This morning we said bittersweet goodbyes to our dear friends at Yetebon. (Cheryl, being very dedicated, was still working on curtains and mending a little boys pants before we left!) We traveled in two vans back to Addis Ababa. Along the way we stopped at an ancient rock-hewn church. It is a church built into underground rock. There are several rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia, some being centuries old. This was one of the newest ones, being built in the 1000s. It took 3 years to build. The women in our group had to go down steps on the right, men went down steps on the left and there were steps in the back for priests only. We removed our shoes and entered the carpeted church chambers and tunnels. Elaborate old curtains and pictures were hanging, and a couple of women were praying in the tunnel – completely covered in a white, gauze-type cloth. We were not allowed in the “Holy of Holies” section where a replica of the Ark of the Covenant is kept. Despite this church being so old, church services are regularly held there.
Our journey continued through villages, along dirt roads and along some paved roads. We saw teff (a grain) being threshed by cattle and donkeys walking in a circle on it. We saw little children in dirty, tattered clothing come running up to our van windows begging with their hands held out. (We had been told not to give them anything.) We also noted that animals rule the roads! I don’t think we ever went more than a mile, without swerving, stopping or honking at animals in the road. There were cattle (sometimes one, sometimes a whole herd), donkeys, sheep, goats and an occasional dog. We had some close calls when they did not move out of the way soon enough, and we noticed some casualties lying on the side of the road (not hit by us). We even saw a cow that had been hit. Our guide said the hyenas and vultures would have a big feast that day!
Some of us felt sorry for the burros/donkeys/mules (I don’t know the difference). They are everywhere and at times they are so loaded down with “stuff” that we only see their legs. Iyad is our team burro – he is always carrying something for us and we sure do appreciate that!
We arrived in Addis, back at the Sadula Hotel, where we had started. Some of our team stayed there to do some shopping and the rest of us continued on for another 90 minute van ride to the village of Chacha. Project Mercy has started a dairy cow project there that Deme and his son, Lali, wanted to show us. On the way there we were getting low on gas. We stopped at a gas station but it had no gas. Stopped at a second gas station – no gas. Stopped at a third gas station – no gas. We made it to the farm and while we were there our driver managed to find gas somewhere so we could get back.
The dairy cow project is amazing. In Ethiopia the indigenous cows produce very little milk (less than 1 liter/day) and it is poor quality. A few years ago Project Mercy began crossing indigenous cows with Jersey cows. The result is significantly higher milk production with higher fat and protein content. The farm currently has 285 cows. The cows are bred and kept there until their 6th month of gestation, then are given to a selected farmer in the area. Because the people of Chacha donated their land (300 acres) to this project, the cows are being given to farmers in this area. The cow, and resulting calf, are followed closely by Project Mercy to make sure it is being properly cared for and that no in-breeding occurs under their new ownership with the local farmer. When it is time for breeding again the farmer notifies Project Mercy and they go out and use artificial insemination to continue the cross-breeding. Of the 300 acres that Project Mercy has, 40 of these are used for crops. The farm has modern equipment (tractor, cultivator, rake, etc.) which all came from the U.S. and was provided by the Ethiopian government. Because this project is non-profit, NGO, and will benefit the people, the government is very involved with helping it to succeed. That also poses some problems – there are too many bulls at the farm and they need to be culled, however they cannot be sold or given away – the government will decide how that will be done. In the meantime, more bull calves continue to be born. Overall, we were very impressed with this project and how well it is operating. They even have a full time veterinarian! The cows look healthy and seem quite content. We certainly can’t say that about other cows we have seen!
After returning to the Sadula Hotel and reuniting with the rest of our team, we all went out to a very nice Italian restaurant. Since we had been eating Ethiopian cuisine all week, we needed a change. Jean Ann and Sig read about a restaurant called “Avanti” in their guidebook so that is where we went. We enjoyed wine and a great meal. Lali and his wife, Wanda, were able to join us as well as Mark and Amy from WXOW/La Crosse, who are still stuck in Addis (their visas expired the day before they left). Then it was back to the hotel for packing and some quick sleeping so we could head to the airport on Wednesday for our flight to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and our safari.
The adventure continues…