November 18, 2018
From November 2018.
Getting ready to climb to the rock-hewn churches of Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor atop this butte in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. (You can just spot the latter as a tiny shadow near the top of the second bulge from the left).
It was already a hike to get here, following footpaths between villages off the main road.
Starting the climb up this rocky defile.
It gets narrower and steeper. It is believed that these cliff-top churches were built as a refuge during early Muslim invasions.
A rest stop, perhaps a third of the way up.
The next stage is to zig-zag my way up this rocky face, using toeholds.
A good guide who knows the path – and frequent rest stops along the way – is essential.
The small crags to the right are where the church of Abuna Yemata Guh is located. A shorter but even steeper climb, and just as terrifying. Would have done that next, but a rainstorm swept in that afternoon.
Meeting some pilgrims on the cliff-top path to the church of Maryam Korkor, in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
If this woman can make it to Maryam Korkor, I surely can too! Right??
The path is narrow. Don’t look down.
Finally there. The mountaintop church of Maryam Korkor, in Tigray, Ethiopia
A priest welcomes me to Maryam Korkor, high atop a butte in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
The church of Maryam Korkor looks small from the outside, but is carved right into the mountain.
Many of the rock paintings of saints, angels, and bible scenes in Maryam Korkor date back a thousand years or more – all original
More of the amazing rock paintings in Maryam Korkor
Alcoves cut into the walls in Maryam Korkor contain the bones of pilgrims and monks from long ago.
The priest lights candles in front of the “Holy of Holies” in the mountain-top church of Maryam Korkor, in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
Two monks promise to pray for me on the next stretch of my journey, to the nearby church of Daniel Korkor.
This is the path to Daniel Korkor … a ledge a few feet wide, along a straight 1000-foot drop.
I’m not looking down, but the ledge I’m on drops off as steeply as these adjoining cliffs.
It’s quite a bracing view (outside Daniel Korkor, in Tigray, northern Ethiopia).
Outside the entrance to the rock-hewn church of Daniel Korkor, perched above a 1000-foot cliff, in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
Standing inside the rock-hewn church of Daniel Korkor offers a few moments of peace and safety.
Soon I will have to go back outside on the ledge, but for now I can listen to the wind whistle outside and enjoy the peace.
Time to put my shoes back on. That’s quite a front doorstep.
“Put one foot in front of the other …”
Their prayers worked. The monks are happy to see me safely back off the ledge.
Now it’s just a long, hard way down. With lots of slipping and sliding.
Passing a local woman on the path back down from Maryam and Daniel Korkor, in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
A group of young Ethiopians with the massif containing the rock-hewn churches of Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor (to the far left) in the background. In Tigray, northern Ethiopia.