Friday, 7 December 2007
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
After stocking up on essentials, such as loo paper, powdered and fresh milk, butter and even some fresh meat we planned to depart
The next day it was a short journey to the
The southern part of
Instead of heading to the border at Moyale we headed south west to the Omo valley which we heard was very interesting in terms of different tribal peoples and the scenery. Also it meant avoiding the infamous
There are a few of theses barricades dotted around and generally after waiting, someone appears and after enquiring where we are from and where we are going we are on our way. Not so here. These police officers first of all wanted a letter of some description which we were certain we did not need then they decided they needed a “fee” from us! This we were positive was not required. When the truck beside us was allowed through the barrier we also decided to go, the police however had different ideas. Out came the guns etc so we stopped. Gavin got out of the car to try to reason with them but they then seemed terrified of us and started running away to behind their fire. What was a bit more worrying was when they started sending all the locals away! I just sat in the car thinking that this was not the time for me to give someone a telling off.
So we were at a bit of a stalemate. They would not talk to us but they would also not let us through and were keeping their guns cocked (or whatever you do with guns), not a good time to test my theory that they had no ammunition. Having made sure I had parked the car in the most inconvenient place; in that it blocked the road for any more traffic, I decided to get out the chairs and sit in the shade to wait it out. Eventually a truck turned up, then another. One of the truck drivers spoke good English and helped resolve this impasse. After it became clear that they wanted a bribe for me trying to go through their barrier it also became even more apparent that they were not going to get one from us. All of a sudden we could leave, there were a few firm handshakes and everyone was all smiles and we were on our way.
We made camp that night in solitude. Not a single observer turned up. Also the area did seem to be much more sparsely inhabited than the rest of
The next day at Turmi we met some very friendly police officers at the barricade who asked us to take lunch to their colleagues 20 km down the road at the next barrier. Not wanting to have more guns pulled on us we happily obliged them. Or at least we would have if we could find their colleagues. After over 40miles we arrived at Omorate (a border town miles from the border). We ended up giving the lunch box to the Immigration man there and hoping for the best, just hoping that the intended recipient found some food from somewhere.
Omorate is a decidedly unsophisticated town but it did have a man with whom I could change our last Ethiopian Birr into Kenyan Shillings, whilst a kid (young goat) the size of a kitten looked on. A very helpful man told us the way to the border, the turn off was 17km back at a sign indicating that there was a health clinic down the sandy track.
We did not really know anything about the tribes living in the area but given the variety of styles of dress there seemed to be a number of different ones. Most of the women were bare breasted and clearly the Ethiopian Tourist promotional posters depict the girls with the most “fresh” figures, never the women who have had 5 or 6 children or their mothers! Many wore skirts made from cow hides which they also used as backpacks. Both men and women wore lots of necklaces and some rubbed some ochre coloured substance on their faces and into their hair. Some of the men had ornate hair dos with different coloured mud raised up at the back with a feather poking out. Apparently this indicates he has been successful with a big kill over the last year. I am not sure this big kill relates to tribal warfare or to buffalo (I don’t think it relates to tourists). In general these people presented themselves with a lot more dignity and pride than many other people we have seen in Ethiopia wearing filthy clothes and their children with filthy faces and bodies, always with the outreached upturned palms. I am not sure how these tribal people have retained their ancient ways in the face of all the temptations the modern living poses. The area is not very easy to reach but it is also not that isolated and tourists do come here. I don’t know what the tourists do, look at them, pay them to take a photo?
The children along the more main road were certainly relatively tourist wise. They would do tricks and little dances or hold up souvenirs to buy as we drove by, inevitably if nothing is given an upturned palm is offered.
Later on that day we had another odd police encounter at a barricade in the middle of a sandy plain, with a few shacks nearby (maybe they were expecting us to bring them lunch). Anyway after explaining we were going to
We drove for another 5km and made camp. Luckily I had finished my wash before the locals arrived, having followed our tracks. However, they brought good news- we were in
The next day we made ourselves known to the police in Ileret, a town comprising a police building, their radio antennae and not much else. The route the police suggested took us through the
Our brand new tyres were already receiving a bit of a hammering from the rocks and lava so at lunch Gavin again played swap the tyres, replacing the rear tyres with the old ones. As we continued on our way we saw no-one, the last vehicle we had seen was yesterday lunchtime. We were really pleased with the privacy this would offer until just before stopping for the night, on the 4th Parallel, the transfer box lever broke. We were unable to select low ratio or apply the diff lock, essential for this terrain (for people with scant technical know-how, like me, this is what helps the car drive up really steep slippery slopes and negotiate technical routes).
The prospect of getting stuck and running out of water in the biggest middle of a dry nowhere was not appealing. We had not seen a well since before the border.
Lucky for me I married a most practical and manly chap (the Frenchies called him MacGyver) who repaired it. So after another omelette dinner we slept easily, well would have, if it had not been a howling, hot gale.
The next day we actually came to a town,
We had heard, by word of mouth, of a place to camp called Swiss Henry’s Place. We had also heard that his wife set up a bakery. That clinched it for us-we had to find it. We had some co-ordinates which turned out to be a bit wrong. As we were driving around the hills beyond Marsabit a Land Rover approached and it was Swiss Henry himself. True to form the bakery was great and we gorged ourselves on fresh bread and butter. I even bought a cake to celebrate Averil’s birthday.
Sunday, 2 December 2007
This post was written at Lake Langano, Ethiopia, on 20 November 2007.
Our stay in Bahir Dar was rounded out by a day of sightseeing. In the morning, we took a cruise on
While out in the boat we also had a look at the outlet into the
First in the firing line was the unwitting carpark attendant, an employee of the tourism bureau. He had asked us what we thought, so we told him, suggesting it was unfair to charge to see the falls at low flow. He happily gave us the name of the Head of the tourism bureau and suggested we discuss it with him, and then had the gall to ask if we could give him a pen. This was his fatal mistake. After having been asked for pens by almost every child in
So, the next morning it was off to the tourism bureau office. The Head wasn’t there (maybe he was hiding from Catkin?), so a deputy listened to what we had to say. He was very apologetic that the falls were much reduced from their original splendour, but it seems that is just the way it is, and I don’t think our suggestions to stop promoting them as they were, and in particular, to stop charging tourists to see them, will go too far. He did, however, give us some brochures on Lalibela, which was our next port of call.
He also, a bit unfairly probably, got a bit of an ear-bashing about the behaviour of the children we had encountered in
Always keen for an adventure, we opted to take our ageing tyres on what would hopefully be one last voyage of discovery for them. We had been warned that the road to Lalibela was bad, with many stretches consisting mainly of sharp rocks and large sections under reconstruction by the Chinese. Anyway, it was worse than we expected. Our speed average 25-30km/h for most of the day. After our late start from the tourism bureau, we weren’t able to make the 300km or so by nightfall, so found a reasonable place to camp for the night. In the morning we only had about five or six people stop to watch us eat breakfast and clean our teeth, so it was a good result.
Lalibela is famous in
The late afternoon was spent mending yet another puncture, but it was very pleasing to sit at the hotel at the top of the hill and enjoy a beer as the sun set.
From Lalibela, we were heading to
We encountered more stone throwing little boys. I reversed back to one, but he took off at the speed of light. Another, I stopped and jumped out to chase, but my dreams of apprehending the offender ended in a cloud of dust when I slipped over in the gravel! The grazes have nearly all healed now, thanks for asking. Immediately after one incident a white Land Cruiser from Save the Children went past. I reminisced about collecting door to door in Warkworth for Save the Children when I was young, and now here were the very children that have been saved, throwing stones at my car! We joked about a new charity called Stone the Children. Ah, it was funny. We laughed.
We even made our way into a closed area of roadworks, because we didn’t take the detour (which wasn’t marked…). Anyway, after telling the man in charge “we have to get to
We only had a short distance to go the next morning to get to
There were a few things we needed to sort out in Addis, and top of the list were applying for Kenyan visas and finding the Michelin Man to see about new tyres (although it was now Saturday, so these would have to wait until Monday). In the meantime, we filled in the time with doing our washing and checking email. Although there is plenty of internet access in
We have ended up spending a lot more time in Capital cities on this trip than we thought we would. Lately, there have been visas to apply for along the way, and often we need to by a part or two for the Land Rover. We usually save our washing until we are staying in a proper campsite or hotel, and sometimes we even splash out and go out for a meal. Here, we went to the Addis Ababa Restaurant, and I had ribs. And it was just ribs with lots of meat and no vegetables to get in the way. Man, was it good. And I had beer, too. Ribs and beer – delicious.
Finally, on Monday, after applying for a Kenyan visa for me (British Catkin would have needed one, but South African Catkin doesn’t) and buying some exciting Land Rover parts, we found the Michelin Man, and he even had the right tyres in stock to match our (almost) unused spare. All was going well until we broke their hoist…