November 22nd 2013: Moyale – Yabello, Ethiopia
Driven distance on November 22nd 2013: 250km (160 miles)
Driven distance total: 80’660km (50’120 miles)
We left the busy place Moyale, drove through greenish landscapes full of termite peaks and made our first intermediate stop at the Chew Bet Crater Lake. The lake lies about 15km (10 miles) off the main road directly at a small village. We crossed the village and weren’t quite sure where this lake was supposed to be! Then we discovered a parking place with many people and a car. We went as well to this spot and were quite surprised when the 400m (1320 feet) deep crater with it’s small lake at the bottom appeared in front us. Of course some tour guides who mentioned to us the entry fees caught us. We walked, with a bunch of kids and a tour guide, a few steps to the edge of the crater and enjoyed the magnificent view. For us it was enough to see the happening down at the lake through our binoculars. The binoculars made it’s way through the round and everyone took a glimpse through it :-). The locals don’t like the lake because of it’s beauty, no, they get through hard work the salt from it. During the rainy season, men are getting the black salty mud from the lake by diving with buckets to it and bringing it back to the shore. Donkeys are carrying it up along steep dangerous paths after filling it into bags. They use this black salt as some food for their animals! There is no diving in the dry season, but they dig besides the water for salt. During this time they gain the white salt which is used by the humans to cook!
New to us was, how pushy and persistently the people (mainly children and teenagers) tried to sell drinks or souvenirs. It is not sufficient when you tell them nicely that you really don’t want to buy anything. No, they keep on putting their souvenirs in front of your eyes or asking again and again while you try to listen to the explanations of the guide... A man even tried to get some medical treatment from us since there is no doctor or pharmacy in the village. We just could give him some painkillers since we are quite far off from being doctors. All of a sudden a few others had some medical issues and wanted something from us, but No! We could enjoy a absolutely perfect tarmac road when we were back at the main road. Once again the Chinese built it. Of course the Chinese does the management, engineering and supervision, for the labor they have local people. The next stop was the town Dublock, where we intended to see the singing wells. The Borena tribe inhabits the area. Partially they live as nomads and have besides cows also herds of sheep, goats and camels and only seldom they do field agriculture work. The Borena are taking the water for the cattle from fountains during the dry season. They have to move the water by hand to the cattle drinking places since the water in the wells is sometimes 10 – 15m (30 – 50 feet) below the ground. Therefore they are building a human chain and are handling the water from person to person to the surface. During this performance they are singing – that’s where the name “singing wells” is coming from! After we asked around a bit someone sent is the direction to find of the fountains. Of course it didn’t take long until a guy was running towards us that introduced himself as a guide. Well, we figured out quickly that this “guide” couldn’t really speak English and the whole thing felt a bit weird... On the way to the fountain (the guide and his helper sitting on the bonnet) we unfortunately scared a camel and it took off and lost his goods... L. There wasn’t any animal or other human being present when we arrived at the well. But the two guys performed a 2-men show especially for us :-). But of course, this wasn’t really what we had in mind ;-). Most probably we were there at the wrong time of the year or at the wrong time. But anyways, it was interesting to see the fountain and we imagined how it is when many people and animals are here. At the end we agreed to a third of the original price and took off.
November 23rd 2013: Yabello – Konso, Ethiopia
Driven distance on November 23rd 2013: 130km (80 miles)
Driven distance total: 80’790km (50’200 miles)
We went along a half OK gravel road towards the town of Konso, which is the starting point to go to the famous tribal regions of Ethiopia. At the best lodge in town we installed our camp. Unfortunately was the planned campground not yet finished, so we had to use the parking area for camping and the toilets of the restaurant! But on the other hand we had a good restaurant, great food and Internet access :-).
November 24th – 26th 2013: Konso – Turmi – Konso, Ethiopia
Driven distance on November 24th – 26th 2013: 410km (260 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’200km (50’460 miles)
The road was winding through beautiful green hilly landscapes just when we left the village of Konso. Along the way are always children who are screaming „youyouyouyou“ through the window to ask for money, bottles or sweets. Once it happened, that a young boy wanted to steal our Koran shell (received as a gift back in Iran), which is mounted on the dashboard, out of the slowly driving car. Stefan could catch his arm and the bastard had to walk a short distance with us against his will. There are also many herds of cattle that are occasionally blocking the street. Significant are the huge brandings that some of the cows have! The road continued to a huge flat area until the village Key Afer. Already here we could see some examples of the different tribes. As soon as we arrived in the village Turmi, a young guy stopped us and said that we should join the „Bull-Jumping“ ceremony. This is a ritual that every boy of the Hamer-tribe has to perform in order to become a “real” man! After some discussion we decided to join this spectacle. Of course was the whole thing not free of charge… The ceremony was in full drive when we arrived and we weren’t the only tourists there. Approx. 30 „faranjis“ (foreigners) were ready with their cameras. The whole thing happened more or less like that: Women were dancing and singing, a herd of cows and bulls were forced to the centre of the place and the young man got prepared for the ritual by older men. Afterwards were 5 bulls elected and put in one row and “show” was about ready to take off. The young man ran all together 6 times completely naked over the bulls, accompanied by loud singing and yelling! Along with this event there is also the ritual about whipping of the young women. The big part of this ritual was luckily over because we arrived a bit late. We just saw the bloody backs (from hitting them) of the girls. This part is happening like this: Young tribal women are dancing in a provocative and teasing way around the male friends of the bull jumper. When they are getting too pushy they start to whip them with a twig. It is the biggest honor for the non-married women to get whipped. We could witness that the women don’t show any facial expression of pain and that they get in front of the men by their own will and demanding they are being beaten. As bigger and deeper the wounds are, as nicer the bulges from the wounds later on and therefor as higher the status of the woman is. For us it is simply a horrifying, unexplainable ritual...
The following day we visited the weekly market in Turmi, where also many people of the Hamer-tribe are flocking in from the villages around. The market was in the morning really enjoyable and we could check out the whole scene without big hassles. You actually have to pay some money to take pictures from the people otherwise you get some trouble! The going rate at the moment is 10 cents per picture and person.
At the marked was sorghum, maize, coffee, veggies, clothes and so on being sold. After lunch the whole thing more annoying. It wasn’t anymore possible to stroll around the market alone; we always had a bunch of annoying kids around us that wanted to sell us something or that were asking for money.
We chose a different route to get back to Konso. That road is usually closed during the rainy season since you have to cross several riverbeds. We picked up a hitchhiker since there was basically no other traffic. It was a man of the Hamer-tribe that was armed with a Kalashnikov. First we offered him a place in the back of the car, but with this choice he was absolutely not happy. So he was sitting between us in the front :-). Well, it did feel a bit bizarre to have such an adorned tribal man with a Kalashnikov between us ;-). It is actually quite normal and usual that the men of different tribes are walking around with firearms...
We also took an older woman from the Konso-tribe with us when we were back on the tar road. Also she went in the front of the car between us. I (Maryse) had her cow-skin-bag on my lap and the woman chatted with us even though we couldn’t understand one word. When she got out of the car near a village, she intended to give us 2 birr (10 cents) for the lift! We refused of course and she was happy, shook our hands and walked into the village.
November 27th 2013: Konso, Ethiopia
Driven distance on November 27th 2013: 40km (20 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’240km (50’480 miles)
One fo the main attractions of Konso is the Gesergiyo Canyon, Which is a little bit similar to the Bryce Canyon in the USA. We decided to take a guide with us since we also intended to visit one of the villages of the Konso tribe. We were actually quite happy we had a guide when we arrived at the canyon, because there were immediately a bunch of naughty annoying kids around the car. All of them wanted something from us or wanted to sell us something. It is here a lot more frustrating that in the rest of Africa that we visited! We tried anyways to enjoy the wonderfully shimmering red canyon with its numerous sandy peaks. And now another example how naughty and aggressive the kids in Ethiopia can be! Some kids/teenagers were asking for some money when we were back at the car, because they were watching the car they said. Our guide suggested that we better give a little money, so we gave a little bit. We took off slowly to make a U-turn. Since it wasn’t enough for them (everything would have been not enough!), the kids started to hit the car in the back with branches!! As a reaction for this we rapidly hit the breaks and one of the children hit hard his elbow! Even when we took off were 2 teenagers climbing on the rear bumper and drove a few hundred meters (yards) with us!
A few kilometers away we visited that village to get a small impression of the culture and how the tribe of the Konso people is living. The Konso are famous for their skills in handicraft and agriculture talents. The sparse fields on the very steep terrace fields are often efficiently cultivated. Mainly they grow vegetables, crop, sorghum, coffee, cotton and tobacco. Around the villages is usually a 1m (3 feet) tall stone wall and there is as well a wooden fence around each family place. If the village is getting too big, there is another new wall being built around it. As in many of the tribes, there is some indication if the women are married or not! At the Konso people it is a kind of double skirt that they are wearing. If they outer skirt is short, they are not married.
November 28th 2013: Konso – Arba Minch, Ethiopia
Driven distance on November 28th 2013: 90km (60 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’330km (50’540 miles)
We still were around the area of the Konso tribe. We figured out along the way to Arba Minch, that basically all the terrain is used for agriculture! We’ve seen fields with sorghum and huge banana plantations.
November 29th – December 1st Arba Minch, Ethiopia
Driven distance on November 29th – December 1st 2013: 0km
Driven distance total: 81’330km (50’540 miles)
We had to stay longer here since we were that much behind with writing our reports :-)! That wasn’t actually so hard since we had good food, cheap camping, fast internet and a great panoramic view! Arba Minch felt quite pleasant compared to other places in Ethiopia. From time to time we enjoyed something to drink or eat in the restaurants while strolling through the town. In the cheaper restaurants you can get 2 delicious plates of spaghetti and 2 Sprite for 4US$ :-). Well well, how comes that we receive here and there only spaghettis instead of rice here in Ethiopia??? There were actually the Italians who entered here and intended to colonize the country almost 80 years ago. There are also a few restaurant/hotel owners and tour guides that are half Italian and half Ethiopian!
December 2nd Arba Minch – Dorze, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 2nd 2013: 50km (30 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’380km (50’570 miles)
We managed along a curvy steep dirt road to climb 1600m (5260 feet) in altitude until the mountain village Dorze. We ended up in the next village “Chencha”, where we also ate lunch, when we were actually looking for our campground. We encountered a “little misunderstanding” when we tried to order food, even though there was a “translator” present as well... Instead of the ordered spaghettis and a plate of meat with veggies, we received 2 big bowls of meat, 2 big bowls of veggies and a bowl of rice, in addition bread and injera. It was food for at least 5 persons!! Our attempt to give some of it back didn’t work out! Of course we realized the scam of the restaurant owner, he just wanted to gain more money! We can simply shake our head about such primitive tricks in a Land where food isn’t always there in big quantities... We successfully refused to pay the wanted amount (was too high anyways) and packet the remaining food in our plastic bowls from the car to take everything with us to eat it for dinner!
In the afternoon we walked from our camp to the weekly market in Dorze. For once we decided to leave our camera in the bag to just enjoy relaxed the atmosphere of the market. We strolled slowly along the marked and finally sat down at a shady place to observe the happening. Then, an older man waved at us and asked if we wanted to drink something. We quickly agreed and expected to get a tea. We ended up in a dark room of a private small house. We sat down besides the other people in the place and got immediately served a carafe with an undefined drink in it ;-). In addition to this, we also received a small bowl with a mix of tiny bites of ginger, chilly and sugar, which we could enjoy together with the drink ;-). The beverage was some kind of beer which is brewed out of sorghum, and surprisingly it didn’t even tasted that bad ;-). After some time on the market we went to one of the many tea huts along the road to have a tea.
Besides the questioning experience at lunch, it was quite pleasant in Dorze.
December 3rd Dorze – Shashemene, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 3rd 2013: 270km (170 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’650km (50’730 miles)
The thermometer dropped to 5°C (41°F) during the night! But we were able to walk around in T-shirts as soon as the sun arrived in the morning. Our short tour with a guide started around 9AM. We visited some traditional houses that are still being used from the local community. Those kind of huts are in this way only found in this area. The houses are being built very strongly with bamboo wood and leaves from the so-called „false banana“ trees. The houses are built relatively high (10m / 33 feet) since they are tending to sink in the ground over decades because of termites. The cattle lives under the same roof, where also the kitchen is, as the humans, since it can get really cold during the night. It was interesting to observe a bit the daily live in those houses, since they are still in use.
In the entire area are these „false banana“ trees growing. They do look like banana trees but they don’t have any fruits. But on the other hand, they are using everything else from the trees. We could see how they are scraping the leaves with somekind of a bamboo-knife. They use the remaining fibers to make cords and out of the scraped stuff they make some kind of pulp and put this for 3 month underneath the ground. Afterwards they put this pulp between two false banana leaves and bake it! We could taste this “bread” later on with some spices and honey, and to our surprise it actually didn’t tasted too bad :-). We continued to the local weaving place with our guide after we also tried the local home made liqueur. At this weaving place were to our surprise only men working. They produce from the local cotton towels etc. on the old looms.
We simply intended to buy some souvenirs after we arrived back at the camping around 10AM and then taking off. At lunchtime we could finally start the engine of the car. In those 2 hours we were mainly tackled and questioned by other western tourists :-)
We started to realize on our further journey that Ethiopia is even poorer than the previously visited countries. Mainly you could see it by the means of transportation. In the previous countries we could always see many bicycles. Here in Ethiopia you see rarely any bicycle, they have to walk! Further on we could see in some villages donkey carts with many passengers instead of the 3-wheeled motorized taxis. You rarely see a private car. What we encounter on the road are public minibuses, trucks, guided tour jeeps and of course quite some SUV’s of the many charity organizations. The roads are actually quite busy, in spite of the little traffic. Mainly from donkey carts and pedestrians.
We finally arrived at our destination Shashemene when it was not yet dark. As most of the other cities in Africa, also this one is not very scenic. We followed along a shitty driveway in a crappy neighborhood the signposts of the Zion Train Lodge. We were already afraid that we have to spend the night at a rundown crappy lodge, but luckily this wasn’t the case, the opposite was happening! We even had a joyful evening with guitar and drum playing at a bonfire after a yummy dinner :-).
December 4th Shashemene, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 4th 2013: 10km (10 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’660km (50’740 miles)
The unique thing here in the town of Shashemene is the Rastafarian community, called „Jamaica“. The origination of this community has started about 60 years ago when the former emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, gave some Jamaicans 500 hectares of land in Shashemene as a gift. The ancestors of many Jamaicans were transferred as slaves from Africa to here. One principle of the Rastafarian religion is the return to their roots of their ancestors, and exactly this has Haile Selassie made possible! This man is now admired as the returned messiahs by the Rastafarians! There are not only Jamaicans living here today, but also Rastafarians from all over the world. We paid a visit to the little „Black Lion Museum“, where we actually didn’t see much else then some paintings of Haile Selassie and some pictures. And in addition ended this sightseeing trip in a disaster... L. We paid the entrance fee to the museum and got guided around by a young guy. We continued with this “guide” to the nearby Rastafarian church where we had again to pay (our guide was with us) entrance fee. We got another small tour in the church by another person, and at the end they asked if we wouldn’t donate some money to the church. We explained that we already paid entrance fee and therefor we are not paying anymore for any donations. In the meantime was an older, respectable woman entering the room. The church guide and the older woman were really surprised when they heard that we paid anything to get into the church. So well, now we got ripped off once again... All of the persons present were asking themselves why the hell our guide from the first place didn’t say anything, or intervened, when we got asked to pay something. He defended himself by saying, that he gets beaten up by that guy when he says something... After a short discussion we went back to the car. We tried to explained to the guide, that we feel cheated and that we are very disappointed by him. But he didn’t understand at all (not because of the language) what we tried to explain to him and still wanted some tip for his services! We gave him a tiny bit, which was of course not enough and he got angry and told us that we are cheating him! Finally he walked away very furious and shouted at the end „Fuck you! I don’t care about white people“! The story of those Rastafarian people would be quite interesting, but such fake people, that are simply here to rip off white people, are destroying the whole thing!
December 5th Shashemene – Ziway, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 5th 2013: 150km (90 miles)
Driven distance total: 81’810km (50’830 miles)
We weren’t that unhappy to leave Shashemene behind us. We planned to spend the next night at the Langano lake, which is about 80km (50 miles) further north. Since we wanted to have Internet access, we ended up in vain at several lodges and had to continue. But we had anyways a chance to observe the lake during our lunch break. The region around the lake and the lake are actually quite nice. The thing that doesn’t really fit in that picture is the red-brownish color of the lake :-). Finally we decided to leave the lake Langano and drove further until we reached the town Ziway. Since a long time we granted us a hotel room! It is unbelievable what you receive for 20 US$ (for both)! A clean quite big new room, attached nice bathroom with hot water, a TV with English channels and finally free WI-FI; what else we could ask for!
The hotel lies at a lake that is famous for it’s numerous birds; therefor we went, armed with our camera, immediately to the lake. We could witness from close distance marabous, pelicans and several other bird species. The big, very impressive marabou birds would definitely make it into the top 10 list at a „which-is-the-ugliest-bird” contest ;-).
December 6th Ziway – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 6th 2013: 200km (120 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’010km (50’960 miles)
We maid an interesting stop at the archeological sight Tiya on our way to the capital Addis Ababa. They discovered here several stone pillars with strange engravings. They speculate that they have served as graves for warriors. Although is the age and the meaning still today not clear.
December 7th – 8th Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 7th – 8th 2013: 40km (20 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’050km (50’980 miles)
We had to accomplish two things in In Addis Ababa. One of it was to refill our food supplies and the other was to organize cash in US$ or Euros €. Both things weren’t that easy we figured out. We ended up in 4 different supermarkets that were specialized in foreign products. Of course we couldn’t miss our Nutella for breakfast :-).
Now we come to the reason why we need more US$ and Euros. In the Sudan, our next destination, it is not possible to withdraw money from the ATM’s due to an embargo. We need for the entire time there enough cash. Now, Ethiopia has the regulation, that one can only change a maximum of 150 US$ per person, and this only under the condition that you show an airline ticket that proves that you are leaving the country. And now?? How can we proceed?? We get about 1'000 US$ in Ethiopian Birr (currency, 200 bills) and are trying to exchange it to US$ at the airport :-). Without success! We tried our luck with two western people and asked them if they need Ethiopian money! After we explained them our situation, they agreed and we changed Ethiopian Birr into 500 Euros! Of course had the Orange-Iguana exchange office by far the best rates :-). We tried again the next day to get more cash directly in US$ at a big major bank. Another reason why we need that much cash is the ferry we need to take to get later on from Sudan to Egypt! We ended up in the office of the manager of the Foreign exchange division after we tried to discuss the matter with a confused employer! We explained to her our situation. After she got copies of the passport (including Sudan Visa) and the car papers, we received a personally signed and stamped special permit and therefor finally enough US$ bills!!!
Otherwise is Addis Ababa not really attractive. Just as isn’t the campground we stayed. The so-called Wim’s Holland House is led by an older Dutch guy and is a known meeting point for overland travellers. Unfortunately he doesn’t take care anymore too well and therefor it looks a bit run-down L!
Surprisingly is also the amount of construction that is going on in the capital! Besides a new train line are also hundreds if not thousands of new apartment blocks being built!
December 9th Addis Ababa – Debre Sina, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 9th 2013: 190km (120 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’240km (51’100 miles)
First we continued along a rather flat region towards the North. On both sides of the road we could see agriculture fields as far as we could see. Soon it started to go up until we finally ended up at an altitude of 3500m (11’500 feet). Unfortunately we didn’t end up in the nicest hotel in the town of Debre Sina. The local disco was happening there and we couldn’t sleep until far in the night because of the loud music...
December 10th Debre Sina – Woldia, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 10th 2013: 180km (110 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’420km (51’210 miles)
And we continued north! Curves, hills, agricultural fields, and villages with plenty of people, that’s how we could describe this part of the trip. We stayed once again in a hotel and enjoyed the luxury since camping isn’t that known in Ethiopia :-).
December 11th Woldia – Lalibela, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 11th 2013: 350km (220 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’770km (51’430 miles)
Also on the third consecutive driving day we cruised through very nice hilly and mountain landscapes with countless terrace fields. We stopped for lunch in a bigger village where a friendly man waved us to his restaurant. We received a bowl of meat (sheep or goat) with bread. This is actually the typical menu in Ethiopia and it is usually served with injera. This is a somewhat bitter flat bread which is made out of Teff (millet). We usually try to order bread with the food since we don’t really like the taste of the injera. :-). After lunch we enjoyed the typically Ethiopian coffee ceremony. They roast the coffee beans on a small oven over charcoal and afterwards can everyone smell the scent of the beans when the give the bowl with the beans into the round :-). They grind it then to powder and put it into the boiling water through the small opening in the tiny clay pots. While the coffee is again on the burning charcoal, they put some coal on a plate and put some frankincense over it for the smell. The coffee is served with plenty of sugar in a small espresso cup, and it really does taste very good. We had a good time during lunch with the restaurant owner and his friend. The further trip was regarding the landscape great. It looked quite idyllic to us with those huts and villages surrounded by countless fields. For the community there it is far from being idyllic with the harsh living conditions. Just shortly before Lalibela it went once again up the hill and we had a great view from there.
December 12th Lalibela, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 12th 2013: 0km (0 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’770km (51’430 miles)
And now we arrived, in Lalibela, one of the main attractions in Ethiopia. The absolutely unique sights here are the churches from the 12th century. Well well, churches itself can’t be that special, but when they are cut out entirely out of the complete rock, it is indeed something special :-). The entry fee has climbed now to an outrageous 50 US$ (to compare, the Taj Mahal in India is 15$). But who cares, in the eyes of the locals are anyways all the white people plucking the 100 dollar bills from the trees!
The world heritage sight is also called New-Jerusalem and is an important pilgrimage place for Orthodox Christians. The churches are still today being used for services and ceremonies. During the services in the well visited churches aren’t the people allowed to sit down, so even the older people are managing to stand the entire 3 hours. During our guided tour we were able to witness one of the ceremonies in a church with numerous priests in white robes. Also the interior was very impressive! The houses of god were remarkably decorated with different paintings, patterns and characters carved into stone. Many of the guides explanations were quite irritating for us, since we do unfortunately not know the biblical history too well. But anyways it was a remembering and very impressive experience!
Over some time the “students” of Lalibela were getting somewhat annoying. They were friendly and funny but at the end still a bit annoying :-). We got stopped regularly by 12 to 16 years old boys during our town walking that wanted to clean our shoes or just something else. At the end the asked friendly if we couldn’t help them out with a donation to help financing their studies. Their “studies” is rather „how do I get the most money from the white man” than any more useful topic! There are rumors (which we can truly believe) where those boys have their own bank accounts and receive from naïve tourists regularly some donations... Well, the only thing that the dumb tourist is encouraging with this is the laziness of the youth, the skipping of school and finally also a wrong picture of the western world!!!
December 13th Lalibela – Sekota, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 13th 2013: 130km (80 miles)
Driven distance total: 82’900km (51’510 miles)
A 13-year-old boy joined us during our lunch break because he was looking for a ride on the seldom-visited road. We had unfortunately some communication troubles, so we didn’t really know how far the guy wants to join us. We figured he intends to go to the next village since he is on foot. So we continued with a third passenger. We were surprised when the guy got out of the car 60km (37 miles) later!! It was a shame that we couldn’t speak to each other. We were actually quite eager to know if he intended to walk this far?? And also the story, why, what and from where he was coming would have been interesting! In this village we took a short coffee break. Immediately were 2 young men sitting beside us, helped us ordering coffee (which isn’t really that difficult usually :-) ) and chatted with us. Strengthened from the coffee and the chat we continued the journey. Also regarding the landscape it got more and more diverse. In between the beige-green cultivated hills were reddish colored cliffs visible.
December 14th Sekota – Mekele, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 14th 2013: 230km (140 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’130km (51’650 miles)
We broke a new record on this day! We acted 5 times as a taxi! Not really because we don’t have to say anything anymore to each other, but rather because it is a very seldom frequented road by vehicles and everyone wants a ride. We could have easily stopped 20 times and picked up 10 persons. We have to mention here one of the hitchhiking experiences at this point. Well, Ethiopia isn’t actually our favorite country. The main reason for this is, that we feel often as a walking wallet in the rural areas. Almost everything is finally about the money. Many people (guides, priests, car washers, parking guys etc..) always want still even more and the kids are already born with the words „give give give give“ or „money money money“ in their mouth! We reached the point where we sometimes have no desire at all anymore to drive through a village with the car. But now back to the hitchhiker! One of our passengers was an older man that we took 6km (4 miles) with us! Already on the way he tried to explain us something with his hands and made gestures like milking a cow :-). It didn’t take long until curious people, mainly children, surrounded our car after we arrived at the old man’s village! The man “explained” that we should wait in the car and went for 2 minutes inside his house. In the meantime were the kids around our car asking for pen or money. The older man returned with some kind of Jug and a glass. As a thank you he offered 2 full glasses of milk :-). The children didn’t understand anything anymore!! Why the hell is a black man giving a white man (woman) something without getting some money for it?? We continued full of joy after this great and motivating experience! At our next stop we realized, that the very naughty kids took some of our stickers off the car while we were slurping happily the milk from the old man! Welcome to EthiopiaL!
December 15th Mekele – Megab, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 15th 2013: 100km (60 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’230km (51’720 miles)
When we drove through beautiful hilly landscape, we had to realize one more time how aggressive the children are here. Of course were most children running towards the car as soon as the saw our car. As usual we didn’t stop and didn’t gave any pen or money! It happened twice that the children threw rocks towards the car!! We didn’t put up with this, stopped rapidly and threw a stone back at them!! We didn’t really wanted to hurt them, but maybe they realized that people just don’t let this happen! Probably they are just getting more aggressive, who knows... As closer as we got to the village Megab, as more beautiful got the mountains. High towers of reddish cliffs were immerging from the ground. The so-called campground in Megab was nothing else then some space besides the house of a guide. We enjoyed once again a coffee ceremony there, after we got installed. Also the kids were happy with us and the mostly enjoyed our binoculars :-). Towards the evening we made a walk in the area. Shortly after we took off, we had a bunch of nice, well behaving children accompanying us :-).
December 16th Megab – Axum, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 16th 2013: 210km (130 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’440km (51’850 miles)
The first half of the day was from religious nature. We went to church! As one can expect, it wasn’t because of service, but rather because of the church itself, to be precisely because of the location of the church. Our campground host was now also our tour guide to show us how to reach the church. We did have to hike to reach it. We were about 400m (1300 feet) higher in altitude after hiking close to an hour! We had to climb at certain spots and it was unimaginable for us that also women with their small children on their back are going up there to baptize their children! The final 10m (30 feet) to the church were quite something. A small path was leading along a hundreds of meters steep cliff to the church! Now was also the view spectacular! The rock formations as well as the canyons provided a fantastic picture.
On the inside of the church were once again several paintings, really old religious books and other relicts to be found. The whole thing was really impressive, also because such churches and places are still being used regularly.
When it came to the tip, everybody, including the priest, wanted to have more. Even people that were there, who didn’t do a thing were holding in vain their hand open!!
We continued later on our journey along red-brown cliffs and canyons until we reached the town of Axum. Now something else to tell. We encounter always the police on our journeys and what surprises us is the following. In Kenya as well as in Ethiopia we didn’t get stopped one single time by the police! We assume that the police is not allowed to stop tourists because it could get a bad image of the country...
We stayed at a hotel in Axum that also had a pizzeria inside. The pizza-man slings the dough several feet into the air as he didn’t do anything else in his life, like in Italy in the old times. Even the pizzas smelled just as in Italy! Yummy :-)!
December 17th Axum, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 17th 2013: 0km (0 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’440km (51’850 miles)
Our day started with the most famous sight in town: The steles (pillars) of Axum. To our surprise was the entry fee to the “pillars park” really cheap. Many of those steles (pillars) were erected between the 3rd and the 10th century. They served as tombstones and graves for Axumit rulers and kings. The three most impressive and tallest of those steles are decorated with doors, windows and beams because the nation of the Axumits had the imagination that the graves are serving the dead as houses. The highest of the pillars (33m / 100 feet) is unfortunately only possible to view in the horizontal way... There is the assumption that it already tipped over during the erection of it. Also the second highest (24m / 80 feet) has its story. The pillar got moved in 1937 to Rome during the Italian occupation. They re-erected it there and just in 2005 it got back to Axum! There are several smaller steles besides the three big one in the park. Just besides this park is the Ethiopian-Orthodox cathedral of Axum, where the most important sanctum is supposed to be. According to the Ethiopians lies here the Ark of the Covenant with the 10 commandments, which makes Axum to the religious center of the Ethiopian-Orthodox religion.
December 18th Axum – Debark, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 18th 2013: 260km (160 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’700km (52’010 miles)
We finally started at 9AM although we heard from other people that this part will take about 11 hours to drive. The first part was asphalt and the rest was under construction!! Up and down, right and left; the Landrover reliably drove us through the beautiful hills and mountains of northern Ethiopia. We spent our lunch break in a small restaurant where 2 Eritrean refugees granted themselves to 10 beers. Half an hour later we finished eating and another half hour later, after the coffee ceremony, we could finally leave. The road was getting always worse and the sun was always lower, until we finally had to drive in darkness! We drove slowly for nearly 2 hours in the dark along a bumpy steep road until we finally arrived (8 PM) at our intermediate stop Debark. Well, as we figured out it also has its advantages to drive by night. The children in the villages are figuring it out too late or not at all that white people are coming, so we cruised around for once with out the fan-cheering :-).
December 19th Debark – Gondar, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 19th 2013: 100km (60 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’800km (52’070 miles)
Now the mountains slowly disappeared and we entered rather flat areas with green fields. After we arrived in Gondar we strolled around a bit through the friendly town.
December 20th Gondar, Ethiopia
Driven distance on December 20th 2013: 0km (0 miles)
Driven distance total: 83’800km (52’070 miles)
We simply visited in Gondar the well-preserved castles that are lying in the center of town. Several castles and forts were on a small area surrounded by an old wall. Gondar used to be for more that 200 years, after 1636, the capital of Ethiopia. Those castles were being built in the 17th century by the emperor Fasilides. Even though we missed some information we made this visit without a guide. Since it felt like in a park we could also enjoy the peace and silence there :-).
After the last trips it was also time to clean the car a bit. The dashboard slowly changed its color from black to brown ;-).
December 21st Gondar, Ethiopia – Gedaref, Sudan
Driven distance on December 21st 2013: 380km (240 miles)
Driven distance total: 84’180km (52’310 miles)
Now our time in Ethiopia came to an end. We are quite happy to leave this country behind us, to be honest! It does have many things to offer and is very beautiful, but never the less it was an exhausting and sometimes irksome travelling.
The trip towards the border was once again typical Ethiopian :-). The huge crowds of people that go to the weekly markets are just remarkable!
And now the border crossing. At the customs office, where we needed a stamp for the car, was a young man that explained us very unfriendly that the man in charge is taking is lunch break until 3PM, and it was just 2PM! But if we pay him something it could be done faster... So we went first to the immigration to stamp our passports and then back to customs. Well, the man in charge was already back and stamped our documents. Well, the other jerk just tried to get some money from us ;-). The entry into the Sudan happened without any problems and soon we were on the road in a new country. The difference compared to Ethiopia is huge. The roads are free of animals and people and the landscape is flat as far as the eye can see. There are fields of cotton, sorghum etc… We were also not anymore used to the many police checkpoints of which all of them were really friendly!