This morning we go in search of the sacred Monastery of Yemrehanna Kristos, constructed between the 8th and 12th century.
The drive to Bilbilla takes a little over an hour along the bumpy and unpaved dirt road. The landscape of villagers working the hand plowed fields with only a donkey or cow is a humbling image as we slowly wind up way up the mountains.
Bilbilla has a small village square that we pull into. A handful of curious eyes greet us as we step out of the van. Our guide lets us stretch tired and cramped legs, then lets us know that we will walk the rest of the way to the Monastery. We begin the short hike up to an altitude of approximately 2,700 metres.
The air is thin, and we stop to rest several times. A group of children emerge from the juniper forest to greet the newcomers.
Yemrehanna Kristos is an old built-up church within a large cavern. A woman afflicted with a crippling disease that has her using her arms to move is crawling in the dirt ahead of us to the entrance. You feel the great spiritual presence as one approaches the entrance.
We learn the history of this place from the priests and worshippers inside as we sit on the stone steps of this holy place. The peace I feel here is impossible to put into words.
We walk towards the back of the cavern, and see a small chain link fence protecting a small area. It is the bones of some 10,000 Christian pilgrims that had traveled from as far as Egypt, Syria and Jerusalem to be buried here.
I feel noticeably different walking back down the steep path to Bilbella. A force has changed me.
I see the faint outline of a priest high on the mountain top, looking down on us as a great protecter in this special land.
As we reach the main village, a woman brings us injera and paste to eat, a common sustenance for the locals. We humbly accept the food, and eat with satisfaction as both our bodies and minds are content.