“Lucy In Sky With Diamonds”

Ok, So not in the sky (actually the opposite) and no diamonds (none that I saw anyway) but I’ll come back to that… 

The last few days have been filled with lots of firsts for me: My first time at Heathrow Terminal 4, my first time on a plane wider than 6 seats, my first time with a screen to watch movies on during the flight (technology today! Crazy! :/), my first experience of aeroplane food (actually quite nice: beef bourguignon for dinner and Spanish omelet for breakfast), my first time out of Europe, my first time in Africa, my first time in the Southern Hemisphere, my first time catching a connecting flight, my first international visa, my first stamp in my passport and I’m sure many more that I’ve not thought of (im not keeping a list, honest!)

Making friends on our walk

We arrived at our lovely hotel complex, Yaya Village in the hills above Addis Ababa,  yesterday 19 and a half hours after leaving Empress Ave. Suprisingly fresh, and buoyed by meeting up with the rest of our group we went out for a walk around some surrounding farmland. Being, most probably, the palest person on this continent; I and so the group received a few questioning looks from locals working on the farms. We also had 3 local boys so intrigued by us they joined us for the remainder of the walk. Lunch was a traditional Ethiopian dish consisting of a something similar to a spicy meat stew accompanied by the national delicacy: injera –  similar to a pancake that tastes a bit like sour dough made from a small grain called teff. This injera is used instead of cutlery to pick up your food and is often also used as a plate, if it saves on the washing up that’s fine by me!! After lunch we headed out for our first run, a gentle 45 mins around some scrubland where we bumped into and were joined by a guy and a girl who run 2:03 and 2:24 for the marathon respectively. I immediately ensured that I appeared as just a jogger and any delusions of grandeur I may have had soon disappeared! To end the day we had a lovely meal, again traditional Ethiopian with injera however this time Suzanne and I shared a pot of purée made out of chick peas and other pulses It was very nice and not as spicy as the lunch, although slightly messier than the stew when using the cutlery-less technique. To accompany the meal I was recommended a type of local beer, brewed on site, called Tej. It is served in half or full litres and I opted for the later wanting to make as much effort to embrace the culture as possible! It was very fruity and sweet, looked more like mango juice than beer and I wasn’t even sure it was alcoholic until I stood up. The best part was the glass it’s served in, resembled something out of a science lab and certainly added to the drink. I can’t imagine drinking Ruddles out of one however! After that and only 3 hours sleep the night before I had no trouble passing out when I got into bed!

Tej and its glass

Alarm off at 6.30 out of the hotel by 7 for a run the next morning, when people have told me that its cold in the evenings and mornings here I’ve been quite dismissive. It’s Africa, how cold can it be? Turns out very, particularly at 7am. We ran up into a forrest in the hills above the hotel, not before we had crossed some frost covered fields (seriously, whoever wrote the lion king has some questions to answer!) but once we started hitting the hills and gasping for the little oxygen there is, the 10k at the end of the week might be quite tricky, I soon warmed up. We ended the run on a track and by asking our guide, who spoke very little English, if he did intervals on it. He responded “intervals?” before shooting off round the bend leaving us hanging on to the pace for dear life, lungs working overtime and wondering what the hell had happened in the last few days!

Breathing heavily!
 

After breakfast we headed back into Addis which we had only driven through from the airport yesterday. Our first stop was The university and the museum of Ethiopian culture which is housed in Emperor Haile Sellassie I old palace. It was fascinating, demonstrating how different tribes of Ethiopians live their lives from birth through to death and burial. The upper floors have Halie Sellassie’s living quarters preserved as they were before he moved and included some of his uniforms and artefacts from around the world. The story of him walking over the steps in Trispen didn’t seem to be that well received by some others in our group (if you know, you know..). 

The Emperor’s Bed

After we left the university we headed out into the city to make our way to the National Museum. Again people were intrested in us, someone even came of to shake my hand, I obliged, then his mate wanted some action too so again I was friendly. Next thing I knew the first bloke had his hand in my pocket, luckily he wasn’t the most subtle of pickpockets and me and the others managed to stop him before anything was taken. Note to self, if a random person on the street in Ethiopia wants to shake my hand when I’ve not even completed a marathon yet they’re probably up to no good! Anyway a good warning for the upcoming 8 months perhaps. All possessions still about me, we arrived at the national Museum home to the oldest know Hominin (two legged, upright standing) skeleton, affectionately named Lucy after The Beatles song which was apparently played repeatedly at the excavation site. She was 3.2 million years old and tiny, standing about possibly only 3-4 ft tall but with disproportionately long arms as she would still have been climbing trees. It was interesting to learn about the migration and evolution of the human species out of Africa over the last 3 millennia.

Lucy

Back to the hotel for another gentle jog, Suzanne’s knee is still playing up but she managed to get through the run, she was cheered up by getting to use her flash camera for some action shots on the track before dinner and then to bed. Running at altitude is quite tiring, who knew!

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