8 May 2008
Wad Medani - Ethiopia (Bush camp)
BRUCE: The drive to the border was easier than we expected as the road is now tarred the whole way now. The border process was also really straight forward - just stamp the carnet, stamp the passport and you are out of Sudan. There is no fence, no boom, no nothing, just a dry river bed …and you are in Ethiopia! The change is immediate and massive with lots of women around all smiling and happy, African people with white teeth grins. Immigration was just as easy on the Ethiopian side and we had to go to the next village to find customs. That was also very straight forward. Found a bank a bank in that village too that would change USD and we now have some Birr! The next job was to find beer! We found some at a little shop and after some haggling and chaos a man came up and sorted out the right price for us - 5 for the beer and 6 for the bottle or something like that.
The kids here are great and they run around shouting 'you, you, you'- very strange but all smiles and waving. The scenery is awesome too with the dirt road winding through massive hills all covered in normal bush. It's awesome after being in the desert for so long. We found a nice to camp, just off the road, and Se asked a girl if we could sleep there. She replied 'yes' but then also replied 'yes' to anything else we asked her. So we went to find the farmer and gave him some tea and sugar in exchange which went down well. Just after dinner when Se had gone to bed the farmer arrived with a chap carrying an R1 rifle and said that the man would sleep next to us. A nice gesture to ensure that we are safe! I just hope that he is not needed! Had a few beers and a good chat and went to bed at 12ish. We were woken a couple of times by cattle grazing around the cars but otherwise the camp was quiet.
CHILLED OUT GONDER
9 May 2008
Bush camp - Gonder (Terara Hotel camping)
SARAH: We were woken up to the sound of school kids hanging around our Landy…a sign of things to come in Ehtiopia. The drive to Gonder was just beautiful through green and brown rolling hills along a windy dirt road. We were climbing into the mountains quickly and for the first time we had a cool breeze blowing in the window. Ethiopia already feels more like the Africa I know but I wasn't feeling that excited as my chesty cold was now a streaming head cold and I slept the rest of the way to Gonder. Gonder is a viby African town with a chilled rusta feel to it. We could camp at the Terara Hotel. It's a complete dive but we're used to dirty unhygienic toilets and were gald we could stay in our tents rather than some dodgy room. I pretty much slept all day and had a short walk into town for some great tea and delicious cake at the Bizawit Café. Bruce's tummy is now playing up after the 5 beers he had last night so we had soup at the Hotel and an early night.
10 May 2008
Gonder (Terara Hotel camping)
SARAH: It's wonderful sleeping in weather that's cool enough to use the duvet and net get chased out of our tents with the hot morning sun. I needed a good nights rest and felt better for it. We braved the revolting bathroom in the morning for a shower before the water got turned off again and were faced with a poo next to the toilet, a shower head that fell off into the enamel bath and cold water! It was revoltingly dirty and I tried not to touch anything!
The food in Ethiopia is cheap and great! It's much cheaper in fact to eat out than cook for ourselves so we had an omelette for breakfast and then spent hours at an internet café downloading photos for our blog. By the time we finished we realised it was too late to do any sight seeing and we'd planned to do a shop with Taco and Brenda for the Simien Mountains. However, Brenda's tummy wasn't feeling so good now so we decided we all needed one more days rest before going to the Simiens. We had a big planning session as from now on we've got choices of routes and we suddenly need to know what we're planning on doing not only in this country but in neighbouring countries as well. It's a bit of a wake up call and we've got lots of reading to do now but it's exciting! We popped into town in the evening and had another great meal of lamb chops and pizza with beers all for less than £4 UK. Whilst there we caught a glimpse of the English news and were horrified that the Southern Sudan army from Darfur has attacked Khartoum with gunfire in the western suburbs and a curfew ordered to all in Khartoum. I wonder if Philip is still there as the Blue Nile Sailing Club is right next to government buildings. Thank god we've left but it's scary to think we missed this upheaval by just 3 days. It's another sign we need to stay more vigilant with the news and events of these volatile African countries we're travelling through.
SIGHT SEEING IN GONDER
11 May 2008
Gonder (Terara Hotel camping)
BRUCE: Se and I were determined to do some sight seeing today so we went to the café for a breakfast of cake and coffee and headed off to see the Selassi Church that is just outside of town. We walked through the outskirts of town to get there, through a residential area with stalls on the side of the road and kids washing donkeys. One stall was selling odd shoes! So you could have any shoe you wanted, you just could not have a pair.
The church was awesome and well worth the walk. It is set in a circular stone enclosure with a thatched roof and had the most incredible bright painted walls and ceilings. On one wall is painted scenes of Jesus from the bible and on the other paintings of the saints. The ceiling is painted with little cherub faces all in a row. It was interesting that all the saints and nearly everyone except Jesus was painted with a dark skin and an afro!
Back in the centre plaza of Gonder we had a drink and Se had hot mango tea served in a little clear glass so you could see the bright orange liquid through it. It was deliciously sweet! Inside Gonder is the Royal Enclosure which is an enclosed area with six castles inside. The castles date back to the 1600's but some remain in ruins from being bombed by the British in WWII. The castles were nice but not as good as the church.
We had a great traditional Ethiopian meal of Injera at a restaurant we found after our visit to the castle. You sit at low tables (with Egyptian geese walking around) and they serve big plates of Injera with all sorts of fillings like egg, mince, salad etc. Injera is a big, grey, sour pancake that you break pieces off and eat with the filling in your fingers. My stomach is still no better but we will head up to the Simien Mountains tomorrow anyway.