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.

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