Day one of my trip

I woke up late and so there was no breakfast for me. We (Luca, Christoph, Nollaig, and Alessandra, Luca’s sister) piled into an early 90’s Land Cruiser around 8:30 and headed out. Our first stop was just outside Sana’a, about half an hour’s drive. It was a scenic overlook that was quite nice. We actually saw Wadi dahr, the rock palace off in the distance. It’s one of the most famous sites from Yemen, do a google picture search for yemen and it’ll come right up. While we were oohing and ahhing over the scenery, a guy walks up with a falcon and asks to put it on one of us. I like birds so I volunteer. Afterwards, he asks for money “to feed the Falcon.” Yeah right… He was the first of many people asking for money, and they all had the same price in mind, 1000 riyals. Thats about $5 US. It isn’t much, but keep in mind that it will get you half way across Yemen (on public transportation), buy you 20 lunches, and represents many Yemini’s wages for most of a week. No fricking way was I going to pay someone the equivilent of a week’s work for 45 seconds with his pet. I (over)paid him 200 riyals and he seemed happy enough…

Our next stop was an unplanned one, we got a flat tire. While the driver put the spare on, I wandered around looking for interesting rocks and plants. Found a couple of weird looking (to me) plants and some colorful rocks, but nothing worth keeping. We then went to a really small… I can’t really call it a village since there were only a handful of buildings, but it was a place to get the tire patched. Alessandra and Nollaig decided not to wear a hjab, or even a scarf over their hair for the trip. Let me tell you, if you know any 20 something year old women that need an ego boost, send them to rural Yemen without covering their face or hair. It was like travelling with rock stars, within 3 minutes of us pulling into the tire place, there were probably 20 guys standing around gawking. They weren’t leering (well, most of them weren’t), it was if they had never seen a woman before. Truth be told, they might have never seen any other women other than their mother and their sisters… A couple of the guys mentioned that there aren’t any women in that village at all. They were calling out “I love you!” and “Bella Donna!” (Alessandra is Italian), but much to their dismay, we pulled out of there 15 minutes later. Of course, 2 minutes down the road we saw some women that had to belong to that village. They were hard at work herding goats. What were the guys doing?

We then went to Thula. It’s an old village, even by Yemen’s standards. It is best known for a fortress that is on a ridiculously high rock formation. The Ottomans were never able to take the place because it enjoys such a tactical advantage. It was about a 700 foot vertical climb, not too bad but we were at a decent altitude, so I was sucking wind pretty bad. Plus, I hadn’t eaten anything yet (it was around 11:30 or so) so I was a little gassed. The view from the top was worth it though. The funny thing is that every place we went, we were impressed with the view, then we’d gain some altitude and we’d like the next view even more…

Next stop was Kokobahn. It is the village with the highest altitude on the entire Arabian Peninsula I think. We arrived in the late afternoon and almost everyone wanted to take a nap. I stayed up and did my homework… My roommate Christoph didn’t wake up until after sunset, but we decided to take a look at the village. Clouds had moved in and I think it was a new moon, in any case, it was really dark. Then the power went out. Power outages are pretty common here, and apparently they are even more common in the outlaying villages. Lucky for me, I had brought my flashlight, but it was still disorienting walking around a strange village with nothing but a flashlight to light our way. We came across a place where the ground just stopped, it was nothing but black below. I should have gotten a clue when I shined the flashlight down and it was still nothing but black.. The next morning we saw what we stumbled onto… Kokobahn is at an elevation of just under 9000 feet. That particular cliff was “only’ about 800-900 feet off of the nearest ledge below… We got lost trying to get back to the hotel, but we made it eventually. The dinner was basic (chicken, french fries, bread, potatoes, and some water) but we narfed it down. Tomorrow I will write about the second day…


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