We are in lion country2 November 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It's a good thing I like lions. There is no escape in Addis from the ever watchful eyes of lions, who observe, unblinking, the hustle and bustle of city life.
The Lion of Judah was used as a symbol by Emperor Selassie and has a special place in the hearts of the people of Ethiopia. A symbol of strength, but also a beast to be feared. Housed in the Ethnographic Museum are robes and crowns that encorporate lion mane, and also a taxidermied lion in the entrance. Emperor Haile Salassie even kept several in the palace grounds until he was disposed in the 1974 revolution, after which time they were transfered to a zoo.
My favourite lion sits on Chruchill Avenue and was designed by Maurice Calka in 1954. View photo on Flickr.
As a runner I know the importance of altitude training, so when in Ethiopia it is only fitting to visit the training site of the countries top athletes, the Entoto Hills. We caught public taxis to the edge of town and began our trek in the early afternoon, it is a steep climb of around 600 metres over about 3km to reach the flat topped summit. This was the site of the Emperor Menelik's capital before Addis Ababa was founded in 1887.
The athletes run up the tracks, but Ermias and I chose the easy option to walk up the road.
Overlooking the city is the colourful, octagional Entoto St Mary church, a small museum full of precious things and the original palace. They made the slog up the hill worthwhile.
It was here that I discovered that it is not just the Chinese that think I am crazy and strong, but mostly crazy, for wearing shorts in what is considered a cold place. The Chinese probably had a point as I was at 4600 metres on a glacier at the time, but here on Entoto I was only at 3300m and not a scrap of ice to be scene.
Are your shoes shiny?31 October 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
How many shoe shiners does it take to keep a city’s feet sparkling? Well, from my first impressions of Addis the answer is ‘a lot’. There are multiple shoe shine stalls on every street, and business is booming.
I only wish I had shoes that could be shined, it would then give me a good reason to sit for a few minutes on the busy sidewalk and watch city life bustle by.
The sidewalk, and often spilling out onto the roadway, is the place to be, whether you are conducting business or catching up with friends, it all happens here. As I have no shineable shoes I will have to make do with watching the bustle from a coffee shop.
Thanks Emirates30 October 2012, Sydney International Airport, Australia
Some people have all the luck - and some days I think that person is me!
This whole adventure is made possible by the generosity of Emirates Airline about a year ago. I was heading back from Cape Town, South Africa via a couple of days in Dubai to break up the trip, all sounds normal so far. When checking in for the final leg back to Christchurch I was informed that the flight had been overbooked, and would I mind staying an extra day (at their expense) and accept a complimentary return ticket from Dubai to my destination (the other side of the world). Well of course the answer was yes.
So here I am a year later using that trip to visit my friend Steve in Ethiopia, before heading on to the field station in Nigeria.
I know of no other airline that treats it's customers like friends they way Emirates do, every staff member I have encountered has been super helpful, which makes the journey so much more enjoyable.
Emirates have also been good to the Project over the past 10 years and they are our prefered airline to shuttle researchers between Christchurch and Lagos - places that are half a world apart, yet are linked through a little forest, on a high plateau, in West Africa.