Rasta village, hot springs and Awasa
Trip Start Aug 31, 2005
77Trip End Aug 25, 2006
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The hotel was on the lake edge. The lake itself was nothing to write home about - muddy and uninspiring to exhausted us! The hotel was even more of a disappointment - our pride refused to allow us to stay in a place we were getting ripped off in, so we politely declined the offer of an overly priced room with no hot water and set about walking the 3km back to the main road to try and catch a lift to....somewhere! As is always the case, luck turned our way. A minibus turned up at the hotel dropping off guests, so we caught a lift with them. They were heading to Awasa. 'Cool, lets go there then' was our instant decision. Our guide book mentioned nothing about Awasa (in fact, the entire south got barely a mention) so we had no idea what we were in stall for.
Two hours later our minibus driver let us off at Lewi Hotel, insisting it was a great hotel. It WAS a great hotel, the best room we have seen so far, so we decided we could to splash out for the $15 they wanted for the room (shared bed though...). We dumped our bags in the room, used the toilet, then went down to pay. 'Oh no, you've misunderstod the price' we were told. 'The cost is $15 for the first person, then an extra $8 for the second if you're going to share'. At this Kirsty and I went wild, knowing that this was only because we were farangi (when the price was already inflated). We yelled and screamed at her, then went in search of another, much more reasonably priced room. We came back to Lewi to give the key back. The receptionist turned white, then ran up to our room to check if we had used it (we had used the toilet). She came down and started yelling at us to pay, we yelled back refusing. Then every man and his dog started joining in, including the hotel manager. We got our way of course, but by the next morning the entire town had heard about the trouble-making Australian girls who used the bathroom and refused to pay!
We decided to give Lewi a second chance and use the restaurant there. The atmosphere was so great we couldn't resist - BBQ and fire at night to the sweet sounds of a mixture of jazz, pop, rock and country. And the food was WONDERFUL for two tired young girls sick and tired of enjera. We loved Lewi Restaurant so much we stayed in Awasa for 4 nights and every single meal was eaten at Lewi - even when we went away for day trips we took a packed lunch of sandwiches. Just what we needed to feel relaxed and happy again.
Awasa is a large town by Ethiopian standards, perched on the edge of Lake Awasa. The town is modern, with juice bars and funky bars galore. The main street is dominated by the large Orthodox church.
After a day of lazing and updating our travelpods, we decided to head for Shashemene 30 minutes down the road to check out the Rasta village there. Rasta's believe that Haile Selaisse (former name of Ras Tafari), the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1970s is God, and as such, Ethiopia, in particular the small rasta town of Shashemene is babylon. More about the rasta religion is at the end of this diary entry for those of you interested!
Anyway, we walked in the general direction of the village picking up two young guides along the way. They took us to the main church, where we met MAMA. Mama was a Jamaican 70 year old with grey beard, huge dreads, no teeth, and a hand full of ganga yelling out to our guides to bring her a paper. It took me 30 minutes to realise that Mama was in fact a female. She looked after us though, lending Kirsty a scarf to cover her head (part of Rasta religion) and allowing us to look around the church, which appeared to be a shrine to Haile Selaisse and his Empress - just check out the photos!
We set off after a while to the second rasta church in the village where we met the 'Prophet Gabriel'. The weirdest conversation of our lives followed - you had to be there, but here are a few of the more memorable quotes:
- "There has to be a balance. Between good and bad. Black and white. Right and wrong. The 'R' on the Rasta flag stands for right. The symbol of wrong is X. So I don't use X anymore - I use "r" instead.... So how have been your R-speriences in Ethiopia?"
- (in answer to my question about how you get redemption) "Why you just have to drink the blood of the lamb"
- (and to Kirsty) "So are you able to accept that Haile Selaisse is the Holy Trinity?" (to which Kirsty replied: "I'd need more information")
We LOVED our time at the village - one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
On the minibus back to Awasa we made a new friend in the form of Wushu Teacher, Horizon. We invited ourselves to his wushu class that night, then to the movies with him afterwards. The next night we were to spend a big night out on the town with him and Fukru from Lewi Hotel, drinking, singing and dancing the night away...
Our fourth day in Awasa was another lovely day - a day trip to the hot springs of Wondagenet. After a 3km uphill walk from where the bus dropped us off, we entered a tropical paradise. We showered under the hot water and had a little swim in the (dirty) pool, and basically just lazed away the day.
We followed the hot springs by a trip to Lake Awasa to see the sunset.
Sigh... we had a WONDERFUL time in Awasa. Made lots of great friends, ate our fair share of farangi food, and met the Prophet Gabriel!
Time to move on though. We needed to head back to Addis to meet Derartu Tulu, and to move onto our next country and new adventures...
For those of you, like me, who are a little rusty on the Rasta religion...
The roots of Rastafarianism can be traced to Marcus Garvey, a native-born Jamaican who rose to prominence in Jamaica and the US during the early 1900's. Garvey's skills as an evangelistic orator, combined with his fierce criticism of racism and oppression of working people, made him into a heroic "prophet" for many Jamaicans. They viewed one of his prophecies - that Africa would produce a modern-day "black king" who would bring respect and power to black people everywhere - as being fulfilled by the crowning of Haile Selassie I as "supreme king" in Ethiopia in 1930.
Garvey rejected the idea that Selassie was God's representative, but Selassie was greeted by tens of thousands of adoring Jamaicans when he visited Jamaica in 1966. He was reportedly amazed by Rastafarianism, and urged Jamaicans to strengthen themselves, liberate Jamaica, and then emigrate to Africa. We have heard rumours that Jamaica was expriencing a long drought at the time, and the rains started the day Sellaise left.
The prime basic belief of the Rastafarians is Haile Sellassie (previous name of Ras Tafari) is the living God for the black race. The Jamaican politicians and religious leaders who insisted that Selassie was a divine entity became the elders who created the Rastafari movement, deriving the movement's name from "ras," which means king, and "tafari," which means "to be feared."
Selassie was not a Rastafarian himself - he was a devout Christian. When a group of Rastas went to Ethiopia to honour him, an official of the palace told them to go away. This did not make the Rastas question their belief, it only made it stronger, as apparently God is not supposed to know he is God.
Haile Sellassie was reported dead in 1976, but Rastas do not believe it. They believe it was a trick of the media to try and bring their faith down. Rastafarians believe that Haile Sellassie I has trodded on to the perfect flesh, and sits on the highest point of Mount Zion where He and Empress Menen await the time of judgment.
Ethiopia, specifically is considered the Rastas' heaven on earth. There is no afterlife or hell as Christianity believes. Rasta's believe that Jah will send the signal and help the blacks exodus back to Ethiopian, their homeland.
One of the more obvious symbols of the Rastafarians are colours of red, gold, and green. The colour red stands for the Church Triumphant which is the church of the Rastas. It also symbolises the blood that martyrs have shed in the history of the Rastas. The yellow represents the wealth of the homeland. Green represents the beauty and vegetation of Ethiopia, the promised land. Red, gold and red are also the colours of the Ethiopian flag.
Ganja, although illegal in Ethiopia, is used for religious purposes for Rastafarians. The use of this herb is extensive among the Rastas not only for spiritual purposes as in their Nyabingi celebration, but also for medicinal purposes. The dreadlocks on a Rasta's head are symbolic of the Lion of Judah.