To say the least – I was stunned by Ethiopia!
The picture I had in my mind of Ethiopia was of famine ravished people as thin as sticks living off parched land. Sooooo wrong – well at least the parts of the country that I have visited.
This was the first of the East African countries that we have entered into per vehicle on our trans African trip that drives on the right-hand side of the road. This immediately says that there is a whole lot more surprises waiting for you. When we entered at Moyale on the Ethiopia/Kenya border you immediately notice all the changes in yet a new country. Suddenly you cannot read the sign boards next to the road as it is in Ahrmeric (only spoken in Ethiopia,) the Samburu women carrying barrels of water in a unique style on their backs with different looking cattle grazing in the harsh background, coffee served in small cups which let all the hair on your body stand up straight and blue Fiat taxi’s all over the city in Addis Ababa.
Still driving without any brakes, after our breakdown in the Kaisut desert in Kenya, and only relying on the hand break we slowly progressed up along the Rift Valley while the rain came down in torrents. At a nerve wrecking snails pace and with a miracle or two we managed not to run over one of the 75 million people that live in the country. Progress was slow and night was falling. We need to get a place to sleep where we could fix the pick-up (in Afrikaans we call it a bakkie). Until now nothing came up. Late night we reached Awassa and our trusty Garmin GPS told us there is accommodation in town! Up and down and up and down the street we drove. Nothing looked like any sort of accommodation to us. Out of despair we decided to park in front of a steel gate where the GPS said it should be and I knocked – what are the chances? Well, the chances were good as the guard opened up on the knock. After pitching and breaking up camp in the dark every day for about 11 days in a row a bed and hot shower were appreciated. This comfort was much needed to recharge our personal batteries before the challenges to fix the pick up the following day.
We asked the German owner where we can have the vehicle repaired and she directed us to a massive Toyota dealership in town. Our hopes were high, but quickly hubby returned as they could not assist, because our specific model of Hilux was only built for the South African market and were never available in the rest of Africa so the parts they have do not fit. Great – on to plan B or C or D …? Luckily Plan B lead us to a local mechanic with a very primitive garage in his backyard. This did not look good at all, but what are the choices?
Worth to mention is that the work that was done in this backyard workshop lasted for a couple of months after we arrived back in South Africa! This was once again a friendly reminder to keep a couple of back-up plans up your sleeve, because Africa is not for sissies!
In Awassa we were recommended to an establishment in Addis (which turned out to be not exactly what we had in mind) with hourly patrons coming and going. So time for plan B – again!
We are now running out of time as hubby needs to be in Khartoum, Sudan to start working in four days’ time. Now we have to make a decision whether I will drive with hubby (and take a chance to get entry into Sudan) or fly to Khartoum as a land entry visa was not granted by their embassy in South Africa. They probably do not get many requests in South African for a land entry visa so they just issued the standard air travel entry – but we only found out in Nairobi there is a difference between the visas. Lesson learned: make sure you receive the right entry visa on your application. The decision was now taken: I will fly to Khartoum and hubby will drive there. We agree that if he is not in Khartoum after three days I will need to mobilize a search party as there is no cell reception on the road he is traveling.
With my ticket bought we set off to Bole International Airport where I will be dropped and hubby will then hit the road to Khartoum as he really is pressed for time. Staying about 8 km from the airport we reckoned this will not take long, but little did we now that it was Ethiopia’s millennium celebrations! They use a calendar which is seven years behind the Western calendar so it was the year 2000 for them. We mastered the crowds celebrating their new millennium in the streets of Addis Abbaba on our way to the airport and I was dropped outside the airport building as only the traveler is allowed to enter the building on departure (unlike South Africa). So off I go on my very first international flight ever on my very first visit to Sudan in the hope to see hubby again after four days!
The impressions of Ethiopia will always stay with me as a country full of surprises and what a privilege to add another smiley 🙂 to my travel bucket.
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
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