After breakfast we went with a local tour guide to visit the religious sites of Aksum.
History has it that people lived in the Aksum area 500000 or more years ago . A female hominid skeleton ( Lucy ) was discovered in 1974 in northern Ethiopia bearing testimony to these early human settlements
By about 2700 years ago there were some small farming communities around Aksum. Aksum has remained the sacred City of Ethiopia until the present day and history tells us that the Ethiopian Queen of Shaba visited King Solomon in Jerusalem as she heard about his great wisdom . Upon return to Aksum she gave birth to Solomon’s son called Menelik.
King Solomon later recognised Menelik as his son and ordered that all the first born sons of Israel’s high officials should accompany Menelik back to Ethiopia.
This was after Menelik was given lessons of the law of Moses and was renamed David II. Christianity in Northern Ethiopia was henceforth fully established and the various churches and monasteries give a hint of times long gone by . When travelling through the older parts of Aksum one feels that time stood still there some 1500 years ago…
We visited the Stelae park , the church of St Mary and the ruins of the palace of Queen Shiba.
At lunch time we wanted to head forward to the Siemen mountains but found to our horror that none of the 2 petrol stations in town were able to give us our much wanted Diesel. Both Lipstick and Bulldog were standing on reserve and unable to start the 300 km journey without additional fuel.
Team lipstick found a local young man who was able to communicate in basic English . He in turn guided them to one of his friends who apparently was able to source Diesel in 4x 20 l cans for a price about 50% more than what a petrol station would charge.
The man disappeared with a local tuk tuk and twice returned with the much wanted fuel which was then poured into the vehicles with the help of Lipstick’s fuel filter. We wanted to avoid any dirt or water into our tanks but the filters showed none of these foreign substances.
Andre and Willy were convinced that some trucks which are used for the road construction showed an increase in fuel consumption after our departure the cause of this will most probably never be discovered.
If the teams thought that the highest mountains lay behind them they soon discovered that what lay ahead of them was the most cruel mountain road system on this planet.
They were faced with huge mountains on the one side of the car and huge drop offs on the other side. It was almost like driving on a balcony.
Those readers who ever tried to avoid an oncoming truck or overtake a bus on a small mountain road can imagine what the teams experienced not just for a while but for the next 7 hours.
With every mountain climb they hoped that a nice open landscape would open up but were disappointed when a long decline showed up with another high climb being seen on the other side of the narrow valley.
Some stretches were not more than 3m wide between mountain and 1000m drop off. Really hair rising staff.
These roads were the main cause that the teams arrived at 6.30 pm at the gates of Siemen mountain park. The park does not allow visitor to drive in after 6pm !!
The female soldier guarding the gate requested to see our tickets which were supposedly to be bought in the 30km away town of Debark. After much negotiations she agreed to drive with Willy back to Debark in order to convince the park officials there that tickets can be bought after 6pm even if it is on a Sunday. It would also be a nice outing for her daughter who would sit on her lap for a nice drive to and back from Debark.
On the way to Debark Willy saw that the cell phone all off a sudden had signal and was able to convince the woman soldier that it would be best if she phones the official in Debark and requests permission to receive money from us without the much wanted ticket or receipt which is normally required.
Also in our special case it would be best to pay in Dollars as the normally required local currency was in short supply from all teams.
It worked! Some 30 minutes later and to the surprise of the other team members Lipstick was back – the woman soldier, her daughter and another male soldier were all happy to receive the entrance fee in Dollars, a nice pen for Lady commandant, a T shirt for her and her male colleague.
Half an hour later we arrived at Siemen lodge which claims to be the highest situated lodge in Africa – indicating 3200 m above sea level .
Due to the extremely low temperature of 6 degrees the teams quickly moved to the bar area in order to consume some liquid body heaters and celebrate the wisdom of the Siemen park officials who guard the entrance to this amazing mountain park…..