DEAF DISCO DANCING!
25 May 2008
Addis Ababa - Wabe Shebele Lodge Camping N7 39.011 E38 42.366
SARAH: It's good to be back on the road as I feel our trip has really lost momentum with the car being in the garage for a week and me being sick. I'm also missing camping and cooking our own food. Eating out is easy but I'm now tired of it and I'm looking forward to more camping friendly countries. We'd missed a visit from Brenda and Taco but they hadn't left me an email so I don't know what their plans are. We've decided it's best time wise and vehicle wise not to do the remote Omo Valley route but make our way to Kenya along the more frequently used Moyale Rd. We were really hoping that Taco and Brenda will be able to join us but were not sure as we may have slightly different schedules now. The villages south of Addis seemed far less rural compared to those in the north but animals and people continued to walk all over the road. We're also sure that the vibration we are feeling is related to worn track rod ends which we can fix in Nairobi. Our mega vibration must have been a combination of problems. We've entered the Great Rift Valley and camped next to one of the huge lakes. It feels more South African with Bougainvillea, Jacaranda trees, weavers and lots of bird life. It would have been beautifully peaceful having sundowners on the lake if it wasn't for about 30 Deaf Ethiopians having a party there. Bruce and I were kept up till 2am by the blaring music while the deaf people danced non-stop, even between songs or when they changed CD's. Maybe they needed to feel the vibrations because we certainly did.
BAD ROADS AND STONNINGS
26 May 2008
Wabe Sheble Lodge - Arba Minch (Bekele Mola Hotel Camping N6 00.319 E37 32.998)
BRUCE: We had no real plan for today knowing only that we wanted to move on south. WE did some reading while making coffee and tea on the fire and agreed to go to Arba Minch in the North Omo region of the Rift Valley where the scenery is supposed to be awesome. From there we will go on to Konso, Yebello and Moyale before crossing into Kenya. We stopped in Shashemene to check our email and try and arrange to meet taco and Brenda. We had an email from them and it turns out that they have OUR canet and we have theirs! Taco discovered this at customs in Addis. They must have been swapped over when we crossed the border in Ethiopia. We had the best fruit cocktail juice with mango, avo and other fruits all mixed in, and a great hamburger at a café in Shashemene.
The road to Arba Minch was the worse tar road we have had with massive of huge pot holes. We took 4 hours to do the last 100kms and arrived after dark. The villages in this part are scruffy agricultural places with people driving their cattle through the streets. The kids are also odd and suffer from 'Ferangi' frenzy yelling it at us as we pass. We were even stoned by one group of kids, not nice. The road was also full of cattle as the farmers move their herds home. We found the Bekele Mola Hotel and arranged to camp in their garden for 80Birr. Apparently the views are awesome but we will have to wait until morning to find out. We had fish at the hotel for dinner and finished off with the best coffee I have had….ever!
SCENIC NECH SAR NATIONAL PARK
27 May 2008
Arba Minch - Nech Sar National Park
Nech Sar National Park
Entrance 110Birr / person
Camping 20Birr / person
SARAH: After finding the moved park headquarters and paying our entrance fee we entered the park. The location is stunning and the view from the hotel this morning made the bad drive well worth it. To the right was a blue lake (Lake Chamo) surrounded by thick green bush. A large hill separates the second red lake (Lake Abaya) to my left. The park includes both lakes but with the thick dense green bush it was hard to spot game. We went on an adventurous drive to crocodile market only to find ourselves driving deeper into the bush on a rocky road. In the end there was no road and we were literally pushing passed trees and bushes to pass. 'Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads…' But the bush won in the end and we had to turn back. This park is seriously overgrown. It was wonderful to be in our first game park and the scenery was incredible. We saw loads of crocs in the blue lake waiting fro dinner…local fisherman waist deep in water!! Crazy people but kept us entertained as we sat with binoculars on Crocodile Watch! The road was very rocky and destroyed our tyres as we climbed up and over the hill separating the 2 lakes. Despite the thick bush we spotted Gunthers dik diks, kudu, reed buck, and once in the open plains saw Hartebeest, zebra, warthog and impala. We were the only people in the park so had it to ourselves and it's wild remoteness made it all the more enjoyable.
It's a pity that the independent (African Parks) Management company is pulling out as the government is not supporting them and the local tribes are taking over and grazing animals in the park. It is so sad that the whole of Ethiopia is heading this way. They live for the now and not for the future.
We had a brilliant day and camped back at the Bekele Mola Hotel where we chatted to a German/Swedish couple who've sold their house and are travelling for the rest of their lives in a specially designed truck - very smart (www.gunwilltruck.com). It was a late night and I enjoyed the local Ethiopian white wine.
BRENDA AND TACO SURPRISE US
28 May 2008
Arba Minch (Bekele Mola Hotel Camp)
BRUCE: We decided to spend the day around the Landy today. Had a long chat to the couple with the big truck and had a tour of it. They have really done it well, but it must have cost them a fortune! They were heading off to Konso today and we will be heading off there tomorrow so may see them again. We were sitting on the veranda of the hotel doing some blog stuff after lunch when I saw a green defender pull in. Brenda and Taco had arrived!! What a surprise! It was great to see them. We spent the afternoon catching up on what they had been up to. They had been living the high life in Addis eating out at posh Italian restaurants and chilling at the flower farm! Lucky b*****s! We all had dinner together at the hotel which was nice and Se and I booked a coffee ceremony for tomorrow morning.
29 May 2008
Arba Minch (Bekele Mola Hotel Camp)
SARAH: Because Brenda and Taco had just arrived we decided to spend an extra day here and then drive to the border together. Bruce and I had a traditional coffee ceremony at the hotel in the morning which consisted of watching the green coffee beans being roasted on a fire, ground and then boiled in a beautiful clay pot on hot coals. The coffee was beautifully smooth and strong (even I like the coffee here). We had a cheese omlette for breakfast and spent most of the day around the hotel enjoying the view. Bruce and I did venture into town to buy a few things and were quickly reminded how pestering and annoying the Ethiopians are with their constant begging and aggressive manner. I'm definitely ready to leave Ethiopia.
TRADITIONAL EHTIOPIAN VILLAGE & RONNIES TEA SHOP GOES GLOBAL
30 May 2008
Arba Minch - Konso (Green Hotel Camp N5 20.486 E37 26.359)
BRUCE: We were expecting a bad road between Arba Minch and Konso but to our surprise it was not too bad. There were some dry river bed crossings that would have made it tough had there been more rain but we managed them easily. The kids here have started shouting something new at us too - 'Highland'. We were really puzzled by this at first but found out it means they want and empty plastic water bottle!! When we arrived in Konso all one little boy could chant was 'You-Highland-You-Highland'. It was definitely time to leave Ethiopia. We paid our fees to visit the village of Meckele, loaded our guide into the back of our Landy and drove the 30mins over rough tracks to the village. When we arrived we were immediately swamped by kids and the throng followed us as we walked around their village. Essentially the village is a collection of stone enclosures with further family enclosures within. Thy keep everything in the family enclosure including livestock! The whole place was really dirty and the people even dirtier and they all run around striking poses hoping that you'll take a photo and pay them 1 Birr. Walking around the village I started to relax and enjoy the view. I think that the people can pick up on that and by the time we left it was smiles and goodbyes all around and I drove down feeling much happier.Back at the Green Hotel we made tea and joked with the locals as we opened a tea shop for them. We chilled and played some cards and had a nice tuna pasta for dinner. Tomorrow Kenya!
BATTLE FIELD TOUR & BEING REFUSED TO LEAVE ETHIOPIA
31 May 2008
Konso - Moyale Kenyan Border (KWS CampsiteN5 20.486 E37 26.359) Great Campsite.
SARAH: We'd heard that there had been some tribal warfare between Konso and Yebello in the last week and that the road had been closed. So we travelled in caution leaving Konso at 7am. This is real wild African bush with only tribal people living in it. On the road we saw Warthog, Dik Dik and Kudu. After about 20km we came to a wooden bridge that Taco was inspecting after finding a few missing timbers.While he was checking the bridge Bruce noticed a group of men up ahead who were pacing up and down the road, hefting spears and pointing at the ground. Sure enough we hadcome across one of the warring tribes who were hunting the enemy. By now a few more men had arrived with AK-47's and we decided that it was time to get moving, broken bridge or not! They let us pass peacefully but about 10km down the road we met their enemy walking in the opposite direction, also with spears and AK-47's, so we waved politely and drove past. I'm glad we weren't there when they met! I'm sure their dispute was over cattle grazing and much further on we felt we'd passed the trouble area as we saw women, children and cattle around again. Life out here is at it's wildest!The road was a rough and rocky dirt road and we were happy to hit the pretty good tar from Yebello south to the border. Formalities at the border were quick. However the problems started when we didn't want to change our Birr on the black market and one of the money changers got really agro with us. We flatly told him his rate wasn't good enough for us. Things got worse when the police were influenced by the black market money changers and lowered the boom refusing to let us leave the country! We were livered and Bruce tried to find someone of authority to ask them why they wouldn't let us leave because we refused to change money on the illegal black market? The money changers then shouted that it's illegal to take Birr out of Ethiopia. We were all fuming and they kept us waiting about 30mins but eventually let us go as Brenda negotiated a better rate for changing and we just said we had no Birr on us. It was a bitter end to a difficult time in Ethiopia. It's a beautiful country going to ruin and my advice to other travellers would be to pick 2 or 3 things they want to see whilst driving straight through the country. The people are wrecking the place. In contrast the Kenyan border officials were very friendly, polite and helpful. We were stamped into Kenya in about 20mins with no fees. The campsite had shower and toilet facilities and there was even grass! Best of all the kids all said hello without asking for money and they were cleanly dressed. I get the feeling Kenyans have more pride and it's good to be in Kenya.
SUMMARY OF EHTIOPIA
Diesel: 6.9 Birr/l
Exchange rate: 10Birr:1USD
Beer: 6 Birr (with the runs)
Border crossing: 1hr in / 1hr out (when we were allowed out)
HIGHLIGHTS OF EHTIOPIA
2.Simien Mountain trekking
3.Arba Minch camp in North Omo Valley
4.Ethio Lakes Garage hospitality
LOWLIGHTS OF ETHIOPIA
2.Annoying aggressive kids (some throwing stones)
3.Very bad rocky roads- that destroyed our tyres