From Addis to the border
We knew the next few days were going to be tiring. We had a two day drive to the border between Ethiopia and Kenya and then two more days of very tiring driving after that.
First of course we had to get out of Addis. We were just in time to experiennce the delights of peak hour traffic there. A three lane road was really built for five lanes, wasn't it?? With traffic coming from all sides it was a challenge to stay together in a group. Thiemo as the one who best knew the way, was leading us, but inevidably we missed seeing which way he took at one point. So the remaining vehicles made their way in the general direction of Out, and with the help of the radios, found him again and were on our way.
We were headed first for the town of Shashemene, the home of Rastafarianism where Bob Marley figures large in the local consciousness. On the way were the usual odd collections of roadside stalls. There was about a kilometre long stretch where the traders sold simply rugs and car jacks. Another section sold the local area handcraft of woven string-covered water bottles, all hanging on a cord strung up between two poles.
The vegetation was changing along the way too. The main crop we saw being grown was enset ... perhaps only the geographers amongst you will know what that is! We certainly didn't until we went to the Ethnology Museum in Addis. It is False Banana - looks like a tall banana tree but it isn't. And big succulent trees called Water Trees - for obvious reasons. This Water Tree was also used as live fencing around small plots of land and around the houses.
And what a surprise for our stop for the night - Wondo Genet Hot Springs. On arrival we were greeed by our first monkeys - vervet monkeys. Quite wicked and mischievous creatures - and very appealing initially. They were all over the cars and we had to make sure all the windows and doors of the cars (and the zips on our tents) were always shut. Fred lost 2 packets of chips to a sneaky one almost immediately - and they have no difficulty opening the packets!
The hot springs were down the hill and consisted of an old pool of tepid water to swim in and open-to -the-sky change and shower areas. In these were 4 pipes up about 3 metres above the ground cascading streams of hot water. From that height the water gave you an incredible massage! Any dust and dirt was pummeled out of the skin with great vigour. For the first time in ages we were really clean!
As we travelled on, the countryside alternated between drier and lusher, and the mountains seemed gentler, though we still reached heights of over 7000 feet. All along the roads were stalls full of local produce such as lemons,maize, enset, avocados and pineapples.
Near Yabello, our stop for the night, the dsert was asserting itself again and we saw our first camels in quite a while. And our abiding impression of the land was children, children, children. City Ethiopians are apparently starting to limit their famly size to three or four children, but country people traditionally have larger families with the average size being 12 children. And we can believe it. There are children of all ages everywhere in the most amazing numbers. Schools apparently work in shifts and at any time there are literally hundreds of smartly uniformed kids walking towards and back fom school in every small town or settlement.
Hans's birthday was duly that night celebrated with cake and candles (the big ones were straight when I bought them but suffered in the heat somewhat). However, bent candles in beer bottles on a camping table certainly exude an air of sophistication to any camp site...
The last stretch to the border was a real change. The desert returned along with arid land vegetation. Farming plots were bigger and signs proclaiming "Drought Preparedness Program" were frequent. There were more camels, and sheep with black heads that looked as if they had been dipped in tar. The houses now were not round and the rooves were not thatched anymore - understandable since the prevailing vegetation was now acacia trees and bushes with viscous thorns.
And so we arrived at Moyale on the Ethiopian side. Debs took the immigration and customs in hand, while Thiemo handled the carnets for the cars. We found a dodgy moneychanger in a tin shed behind a corrugated iron fence off the dusty main street and changed our Birr into Kenyan Shillings - essential if we wanted to buy a beer with dinner on the other side!
Only an hour or two at the Ethiopian side and then over the border to do customs, immigration and carnets at Moyale on the Kenyan side. Anothern hour...
Our first camp in Kenya was in a Kenyan Wildlife Service campsite complete with lion trap. Beer was from a canteen run by the local prisoners and we slept soundly to the roar of the adjacent diesel fired power station.