We flew to Addis Ababa via Nairobi, Kenya. It was a full day of travel and we arrived at 10pm. Cheryl found a place called Hotel Buffet de la Gare which she reserved by phone before we left South Africa. Despite the nice Italian name, it was lower-end than expected, but we had no time to find a new place since Todd’s brothers, Alan and Grant, and Grant’s wife Jodie were arriving the next morning. We asked the man at the reception desk about hiring a car and driver during our time there and he introduced us to a tour operator named Naty Taferre with Budget Ethiopia Tours. Naty turned out to be a terrific person. He drove us to the airport in his old Land Cruiser to pick up Todd’s family. Over the next five days he was our constant companion as tour guide, translator and driver. Naty lived in the US for twelve years and moved back to Ethiopia seven years ago. His English was great, far better than any Ethiopian we have met and he even understood American humor. The first day in Addis we rested. The next day we toured all the old Holdcroft haunts from when they lived there 32 years ago. This included their old house, the American Community School (now called the International Community School), and US Embassy. The third day we drove four hours south to Lake Langano, a rustic resort area frequented by the family on weekends. We had two cabins with three bedrooms each and the electricity was on only from 7pm to 11pm (midnight on Saturdays). We spent two nights at Langano; we swam, hiked, rode horses and explored. We had a beach fire under the stars. It was gorgeous. We returned to Addis Ababa and moved up a level to a hotel called the Wabe Shebelle, which although a 1 or 2-star in most places, seemed absolutely luxurious to us at this point. There was hot water in the showers, most of the lights worked and the doors locked securely. We visited a museum and explored the large marketplace called Merkato where we shopped for Ethiopian rugs and crosses, which have figured prominently in the Holdcroft home all these years. Grant, Jodie and Alan left the next morning and we caught a flight to Lalibela, the town famous for old churches carved into the rocks. Lalibela is like going back in time 600 years. Rustic and undeveloped, it provided a rare view into life in the African countryside. The churches were beautiful and spirit filled and we found a wonderful guide named Tadesse Sefiw who showed us around for the day; he also kept the hawkers, beggars and screaming children at bay. The next day we flew back to Addis for one night before our flight to Cairo.
Kona Moment: Riding horses at Lake Langano reminded the girls of riding in Kona.
Starbucks: No, but Ethiopia is famous for their delicious coffee, which is served with three spoons of sugar and no milk.
Weird McDonalds Menu Item: No McDonalds
Cultural Moment: Eating Chinese food at a restaurant the Holdcrofts’ frequented when they lived in Addis. Although Ethiopia is a poor country, the people are proud and kind.