Day 74 – Happy birthday to Peter and Stuart B.T. – Have a good time XX
L: It was a treat to have a perfectly quiet and fairly dark room S: and a king-size bed that for the first time, ever, my feet don’t hang over the edge.
L: I was amazed to see a Lapp-faced Vulture up on the electricity pole outside our room. There were a lot of eagles over the town too
Steve went to shower and it was freezing even though we have a hot water geyser in the bathroom. He went to call Beeftoe from reception and she came to fiddle and test everything, but still no luck. She has now confirmed with the manager that we can use the next door room and en-suite too. I chaffed her that she could send a pot of complimentary Ethiopian coffee………
We caught up on our photo sorting and Steve made coffee and cereal for us before I popped in next door for a warm shower, though it was a drippy one……lol. No, the Ethiopian coffee never arrived. Most people are not aware that Ethiopia is the only country in the world to use a different calendar and they are 7 years behind us, also their time is 6 hours different. So maybe my coffee will arrive in a few years.
I packed up while Steve went to change US dollars into birr which he had arranged with the receptionist last night. The manager tried changing the agreed rate in his own favour and wanted a tip, but Steve stuck to his guns.
S: After filling up with diesel we set off at 9am and only had a vague idea of where we would stop for the night so that there is not as much ground to cover tomorrow to get to Addis Abeba. Out of the hotel and on to the right side of the road again. It was incredibly busy on a Saturday morning with loads of people out on the roads, but mostly walking, so not many cars and busses or taxis.
L: We were stopped by a young plains clothes guy with the piece of dirty rope across the road and told it was a customs check and that he wanted to see our passports. I said that he has no uniform so we do not know who he is and would like to see his papers. He was a bit taken aback, but eventually took an ID card from his wallet and said that he was a junior in training…….of course, we could not read a word on his card, but he agreed that it was right that he identify himself. A woman came out in a green dust coat to ask what the problem was, that was her uniform, she said, yeah right. We then showed our passports and moved on.
This country is like no other, as Steve keeps saying. Most of the people in the little settlements are well-dressed and clean and tidy and although most live in huts, they do not litter too much. Then, there is the other side of the coin…….some of the people are begging constantly, wanting food, their clothes are filthy rags. It is so difficult to give them anything as there are always so many and they nearly rip your arm off in their haste to get something.
There are a lot of men who walk around carrying weapons, openly, mostly AK47s so we are not sure what that is about. Also every security guard at each hotel has a weapon as well as the police and a lot of army officers.
We went from 500 m above sea level, up as far as 2 500 m and then back down again. The land is lovely and lush and green and such a contrast from the years ago of drought times for Ethiopia. There are loads of crops, fruit, veg and sugar cane so it is hard to imagine that they still struggle. What a stunning view to see every day in a lot of places.
S: So the battle of keeping the bakkie on the road continues while sharing the little bit of tar with wide-load vehicles, busses and taxis, people and animals. The people on the road, young and old, seem not to notice the approaching traffic and you have to stop completely or hoot at them, so most of the time Lesley has her hand on the “hooha” to warn them while I swerve. Then we had a few Kamakazi drivers who hurtle their taxis down the hills and around the corners, seeming to be on 2 wheels with their overloaded baggage on the roof racks teetering at all angles.
L: While in one town, organizing a SIM card and airtime, a donkey stood in the middle of the road for a full half hour, later it was a bull and then a goat and no-one moves them.
S: Now that we are driving on the right, most people seem to expect the car to be left-hand drive so when Lesley wags a finger or waves her hands at them, they look so worried that she is not holding the steering wheel. It was particularly funny when a man was covering his eyes and calling to warn her of the car (probably his) parked behind us only to discover that I was driving, though I also was not looking behind as we have the reverse camera in the car. L: It reminds me of an advert on TV when the passenger uses a fake steering wheel and pretends to turn into their lane.
S: Lesley has really battled being on the inside of the road now, with no control and I feel her stress as often the trucks nearly clip the mirror on her side. I was teasing her about buying some “chate”, a leaf that the locals grow which they chew and get high. They sell them in bunches to the drivers along the way……..We hear that the police here do stop the drivers and fine them for having the leaves in their possession.
It was an exhausting day of mostly shocking roads, covering only 303 kms. The going is so rough that we took over 8 hours and arrived in Awassa as it was getting dark.
Finding an affordable hotel proved near impossible and most were also filled to capacity. After the 4th or 5th try, we have had to take a more expensive hotel (there are no camping places that we can find). L: Steve managed to get the more reasonable room on the ground floor of Haile Resort for $64 which includes breakfast too.
It was just starting to rain with a few flashes of lightning as we took our overnight bags from the car. The room is great with a lovely en suite bathroom too. The resort offers a buffet for Birr 227 (about R126) so we had quite a wide range of local and traditional dishes to choose from. After supper we both enjoyed a cup of tea and went back to the room.
We have now managed to get 2 days of the blog and pics off as we were not able to do it this morning. And as I catch up with the typing for our crazy drive today, Steve is tucked up in the very comfortable bed with all white linen. We are feeling very spoilt and pampered here so excuse me while I get ready to relax in a puffy white cloud which is a huge contrast from that red dust cloud which engulfs us as we make our way through the Tracks Of Africa.
Day 75 –
L: Good morning. What a sleep, in another king-size bed, we both slept like logs.
S: Breakfast was fit for a king (and queen). We thoroughly enjoyed it as well as our first cup of Ethiopian coffee. We dragged our heels (or at least Lesley did) leaving our suite and when we went to reception to pay, I nearly died of fright. The bill had a dollar sign before the 1 790. Ouch, oops their system does not allow them to put Birr in it. Ok, all sorted, it was only $72 once converted including the supper (and the breakfast).
By 9am we were back on the road and we were pleased to see that the roads looked a whole lot better. There was a lot of traffic getting out of the town of Awassa, but it did not take too long. We passed a lot of hotels on the way out and into the next little town.
Although the roads were better, the loads of trucks and cars on the road were in a huge hurry and the bad driving continued. Blind rises or solid lines, when there, are ignored and so it is extremely hair-raising especially for Lesley, being in the middle of the road and having to look for me so that I know if it is clear to overtake a car or truck.
L: Eventually I told Steve that we had to stop, I felt ill and had such a bad feeling, I was nearly in tears. We pulled off and Steve made me a cup of tea and a tuna and avo salad. A beggar looked at us longingly so we gave him our last huge avo and sent him on his way.
We were only just back on the road when we saw that one of the huge double oil-tankers had hit another truck head-on. The accident was really fresh and a very scary scene to see. I was so pleased that we had not been there to see it. It felt like we knew them as we had been on the road for 3 days with the double tankers and the same trucks as the one involved.
As we neared Addis Abeba, there were more road-works and detours and the traffic was thick as treacle. All the time, you are squeezed between the little tuk-tuk, the edge of the road or a truck and once again I asked Steve to pull off and we waited behind a truck and a taxi who had just had a coming together.
S: When we got to Addis, we were amazed to see that they are constructing a couple of railway lines right down the middle of the main road,how peculiar and so strange to see that trains are being used. Seems that there is an older line further west of the city.
L: Finally after negotiating a bus depot, we arrived at Wim Holland House in Addis and parked in the alleyway. We were shown into a smoky bar/lounge area as it started raining and told that the room was already let so we went to see the camping area. Sorry, where? A small grassed area was left open between about a dozen stored vehicles. Dog poop littered the ground next to 2 ground tents, no space to get our vehicle (rooftop tent in) so that would mean using the ground tent.
I asked to use the campsite bathroom and nearly fell on my back. It was a pitch dark out-house with one toilet with a shower next to it and basin with the water running right through the room, flooding the floor with who knows what. It stank too. No, Steve, this is not acceptable!!
S: I was told that Wim, the Dutch owner, had in fact, passed away 6 weeks before.
L: I was so relieved to climb back into the car. Steve had asked for a recommendation for another place and he went in to see it, I felt that if they thought that their place was suitable then it must be awful. Steve never said a word, but climbed back in the car and I suggested that we go In the opposite direction…….
Ghoin Hotel loomed on the skyline and after battling to find the reception area at first, we entered a spacious, yet warm and inviting lobby and coffee lounge. We met the manager at the desk and asked him if he could help us for 2 or 3 nights, but that we could not afford the $92 starting price for a room. He asked us to please come and sit in the lounge and have a cup of coffee (on his account) while he would see if he could help us. Coffee was amazing and when he came back, he showed us to a bungalow behind the main hotel. A huge room, wood-paneled and fitted with cupboards with en-suite bathroom. He said that it would be $73. Steve asked if that was the best they could do and I told him that $64 was my favourite number. We shook hands on $67 a night for 3 nights with breakfast included.
HOME. I was so happy to have a nice, clean base so that we could go in to town and organise our Sudanese visas and some 3rd party insurance, which we will try tomorrow. We unpacked, phoned and messaged the girls and then freshened up for dinner. (S: Lesley’s cousin, Jenni, recommended an app called Zello which is a walkie talkie program. It works very well and we chat to the girls with it. It is similar to Skype but uses less bandwidth as only one person talks at a time)
S: It was lovely to relax over dinner and a bottle of wine and even had soups for starters and a small pudding. L: I had lamb, Ethiopian way, but the only local thing that Steve tried was the Acacia wine, which was lovely.
The food in Ethiopia is relatively cheap with the 3 course meal and wine being less than R300 and it was good.
Ok so now, we can use Wi-Fi from the hotel to blog and catch up with some admin and recharge all our batteries, literally and figuratively.