The Best Worst Idea
Almost six years ago I saw a photo of a cluster of sandstone towers in the north of Ethiopia. Those towers started a trip, a book, and a life where now I have come back for this, my fifth time, to this land to which I never thought I’d return. But here is a confession. Those towers that started the trip? I have not seen them in five years. I’ve been close—last year the closest, two bends in the road away, merely four kilometers from the first moment when you glimpse their proud profiles—but I have not ventured closer. I didn’t realize I was saving them until last week when I finally stood before them.
It seems fitting that it was a day of completion that led me back to the towers. My 13.5-mile negotiation had resulted in a return to the valley with success as represented by a body coated with scratches and clothes still covered in grasses and thorns. I’d just set a course for what will be the international trail run in Ethiopia. It was time to pay homage to what brought me here first.
Really, out loud. By myself in the Ethiopian highlands. I said thank you to that land. I shouted it. I cried it out. And I am not prone to solo outbursts, religion, or homage. But I looked at those beautiful abutting chunks of stone that I know are magnificently horrible to climb, and thanked them again.
It is rare to be alone in Ethiopia. This land of over 80 million guarantees you companionship, eventually. I stayed on that hill as the wind blew and coated the dust onto my tear-soaked cheeks, as the afternoon sun blazed thick and hot on my shoulders, and as children from a nearby home spotted me and began to run to greet me. No one asked me why I was standing in the middle of a hill staring at a cluster of towers, and if they had the only answer I could have given was that somehow, without my knowing it, these masses of stone changed my life.
I doubt I will ever try to climb another of the Kentaro Towers. I know better. All in all trying to climb them was one of the best worst ideas I have ever had. In the days since I've realized that the best worst ideas might just be what create the true allure of adventure.
Salem from Ethiopia. I am here for another two weeks and I'm now starting phase two, leading a trip for imagine1day. There will be more stories. There might even be more best worst ideas that start here. Why not? I'm packed and ready for them. And moreover, I now know what it feels like to go back to their origins and offer the deepest gratitude I've ever felt in my life.