of the movies, experiencing the most incredible movie set I’ve ever seen.
As the months passed, and excitement grew around our upcoming trip, the reactions of friends and acquaintances were interesting when we announced that we were heading off to Ethiopia on a girl’s trip.
There were a lot of people that were surprised that we even considered Ethiopia as a chick’s getaway destination. Lots of “Why would you go to Ethiopia?”, and “Really? Ehtiopia for a girl’s trip?” as they envisioned white sandy beaches, endless streams of cocktails, and shop till you drop getaways that usually are the norm.
But let me tell you…..this was no ordinary group of ladies. To be as close as we were, with the amount of driving we endured to get to the real heart and gem of Ehtiopia, it was incredibly surprising and amazing that we all gelled as well as we did.
Our tour guide, Pam, who is a New Zealander who has lived in Ethiopia for the past 7 years summed it up nicely when she said “I have learned while living here that nothing is ever what it seems”. There couldn’t be a better quote to sum up the trip as a whole.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that this visit far exceeded any of my expectations. I have been to Africa before, and knew the trip would be incredible, but there was something quite spectacular about this country that is hard to put into words.
I can only share with you some of the images that I experienced, and would probably admit it’s not for everyone (don’t go if you don’t like friendly people, luscious landscapes, and incredible opportunities to see the most amazing things), but here’s why I think you should visit Ethiopia now…..
1. This country is LUSH baby…….
Remember all those images from the 80’s where you saw barren land, dirt, dust, and more dirt, and not a plant in sight? That’s not the Ethiopia I experienced! Sure, there are parts where it is dusty, and dirty, (like down in the Hamer tribe), but you will be hard pressed not to find the lush greenery that we all had the pleasure of experiencing every day (after living in Dubai, which is more barren than Ethiopia I might add, we were loving it!).
2. You feel like you’ve gone back in time….but in a good way.
From vintage soda bottles, to the contrasts of old meets new (not everyone can afford a car, and most people travel around the old fashioned way….donkey style!!).
3. The food is incredible, vibrant, colorful, and healthy!The local layered fruit drinks called Spritz, a bit of an addiction!No condiments out of jars here….a hot spicy dip crushed by two rocks, and the skillful hands of our lovely host! The end result, amazing! The lush red berries of the coffee plant.
We were incredibly lucky to experience a coffee ceremony with the Hamer Tribe in the south of Ethiopia. This is an honor, and not a regular occurrence. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip!The chai, or spiced tea was amazing. Nice warm feeling in the belly!
6. The energy is palpable, yet filled with love and peace. There is rhythm at every turn.
These kids were on the side of the road after we left the Hamer Tribe, which they are a part of. They had covered themselves in ceremonial dress (painting their skin with mud in tribal designs!) hoping to catch some tourists wanting to pay for their photo, which we did!
7. Color, color, and more color!Roadside shopping is how we roll!
9. Beautiful children!!!We were fortunate enough to be able to take nearly 200kgs of goods over on the plane to distribute to those who needed it. Very humbling….and well received!
The other way we were able to give while we were there, was to bring donations of material for The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. Some of you may have heard of this amazing lady and what she has done for the women of Ethiopia, as Dr. Hamlin has been widely featured on many documentaries and programs (including Oprah) for her amazing service. If you don’t know what a fistula is, please take a moment to read about it here. With the education that is provided by this great centre, women are educated who come from remote areas to start walking to the hospital (some of these women walk for months to get here!) when they feel their baby kicking (this happens often with women who have been previously treated at the hospital with their previous children)!! The treatment is free, and the only payment asked of the women is that they spread the word to other women from their area/tribe, and that they make sure they return to the hospital for subsequent childbirths.
We were incredibly honored to be able to meet Dr. Hamlin as she did the rounds. It was unbelievable to think she still operates on patients (and with perfect eyesight!) at the age of 88!! She had an incredible energy and aura surrounding her, and was the vision of an angel.
When the women leave the hospital, they are given a dress, and this is where our material, zips, and buttons came into play. The ladies who sew the dresses were more than thrilled with their new selection of material to create some lovely dresses for these amazing women!
Ethiopia is one of the most enriching experiences I have had the privilege of being part of. I highly recommend if you get the chance, that it’s a destination not to be missed!
If you are interested in going, there is only one tour guide that can give you the type of experience we had, and that is Pamela Robbie from Destination Ethiopia. Her expertise and passion, along with her team of experienced and friendly guides are second to none.