Ethiopia is often compared to India and has soaked up a lot of both Indian and Arabic influence in its dress, language, architecture and music, thanks to the trade routes that connect it to the asian continent, making it even more fascinating than the average African country. (continued below)
For me travel is so much more about the journey and though it might be a little uncomfortable at times, I feel the experience of being another person using public transport endears you to local people in a way that so often restores my faith in humanity and allows me for just a brief while to be accepted as part of culture that my skin mostly leaves me outside of.
Such was the experience with the Toyota. After three minibuses (local transport) and seven hours on the road, I waited for a last ride of 64km to Lalibela, which I had been told wasn't possible, that I'd have to wait until morning, but so had I been told the same thing before every bus to every place since I'd started that morning so I didn't pay much notice. I waited on the corner of the turn off to my destination, munching on some roasted barley I'd just bought, when a ute turned up and I again used my very sophisticated "(pointing-) Lalibela?!” sign language to communicate my needs. The man wanted 200 birr ($10) and was totally uninterested in bargaining, luckily another local man asked me where I was going and asked again for me, at which point they said I could pay 100 birr if I rode in the back, which I was happy to do (though less so when I found out everyone else was paying fifteen).
It was a bit of a tough journey, excessively bumpy along a winding dirt road that kicked up a huge amount of dust that left me looking extremely Oliver-twist-esque, and that was before it started to rain, but my three companions made it pretty wonderful: Two men and a young woman with a little toddler strapped to her back. She held onto my leg through the journey to steady herself while the other men held onto her shoulder to keep her from knocking around too much. About half way through she wrapped her thin scarf around my head to keep the dust from my eyes and frequently patted my knee and gave me a thumbs up. We all laughed together as we were thrown in the air over particularly violent bumps, or local kids screamed FIRENZE (foreigner) after the car at me, and they saw my obvious embarrassment.
The older man shared his warm shawl with me as the afternoon light faded and it got a little cooler as we approached Lalibela, and for once, I felt the way I do in India, as if I was home. It's a feeling of kindness, humanity and community that I never feel in the western world with all our walls and barriers and social divides, and it brings me a deep, deep, all-encompassing joy that feels quite addictive, it is for these moments that I have such a deep desire to travel.