Caross News

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Caron sitting on one of the tanks that litters the Ethiopian mountain passes Posted by Picasa

Our Bertha broken down in the middle of nowhere

Our Berta brokendown in the middle of nowhere Posted by Picasa

A priest sits on the steps of one of the famous churches carved into the ground Posted by Picasa

The Lalibela cross, five kilos of gold and a super cool priest, the sunglasses because of camera flash. Posted by Picasa

Had to show you some Ethiopian scenery Posted by Picasa

Ethiopia to Nairobi

After months of African travel, we were beginning to think that we could take anything in our stride, well Ethiopia broke our stride and blew our minds. Ethiopia had us constantly guessing, always unsure of where we stood and never knowing what would be next. Just as Asia has India, Africa has Ethiopia. Spicy food, beggars, poverty, fleas, beautiful scenery, a big country, Ethiopia is an overwhelming experience.

After climbing Mt. Kenya, an amazing experience and a really beautiful, rugged mountain, a cold mountain as Caron will tell you, we hit the road north. The road to Ethiopia has a reputation for being one of the roughest in Kenya and Kenyan roads are reputed to some of the worst in Africa…

Input Caron – Mt Kenya was awesome!!!! From the time we left SA Ross has wanted to climb a high peak in Africa. I however, was not convinced. I tried hard not to think about the whole idea. Then like everything the moment arrived. We had several debates about which mountain we would climb but by a process of elimination we ended up on Mt Kenya. I am very glad we did it. For the first time on the trip we had spectacular weather. We managed to summit and had clear views. We saw the sunrise and could see Mt Meru and Kili. The mountain is very rugged and has glaciers. I have never been so cold in all my life but it was truly exhilarating!

Yes the sensible way to go to Ethiopia is to fly, get picked up at the airport and be transferred to your luxury Addis Abbiba hotel. We took on the brutish Moyale road and all its scenery. The road runs past mountains; through two deserts; through Marsabit, a dusty scruffy mountain top town and finally into Ethiopia. As we drove we passed the Samburu people who still herd their animal in gaudy traditional dress, camel trains in search of water and gunmen guarding their livestock. We were awestruck by the time we entered Ethiopia.

Our first experience of Ethiopian food had us convinced that we would be very happy in the country. Eating is a very sociable event, food is served on Injera a large sour pancake like bread. You tear off a piece of the Injera, wrap some food in it and eat, no cutlery, one very big plate for the table. All of the food is spicy, for our first meal we were lucky to try one of the mildest, cubed fried meat. By the end of our Ethiopian time we had found that our Western constitutions just could not take the pace. We began to fear Wat, Ethiopia’s version of stew, made with loads of spices, lashings of garlic, bags of onions, gee and tomatoes all cooked for hours to reduce and concentrate the flavours. The national delicacy is Doro Wat, one chicken leg or wing, one boiled egg and a bowl full of Wat sauce. More than being an acquired taste, Wat must take years of digestive tract adaptation.

Coffee, coffee everywhere!!! Funky coffee shops line the streets of Addis as well as small towns. Noisy coffee machines work overtime as locals sit and enjoy their coffee. Coffee is served in small cups and is quite strong. Cakes and pastries are available. We discovered a local coffee shop and indulged in machiato’s and donuts for two for five rand!!!

A yell of, “You! Yew! Yew!”, is the standard greeting that is used by Ethiopian children, apparently in their culture it is not rude, so after getting used to it, you begin to yell back, “Yes you” or “Hello you”, which everyone seems to love.

Our northern most point was Lalibela with the rock-strewn churches. They are a real achievement in architecture and quite unlike anything we have ever seen before. What was a real treat was that the churches are still in use and not just decaying structures. Priests stroll around the corridors chanting and praying. During the tourist season the priests sit in the churches, pray and pose for photos. Of course a model fee is required. As business is so good the priests have taken to wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from flashes. Every good tourist needs a photo of a priest as a photo truly speaks a thousand words.

The past few months have posed several challenges and the hard roads have taken their toll on the car. We broke down in Lalibela (a travelers nightmare) but with the assistance of a great overland mechanic and Ross’s improving mechanical skills the problem was temporarily fixed. We had to shop for parts in Addis and Nairobi and negotiate with local mechanics (truly daunting). We have replaced 4 shocks, an alternator and repaired a puncture!!! After speaking to locals it seems we got off lightly with our car problems and we will be glad to be on the road again.

Everything about Ethiopia was just as foreign as greetings and food were. After three weeks we were flea bitten, nervous drivers, tired and suffering from experience overload. There is lots still to see in beautiful Ethiopia, we left with very mixed feelings and are now looking forward to Malawi and more relaxing travel in Southern Africa.

Berta broken down in Lalibela, 800km of bad road to Addis Posted by Picasa

Shot up tanks litter the Ethiopian mountain passes Posted by Picasa