Today brought the object of my greatest fear – “THE CRATER.” Our team has planned for many weeks to have our de-brief time in Wolisso at the lodge and then to hike the Wonchi Crater where, at the bottom of this volcanic crater, we would cross a 400 meter deep lake to an island and then back, finally on horseback to the top of the crater. I couldn’t figure out whether I was more frightened about being on a horse for the first time or on what type of boat we might have to use to navigate the lake. And then, there was the new and very real hazard to fear: RAIN.

For the last two weeks in Ethiopia it has rained every day. And sometimes that rain has been gully-washing, side-pelting, lightening-flashing, terror-inducing rain. Several of us, including me, prayed that today might bring good weather. Maybe? Please, God? Just for today?

We awoke to a terrific downpour! (Okay, God, so much for my prayers!) And it continued to rain during our quick bite to eat at the beautiful Negash Lodge. As we shuffled onto the bus, too early in the morning to even know what time it was, it continued raining. During our 38 kilometer drive to the Wonchi Crater it rained even more. Puddles in the fields and on the side of the road, turned into rainwater streams which filled once dry creek-beds and flowed into previously dry rivers. As we unloaded the bus for a final “potty stop” before our crater descent, the rain turned to sprinkles. We took a team picture at the top of the crater in full rain gear.

We were greeted at the top of the crater by about twelve horses while other horses and owners continued arriving (from who knows where) later during our hike. (They were probably sleeping to a decent hour.) After our bathroom break and team photo, we were on our way to the lake at the bottom of the crater. The hike started out very cold, but a little ways down the crater, God answered our prayers. The rain stopped and soon we began peeling off layers like lizards shedding skin. After about an hour and a half hike and many photo stops, we finally arrived at the lake, in full sunshine.

The crater was spectacular! Dotted with little Oromio-style huts and farms, the terrain was steep, volcanic and the hillside was covered with trees, little waterfalls and “false bananas,” a plant that looks much like a short banana tree, but bears no fruit. The people of the Oromio region, grow these plants for several reasons. First, they dry and crush the roots (after fermenting them in a pit for three months) into a flour which they use for making bread. (We had a chance to smell some, an experience I don’t hope to repeat.) Second, the plant stems are stripped to produce a type of rope. In the sunny, late-morning light, the crater bore a resemblance to our guide’s description – a little African Switzerland.

You would think my fears would have subsided by this time, replaced by an appreciation of God’s beautiful handiwork and His faithfulness to our prayers. But nooooooo! As we were hiking down the small hill to get to our “dock” (the grassy little “landing” at the edge of the lake that the boat had been pulled onto), we saw our boat guides shoveling water out of the boat. Even though we were told this was rainwater, this definitely didn’t help my fears.

Nevertheless, we got into the boat and our guides paddled us the ten minutes to one of the islands to visit a 15th century church. It was definitely nothing like we expected. After seeing only the outside of the historic building (because it is open only on Sundays for Orthodox services), we were on our way back to the mainland where we began our horseback ride to the top of the crater. The horses seemed to be some type of miniature pony, but each horse had its own individual guide. The horses walked, trotted and some even galloped up the hill. Our guides seemed to have a bet with one another to see who could get there first (although several of them were unable to beat one of our team members who chose to hike out of the crater).

We reached the top, jumped off our horses, negotiated the “right” tip for each guide and then got back into the bus for a “twenty minute ride” over the 30 kilometers to Ambo for lunch. After an hour ride over some VERY unimproved roads, we arrived at our lunch spot. As we sat down to eat, the skies opened up with a vengeance (as if God were saying, “See what I can do when you have the faith to ask?”)

After lunch we reluctantly got back into the bus for the 100-kilometer ride back to Addis and the “famous” Ghion Hotel. In the United States, we would not consider a 62-mile ride to present much of an adventure – maybe an hour on a boring stretch of freeway like Routes 280 or 101. Not so in Ethiopia! For the first two hours of our trip from Ambo, the road contained vertebrae-jarring potholes that would spring out of nowhere to grab the bus, just as it had approached a top speed of 40 mph. The folks in the back of the bus began the contest of who could catch the most “air!”

Nearly three hours from the time we departed the restaurant in Ambo, the team arrived weary, worn, but victorious, back to our rooms at the Ghion Hotel. We had fun, we saw the beauty of God’s creation, we experienced the faithfulness of his love in the form of answered prayers and we were worn out, but definitely less fearful of the kind of adventures He can provide!