Undiscovered and unspoiled Shashemene

Mikebe, our gracious host in ShashemeneAfter one full day in bed (stomach yuks) and another researching bus routes at the autobustera in Mercato, I’ve decided there are NO sights like in the book. Just more overcrowded gutters with more people begging. Walking back from the bustera among the dusty citizens, each one as amazed as the next upon encountering us, Mike said, “I’m glad we wore these baggy clothes.” I couldn’t help laughing, “Yeah, because now we blend in.”

Walking back to the Piazza area was like coming back to sanity. How could I ever have imagined that? We’re actually going to forgo the pre-paid 2-hour plane ride to Nairobi and take a 4-day bus ride instead. Mike wants to see more of the country and although I do, too, I wouldn’t dream of doing this if he didn’t suggest it. His argument was, “I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been to Ethiopia and and all I’ve seen is a small part of Addis.” I feel the same and as long as Mike wants to go, let’s go!

Ok, the bus leaves at 9am. We’ll get in a few beers tonight. Nagassi found us (one of the guys we met at the little Mike with camera-friendly local kids in Shashemenebar) and joined us for a few. He as a real urgency to make a connection with us because we’re Americans. He wants to find someone who’ll “sponsor” a visit there for him, whatever that means. I’m sure it involves work and vouching for him, if not $$ in some way. I certainly can’t be a “sponsor” but we exchanged addresses anyway.

After a restless night for me, we made it to the bus at 8:15am (2:15 Ethiopian time)(???) But after loading, changing buses and loading again, we finally got out of the city and saw some unbelievable countryside: round clay huts sunken into green banana trees and 30-foot cacti, desert plains dotted with acacia trees, “roads” where there’s occasional dramatic battles for space between cattle, trucks, bicyclists, mule carts and buses.

Last stop – Shashemane, a truck-stop of a town where cattle roam the dirt streets and we are more famous here than anywhere we have been. If we stand still we are immediately swamped by the locals who ask we 1)buy something (gum, watches, nuts) 2)give them money or 3)shake hands. I don’t mind at all to chat it up. But going to the Our accomodationsmarketplace here was a big mistake, people were a little TOO enthusiastic about us. We were quickly surrounded by a riotous crowd and a crazy guy kept blowing in my face. We got out fast.

We were taken by our guide and new best friend, Mikebe (“call me Max,” he says). Sharpest 14-year old I’ve ever met. He saw us on the bus entering town and was the only one who greeted us with “Shalom! Shalom!” He showed us to the hotel and around the town – bank, beer, food, market. He didn’t take a tip but we gave him our little book on Kenya – great kid! Can’t wait to write him sometime. He helped us get a minibus this morning, first to Awasa then to Dela maybe tomorrow to Moyale…. Note: My name is now “You, you” or “Sister”. I really like “Sister.”

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