A lot has happened since we last blogged in Khartoum, but I’ll keep to the highlights and we can tell you about everything else some time over a beer.
Leaving Khartoum and heading from Sudan into Ethiopia we were struck by the sudden change in culture (Amy happily stripped off half her clothing as soon as we exited Sudan!); and were relieved by the temperature drop as we ascended into the Ethiopian highlands. We first headed 50km along a bumpy dirt road to Gorgora, a small town on Lake Tana and stumbled upon Tim and Kim’s campsite. Here we stayed for a few days brushing the sand out of Brenda, watching the vast number of birds, bathing in the lake, dodging the scorpions and generally relaxing. It’s a wonderful thing to watch a kingfisher swoop past you whilst you’re washing your hair! It was also here that we met Noah who would become a friend and travel companion for the next week and a half.
Leaving Gorgora refreshed, our next stop was Gonder where we arranged a trek into the Simien Mountains. You’re not allowed to go it alone in the Simien Park so we signed up for a 3 day trek, complete with guide, armed guard, cook, mules and muleteers. The next morning we started bright and early driving the 80km dirt road to Debark where we met our guide David and fellow trekker Ian. David was a brilliant guide and we were lucky to get him. He is a bird watching specialist, well educated on the park and a brilliant bloke to boot. The scenery was jaw dropping and we got our first taste of east African wildlife. Kites soaring just a couple of meters (literally) from our heads, giant Lammergeyer eagles, Gelada monkeys fighting, playing and grooming each other and the rare Walia Ibex made for some great photography and fantastic wildlife watching. If the rest of Africa has wildlife watching like this then we are in for a treat over the next 6 months. We walked about 15km per day on pretty good paths, camped in beautiful locations, ate well thanks to the cook and other than the chilly mornings (we were above 3000m) we couldn’t want for anything more (except maybe a shower). By the end of it we were absolutely knackered, very dirty and really looking forward to a hot shower back at the hotel. As luck would have it there was no running water or electricity all evening. ‘This Is Africa!’
Finishing our trek we invited Noah to join us and headed to Axum. The road to Axum was appalling! So far we had been travelling on corrugations which are uncomfortable and had taken its tool on one of our roof rack mountings (the metal sheared straight through!), but the 180km road to Axum was even worse. Constant switchbacks, huge holes that reduced us to 10km/ph, deep dust in places, road works that halted progress, and rock slides made for 8 hours of terrible driving (but admittedly amazing views). By the end of the day we arrived in Axum knackered. Axum itself was disappointing, so we stayed for only a day before heading to Tigrai to see the rock hewn churches. The first one took my breath away, as brilliantly described in our first guest blog from Noah.
Leaving Tigrai we made the 800km trip to Addis Ababa, bidding farewell to Noah along the way. It was odd being just the two of us again in the car as we had become very fond of Noah, however Brenda breathed a sigh of relief as she had one less person to haul over the 3250m pass. We are currently hanging out at Wim’s waiting to get the car serviced tomorrow. We are camped out on grass in a lovely compound watching the birds, enjoying the 50p/pint beer, the amazing food, cleaning the dust out of Brenda (again) and generally not doing much.
The plan now it to explore southern Ethiopia before heading into Kenya.