Salem from Ethiopia! When we travel we dont do too much research, so when we arrive in a new country we have no expectations and are always amazed with what we see. When we thought of Ethiopia we thought of poverty and starvation. This is certainly true, but the Ethiopians are a very proud, well dressed race (those that can afford to be), extremely friendly and the country is a very safe travel destination. A lot of the village kids were so poor they had tatters of clothes or no clothes at all, whereas the business people in Addis were very fashion conscious! We found very little litter in the streets as the people are so poor in the country side that they cannot afford to buy packaged products. People were begging just to have our empty water bottles that they can reuse for many functions! The farming techniques were so ancient that farmers harvested with a hand sickle and separeted the wheat from the chaff by trampling the wheat with their Oxen.
We chose not to bring the bike here as we felt Yemen was not safe to travel through now and were not keen on doing the Moyale Rd (the worst road in the world linking Ethiopia with Kenya) We have not regreted that decision for one minute! Internal flights in the country are cheap and save hours of driving on dusty bad roads in public buses that have the worst fatality rate in Africa!
We arrived in Addis (the capital) and flew to Bahir Dar to start the northern loop. This was an hour flight for $47 each compared to a 14 hour dusty bus ride... a no brainer! At Bahir Dar we did a boat tour of Lake Tana and the monasteries on the islands. Having lunch at a lakeside hotel we met Ruth, who was to be our travel companion for the next week! Ruth had spent 2 days negotiating a driver and car, so we just split the cost with her and came along for the ride!
With our private car and driver the 3 of us set of for Lalibela- "an ancient world including 11 magnificent, medieval rock hewn churches- a world heritage site and one of the greatest religious historical sites in the world" Wow, these churches are not carved into the rock, but freed entirely from it ...unlike our favourite place, Petra in Jordan. We thought we had seen enough churches, but these were truly mind blowing in an amazing setting and over 1000 years old!...you gotta go to Lalibela. We had a gorgeous, kind guide called Yosef! Belinda cried when we said goodbye as he was so sweet.
Most Ethiopians that we had come across as tourists were only interested in our money due to our skin colour...Yosef was not!
We then roared off to Mekele, with Pat taking photos all the way of the amazingly picturesque, but very poor villages and the people. We then took 3 days to get to Aksum, stopping off overnight at tiny villages and looking at amazing rock churches and monasteries and eating the local food. Injera is the local "bread" that is put on the plate and then the stew and vegies are put on the injera. You break off a piece of injera with your right hand only and pick up the stew or vegies and put it in your mouth! No need for cutlery! Belinda loved it, Pat didnt!! hehe
At Aksum we lost Ruth and didnt get a chance to say goodbye, so if you are reading this Ruth, thanks for a good time! We then picked up Leo, our next travel companion for the next week! We negotiated hard for a mini bus to take us to the Simien Mountains. We knew from Caleb, our neighbour, that this was a highlight area and we were not dissapointed. We stayed at the grossly overpriced (for Ethiopia) Simien Lodge, for Christmas and sat with a few families of over 300 Gelada Baboons for the day. It was amazing to be a natural part of their family. They were not scared of us and we were not scared of them as they are vegetarians! It was a real "Gorillas in the Mist" experience! The scenery was spectacular, making it was a very special Xmas Day. We couldnt be with our families, but felt a part of the Baboon families watching them eating, grooming eat other, playing, fighting and even having sex!
Next stop was Gondor with the amazing 17th century African stone castles and palaces. We stayed at the Goha Hotel which was a lovely treat with hilltop views after weeks of staying in very basic hotels. From Gondor we flew back to Addis, thus completing the northern loop.
We wanted a contrast and flew to Jimma in the south of Ethiopia, which we thought was the base for the Omo Valley and the amazingly dressed tribes with the topless women and the cradle of mankind! We got the wrong town, should have been Jinka!! Jimma was a dusty town, full of stagnant water and mosquitos everywhere! With Pat just getting over Dengue Fever, we didnt want to risk getting malaria, so couldnt get out of there quick enough!
Back to Addis, staying at the Jupiter Hotel again, it feels like home and the staff here are all so friendly! We went to the Ethnological Museum to learn about the Omo Valley tribes that we didnt see! At the National Museum we saw the 3.2 million year old fosslised bones of Lucy. She was tiny with a tiny brain, but walking upright..an amazing link between chimpanzees and humans as we know them today..very thought provoking! Lunch at the amazing Sheraton Hotel with great Christmas decorations and New Years Eve at Jupiter Hotel listening to a live jazz band and realizing how lucky we are to be living our dreams.
Next step, tomorow we are off to Zanzibar to pick up Miss Adventure II from her ocean voyage from Oman and then continue towards Capetown in May.
Have a great 2010 and we hope all your dreams come true too! If anyone is in the south of Africa in the next 5 months, we would love to know!
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