From Ethiopia with love.

Stunning scenery on the way to AxumDear Everyone!
Firstly thank you very much for all the great emails you’ve sent us. We are sorry that we cant always reply to you all, the internet is unbelievably expensive in Ethiopia, if we could, then we would. Now on to what you are really reading this for, where are we?!?! Addis Ababa. And as for getting here….read on.

We took a mix of public transport to the Sudan / Ethiopia border, including a luxury bus (video, food and drinks) and another truck, this one smaller with both of us crammed in the back with numerous people, bags, freight and donkey trailers. Crossing the border was very easy, but there were only the two of us not 25 in a big truck. Just fill in a form, another stamp in the passport and away we went, walking across a bridge that crossed what could be called a dry stream bed, but even that is exaggerating things. The Ethiopian side was even easier! The immigration was in a small mud walled thatched roofed hut with no power, we were just in time as it was about to close as you couldnt see to fill in the form. This was Metema, Injera, fasting fooda very small and not overly nice border town. We found the best hotel in town and settled in for our first beer in a couple of weeks. Just in time for the rain, it absolutely hosed down for about 15 minutes. We were cheap and only got one room between us, and shared a largish single bed in a room not much bigger. It was a very hot and humid night, not made any better by the roll together and slide down of the bed.

The next morning we managed to find a bus going all the way to Gondar. It was tricky as the Ethiopians use a different clock to us (and a different calendar too, its still July 1995 here!) and all the times we were given didnt make much sense.

We spent about 5 days in Gondar waiting for the truck to catch us up. We saw all the churches, the market, inside a few hotels, restaurants and bars, the hot and cold public showers, a neighbouring craft village, but not the castle as we protested at the exhorbitant entrance fee (US$6.50 for foreigners). All this could have taken a couple of days at most, but we had time for relax and siesta! If we’d known we had that much time, we would have done things differently, but contact with a truck crossing Sudan is hard!

From Gondar we did a side trip with a few people from our truck up to Axum in a 4WD. We only had a day there but managed to see pretty much all we wanted to, stellae fields, old churches, the Queen of Sheba’s palace (ruins), her bath (now a ‘modern’ reservoir), all we couldnt see was the Ark of the Covenant housed in an old church guarded by monks. The drive from Gondar to Axum was amazing, crossing the Simien mountains, windy road, hairpin bends and switchbacks, stunning views…

From Gondar we went to Bahar Dar on the edge of Lake Tana for a trip to see more monastries and the Blue Nile Falls. We didnt see the hippos the guidebook promised (a big thanks to all at PHL in Southampton for the guidebooks, they’ve been great so far and I’m sure will be for several countries more).

Next on the trail was Lalibela and the rock cut churches. Neat, but 11 churches in Beta Giorgis, Lalibelaa long morning is
more than enough, even when they are a good as these. Its pretty amazing how they were cut out of solid rock and carved so well inside. We made up for the long morning by having a long lunch eating the best pizza we’d all had for months. No matter that it didnt have cheese on, or the veges were limited to onion, tomato and carrot, it was excellent! Ethiopian food at the moment is not inspiring, they are in the middle of lent so no meat or dairy products are available most places, a few more touristy towns have had some milk and maybe yoghurt, unless you go to the muslim
butcher. What we are eating is good, shiro wat, injera etc, but gets boring quickly. We are trying to
be “culturally sensitive” and only eat what is available to the locals when we are out. What is
served on the truck is another thing, we have no contrtol over that unless we are cook group.

We are now in Addis where the food opportunities seem endless, and we have drowned ourselves in fresh (pasteurised) milk from the “supermarkets”, our first real, non powdered, Blue Nile gorgemilk since, ummmm, England. We are just sensible enough not to guzzle it down!! If only we can find some cheese for dinner….

Thats about all for this installment, we have a couple of days here before going south to Kenya, crossing briefly on our way to Uganda and hopefully some gorillas.

Keep well,
love Karen & Col
xxxxx

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