Addis Ababa to Nairobi via Moyale/Marsabit

We started very early in the morning on Saturday 14th September, trying to dodge the Addis traffic. Although we went to bed around 10 we still had a noisy night with the party and did not slept too well. We think that there are more Dutchies in Addis Ababa than in Amsterdam! They are the real “flower people”. Growing and exporting flowers are a huge thing in Ethiopia and Kenya. It was very amusing to see these people enjoying themselves but still keeping there own identity in Africa. The party went on till 4.30 in the morning and that was when we stood up for the start of our journey heading south.

We were looking forward to get the infamous “worst and dangerous road in Africa” behind us. As usual the day had it’s surprises…after Awasa for the next 160km, the road became one of the worst potholed roads on our whole trip!! We thought we could reach Yabelo but only reached Ager Maryam where we stayed hopefully, for the last time in a hotel. We stayed at the Bule Hora Hotel for 300Birr. I cooked us another mince dish with canned veggies in the room. This became our staple food right through Ethiopia when we stayed in hotels. We enjoyed the nice clean room and bathroom knowing that from now on we are back to the terrible ablution facilities campsites offer campers! At six the next morning we were on the road again to reach Moyale and the border before lunch. When we stopped in Moyale at the Ethiopian Immigration office it was a minute or 2 after 12:00 just to be told that the officer are leaving for lunch and will only be back at 15:00!!!! I sort of lost it there….it was as if Ethiopia would not let us loose. We bought fruit with our last 400Birr and sat outside in the heat swatting flies. (It seems that is what we’ve done on most border posts in the northern hemisphere)Confused smile. The Immigration officer arrived at 20 minutes before 3, very friendly stamped our passports and send us across the street to Customs….which was closed. The guard told us that we must come back tomorrow. We said we can’t stay because we are already stamped out of Ethiopia. It was an up and down conversation getting nowhere. We went across the road to Immigration again where the guard there (the officer went home) told us that the guard at customs must phone the custom officer. Back to customs the guard asked how much we will pay overtime for the customs guy before he phones! Well to make a long story short, the customs official arrived a hour later, with Arno’s help stamped the Carnet out and we left. The guard though wanted money for his “help” so we gave him the 50Birr note that we wanted to keep. We were VERY glad to cross the border into Kenya where it took exactly 10 minutes to be stamped in both us and the Carnet. We camped at the Kenya Wild Life camp for 15USD per person and could not use the very bad facilities but were so glad to be back in Kenya that nothing mattered AND we could pitch our tent again! The lady in charge came to tell us that there is a tribal war going on since the previous week and we must first clear it with the Police if we can drive through to Marsabit. Apparently they started shooting it’s other in Moyale and as she told us “people are dying”! When driving out of Moyale the next morning we were stopped just outside town by the Police who told us that there is Police on the road and that we will be safe. It is a tribal war and no-one will bother us. We saw lots of armed Police and armed men on the road. It took us 8 hours to do the 250km to Marsabit. It is a rocky corrugated road that makes the whole truck shudder. It was bad but not the worst we had driven on on our trip. We camped in Marsabit at Camp Henry with very nice ablution facilities costing 300KS per person. The road from Marsabit to Isiolo took us 5 hours. The road condition alternate between very bad corrugated rock and very soft red “fes-fes” powdery dust. All in all, the road that we were most afraid of was at the end not so overpoweringly bad as predicted. Because it was still early we drove on to Nanyuki, bought ourselves “Boerewors” at Nakumat in Nanyuki, camped at Naro Moro River Camp (15USD p.p.) pitching our tent in the kitchen because it started raining again, braaied our wors and enjoyed being where we were. The next morning we could actually see a little bit of Mt Kenya which made us happy. When we went north we couldn’t even see that there is a mountain. From Nanyuki it was a short drive to Nairobi and Wildebeest Lodge where we camped previously. We stayed for 2 days, washing the truck, doing laundry, shopping and relaxing. We thought to stay until Saturday but wanted to get out of cities into the bush again, so very early Friday morning we were off on our next adventure…Lake Victoria and Uganda!! Now we are very glad that we decided to leave Nairobi Friday because on Saturday the shootings happened at the West Gate Mall and “people died” as the lady said in Moyale…….! Africa is not for sissies! We are at Kisumu Bay Beach Camp ( 500KS p.p.) and will be leaving for Jinja in Uganda tomorrow. We baked rusks, done washing and are enjoying being in the tropics, listening to the fish eagles, saw beautiful parrots, trying to dodge mosquitos but are on track again planning and looking forward to the southbound trip!

Some of the awesome things that we saw on this trip:

IMG_0968 Dutchies enjoying Africa!

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Our Hotel

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Our camp at Moyale

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The Turkana lifestyle

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Henry’s Camp

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Cell phones all over Africa!!

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Naro Moro River Camp

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Mt Kenya

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Keeping your fish fresh!!

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Back in Addis Ababa

It took us 4 days,  3 sleepovers and 22 hours of driving to do the 1000km from Axum to Addis. We came to a huge roadblock of lorries at the cattle market when entering the city and also passed the sheep market on our way to Wim’s.  When we stopped at Wim’s Holland House, we were greeted like long lost family. We were very tired and just sat down to enjoy their fantastic Pizza,  Ethiopian red wine and St George Draft. We drove exactly 6000km from Addis to the Egyptian border at Wadi Halfa and back in 26 days. This was Overlanding! We are heading tomorrow south to start the infamous Moyale/Marsabit road towards Kenya and Nairobi. This will still be overlanding but once we leave Nairobi after stocking up a bit, we are going to travel leisurely towards Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia rather being on holiday than overlanding. It happened that we arrived in Addis on the Ethiopian New year, 11 September 2006. It was a holiday and the city were silent and quiet. We were actually going to leave today, but Wim insisted that we stay for tonight’s party they are having. It is a combination of a Dutch oliebol party and New Year’s party. The new Dutch Ambassador to Ethiopia is also invited, so it is going to be a very interesting event. We are ready to depart very early tomorrow, filled up with petrol, water and veggies.The truck had a thorough wash (even the engin,) greased and we are ready for the next adventure!!

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Updating the map

                                                                                                                                  

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The sheep market in Addis

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The local children came around with New Year wishes giving us pictures that they’ve drawn, some of them making a huge noise, singing.

Tigray

We drove from Axum to Hawsen in the Tigray region. The Gheralta cluster of rock-hewn churches are not far from there. We opted to visit the nearest of them. We stayed at the Tourist Hotel which is very nice because you can actually park your vehicle right in front of your room.  We paid 230Birr for a basic but clean room with a nice bathroom. We made an appointment with a school boy to guide us to the church the  next morning at 2 (Ethiopian time) 8:00 our time. It was at some stages a 4×4 drive to the church and our guide, who was riding on a bicycle was totally exhausted by the time we arrived at the area where the church is located. The key for the church had to be organised and when the farmer that has the key arrived, he was to say the least, not very friendly! He demanded 150Birr entrance fee, so Arno opted out and I entered the church after removing my shoes. Although this drunken key holder sort of spoiled the occasion for us, we still enjoyed it and I made sure that enough photo’s were taken for Arno to see how the church looks inside. This church are more like a cave with stone pillars and steps carved out of the rock.

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The Tourist Hotel

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Our guide and his bicycle showing the way to the church

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Entrance to the church area

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The church bell

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Waiting for the unfriendly key holder

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Our guide and the key holder that never stopped moaning

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We drove the 30 teeth rattling kilometers back towards the main road trying to locate the Takatisfi cluster of churches. Between Adigrat and Mekele we turned offroad again to look at the Petros and Paulus church which is perched high onto the mountain side.

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More history about the churches of Tigray

Though most of the travelers to Ethiopia visit the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the rock-hewn churches of Tigray offer the most spectacular views. Until the mid 1960’s, the churches were almost unknown outside Tigray itself.

The churches in Tigray are generally semi-monolithic (only partially separated from the congregation rock) or built in to the pre-existing caves. There are over 200 rock-hewn churches from Gheralta to Adwa most of them easily accessible although some are situated on the mountain ranges and involve climbing through fairly difficult terrain. But, all this somehow adds to the attraction of the churches and offers an incredible scenery of the surrounding countryside which makes the trip to these churches very enjoyable and rewarding.  The Tigray churches may well prove to be Orthodox Ethiopia’s best-kept secret.  The churches were built in high, remote places to fend off would-be attackers. In the 10th century, the Jewish queen Judith tried to eradicate Christianity by burning churches and valuable Christian works. An invasion led by Ahmed Gragn (the “left-hand”) in the 16thc also destroyed valuable treasures and sign of the destruction still appear in many of the churches. A local tradition attributes the churches were hewn out either during the joint reigns of Abraha and Atsbeha, the first Christian king of Ethiopia (c. 330-356 AD), or during the time when the nine saints spread monasticism in Ethiopia during the 6th century. Some are very elaborate, cathedral-like, separated from the rock on three sides, while others are more like caves with great stone pillars descending within.

The history of Axum

We stopped to take photo’s at a church not sure if it was the Church of St Mary where the Ark is kept. A small voice suddenly said behind me that this is the church of 4 languages. I asked him where the famous Church of St Mary is and he said he will show us and be our guide if we wish. Our new guide’s name was Bahran and13 years old. He proudly told us that he passed to grade 9 and that it is now there 6 week summer holiday in Axum.   He hopped into the Hilux sitting with me in the front seat telling us that he is going to become a “famous engineer” because the country needs him to help recover the economy. He told us that he already made up his study roster for the new school year. I asked him if his mother helped him with that on which he said that she could not help him with the roster and that she does not even knows anything about his studies. His mom is baking enjera to sell to the poor people and his dad is a sheep farmer who stays on the farm while they, his mother, him and 2 sisters stays in central Axum, renting a house “ we stay in the middle house” he said. He was a total fascinating child and cute beyond words! He showed us the Northern Stellae field telling us about the Italians, took us to Queens Sheba’s bath, showed us the Church of St Mary’s where they were busy with a special pilgrimage ritual, took us to King Kaleb’s Palace and the so called ruin of Queen Sheba’s palace. We thoroughly enjoyed the sightseeing drive with him. He also took us to the Eritrea Corridor complaining about Ethiopia’s President that won’t make peace with Eritrea. He also invited us to his home for coffee which we sadly had to decline because we had to drive to Hawsen in Tigray before dark. He asked our email address because his mother gave him the previous day 10birr and he then ran to the internet café to open a Gmail address, Skype and Facebook so now he can email us with “hallo my South African father and motherSend a kissWhen we asked him what we must pay him, he said he do not want money but need a school uniform because the uniform changes for grade 9’s. He is really a very special child!!

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The Church of St Mary’s where the Ark is supposedly kept

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In front of Sheba’s supposedly palace. Bahran took the photo.

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Did Sheba really lived here…..?

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This was Queen’s Sheba’s bath

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View of the Church of St Mary and the big Obelisk 

IMG_0340IMG_0335IMG_0305IMG_0343                                                                    The Monastery

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Axum city

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On their way to church

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The Eritrea Corridor

Now for the history of Axum…..hope it is not too boring!

Northern Ethiopia consisted of migrants from Southwest Arabia. They arrived during the first millennium B.C. and brought Semitic speech, writing, and a distinctive stone-building tradition to northern Ethiopia. They seem to have contributed directly to the rise of the Aksumite kingdom, a trading state that prospered in the first centuries of the Christian era and that united the shores of the southern Red Sea commercially and at times politically. It was an Aksumite king who accepted Christianity in the mid-fourth century, a religion that the Aksumites bequeathed to their successors along with their concept of an empire-state under centralized rulership.

Kingship and Orthodoxy, both with their roots in Aksum, became the dominant institutions among the northern Ethiopians in the post-Aksumite period. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a dynasty known as the Zagwe ruled from their capital in the northern highlands. The Zagwe era is one of the most artistically creative periods in Ethiopian history, involving among other things the carving of a large number of rock-hewn churches.

In these regions, the two dominant peoples of what may be termed the “Christian kingdom of Ethiopia,” the Amhara of the central highlands and the Tigray of the northern highlands, confronted the growing power and confidence of Muslim peoples who lived between the eastern edge of the highlands and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. In religious and ethnic conflicts that reached their climax in the mid sixteenth century, the Amhara and Tigray turned back a determined Muslim advance with Portuguese assistance, but only after the northern highlands had been overrun and devastated. The advent of the Portuguese in the area marked the end of the long period of isolation from the rest of Christendom that had been near total, except for contact with the Coptic Church of Egypt. The Portuguese, however, represented a mixed blessing, for with them they brought their religion–Roman Catholicism. During the early seventeenth century, Jesuit and kindred orders sought to impose Catholicism on Ethiopia, an effort that led to civil war and the expulsion of the Catholics from the kingdom. The period of trials that resulted from the Muslim invasions, the Oromo migrations, and the challenge of Roman Catholicism had drawn to a close by the middle of the seventeenth century. During the next two-and-one-half centuries, a reinvigorated Ethiopian state slowly reconsolidated its control over the northern highlands and eventually resumed expansion to the south, this time into lands occupied by the Oromo.

Drought, economic mismanagement, and the financial burdens of war ravaged the economy.   The kingdom of Axum was the ruling power that ruled the region from about 400 BC into the 10th century. The kingdom was also arbitrarily identified as Abyssinia, Ethiopia, and India in medieval writings. In 1980 UNESCO added Aksum’s archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Site .

Axum was the center of the marine trading power known as the Aksumite Kingdom, which predated the earliest mentions in Roman era writings. Around 356, its ruler was converted to Christianity by Frumentius.. Later, under the reign of Kaleb, Axum was a quasi-ally of Byzantium against the Persian Empire. The historical record is unclear, with ancient church records the main primary sources.

It is believed it began a long slow decline after the 7th century due partly to Islamic groups contesting trade routes. Eventually Aksum was cut off from its principal markets in Alexandria, Byzantium and Southern Europe and its trade share was captured by Arab traders of the era. The Kingdom of Aksum was finally destroyed by Gudit, and eventually the people of Aksum were forced south and their civilization declined. As the kingdom’s power declined so did the influence of the city, which is believed to have lost population in the decline, similar to Rome and other cities thrust away from the flow of world events. The last known (nominal) king to reign was crowned in about the 10th century, but the kingdom’s influence and power ended long before that.

Its decline in population and trade then contributed to the shift of the power center of the Ethiopian Empire so that it moved further inland and bequeathed its alternative place name (Ethiopia) to the region, and eventually, the modern state.

The Kingdom of Aksum had its own written language, Ge’ez, and developed a distinctive architecture exemplified by giant obelisks, the oldest of which (though much smaller) date from 5000–2000 BC. The kingdom was at its height under King Ezana, baptized as Abreha, in the 4th century (which was also when it officially embraced Christianity).

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims that the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum houses the Biblical Ark of the Covenant, in which lie the Tablets of Law upon which the Ten Commandments are inscribed.[4] The historical records and Ethiopian traditions suggest that it was from Axum that Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, journeyed to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. She had a son, Menelik, fathered by Solomon. He grew up in Ethiopia but traveled to Jerusalem as a young man to visit his father’s homeland. He lived several years in Jerusalem before returning to his country with the Ark of the Covenant. According to the Ethiopian Church and Ethiopian tradition, the Ark still exists in Axum. This same church was the site where Ethiopian emperors were crowned for centuries until the reign of Fasilides, then again beginning with Yohannes IV until the end of the empire. Axum is considered to be the holiest city in Ethiopia and is an important destination of pilgrimages.

In 1937, a 24-metre tall, 1,700-year-old Obelisk of Axum, broken into five parts and lying on the ground, was found and shipped by Italian soldiers to Rome to be erected. The obelisk is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of engineering from the height of the Axumite empire. Despite a 1947 United Nations agreement that the obelisk would be shipped back, Italy balked, resulting in a long-standing diplomatic dispute with the Ethiopian government, which views the obelisk as a symbol of national identity. In April 2005, Italy finally returned the obelisk pieces to Axum amidst much official and public rejoicing; Italy also covered the $4 million costs of the transfer. UNESCO assumed responsibility for the re-installation of this stele in Axum, and as of the end of July 2008 the obelisk had been reinstalled. Rededication of the obelisk took place on 4 September 2008 in Paris, France with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi dedicating the obelisk to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for his efforts in returning the obelisk.

Even though much of Axum’s history is still shrouded in semi-darkness, it is clear that Axum was and still is the capital of the Christianity religion, reaching it’s peak at the reign of Ezana in the 4th century and upheld its position for about 12 centuries.

Whatever else can or cannot be said about Axum, since much of its early history is still shrouded in semi-darkness. It was certainly a city known well to Greek traders as the center of a considerably large empire, which “dominated the vital crossroads of Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years” (Ethiopian Tourism Commission, Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia). Classical Greek was used by King Ezana as one of the languages of stone inscriptions, stones which were used as coins at that time.

Axum declined between the 9th and 13th centuries, notably due to the twin threats posed to it by the rebellion of the legendary Queen Yodit (also popularly known as Gudit) and the fast spread of Islam at the time, though it did not suffer a direct attack by the latter.

Axum was revived about 1270, with the renaissance that saw the expanding of the empire and the flourishing of Ethiopic (religious) literature. It started to lose its footing and, then, decline once and for all as the glorious city it had been towards the end of the 16th century, eventually giving way to different towns as seats of various kings, princes, and warlords, until, in the middle of the 16th century Gondar replaced it as the permanent capital of expanding Ethiopia. One thing that Axum had been, and still is, is Christianity’s religious capital.  

A country called Ethiopia

Travel to Ethiopia and become seven years younger…”

This much-touted slogan appears on every tourist brochure and poster that you see in Ethiopia and has its origin in the fact that Ethiopia runs on a completely different calendar system to the rest of the world. Ethiopia uses the Julian calendar and their new year falls on our 11 September each year. The year falls seven or eight behind Western time so if you consider the year to be 2013 it will be 2006 in Ethiopia, We are so privileged  to be in Addis Ababa on New Years day 2006! Ethiopian time is completely different from Western time. Both runs on a twelve hour cycle but in Ethiopia this twelve hour cycle starts at 6am and again at 6pm so when we made our appointment with our guide at Gheralda to go to the rock hewn churches of Tigray, we made the appointment for 8:00 our time which was 2 in Ethiopian time.

Driving in Ethiopia is an ongoing challenge. The first difficulty that presents itself is the fact that driving takes place on the right hand side of the road – a relatively straight forward task until you come to obstacles like traffic circles which require a complete paradigm shift from the normal driving we as South Africans are used to. The second complication lies in the fact that the roads are very narrow and are often completely inundated with pedestrians and livestock. It is not unusual for the road to be completely covered by pack donkeys, goats, horses, sheep and cattle. Pedestrians seem to be completely deaf and often do not respond to hooting

An additional dimension to the whole driving saga is what Philip Briggs (Bradt guide to Ethiopia) describes as “farangi hysteria”. Farangi is the Amarigna word for foreigner and the term farangi hysteria refers to the bizarre reaction of some locals (often kids and teenagers) to the presence of a foreigner in their midst. Mostly the hysteria involves shouting and demands for money (most commonly “you, you give me money!”). We countered their bad behaviour by waving to them which made them smile and wave back. Arno lost his temper only twice, stopping the truck and chasing the culprit who got such a fright that we think he is still running!

Ethiopia is an enormous country and the distances between main centres are huge. Ethiopia is also incredibly mountainous and our travels took us through and over the most gorgeous craggy mountains. As a result, travel is slow and it is not possible to cover great distances each day. We found that we kept calculating the distances between spots with reference to our map and our GPS and then discovering that we could not realistically travel even a third of the distance because the road wound its way back and forward over mountain passes. The GPS cannot read the mountain passes and we often drove kilometers and kilometers while the GPS recalculated and the distance between 2 towns were suddenly much longer than previously!! Often two or three hundred kilometres took us an entire day to travel. On the up side, however, the scenery and landscapes in Ethiopia are  breathtakingly beautiful. It’s certainly not the desert wasteland of popular perception. There is also always a hotel in even the smallest places where you can pull in for the night if your journey takes longer than expected.

In most cases, the main centers are linked by tarred roads in various states of repair, some are relatively new and others are badly potholed. For additional fun, the road signs are all in Amarigna and there are often not English translations, so you need to be sure of your route, especially of the more obscure turn off’s as there is no guarantee that they will be signposted in a language you will understand. Camping is a veritable mystery to Ethiopians so as a result very few campsites are available. We stayed very cheaply in hotels although we learned very quickly to inspect the room before committing ourselves. We paid 230Birr for a “single” room  with a double bed while a “double” room in Ethiopian terms has 2 single beds and will be more expensiveSurprised smile  this suits us very well!

Ethiopian food is totally different. The local standby dish is called injera and is a huge, sour pancake made of tef. The sourness comes from the fact that the dough is fermented for three days before preparation. Injera is served with a sauce called wat which comes in various shapes and sizes but is usually very spicy. You can also have injera with tips (roasted meat – usually goat) or with vegetables on traditional fasting days (Wednesday and Friday).  You can also order a wide variety of spaghetti, lasagna, macaroni and pizza.

Food is quiet cheap and we were able to buy a decent plate of food for about R80 which was enough for the 2 of us.  A pizza with the works will cost between 80 and 100 Birr. Arno’s beer of choice is St George beer although there are a variety of locally brewed beers including Dashen, Castel (not at all like our Castle) and Harar. Beer costs between 11 and 13 Birr and a cold drink (Coke, Pepsi etc) cost around 8 Birr. The Ethiopians make excellent cheap red wine which is available for about 36 Birr a bottle. The highlight of a trip to Ethiopia is the coffee which is served not only at the traditional coffee ceremonies but is a huge part of everyday life.  Coffee is served in little cups and is very nice.. We were numerously times invited to a coffee ceremony where the beans are roasted, crushed and then brewed three times and it is rude to leave before the third cup is drunk!

Ethiopians speak Amharaic or Amarigna, an ancient Semitic language made up of 200 characters and which seems closer to hieroglyphics to the average traveller. In Addis Ababa and sometimes in the provinces English is spoken but it is not widespread. Of course, all and sundry know how to say “you, you give me money!”

Petrol cost round about 19Birr which is double what we paid in Sudan but still cheap in comparison to the Southern African countries.

Night(mare) drive from Gonder to Axum

We have certain VERY specific rules when driving.

  • NEVER EVER drive at night
  • Know the route and road conditions for the day’s driving
  • Know where you are going to overnight at you destination
  • ALWAYS fill your petrol tank before leaving for your next stop

These are the top rules but as it goes, we already slipped up as you all well know. Well, yesterday’s drive from Gonder to Axum is the cherry on the cake, get’s the 1st prize and we are just glad to be able to sit here in Axum in our room (while it is raining outside), looking how the Springboks try to have a come back after Flip van der Merwe made his boo-boo that cost us 3 points. (Arno is speaking in Ge’es, the local language methinks) Ok it is better now, he’s back to Afrikaans after the try from Jean de VilliersOpen-mouthed smile 

We had our first night drive. It had all the elements for a horror movie.We made a booking at a hotel in Axum.  We asked about the road condition and we knew how far it is between the 2 towns. 353km. We were informed that although it is steep at places and winding, it is a good road. There is a pass and there will be road works on it. Otherwise a good road. The GPS said 6.5 hours. We had to change money at the bank which took longer than usual and we started later than usual. We were going to fill the petrol tank but there was not one on our route out of Gonder so the GPS said 75km further there will be one. 75km further there was one but the electricity was down, so no petrol! We still had enough petrol in the tank for the whole trip and we have 40l in the famous yellow cans that we bought for the Turkana route. Happily we drove on on a beautiful tar road……not knowing what is waiting for us. After 120km we hit a gravel road. We were 3000m above sea level and started going down a very steep winding and wet muddy pass down a valley that went on and on. It was beautiful scenery but a real scary drive. The funny thing is that we never read on anyone’s blog previously that this route is hairy scary although very beautiful. All we heard was how beautiful the Simien mountains are. To make the story short….. it took us 7 hours to drive the 120km through 7 (SEVEN) mountain passes climbing up and down between 3000m to 850m and back  to heaven knows how high through rainstorms, 2 electrical storms, road works and deep mud and very slippery in 4×4 worrying about the petrol situation while it became pitch dark outside. It looked like someone is throwing a huge disco party in Eretrea because of  the lighting that flared up lighting up the whole northern sky. We were 3 times stopped after dark by ropes blocking the road and men with guns (we think police) looking with torches into the truck, before letting the rope down to let us through. VERY scary. We were never before so glad to see a tar road again. For all of you that are familiar with Baviaans Kloof, The Swartberg Pass and Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), this drive was similar to do al three passes in heavy rain twice plus the last one (to make up the seven), in total darkness in heavy rain!  We finally arrived at our hotel at 10 at night 11 hours after starting. We will never ever again smugly call the Voetspore guys irresponsible because they drive at night. Something like this happens to everyone doing a trip like we do, but this is not what we ever anticipated to do or want to experience again.

Gonder–the Camelot of Africa

The city of Gonder dates to the 17th century AD, when it was part of the Abyssinian empire, a capital city founded in 1634 by Emperor Fasilidas. Gonder is well known for its numerous beautiful castles with architecture derived in part from medieval Spanish and Portuguese traditions. It was a real privilege to stay for a day opposite the Royal Enclosure at the Fasil Lodge seeing the old stone wall, thinking about how they lived and loved back then. We had a rest day lying around in our room, me updating the blog, Arno looking TV, just relaxing. It was raining and quite cool, so we found our room very comfy and cosy.  I went on a tour to the Royal Enclosure while Arno opted out (he will rather do a rally through a desert than walk from castle to castleSmile 

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Wad Medani to Gonder

We had a much better trip to Wad Medani than the previous one. We stayed over at the Imperial Hotel (250SP) a bit expensive but with a usable en-suite  bathroom, clean beds and aircon.  We took of to the border at Matema early next morning, stopped for  breakfast next to the road, waving for every vehicle that drove past and hooted for us. The Sudanese are crazy about waving to Farangi’s shouting “welcome” while all the passengers hang out of windows waving frantically. Very amusing both ways. We specially spend time relaxing because we did not want to get to the border during lunch. At Qallabat fixers tried to deviate us but we told them to get lost. At customs it took this time only 1 hour to stamp our Carnet out and we got the nicest mint tea to drink. We still had to go from office to office but it was a different guy that helped us this time. it was still painful to look at how disorganised they are. forever looking for a pen, a book, the stamp, making 1 copy when they needed 2, but we calmly and friendly sat down when ordered and waited.   We went quite smoothly through Immigration and arrived at 2.30 at the Ethiopian side to be told we must wait because it is lunch until 3!!! I sat swatting flies (I am very good at it now) while Arno and a guy that wanted to change money for us, were chatting and negotiating up and down whichever way suited both the best. The very capable customs guy stamped the Carnet in and then inspected the truck asking silly questions like what is this when he can see it is a chair, and what are these for when looking in the drawer seeing it is food. The whole border crossing took 2 hours. We immediately started climbing mountains in Ethiopia and had our first thunder storm within half an hour. It is as if a line is drawn between Sudan and Ethiopia. Immediately before the border it was hot, flat and desert while immediately entering Ethiopia you drive into the highlands and rain. In Sudan you do not see people and animals on the road but in Ethiopia it is a struggle to drive through all the donkeys, sheep, goats, children and in general the whole flippen Ethiopian population! We arrived at our hotel in Gonder before it was really dark thankful to be here and looking forward to a days rest in the cool atmosphere coming up for breath after our 2 week desert adventure.

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Making ready to hit the road

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This road was under water the first time

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The desert is now green after the heavy rains

 

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Gunboat Melik

The MELIK, a guide-blade gunboat, was ordered by the Admiralty for service with the Egyptian Army in 1896, from the Chiswick shipyard of John I Thornycroft. Construction was rapid, and she was delivered the following year, with two sisters, the SHEIKH and SULTAN, built by Yarrow’s at Poplar, also on the Thames.

All three ran contractor’s trials in Britain, and were then dismantled into carefully marked sections and shipped to Ismailia in Egypt. From there the sections were shipped up the Ismailia Canal to the Nile and then southward to Wadi Halfa on the Sudan frontier. There they were loaded onto railway wagons and conveyed across the Nubian Desert on the newly built Desert Railway to Abu Hamed. In the summer or 1898 they finally reached the point or re-assembly at Abadieh, near Berber. Under the supervision on Major W. S “Monkey” Gordon (a nephew of General Gordon) they were finally re-assembled and launched on the Nile.

The new gunboats joined a flotilla of seven older gunboats, but their formidable firepower gave them a great advantage: 12-pounder (76mm) guns, 5-inch (127mm) howitzers and rifle-calibre Maxim guns. These were manned by NCOs of the Royal Marines and Egyptian Army gunners, but the crews were a remarkable mixture of naval and civilian personnel, including Sudanese, Egyptian, Maltese, Greek and British. The flotilla was commended by a British naval officer, Commander C Keppel RN, while six of the remaining gunboats were commanded by lieutenants, and three by Royal Engineer officers attached to the Egyptian Army. No fewer than three future flag officers commanded Nile gunboats, of which one, David Beatty, became C-in-C Grand Fleet and ultimately First Sea Lord.

Keppel’s gunboat, the ZAFIR, foundered while attempting to ascend the Shabluka Gorge, but the rest of the flotilla passed through the last Cataract and kept pace with the Anglo-Egyptian Army right up to the battle of Omdurman on 2nd September 1898.

The MELIK was almost certainly the first warship to carry a cine-camera in action. It was brought on board by the correspondent of the Illustrated London News, Frederick Villiers, but it broke down, so no cine-film of the battle was shot.

Two days after the battle, on Sunday 4th September, the MELIK transported Kitchener and his staff form Omdurman to the ruined Governor’s Palace in Khartoum.

In 1926 when the Melik was retired from government service and leased to the Blue Nile Sailing Club (BNSC) she had a long career in front of her as its club-house. By the early 1980s rust was seriously corroding her bottom plates. In spite of the efforts of the Club to keep her afloat she was in grave danger of sinking at her moorings. In 1987 she was swept ashore by an exceptional flood – an event that undoubtedly saved her from an ignominious end.

Up until then, apart from in 1938 participating in the Alexander Korda film, The Four Feathers, and the war years when she was used for transport by the Sudan Defence Force, the Melik lay moored to the river bank. Here, for many years as part of the BNSC boat yard, she was a landmark and focal point for many generations of boat owners and their crews. The unmistakable silhouette of her tall funnel, high upper works and long straight-stemmed hull, set against the green of the mahogany trees lining the avenue behind her, providing a welcome sight to all those afloat.

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Now

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Gunboat Melik

Then

Gunboat Melik

The MELIK, a guide-blade gunboat, was ordered by the Admiralty for service with the Egyptian Army in 1896, from the Chiswick shipyard of John I Thornycroft. Construction was rapid, and she was delivered the following year, with two sisters, the SHEIKH and SULTAN, built by Yarrow’s at Poplar, also on the Thames.

All three ran contractor’s trials in Britain, and were then dismantled into carefully marked sections and shipped to Ismailia in Egypt. From there the sections were shipped up the Ismailia Canal to the Nile and then southward to Wadi Halfa on the Sudan frontier. There they were loaded onto railway wagons and conveyed across the Nubian Desert on the newly built Desert Railway to Abu Hamed. In the summer or 1898 they finally reached the point or re-assembly at Abadieh, near Berber. Under the supervision on Major W. S “Monkey” Gordon (a nephew of General Gordon) they were finally re-assembled and launched on the Nile.

The new gunboats joined a flotilla of seven older gunboats, but their formidable firepower gave them a great advantage: 12-pounder (76mm) guns, 5-inch (127mm) howitzers and rifle-calibre Maxim guns. These were manned by NCOs of the Royal Marines and Egyptian Army gunners, but the crews were a remarkable mixture of naval and civilian personnel, including Sudanese, Egyptian, Maltese, Greek and British. The flotilla was commended by a British naval officer, Commander C Keppel RN, while six of the remaining gunboats were commanded by lieutenants, and three by Royal Engineer officers attached to the Egyptian Army. No fewer than three future flag officers commanded Nile gunboats, of which one, David Beatty, became C-in-C Grand Fleet and ultimately First Sea Lord.

Keppel’s gunboat, the ZAFIR, foundered while attempting to ascend the Shabluka Gorge, but the rest of the flotilla passed through the last Cataract and kept pace with the Anglo-Egyptian Army right up to the battle of Omdurman on 2nd September 1898.

The MELIK was almost certainly the first warship to carry a cine-camera in action. It was brought on board by the correspondent of the Illustrated London News, Frederick Villiers, but it broke down, so no cine-film of the battle was shot.

Two days after the battle, on Sunday 4th September, the MELIK transported Kitchener and his staff form Omdurman to the ruined Governor’s Palace in Khartoum.

In 1926 when the Melik was retired from government service and leased to the Blue Nile Sailing Club (BNSC) she had a long career in front of her as its club-house. By the early 1980s rust was seriously corroding her bottom plates. In spite of the efforts of the Club to keep her afloat she was in grave danger of sinking at her moorings. In 1987 she was swept ashore by an exceptional flood – an event that undoubtedly saved her from an ignominious end.

Up until then, apart from in 1938 participating in the Alexander Korda film, The Four Feathers, and the war years when she was used for transport by the Sudan Defence Force, the Melik lay moored to the river bank. Here, for many years as part of the BNSC boat yard, she was a landmark and focal point for many generations of boat owners and their crews. The unmistakable silhouette of her tall funnel, high upper works and long straight-stemmed hull, set against the green of the mahogany trees lining the avenue behind her, providing a welcome sight to all those afloat.

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Now

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Gunboat Melik

Then