Day 84 – Best wishes to Gary B. ;-))
L: Nothing quite like that rain on the roof sound most of the night.
We got up and went off to our usual breakfast and came back to shower as it was rather chilly.
We’ve said before, Ethiopia is strange, but listening to the shhhh shhhhh sounds in the morning is something we have come to appreciate as the gardener has a palm frond in each hand and runs it ahead of him to sweep the entire hotel courtyard – and it works!!!
Then, there is the little pieces of thread sewn into the collar of each and every shirt or to the top of each sock that goes to the laundry. All that effort and the washing is back, dried and folded within a few hours. Magic.
It is still hard to get used to running the water for 10 minutes so that it reaches the bathroom and then standing in the bath with your back against the tiles to get the water as the shower head is set at such an awkward angel. We don’t use the basin, only the bath, to wash our hands as the drain pipe in the basin doesn’t go out the wall so all the water runs onto the bathroom floor. There is a hole in the middle of the bathroom floor with the water stop-cock, oh and don’t forget the ingenious way that the shower curtain rail balances on the mirror on one side of the bathroom and the window latch on the other……..
S: This has been home for 10 days as we wait and we are dying to move on……..
Still no word by lunch time.
We had the set menu and the food was pretty good with chocolate layer cake for pudding. We have not had many sweet things here at all, they don’t serve jam or ice-cream or anything like that.
I went for a walk out of the hotel grounds to the little supermarket for toothpaste and a choccie. Just as well, we didn’t need much as there were many empty shelves with mostly local products – not an exciting shopping trip. We still have a lot of our stocks in our ammo food boxes and now being mostly in hotels things are lasting. We do try to make one of our meals a day to save paying for food and Lesley has been amazing at what she manages to concoct each time on our little camping stove. Thanks, Doll.
L: Steve went for an afternoon nap and I knew he was anxious about the visa. When I read the message from the visa agency, I almost didn’t want to show him – oh, no.
Because of the Eid Muslim holiday, the agency says that the Jordanian Embassy will only open again on Friday so they hope to be able to have an answer by then. I can’t believe it, surely the agency knows how long the embassy closes every year on the religious holidays. I feel that they have been stringing us along.
After Steve got over the shock, I persuaded him that this time we need to go away for a few days as we won’t have our visas back until at least Monday or Tuesday and we are both so restless. Last time I suggested going to Lalibela so long, but it will mean double-backing so this time I looked on the map and mentioned Awash National Park which is a few hundred kilometers off towards the northeast and we can come back at the end of the weekend or Monday.
S: I started doing research and realised that this is an option so we will be packed and out of here after the morning rush-hour traffic. It will be great to be on the road again even if it is not actually on our London-bound route.
L: We packed up all the food boxes and various other equipment which Steve had taken out of the boot to get to the tools for the service on the car, on Saturday. We went to supper tonight as there was said to be live music in the dining room and we had the local fasting food with Njera (pancake). We only ordered one portion and no meat dish and it was so much food, we only just managed it. It is reasonable as well, even with the price increase of Birr 10 since yesterday – costing only Birr 90, less than R50!!! Cheap date.
Tonight we will watch a movie in our little bungalow and be ready to leave after breakfast. Yay!!!!
We hear you all saying yay too, as we have been stationary for a while, thank you for bearing with us and encouraging us. Love you all. God bless. Night, night.
Day 85 –
L: I thought I was dreaming when I heard a baby crying……….then I realised there was a family next door.
We had breakfast in the hotel for the tenth straight day and then went to settle the bill. The card machine would not connect so after several times, we were shown to the Bureau de Change, but they insisted that we then pay their fee to exchange currency, nearly 3%. I explained this was because the hotel could not connect, but they were adamant so Steve went off to draw money at the gate as the ATM machine in the lobby had only worked once (when we drew cash) in the 10 days.
S: Now with cash in hand, we could settle our bill, or so we thought. They insisted on having a copy of our ATM receipt to prove where the money had come from – WHAT!!! It is legal tender and their own currency – Birr. We refused as it has all our account details on and a card can then be cloned and used. They telephoned the manager and he said any foreigners have to prove where they get the money from. I then crossed out all the account details with a pen and handed it to the cashier to photostat. She then wanted another slip to show where the rest of the money came from. Now this is where it gets interesting……..
The ATM in the hotel lobby (that has only worked once), did not give us a printed receipt when we drew money. Now we were told that we had to write a letter explaining that to show where our money came from. Apparently this is because it is a government owned hotel.
L: When the cashier gave me the change, I asked her for the receipt from the bank to prove where she got that money from??? Yeah, right.
This had taken almost an hour and a lot of exasperation on our part so we were really keen to get out of there. Another receptionist had arrived in the meantime and as we turned to leave, she asked me if I would give Birr for South African Rands that the doorman had received as tips. You have got to be joking! How do I know where those have come from or if they are fake. The poor doorman was mortified, but we explained that we were not going back to South Africa (or anyway, not for a long time). [How does someone have the gall to tip in Rands all the way in Ethiopia – shame]
S: Ok, let’s go. When we drove out of the hotel, I mistakenly turned left (L: because you never trust the poor GPS or your wife’s map-reading ability) s: and got us into a world of trouble.
L: Steve is not joking. We twisted and turned through the warren’s nest of little tracks going through a shanty town. Each time we splashed through the mud we were halted by those illegal electric cables hanging across the road as the bakkie with the rooftop tent was too high to get under them, safely. I did think of using a broom like our friends, Clive and Ann do in their camper truck, but we only have a little brush and pan.
Finally, we could go no further so I had to get out in the filth and mud and direct Steve to reverse around several corners and try to miss the deep sloots dug in the roads for drainage. We found someone who helped point us back towards a main road and we could get back onto a tar road. Yikes.
By now, both of us were feeling mighty stressed and although we had left later to miss rush hour traffic, now had loads of vehicles and people all over, of course, they are on their Eid break. We crawled at 15 kms/hour for nearly 3 hours until we reached the end of the Addis Ababa town and surrounds and were so relieved to see the green hills of the countryside beaconing.
It was lovely to be away from the hotel after so long, but I knew that Steve was feeling really worried as the right-hand side driving is exhausting in normal conditions, but now the roads got worse and the long stretches of wavy tar started, interspersed with road-works.
S: Actually, a lot of the time, it is just easier to stay tucked behind a big truck with enough space for all the chancers that have to swerve in when a truck or bus comes that they have not seen. Lesley was so much calmer today, thank goodness as her stress just adds to mine.
L: “Steve, what is that moving in the truck in front of us?” – Camels!!! Oh, poor darlings – tied in so that they have to sit on the floor, all bunched together with some hay to munch on. Only in Africa.
We arrived at Mojo (yes, Linda there is a Mojo – like her Border Collie) and carried on. About 50 kms before Awash the railway repairs started and then the traffic really got bad from the other direction. Some of the roads are so bad that it seems inconceivable that saloon cars can travel here, but they do.
I was so amazed to see the size of the lake at Awash as it does not show on my map. We descended down to 1000m above sea level and a bit less and it was lovely to feel less breathless.
S: At the gate we were charged 90 Birr per person per day and 20 Birr for the car. We paid for one night so long. On through the bush to Awash Falls Lodge where we saw a lot of colourful birds and some buck. We stopped before the gate to see the crashing falls, though so muddy – obviously from all the rains.
We were shown to the camping site, but you cannot drive the car between the huts to use the rooftop tent, which costs only $10 per night or use one of their tents at $30 per night. The rooms are $80.
L: I said to Steve for us to get some lunch as we had driven for 6 hours, covering 211kms and not stopped. While we had hamburgers (yum), chips and Coke, the manager was deciding on the best price for us for a room. We saw a crocodile sliding into the river too.
We met the manager downstairs and he confirmed that we could have a double room for the single room price of $50 per night, with one free breakfast per day. I was a bit surprised when Steve agreed as I was happy to camp. S: It was hot and humid and it is so nice to have somewhere to sit or have the beds ready etc.
We don’t get signal here or internet etc, but we had heard back from our friends, Dave and Joan as Dave works in the shipping industry with some news about who to contact about putting the car on a cargo ship to avoid the Israel, Turkey stretch of our journey – due to the situation in Israel. Thank you so much, Dave and Joan – we really appreciate your love and support.
L: So now, Steve really has to forget about the embassy or e-mails for at least a couple of days. He did try to get an SMS out to Heather to pass on to Nicole as well as Elana as she updates our maps and blog on Facebook.
7.30 pm and it is still over 30 degrees here so it is taking some getting used to. Oh, and another thing – we have 2 huge male, you’ve guessed it – PINK ostriches that follow us around. Why, pink, you ask………???? The manager was amazed when we said that our ostriches in South Africa have grey necks and grey legs. They are really comical looking and supposedly, are fine with the guests, but not with the staff, but I am not taking any risks around them, thanks! Scared, they may see red. (And no, I am sure, nobody dyes their skin).
We are not wanting supper, just liquids as we feel really dehydrated all the time. It should be interesting sleeping in this heat with no aircon. Hmmmmmmm.
Day 86 –
L: What sounds like an ambulance outside……..
S: Someone’s car alarm.
L: I went out to tell the staff who were revving their car and throwing crates of empty bottles into the back of their pick-up (bakkie), to please shhhhhh as it was only 5.30am. The guy thought I was blowing him a kiss with my finger on my lip. Really.
It was really warm this morning already so we dozed a bit more, but got up early for a shower. Steve doesn’t really enjoy too much breakfast so I had the one and only breakfast and we shared a lovely little clay pot of their coffee. The cups were tiny with a map of Africa, Europe and the U.K. on them, pretty apt.
S: I managed to get a mail out to the shipping agents, but will only hear back on Monday as they are all on holiday too.
We set off into the park and drove slowly looking for anything that moved, most of which, were birds, but we did see Gemsbok (Oryx) and various other small buck. We were lucky enough to see 2 huge Ground Hornbills and flying hornbills and even a Rock Rabbit. Oh, and camels too.
We had decided that it sounded good to travel the 32kms to the Hot Springs, but when we stopped at the gate to travel to that side, the gate-keeper said that the locals there demand money and it is not safe unless you take a ranger (who also wants money). That doesn’t sound very good so we decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Of course, we do not have room for the armed guard either, not sure if we would have done that if we did……,
L: We stopped off at an old camp site, think it may have been The Ras Hotel at some stage with lines of old caravans gone to rack and ruin and a huge swimming pool, drained which overlooks the Awash River and valley. It is a beautiful position and sad to see it is being wasted.
Today was really hot, the car registering into the 40’s, but a nice breeze occasionally. We stopped off at a picnic site, but decided it would be best left to the monkeys and baboons that were there first. We saw 2 huge monkeys run up the trees. We do not know what they are – black and white and really fluffy, if someone knows, please let us know.
We checked back into our no. 13 double room, still at the single room price with one breakfast, ha ha. We had a late lunch and the lack of English meant that Steve got the chicken instead of fish. We asked that they not cook the chips too much, but they were extra crispy again, but the chicken was a bit underdone in patches. It was twice the price of the fish – they are not that stupid. I had spaghetti and meat sauce.
We met a bunch of Americans who had returned to Ethiopia for a second time. They are volunteers who help deaf children to learn to sign in their own language. Two of the party are out here to film a documentary. They were telling us about a group of children called the “dump kids” in Addis as they live off garbage at the dump sites, tragic.
We all watched the Nile crocodiles, down in the Awash river and the many birds and a Fish Eagle swooping over the canyon.
Back to the room to check the photos and type the blog though we are not sure when we will be able to post, seems only when we get closer to Addis………