three days here we are STILL not in Ethiopia. The immigration man is not here so
no-one can go through immigration. We are now 7 foreigners, 3 to leave the
country and 4 to enter, and up to 60 locals of either Sudan or Ethiopia, moving
in both directions. We are trapped here until the only man who can help us
arrives. Koljar, a German guy, starts his seventh day of waiting today. What a
disaster! The only reassurance is that we are, physically at least, in Ethiopia.
Scott is still very worried about them trying to send us back into Sudan but I
am OK with it. We might get moaned at, we apologise for our stupidity and then
situation however is farcical. Some people have waited for 11 or 12 days but
no-one does anything for them. We faranji are the only ones kicking up a fuss.
Rumour has it that our man is now in Gondar. We wanted to go and collect him
ourselves but we aren’t ‘legal’. We have finally managed to get them to
send someone to find him last night. This person apparently knows where he lives
and knows him as well. This is our problem. He has left Addis Ababa but his home
and his family are in Gondar. Today is Friday so we believe that without extra
motivation he will spend the weekend in Gondar. I just hope that we have
provided the motivation. Our messenger left last night and he knows that he gets
a bonus if he brings the man back tomorrow morning.
we wait. We are in a village 40km from the border with no running water, in fact
almost no water at all, no telephones and electricity from only 6pm to 12
midnight. We are camping in the grounds of the immigration building – 2 cars,
a motorbike and side car and 2 tents. We are really making a point for when he
arrives. There are plenty of eateries here but all offer 1 meal – injera
accompanied by meat or veg. To drink is chai (tea) or coffee. The 3 ‘hotels’
offer beer and coke at 4birr and 2.5birr. The problem is that there is no bank
in town so we can not legally change money. In a small place like this with our
high profile this is a problem. We did 20USD (120Birr) with a hotel owner but I
think that’s the last – he was very nervous about it. We are all pretending
that they guys leaving Ethiopia are helping us guys who are arriving by
giving/lending/selling us their excess birr. Delete which would be illegal. All
the government employees know that we have no money so they pretend to believe
our little lie. We have 48Birr left but are pretty much broke because we still
have to pay travelling costs, per diem and hopefully a bonus to our messenger.
little about our companions to make our story less bleak. 1 guy is German and
travelling alone by public transport – name Koljar. He has been here a week
now and is starting to show the stress. Our arrival has, I think, saved him from
cracking up. The other two are a Dutch couple (Dafne and Rob) who are travelling
around the world on their bike. They have been at it 2 years and 8 months. Done
USA, South America, West and Southern Africa. Next they aim Sudan, Egypt,
Jordan, across the Middle East to India and then hop a boat to Australia to see
in the New Year. A while ago I would have been jealous but no longer. I now know
that it is a tough way to live. They are tired, especially, they say, of Africa.
I can understand the tiredness, I am still waiting to feel as if I am on
holiday! They spent a while in South Africa and speak Afrikaans so it is pretty
good fun, Their Sudan visas expire Monday (3 days time) so they are really very
stressed about making it across. Of course, unlike us, they don’t have to be
back at work by 4 Sep. Koljar has 6 days left on his visa.
town, or rather village, is an experience to behold. Clearly not many foreigners
pass this way, in fact I think we are pretty much opening this route. The kids
find us fascinating so we have a constant crowd around us shouting ‘you, you,
you, you’ ad nauseaum. This is apparently pretty standard in Ethiopia so I am
glad that we are experiencing it here for the first time with only friendliness.
They all want to hold your hands or be close to you and if you pull out a
camera, a huge crowd grows to have ‘foto’. It is very sweet but also a
little tiring so it is good to be able to escape into our compound. They stand
around the fence and yell but the 10m distance it gives us means that we can
ignore them. One Ethiopian village seen and yes, Ethiopians are beautiful. I
have seen more stunning women and girls in this little village of only a couple
of hundred inhabitants than you can shake a stick at. The town is really nothing
so boredom has set in. All this contact with the kids has given me a cold and it
is very, very hot. So there you have it – bored, sick and hot – what a
combination! Oh well, we are experiencing village life up close and personal. I
just wish I had more money to buy stuff – cool chairs almost like Sudanese
beds, hand woven white linen and, well, nothing else. Almost no fresh produce to
speak of - injera for all meals and
people are friendly, one family invited us for tea and a coffee ceremony without
letting us pay anything. The little girl is a knockout so we took pictures and
their address and we will definitely send photos. We have spent most days
in town, sitting in the shady courtyards of the hotels, drinking beer and coke.
Today we are in our compound – just as hot, as many flies, only cheaper. Only
water to drink of course but OK, fewer people too. So today is another day like
the days on the boat.
have at least cleared customs so one part of the entry process is done. It cost
us exactly 1USD! Leaving Sudan was a piece of cake – we basically handed back
the customs and money forms, had our passports stamped, the details recorded in
a huge book and that’s it. Who knows what entry into Ethiopia is like, all I
know is that they let us in and now it’s too late to send us back!
are still waiting. Yesterday was boring and guess what, so was today. On the
plus side, we would never have got so close to village life if this had not
happened. We have to slow our pace down to the one here, eat what is available
(plus some stocks that we had luckily), drink what the locals drink etc.
Yesterday it rained very heavily and I even managed to wash my hair in it –
getting soaked in the process. The guys stripped down to jocks and showered in
the rain. We had a big audience else I would have joined them too. Dinner was
injera – third time in three days! At least today we found another offering
– scrambled eggs with onion and bread. It is really good. Scott is now hunting
down a chicken so that we can have a braai tonight. I hope they come slaughtered
else we could end up with a pet instead of a meal.
went back to the family who gave us tea and coffee for tea (paid this time),
polaroids and more coffee. We ended up taking 5 pictures, not back out of a
grand total of 30.
met a Sudanese guy who spoke good English and was pretty well travelled and
knowledgeable. So we had a good chat. That’s about it for what happened today
except that Scott took off the wheels and cleaned out the mud. He did two
yesterday and two today. There was no bus from Gondar yesterday, apparently it
was taken by the army to transport troops. We are all hoping that it pitches up
today along with the immigration man.
who arrived yesterday evening? The immigration man!!!! Not only did he arrive
and apologise for his absence, he processed every last one of us – all entries
and exits. It was very painless too, fill in a brief form, get passport stamped
and leave. The seven faranji jumped the queue and were processed first but I
felt no qualms, we paid 18 birr each to have him fetched while the others paid
nothing. Queue jumping was the least we could expect.
had already started planning dinner – chicken braai, rosti, monkeygland sauce,
asparagus and corn. Wow! We ended up braaing in the rain but it was good fun.
The big tent’s flysheet is an excellent shade in the day and rain protection
at night. The evening was nice but the chicken was as tough as old boots. Scott
is sick today so he’s off chicken for a while.
dinner we headed off to town for a last beer and to say goodbye to Koljar. I
made a new friend – a chemistry teacher who is very friendly. He promised to
come around this morning and give us a tape of Ethiopia’s most famous singer.
He kept his promise so I will keep mine and write to him.
morning it was goodbye to Rob and Daf and at 9am we hit the road with a guy from
customs who scored a lift with us. It was heavy going for a number of reasons.
It took 10 ½ hours to get here and I drove for 9 straight. The distance covered
was only about 165km so draw your own conclusions! At first it was river
crossings. Once the Kombi got stuck in front of us and I had to cross off the
track to pull him out. Champion bit of driving from me and directing from Scott.
Water and mud were the initial problems. Then we had steep, steep climbs. In fact,
we went into high range to do the climbing it was so bad. Felix walked next to
the kombi to reduce the load! Next was very stony gravel road followed by 10km
of terrible tar before we finally arrived here in Gondar.
kids are something else. It really is hysteria they show. So far, it has only
been friendly so while a little stressful on the driver – avoiding screaming
toddlers running directly at the car, it is OK otherwise.
is suffering from the same thing he had in Libya. Sore stomach to start with and
then later a sore, aching body. He’s in bed now so we’ll see how it goes.
Again, if no improvement tomorrow, off to the doctor. Felix and Alfons also
splashed on the hotel (a government hotel at 48 USD) so we’ll have a farewell
dinner tonight. At least I will, we’ll see about Scott. The rooms are great,
very rustic with stone walls and what I presume is traditional art. The
bedspreads are great – white cotton with a yellow and black band running the
length of the bed. Matema is a huge cotton growing region and we saw 2 cotton
ginning factories as we entered Gondar.
the night of 8 June, when we crossed the border, we were sure that our holiday
had begun. We were wrong and ended up spending 5 nights under virtual house
arrest. This time I really hope that I can say the hard part is behind us. We
crossed Sudan and are looking good to achieve our Trans-Africa goal. Here’s
a night and a day. Scott is a lot sicker than before. At midnight he asked me to
take him to a doctor. The local hospital was the only option available at that
hour so off we went with a helpful hotel security guard. Scott was suffering
from unbearable stomach ache. They gave him an injection at the hospital and
told him to return in the morning. This morning arrived, after a pretty much
sleepless night for both of us with him so weak he could hardly stand. At this
point I was close to panicking and turned to Felix and Alfons for help. They
were wonderful and took us to the hospital and helped us around all day.
the hospital (too terrible to talk about) they prescribed antibiotics to be
given by intra-muscular injection three times a day for seven days. Can you
believe it? Once again, Alfons to the rescue
- he has done both injections so far and tomorrow I get to give it a go.
Scott seems to be marginally better. He still has a diarohea but has eaten a
little and can drink water and ORS. This is a major improvement on last night
when even one sip of water made him vomit. I was really very, very worried. I am
still concerned but feeling a little better. We’ll spend a third night here in
this hotel and then move somewhere cheaper. We found a place for 100Birr which
is clean with attached shower and toilet plus running hot and cold water. These
things are not standard and most hotels in town lack one or more of them.
visited town this afternoon while Scott was sleeping but I am so tired after the
driving of yesterday and the lack of sleep last night that all further
descriptions will have to wait until tomorrow.
here and having fun! Yesterday we ran into Rob and Dafne who had been refused
entry into Sudan. What a disaster for them. The reason was that their visas
expired that day (13 June) and the guy at Gallabat said that they would never
make it back to Khartoum in time to get an extension. Scott had suggested
earlier that they change the 13 to an 18 – maybe they should have done that.
They begged and pleaded and then the Shahede immigration man begged and pleaded
too but to no avail. The guy at Gallabat would not relent. They left the bike in
Shahede, caught a truck to Gondar and this morning flew to Addis Ababa. They
plan to get a new visa, fly back and try again. What a hassle.
for us, we have moved hotels. The Goha was great but at 48USD per night,
expensive. We are now paying 100Birr. This is still expensive for Ethiopia but
it includes running water and your own bathroom – two things that aren’t
very common in Gondar. Scott is feeling better but he is still weak and tires
easily. We weren’t happy with the 21 injection idea so we went to a private
doctor for a second opinion. He agreed that this was excessive and told Scott to
stop the injections immediately. He must still take the tablets but only for 3
more days. Scott is pleased because he is convinced that the injections were
making him feel ill.
was a fairly busy day. In the morning we went to the market with David (a local
teenager we hang out with). There I found my Sudan-style chairs at 6Birr each. I
snapped up 2! I also bought an Ethiopian style shawl – white cotton with
embroidered edges. Scott is looking for a coffee pot and a calabash which is
used to store milk.
that we had lunch and relaxed in our hotel for an hour or so before going to the
hospital to get Scott’s test results. These were not very illuminating –
they told us that he does not have salmonella poisoning. Next it was off to the
doctor and then to buy stamps (a long process) and finally off to a coffee
ceremony at David’s house. Finally we had our third, and hopefully our last,
farewell dinner with Felix and Alfons. Not that we wanted to say goodbye but
every time we did, something went wrong and we ended up spending more time
together. It was sad to say goodbye because we have been through so much
together but I am sure that we will meet up again.
about Gondar. The main highlight is the fruit juices. They are more of a puree
than a juice, especially the avocado, but how wonderful! The Goha hotel
cappuccinos are pretty neat too and so was the market. Our hotel is shabby but
in a lovely setting – rondawels with a stoep and a garden. And all this
without even seeing the main attractions! Tomorrow we splash out on a
professional guide and will see all the famous historical sites in one go.
had a great day, and Seyoum, our guide was worth the 150Birr he cost us. The day
started with avo juice and a slice of cake for breakfast. Avo juice needs to be
eaten with a spoon but it tastes great. Then I got a phone call – what a
surprise! It was from the post office to say that we had a fax waiting. The fax
was from Mom and Dad, I was worried that there would be great concern over our
silence since leaving Khartoum but it appears that they weren’t too worried.
all this excitement, our touring day started. First stop was the church of Debre
Brihan Selassi. It turned out to be a very impressive place. It dates from the
17th Century and the best part, the reason everyone goes there, is to
see the painted ceiling and walls. The ceiling is painted with 80 angels’
faces, all different. It is painted on cotton and the colours are still
step was the Royal Enclosure. Once again, it is hard to believe that you are in
sub-Saharan Africa. The enclosure is huge and contains five castles. The
influences apparently range from Portuguese to Italian and the buildings are
very different to each other.
this, we stopped off for an Ethiopian Cappuccino (delicious) and then had a tour
break. We met David who had found Scott a milk gourd. It was newer and bigger
than he wanted but he bought it anyway. We had lunch with a French woman who is
here doing a PhD on Fasil and his influence in Ethiopia.
a brief siesta, we met Seyoum for the afternoon shift. We first went to
Fasil’s Pools. It is like a small castle in the middle of a huge, empty
swimming pool, which is filled each year in January for a festival. Most
impressive now, without any water visible, are the trees and the garden. It is
really a nice place. The next stop was up on a hill with good views of the
Valley and the town. It was the retreat built by empress Mentaub who also built
a castle in the royal enclosure. There is also a church up there, I forget the
exact name but it is something like Kumkwat (!), which is being rebuilt after
being destroyed last century by Sudanese invaders. They are still busy painting
the walls and it was interesting to compare the new style here with the old
style of the first church we visited this morning. The themes are very similar
but the execution is clearly different.
last stop was a drive to the Felasha village. All but one of the Felasha Jews
have left, regular Ethiopians live there now but we got to buy the coffee pot
Scott wanted. Yesterday was my shopping day and today was his!
came back to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s departure to the Simiens.
Seyoum recommended a guide who is actually in Gondar now. We chatted to him and
made some plans – we’ll drive up to the Simiens with him tomorrow and return
on Sunday, also with him. It looks like even in that short time we’ll get to
see some of the good parts. Since we’re coming back here afterwards, we’ll
leave stuff in the hotel to lighten our load. I am really looking forward to
we are at 3600m and freezing our butts off! The drive to Debark with our guide
was painless and quick. There we paid our Park fees and Scout fees and also
picked up our Scout. He is a sweet old man, very old and even though he has his
ancient rifle, I am not sure how much he would actually protect us! The
mountains, or probably more accurately, the escarpment, is awesome. We arrived
at Chenek at about 1:30pm, had lunch and then went for a walk. We were lucky to
see some good views before the fog and wind came up. We were also lucky to be
back in our tent before the rain came down. What a storm!
here was interesting – most of the road is pretty good except for the last few
kilometres when there is a serious degradation. So much so that at one point we
had to wait about ½ hr for a bulldozer to create a passable bit of road for us.
camp is far from a quiet, isolated mountain spot. It is at a food distribution
point where barley gets handed out to people from outlying villages to people
who have been affected by the drought. The hills are now full of people bedding
down for the night. I hate it really. We pull in with everything that opens and
shuts and it feels like such an ostentatious display of wealth. We probably have
more food in our car than many people see in a week or even in a month. We
definitely have more choice than some have ever seen. What can you do? I made an
excess of dinner so that at least we could offer some to the park scout who
lives here and his family.
are paying less than I expected in Park entry fees – 140 Birr for us (48
hours) + 10 Birr car fee and 90 Birr Scout fee. I expected that we would have to
pay a camping fee too. To make up for the money saving I have to cook for all of
us – both guide and Scout. Better this way actually, we all eat the same food
and spare the embarrassment of wealthy western over-indulgence.
saw plenty of the local baboons (they will be named in the next entry) and lots
of birds, even a lammergeyer. Abeba is a great guide – he knows all the birds
and plants so it is turning into a real educational experience.
it for today. Tomorrow we head back to Sankaber and go up a hill past Geech camp
to where there are apparently the best views in the park. It will be a fair walk
but without a load so that helps. I got breathless climbing the hills today but
other than that seem to be free of the effects of altitude. Hope I sleep well.
great day! After a mielie meal breakfast we headed up the hill to a viewpoint
for great views and even a lucky glimpse of the rare and famous Walia Ibex. Then
we drove down to a spot near Geech camp with the intention of cutting across to
the viewpoint on the hill behind the camp – Matgogo. We didn’t quite make it
that far; for once Scott was the one getting tired so we decided to head for a
shoulder some way below the peak.
the views from there were more than awesome enough for me. It really is the roof
of Africa and spread out below us was another plateau and below that another.
Really wonderful. We had a picnic lunch there and then headed back to the car.
We made another stop before reaching Sankaber, this time for a shorter walk to a
waterfall. 800m of fall! It was great; we were on one side of a gorge with the
waterfall on the other. In the gorge, above and below us we saw European Griffin
and Lammergeyer just circling. We spent ages just sitting there and looking. On
the way back to the car we crossed a troop of Gelada baboons. Quite impressive
animals which show little fear of humans. However, unlike habituated baboons in
South Africa, they also show no aggression. Next stop was the camp at Sankaber.
Really isolated this time with almost no one around. In fact the only other
person we have seen is another park scout. We are the ONLY tourists in the WHOLE
Park. Not exactly a moneymaking venture this. It seems that the war with Eritrea
has affected tourism in the Northern part of Ethiopia (all we’ve seen so far)
very badly. Sad really, the people need all the help they can get.
last thing, I am not a birdwatcher, but this seems to be the place to come if
you are. In addition to European Griffiths and Lammergeyer we’ve seen
different types of rooks, ravens, starlings, hawks, finches and tits. Our guide
is very good at spotting and pointing out birds!
that’s it for our Simien Mountains experience. It was really great and I am
very pleased that we went. This morning we went for a short walk to a cliffside
for more views, stopped and watched a troop of baboons and then headed back to
Gondar stopping in Debark to drop off our Scout and have a cup of tea. The drive
back was uneventful but I am getting seriously tired of bad roads.
we got back we had a drink and then said goodbye to Abebe. Later we had lunch at
the hotel. Then the drama started – they added the drinks, which we had
already paid for to our lunch bill. Honest mistake but what a debacle. Scott
couldn’t remember who he had paid, identified the wrong man who started
shouted and arguing and ended up getting fired! I knew that he wasn’t the
right man so we rushed off to the boss to get him un-fired. The manager said it
wasn’t for the 6Birr that he got fired but for accusing a guest of lying.
Anyway, he got his job back, apologies all round and the money taken off our
bill. However, somebody still got paid 6 Birr and didn’t own up. It is a pity
because the manager is such a nice guy and tries so hard to treat us well. We
offered to re-pay the money (it’s nothing really) but he wouldn’t hear of
or rather during, this rather protracted process; we sorted out the car. How
many times have we done this on the trip? We repacked boxes, filled the tank,
sorted out water containers etc. Well, I repacked boxes and Scott did the rest.
We are finally getting through our food supplies. We brought way too much but it
will all be used in the end. We went through a pile of stuff these last two days
in the mountains. The Scout, skinny old man or not, ate enough for 2 or even 3.
In fact, I think that as long as there is food, he’ll eat it! We are clearing
space at last – Scott’s coffee pot now has a home as well as the other
assorted stuff that used to be packed loose in the car. It will be great to get
rid of all the oil containers now lying loose all over the inside of the car.
pretty much it for today except for the really good news. We got to have
a hot shower!! The first in 4 or 5 days so a really rewarding experience. This
evening we’ll go to the Goha hotel for dinner and to see if any faxes arrived
for us there. Tomorrow we head down to Bahir Dahr to see Lake Tana and the Blue
Nile Falls. We’re both getting itchy to move on again so the time is ripe.
arrived in Bahir Dahr yesterday at around 2pm. We didn’t leave Gondar very
early, we wrote a 2 page fax update the night before and at the Goha so I sent
it off in the morning while Scott went off to check tyre pressures.
journey was fairly uneventful except for one puncture and a busy lunch stop. We
bought fresh roasted corn on the side of the road in a little village and pulled
off the road a few km’s outside of town to eat them. Literally within minutes
we had over 30 kids silently staring at us. Made eating a little hard!
Dahr is a sleepy place, bigger than Gondar but with a quieter appearance. The
main roads are double carriageway asphalt. Really odd considering the quality of
the road between the major centres.
had a juice and pastry lunch and then we were effectively confined to our hotel
for a couple of hours as the ran bucketed down. We are staying at the Ghion
-–75Birr for a double room with bathroom hot shower and a comfortable bed. We
probably could have got away with paying less but I feel that it is a fair
the rain stopped we took our wheel to a tyre repair shop where they put in a
tube. A full hour’s work in the rain cost only 10 Birr! We had dinner in the
hotel because it rained again in the evening – food OK but not marvellous.
morning was spent working on the car (Scott) and sewing together canvas bags to
store our mattresses (Renee). We heard a funny noise in the wheel region
yesterday so Scott spent the whole morning cleaning and greasing axles and
differentials. The noise is still there, maybe a little less than before, so
we’ll try to last until Addis Ababa.
went to the Blue Nile Falls this afternoon. They are good to see but to be
honest I am not sure if the sight justifies the 30km of really bad road each
way. The problem is that now, with the rains, the water is brown, so even though
there is undoubtedly a lot of it, I am sure it looks better when it is clear.
seem to be starting to show the strain of almost 2 months on the road. Scott had
hardly recovered from his bout of illness when he got red, itchy spots over him.
We suspect a bad reaction to flea bites. Yesterday was awful and so was the day
before but he has no new spots today and the whole ones are getting better. I
think that there are no fleas here. I was feeling nauseous last night but am
better now. Our health however is not the problem it is more our tempers. Scott
lost his cool because we couldn’t immediately find the car park at the falls.
He was moaning about always being lost. I then lost my cool when he couldn’t
discourage a hanger-on who ‘guided’ us to the falls and was paid 2 Birr for
this. Both incidents were of the type that we normally shake off, especially
him, so the strain is starting to show. I suggested today that we leave Harer
out of our plans. It is about 700km of our route on crap roads and we are both
tired of bad roads and worried about the car.
rest of our Ethiopian plans are then: Lalibela, Addis Ababa, Bale Mts (?) and
Konso villages (?). The last two are dependent on time and inclination. We have
realised that it is hard to mix general tourism with a journey like ours, which
has a specific aim. If we tour around for too long or head too far off the route
South we feel as if we are hampering out journey. We’ll see how this new plan
goes. I still want to climb Kili and Scott still wants a beach holiday in
Tanzania. I hope that we can manage these two things. I haven’t said anything
to Scott but one option is cutting out Uganda totally. I do however want to see
the gorillas if at all possible. Oh well, we’ll see when we get internet
access again. I’ll check our initial itinerary to see how much time we gave
each country and now that we have a better feel for things, maybe re-do some
plans. This will probably not happen before we get to Addis Ababa.
has been another long day getting here. Probably only 300km but we’ve learnt
our lesson not to expect to average more than 30km/hr. The roads are really
terrible and we had our THIRD puncture today. Hopefully no more until Addis
where we will have to buy 2 new wheels.
the puncture, which happened at around 3pm it was pretty stressful until we
arrived here at 7pm – we really couldn’t afford another puncture!
pulled into the Seven Olives, which charges 36USD per room and 12USD for
camping. After the prices of Bahir Dahr I felt that 36 dollars was excessive,
12USD was also over the top but it was late, getting dark and Rob also paid
12USD for camping so we decided that the rip-off was global and not limited to
us so we decided to go for it. You get a room key if you camp so there is full
had dinner at the hotel – a lot of food and very good but at 60 Birr very
expensive too. We had pancakes for desert, my first pudding in a long, long
night’s supper was excellent. Our guide in Gondar and our Guide Book
recommended a place called Inketatash so we decided to give it a go. Only 25
Birr, the bill was split up wonderfully and I quote – 16 Birr for eating and 9
Birr for drinking! I had fish goulash – a really spicy fish stew on injera.
Haven’t had that for a while but it was a nice one – not too sour. Today’s
breakfast was scrambled eggs, which came with fresh green chillis sliced into
it. Interesting breakfast flavour! We bought some biscuits for the road, which
was a good thing, because that ended up being the only thing we ate all day. It
is hard to find food along the way. The villages we passed were all really tiny
and there is a drought on – all the people all flocking to the nearest town
for food aid. We could probably have bought sour, three day old injera but we
weren’t quite hungry enough to do that. At one stage I thought that we
wouldn’t reach Lalibela before dark and that we’d have to camp somewhere but
in the end we made it about 10min before sunset.
was the churches day! We picked up a guide at 150Birr and set of at 8:30am to
start. Visiting the rock-hewn monolithic and semi-monolithic churches. Entrance
is 100Birr per person to all 10 churches and it is a price well worth paying.
The guide is also worth paying because the churches are generally kept locked
and he chases up the key man for you. There is also a shoe man – shoes are not
to be worn inside the churches so he looks after yours for you. The guide also
helps in that he gets the priest at each church to put on his processional dress
and pose for a photo. Each photo ends up costing 1 Birr but that’s a pretty
did however end up feeling like a walking bank today. The unspeakable poverty
that exists there is undeniable but we gave out close to 100Birr in handouts
today. What with the rains being late, people are flocking here looking for food
and I guess some form of hope too. Robert described it as a town of the sick and
the dying and he’s not far wrong. It’s heartbreaking to see but also really
scary because if this amount of suffering is caused only by the rains being
late, it is hard to imagine what a real drought will do. However as long as
foreign aid flows in, the government can afford to spend money fighting a stupid
war instead of trying to feed it’s citizens.
and social ranting aside, the churches are spectacular. They are divided into a
group of 5 churches, one of 4 and then 1, the famous St George in the shape of a
cross standing alone. We visited inside each church, some huge and
some tiny. The context of Ethiopia is only part of what makes them
incredible. They would be incredible monuments to the past wherever they were.
guide also had an interesting story to tell. The Lalibela cross was stolen a few
years ago and we hard a couple of weeks back that it had been found in Belgium
and returned. What we didn’t know was that our guide had been accused of being
involved in the theft and had actually been in prison for 1 year and 9 months.
When the cross was returned and his innocence proved, the priests publicly asked
his forgiveness. Me, I would still be angry – not only was he in jail, he was
also tortured and beaten, and all for a crime he did not commit. Particularly
when you think that he was fingered by another poor soul under torture. Justice
also got our tyre fixed and are ready to hit the road tomorrow. Supper was good
that we arranged to have breakfast there before leaving in the morning. The
churches are awesome but the town is expensive. You pay more and get less than
in Bahir Dahr and I have had enough of begging. It is starting to get to me and
I expect Addis to be worse. I have seen other poor countries, Sudan comes to
mind, but never beggars like this. What breaks my heart is the number of
deformities – particularly lame and crippled children. Here they are condemned
to crawling and dragging their useless limbs behind them. Walking chairs are an
unheard of luxury to them.
complaining – it is nevertheless a fascinating place (Lalibela and Ethiopia!)
was a pretty good day for us. We started it with cold pancakes, which were
actually pretty good and hit the road by 8am as we had planned. We originally
planned to stop at the regional capital Dese but pushed on for another 25km to
get here at about 5:30pm. We hope to reach Addis Ababa tomorrow but it is 400km
away and on these roads, who knows?
stopped in Woldia for lunch at a restaurant recommended in our guide book. Good
choice, we had mixed veg and injera. Really pretty good, it was a selection of
coleslaw, tomato and spice, curried corn, vine leaves, potato and cabbage and
unidentifiable brown stuff. All very tasty and a mix of hot and cold.
hotel seems to be pretty good – clean, bathroom, running hot and cold water,
lights all for 70Birr. This town is where the road from Addis forks – to
Djibouti or to Eritrea (the road we were on today). This is a true truckers
town, row upon row of trucks lined up outside. It is pretty quiet now but I am
nervous about how early they’ll start tomorrow. If it’s 5am we may get up
and go too!
we don’t get wakened too early we hope to take breakfast at the pastry shop up
the road. It is the best we have tasted yet – the cakes are actually soft and
light! Also it is in a nice setting – on a veranda with creeping plants.
road today was interesting. The first 100km was up at about 3500m – it is dry,
dry, dry. When we dropped into the first valley, still 2500m up it started off
really green and exotic but it got drier too. We then dropped again and are now
at about 1500m – expect a warm night. From Lalibela to Woldia was a typical,
stony dirt road but at Woldia (145km from here) a tar road started! Whoopee!
This lasted about 55km then rapidly deteriorated into badly potholed tar,
then dirt, then dirt with bits if tar, then rocks etc. Typical Ethiopian roads
basically. From Dese to here was OK. Potholed tar but OK. Let's see what
summary, today was a great success, we are the furthest South we have been on
the trip (!) and we covered all that distance without a puncture (!!!!).
has been a while since I last wrote. Don’t know why really, other than
laziness but I’ll try to recap.
Sat 26 June we drove down from Kombolcha to Addis. We hit the road at 7am
because Robert says it takes him a full day to get to Debre Brihan and then 3-4
hours from there to Addis. We wanted to do this in one day and in the end
managed quite easily, stopping in Debre Brihan for lunch and arriving in Addis
at about 3pm. We are staying in the Baro, which Robert recommended, not because
it is nice or good value but because it has secure parking. The things we do for
our car. The room is 80Birr and nice and big but shabby and dirty with a crappy
bathroom – shower head over toilet style and no toilet seat either. We
aren’t sleeping in the bed but using our sleeping bags.
made it just in time – the heavens opened and there was a downpour along with
hail. The first of many. We saw again a woman we had met in Bahir Dahr, she came
back from there by bus and has stories to tell about the roads. Now that the
rains are arriving, the buses and trucks are getting stuck.
next day was a Sunday so most things were closed. Also it was a rainy, wet day.
We went off to see the hotel Francesca stayed in her first time in Addis. 50Birr
and parking too and even clean but it was unfortunately full. We were not happy
at the Baro because the day before we had no water (the whole area) and that
morning we could only get one hot shower in – mine.
decided however to stay on – the water problem is chronic and the same
everywhere in Ethiopia and once you settle in, moving hardly seems worth the
effort. Francesca moved to the Wutma, across the road from the Baro, and really
only other thing we did Sunday was go to the National Museum. I had one reason
only for going – to see the bones of Lucy. We paid our money and walked
through the whole museum without seeing her. The rest was interesting,
particularly the arial photos of the Gondar churches but I was disappointed.
However, as we were leaving we were sent back inside – there is a basement
level which houses Lucy. I left well satisfied!
had fried eggs for breakfast and then eggburger for lunch – this led to
evening nausea – too many eggs in one day. Before that though, we got
visitors, interrupting our siesta. It was a Spanish couple from Barcelona!! They
are staying in the Wutma and saw our car from the room window. Of course they
couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to fellow Spaniards about Ethiopia. Bad
luck to them but at least they got to talk Spanish!
was an interesting evening – we ended up 6 foreigners together us, Eduardo and
Marta (Spain), Francesca (Swiss) and Geoff ( French and Canadian). Geoff is a
linguist and is here on sabbatical (works at a university) to write a book on
Amharic. Pretty complex stuff but whatever turns you on I guess. It isn’t even
really on Amharic but on the Verb structure of a language spoken in a very small
part of the country that shares its roots with Amharic. Everyone else faded
leaving us and him and he told us quite a bit about an interesting 4 months he
spent in Saudi Arabia.
I woke up feeling pretty bad after a night on the toilet (what it felt like
anyway) so I stayed in bed while Scott went off to do car work – buy tyres,
check oils etc. It turned our pretty expensive but the money had to be spent. We
had lunch across the road (I was feeling better) and a siesta during the rain.
We then sorted out the car, we now almost have no loose stuff left lying around
in the car which is great. We did an update and then went off to supper.
was feeling fine so we went to an upmarket restaurant called Castelli’s.
Really, really nice. It would not be out of place in any city in the world,
which means that we, in our travelling clothes were a little, scruffy! Never
mind, we had a great meal and that is all that matters. So much so that we
decided to celebrate Scott’s birthday with a nice lunch. More about that
morning we went off to the Mercato. We found a guy who offered to take us around
and a good thing he did because it is huge and we would never have seen all we
did without his help. The Spice
Market for one thing and then cheese and butter for another. We spent ALL the
money we had with us leaving us only 10Birr for him as a tip which he was more
than happy with or seemed to be anyway.
what did we spend our money on? Ethiopian woven fabric for mom, 2 baskets,
incense (made from tree sap), a block of salt and some white Ethiopian honey.
walked back to the hotel, got dressed up and then went to Castelli’s. That’s
when disaster struck, from feeling 100% I went to throwing up in about 5
minutes. I don’t know what happened but it put a kaibosh on lunch, which I
feel terrible about. We paid for what they had delivered (drinks and starter)
and offered to pay for the main course but they said we didn’t have to. I came
here to crash while Scott went off in search of lunch. I woke up feeling, while
not well, at least a lot better so it was off to find a juice and biscuit lunch.
So here we are, still not 100% but OK again – still don’t know what it was
have just got some emails. 1 from Rob and 2 from Mom. They wished Scott happy
birthday. I hope his parents get something through before we leave in the
morning but as it is now already 9:20am I am not so sure.
news in the mail from Mom. Grandpa is very ill. He pulled through but will now
need 24hour care. I have considered flying home but I am not sure if my presence
will have any meaning. At least Denise flew over to be with Granny.
piece of good news is that we went to Ethiopian airlines and getting our tickets
refunded was no problem at all. Of course they didn’t give us cash back – we
paid with Diners so they will just credit Diners.
just sang Happy Birthday to Scott and gave him his present. Now at least he has
something to read!
a gem! We reached here yesterday as planned after an interesting breakfast
diversion with Geoff our linguist friend.
is called Gumfu and is, in a word, horrible. Well maybe that’s harsh but
remember that this was breakfast – it is made from the pulped root of the
false banana tree and has a slimy texture. It is then topped with melted butter,
which is very, very strongly spiced with chilli. There you go – draw your own
conclusions! We shared one bowl between us and still only managed to eat ½ of
it. Geoff polished off a whole bowl alone.
left Addis, at I don’t around 10am, and hit our first traffic jam of the
journey. They are building an Addis ring road and the first 30-odd km were a
slow painful nightmare. We had been told that the road South was excellent but
apart from a few stretches of good road, it is very badly potholed. It was a
40km/hr day of stressful driving, all the time swerving this way and that to
had, based on guide book advice, decided to stop in Awasa, 20km South of the
main crossroads town of Seshmene. What a good idea. For the first time I agree
totally with Phillip Briggs the author of our guide book – Awasa is lovely. It
is right next to the Rift Valley Lake of the same name and our hotel grounds run
right to the lake edge. In fact, more than – the lake level seems to have
risen recently and flooded the two hotel bungalows nearest the lake and other
night we had a drink at the lake edge and watched the sunset while listening to
Fish Eagles. It was so nice that we decided to prolong our stay and park off
here for a day. We haven’t actually done this since we were in Libya so it
felt really good. The hotel is Wabe S II (govt) and charges 91.50Birr for a room
but allows camping at 25Birr per tent. Because it was Scott’s birthday, we
took a room.
even see monkeys here – vervet and colobus and a huge number of birds – 3
kinds of Kingfisher, 3 fish eagles, maribou stork and the list goes on – these
are only the ones we identified! Yesterday on the way here we saw a huge group
of vultures gathered around a carcass, just like in the nature programs and also
a lot of secretary birds. This place is enough to turn anyone into a bird
morning we slept late and then headed into town to change some money, hopefully
for the last time in Ethiopia. A word to the wise – never change money on the
first day of the month! The bank was a horror. It looks like everyone in town
gets paid on the first and by cheque. They all go to the bank to cash them. I
don’t know what anyone earns but I saw plenty of cash around. I saw a couple
of cheques for around 3000Birr – not many dollars but enough Birr to live on
comfortably. Scott saw a 68000 Birr cheque – we hope that it was for a payroll
and not one guy’s salary! This is not a poor town, it is the only place I’ve
seen with houses that are huge and luxurious looking by any standards you care
breakfast and my first pineapple juice here, very nice and not as sweet as I
feared, we went for a couple of hour long lakeside walk. It was great, peaceful
and quiet with wonderful views. I am so glad we stayed on, this day has been a
holiday! We came to our hotel for lunch, not because the food is great but
because we know that we can get sandwiches here. They turned out to be excellent
– a big tray with sandwiches, salad and potato. Very nice indeed.
that, it was retire for a siesta and a read. We crashed for TWO hours! Now
we’re back at the lakeside enjoying a sundowner after which I’ll have a hot
shower before heading into town for dinner.
feeling OK today but have had a few toilet runs. Fortunately the South of
Ethiopia is sparsely inhabited so veld toilet stops should be quite easy. We
hope to cover the 580km to Moyale tomorrow and reach Kenya the day after. If the
roads beat us, we’ll overnight somewhere en-route.
we haven’t reached Kenya yet and it is now 2pm. We had a bit of a disaster
yesterday which prevented us from reaching Moyale last night as we hoped to. As
we were driving through Agere Maryam, a small town about 200km South of Awasa,
Scott was doing the normal pedestrian dodging bit and crawling along when an old
man turned around, saw us and panicked walking right into the car. I saw sure
that there would be no serious or lasting damage but as I got out of the car, I
saw that I was wrong. His foot was badly damaged, in fact the big toe was
virtually torn off. Scott reacted very quickly. I jumped in the back, he put the
old man into the passenger seat , grabbed a bystander and rushed off to the
hospital which fortunately was less than 1km away. What a drama it all was.
poor old guy (75) ended up having his big toe amputated and of course with no
questions asked, we were expected to foot his medical bill. There was a great
deal of driving backwards and forwards between the hospital and the police
station. We were very nervous because it doesn’t really matter whose fault it
is, in this kind of situation the foreign driver is always to blame. We were
getting very jumpy because we didn’t know what was going on, what everyone was
saying and what was expected of us. The accident happened soon after 11am and
eventually at 2pm the police commander told us what to do. It was the following:
go to the hospital, get a doctors report, make an ‘arrangement’ with the
victim and his family and then come back to the police to recover Scott’s
passport and drivers license. The report was no problem but the agreement was a
little harder. We had only 200Birr on us and the town has no Forex plus the
family didn’t speak English. What a disaster it was turning out to be. After
going back and forth with interpreters they decided to accept 100USD. Only the
prospect of us returning to Addis made them accept this.
was quite pissed off actually. Not because we weren’t prepared to help the old
man even though I still say that it wasn’t Scott’s fault but more because it
was turning into what will be my lasting memory of Ethiopia – ‘lets see what
we can screw out of the Faranji’ His family cared not one bit about him and I
don’t know how much of the money he will ever see. Scott was very upset though
and just wanted to get out of there so we called it a deal on 100USD. We then
took son #1 to the cops to confirm the deal to them. The cop then said that we
had to change the 100USD into Birr. Off to the bank at 3:55pm – bank closed.
Anyway we were told that there was no Forex there. Back to the police to
discuss. I was pushing hard at that point to go back to Awasa to avoid spending
the night and also to be able to get to a phone. They obviously did not want us
to leave because the policeman suddenly decided that we could pay in USD which I
know is not legal but hey, none of this struck me as being very legal anyway so
what the hell. At this point, now around 5pm we were still not done. We had to
take a policeman to the hospital to confirm the deal with the victim because it
was important to the police report. Sceptical as I am, I did not believe that
there would be would be a report but there was.
think it says that Scott deliberately left the road to hit the old man but
fortunately the cop had seen the blood right in the middle of the road. Not that
it matters, we paid the price – guilt or innocence was not the issue here.
Scott also had to sign his statement, which was written in Amharic. I don’t
know how much water it holds but he wrote – signing this does not imply
understanding or acceptance of the above.
hope that we didn’t mess up but it got us out of there in one piece. We only
left, I don’t know around 5:30 – 6pm so even though we considered it,
pushing for the border was not a real option. We stopped off in Yabello, a real
nowhere and spent 7Birr in a room! Dinner was injera with 2 youngsters (just out
of school) who helped us find the only hotel with parking. We bought them each a
Pepsi as thanks and what do you know – they didn’t expect more!
that it was off to bed for an early and not very comfortable night – noisy and
an odd bed. However it was still a good deal. We were up at 5:30am and hit the
road as quickly as possible. The road was very good in some places but did also
have potholed places. Probably still the best road so far in Ethiopia. We got to
Moyale at about 9:30am only to find out that diesel could only be sold from noon
onwards – no electricity until then. We went for breakfast, sorted out the car
and then went to wait at the garage. We filled up the tank but one guy there
decided that we couldn’t get any extra fuel for the jerries. No idea why, we
only wanted to fill two of them anyway. So there it was off to the border with
Scott having two nightmares – 1 that the old man had died during the night,
they radio ahead and stop us at the border and the other that we leave Ethiopia
only to be told that we can’t enter Kenya without a visa and are stuck in