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Travel Diary, Ethiopia, Day 1

Friday 14th October 2016

Hello,

What a day…

After an incredible journey through Andes style mountains, we walked along an unchanging path for 30 km to reach an incredible church, dug into a stone monolith, from the 4th century. Thirty thousand people were there as there was a pilgrimage and the annual celebration.

 We had the honour of climbing up to this church, of removing our shoes, and then in Lucy and I’s case we covered our heads so as to enter into that crowd that had been waiting since the night before for mass that would begin in an hour. We prayed, and I must admit that it was probably the most inspired and guided prayer I have experienced. It was around my family, the fabulous luck I have of having this life and with me, by my side, Olivier, our group of nine and our missions. It was a prayer of extreme gratitude that came through me.

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We then walked around and hit the road again for another 50km to get to our traditional dinner eaten with our fingers in a common plate. After that, we headed to a monastery from the 5th century without imagining for a moment what lay ahead of us.

 After the ‘no fear allowed’ in Venezuela concerning the water and the violence around us, I had to face the ‘no fear allowed’ instead in regards to rock climbing without a net, the sheer drop and emptiness below us and balancing…Sincerely I didn’t think I was capable of it and to tell you the truth, when I got to the top I told myself ‘OK, now I’m staying here and dying here’.

 We started off by gently walking, then we climbed very seriously up until the point where we reached a rocky plateau with posted there, three guardians. The first that we saw was sitting on the rock face, surrounded by a sheer drop, 15 metres above us. He impressed us so much that we gazed up in awe taking pictures, wandering how this was possible. We were then asked to take off our shoes and that’s when we understood that we were going to climb barefoot and without any help from a rope or harness, up the rock face cliff.

 On several occasions, I told myself that we would never be able to get down and when we reached the top of a rock of two metres square, 2400 metres high in altitude, surrounded by emptiness, I realised that we were all shaking. We though we had arrived but no, we still had to traverse a 50 cm large, 10 metre long ledge to enter into the mountain itself and discover a church as big as my sitting room in Paris with paintings renovated from the 13th century and an insane vibration.

 And then, in prayer, I discovered what I was capable of, that nothing could stop me and in feeling the vibration of the original earth, I felt its force. An incredible force that, coupled with the incredible faith of our three guardians, allowed us to go down the mountain happy and without any accidents. And there between the two mountains, in the depth of the valley, the almost full moon was waiting for us.

A light meal and bed awaits us, and tomorrow we’ll go again for new adventures at 5 am.

-The only way to climb is to put our hands and feet in tiny holes created by the hands and feet of monks since the 5th century. Like a music score we must follow to find harmony, or at the very least to stay alive and reach the top of the mountain. There’s one way and one way only to get to the top and you need to be rigorous, concentrated, in acceptance and in the most absolute faith.

 -When we went out onto the rocky parapet, five gigantic eagles were flying and gliding between the mountains as if to congratulate the five of us for coming here.

 -The beauty of the people here: Intense looks carrying faith and a strong presence coupled with impeccable postures. People working the land by hand creating patterns in the soil and crops around them. Very young shepherd children, who smile at any given moment and walk long distances with the small herds. A true joy of being together emanates from them. An absolute softness between men and women with true marks of love and respect in their relationships. Just like the way adults say hello to each other. They shake their hand and three times in a row touch their right shoulder to the other person’s right shoulder and thus connect their hearts one to the other to better exchange. And the children that without pressurising us, ask us for pens and when they receive them, their eyes already glistening, light up a little more. I might as well mention that we no longer have any pens on us.

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 -And the coffee ceremonies that are so absolutely incredible in their beauty and ability to open your senses. The fantastic smell of coffee roasted just for us on wood fire, the colours of the fabrics, the beauty of the women and their natural elegance and the absolutely unique taste, strong and sweet, intense and smooth…-Earth cultivated in terraces with an unfailing harmony and fields where plants don’t all have the same size or shape… The beauty of the differences we can see around us, in both life as a whole and within nature that has been left natural, without being interfered with or altered by man.

 – Wide expanses of yellow rolling hills set amongst valleys and mountains made up of abrupt rocks surround us.

 -To pray in a church, you follow a pathway of light in nature with trees surrounded you that date back thousands of years. This magnificent tradition, amongst others, allows you to discover unimaginable trees as it is illegal to cut down trees around churches.

-Amesegnalehu that means ‘Thank you’ is the most important word as here everything is gratefulness!

Lots of Love,

Sophie.

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Story by Sophie Monpeyssen