Heading south ….

Day 93 –

L: Once again we slept well at Haile Resort in Awassa. We woke early and decided that we may as well get ready as it was another long day’s drive as there is not much in the way of accommodation between Awassa and Yabello so we would try to make Yabello.

S: Last time I had to hold the shower while Lesley showered as the wall attachment is broken, now I MacGyvered it and tied it up with cable ties. That worked well. It is hard to show pics of these funny bathrooms, as some of you have asked, so a description will have to suffice.

L: Breakfast had all the choices you could ask for, yet Steve stuck with toast and cereal. I had a little fruit salad (not a lettuce leaf in sight), and a baby muffin and a baby chocolate croissant – it was amazing and I stopped myself from having any more, such will-power, I know. We both find that we cannot eat that much any more and at most meals, do not finish what’s on the plate…….

S: After paying the bill, we left to find an ATM in town as both in the hotel didn’t work and we had used cash to pay the bill, as once again, their card machine would not connect to the host.
It was a bit of a mission, but after asking someone, we eventually came right. Then we topped up with fuel and set out by 8.30am.

It is 300kms from Awassa to Yabello and the first 220 kms are made up of bad road, very bad road and road works, so it took 2 1/2 hours to do the first one hundred kilometers.

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Bear in mind that most of the route today is through hilly country with a lot of people on the road. Fortunately we did not meet many trucks and when we do, trying to overtake is a little tricky when they are continuously dodging potholes. The way here is to hoot before you start overtaking anyone and even then there is no guarantee that they will stay on their sides. Oh, and you can indicate if you like though they usually use the one on the wrong side…….

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Lake Awassa

What we found amazing, was seeing one of those extra long busses that are joined in the middle with the concertina rubber, like they use at airports, but on these roads and it was packed to the rafters with people as well as their stuff. There must have been 100 on it.

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L: I feel such pity for the little urchins, dressed in rags, along so many of Ethiopia’s roads, it is heart-breaking, but I cannot stop myself from taking photos of them as they have such lovely little faces with big eyes. I always wonder how their lives will turn out.
I was so keen to find some pregnant ladies or ladies with little babies to give the next 4 blankets to when I saw a lady sitting on top of a steep incline above the road, holding two babies with another two really young kiddies beside her. I asked Steve to stop and we gave the black bag of blankets to a man along the road and watched as he took it to her. I sure hope that will help them stay warm tonight.

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We arrived in Dila and decided to try to find a bathroom in one of the hotels L: Steve’s idea!!! S: Lesley went in to three hotels and came out looking furious L: That was my disgusted look. I still cannot get used to the idea that people think so little of themselves that they can call those filthy rooms, a toilet. I cannot even step inside when the bathroom floor starts off by being soaking wet and muddy. From there it is just a downhill progression to a cess-pit and I refuse to even walk inside. One man wanted me to pay 100 Birr (R52) to use his hotel’s bathroom!! What happened to spending a “penny”??

Steve persuaded me to try a fourth time (the reason why is that there are so many people on the roads that there is not a 20 meter stretch to pull off and attend to nature…. Wow, finally The Delight Hotel had an amazing bathroom with two of the cleaners there when I walked in, who left respectfully and came back in after I finished.
I called Steve in so that we could take a break from the driving and get a quick bite to eat, now that I knew that they were very hygiene conscious.

Steve had a beef kebab with rice and all the vegetables that he does not enjoy, ha ha. I had a burger and fries (Ethiopia does not do fries, well, at all), the burger was good though. The waiter was very interested in hearing where we had come from and where we are going……..

S: Back on the road, we still had 200 kms to do and it was now 12h30. It was back to the grind. We reached 2 500m above sea-level and started the slow descent. About 80kms from Yabello the new road is actually finished and we could pick up a bit of speed until 25 kms from the end where we got back to road diversions and a original road that has been resurfaced. The resurfaced road is the worst as it is a very narrow road with steep drop-offs on either side.
Passing next to the oncoming trucks is a hairy business especially for Lesley being in the middle of the road. I try to make it less stressful by pulling over to the right, as far as I can without going off the edge of the road, but there is only so far that you can go and there were a few really close passings. L: Tell me about it.

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S: We rolled in to Yabello at about 5pm, after 7 and a half hours on the road and booked in at Yabello Hotel again. It is priced reasonably, clean, but shabby. We did not enjoy the food when we stayed on the way up so we decided not to eat at the hotel tonight.

L: Steve made us tea and we had nuts and raisins for a snack.

Tomorrow we want to try to make the border and cross into Kenya. Driving on the left hand side of the road will be such a relief again as it is awful and I can understand why Saudi Arabia has banned the use of right hand drive cars as they also drive on the right. It is so dangerous to overtake.

Talking about Saudi, I saw on the news that someone has died there from the Ebola virus. Up to now, it has been only in West Africa, where nearly a thousand people have died. Real sad to see that on the news too.
Day 94 –

S: We were awake, bright and early again. I made coffee while Lesley showered and as soon as we were done, we started another day’s long drive.

The first 100kms towards Mega, the road was good and we were able to get a bit of speed with hardly any traffic moving yet. Just the occasional bus that stops in the road, in the settlements and unpacks everything from the roof, off into the middle of the road, why, no-one knows – it is the Ethiopian way. So many of the people stand with their backs to the traffic and are totally oblivious to anything around them.

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Straight road ???

L: We had left at 7.30am and it was light, but the weather looked as if it would cloud over – which it did, then cleared again and suddenly we were in thick mist, where you could not see more than 10 metres. There was a truck, traveling really slowly, in front of us with no lights until a motorcyclist must have signaled him as he put his lights on.
Now, imagine, traveling behind a really slow truck and thinking about the busses you have just seen in the settlements coming screaming up behind you as you descend steeply down into Mega. It was not my favourite half an hour and the road was a mere track, probably due to water and ice damage. It was a relief when the mist lifted as suddenly as it had arrived once we got into Mega.

S: Then we came to more bad roads and resurfaced roads all the way in to Moyale. The great thing was that traffic was fairly light most of the 210 kms to the border.

L: At the border, we went in to Immigration expecting a bit of bother again, but we were shown straight in to the office. A man started processing our passports and then left them room telling us to sit down and wait, oh no, here goes. He came back fairly promptly with another man and they picked up our passports and were speaking Amharic (the Ethiopian language) to each other. The newcomer then asked me who had signed me in on our way through the border last time – I said it was him and he got all excited and proud. I think that they remembered us, but not for barging in on their meeting to get them to sign us in, phew. All good and we were able to go across the road to Customs to get the Carnet stamped.

We were told to wait 10 minutes, oh dear…….
We were so happy to see the guy from last time and he attended to us straight away. Done!!!!

Now out of the building, we used a money-changer for the first time as we had quite a bit of Birr left, and had already filled the tank and two of the jerry cans with fuel to use the money. We knew that the rate at a bank would be 4,4 Kenyan Shilling to 1 Birr and one of the guys tried to give us 3,6, but we declined. Along came another offering us 4 KSH to 1 Birr and we were happy. You really have to know what you are doing or they will take you for a ride.

We crossed the border, driving on the left hand side again, yay!!
Went in to the Immigration offices and got everything sorted. The Carnet needed to be processed and the man said that it was $40 for Road Tax, for our size engine (only $20 for less than 2 000cc). I asked him to be nice as $20 was already a lot of money for us and he said ok.

That border crossing was a breeze so, in fact, out of all the crossings we’ve done so far, only getting in to Ethiopia was a bit of a fight.

S: And now the fun really started. The roads were red dust for ages with the Chinese constructing miles of roads above the track we traveled.

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We saw a chap coming towards us on a scooter and when we saw the ZA for South Africa on the front, we stopped to chat. Michael was on his Vesper called Victoria all the way from Johannesburg, SA heading to Italy where the Vesper is made. He had got stuck for a full month in Uganda, over Eid, waiting for visas…….He has also been traveling for 3 months now.

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We asked him if he needed anything and we each swopped info about the roads and borders etc and then we carried on in opposite directions from each other. Later we saw a cyclist on these terrible roads too. They normally cover about 70 kms per day so who knows where he will lay his head tonight. The towns are few and very far between and are normally not more than a cluster of huts.

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We stopped near the guys working on the road for some tea and lunch and carried on on those really bone rattling stone tracks. We covered another, nearly 250 kms making a total of 458 kms driving for nearly 9 hours.

We got to Marsabit town in Kenya and looked for the hotel, Horse Trails that Michael had recommended. We did not find it and gave up and went back to Camp Henry instead. Rosanna, Henry’s wife opened the gate for us and said that we could have the cottage again as no-one was here.

We first stopped at the little undercover room and unpacked our things to make some goulash and pasta for supper. I cooked while Steve sorted out a few things in the car and poured some of the fuel in, from the jerry cans.

We do not have a Kenyan SIM card yet and had not got a message through to the girls that we had arrived in Kenya so we messaged them from the satellite phone and Elana to give her our position to plot on the FB map.

Now, an interesting thing, although the sat phone is supposed to work “anywhere” in the world, we were not able to get a signal all the while when we were in Ethiopia. They have quite a controlling government and we wonder if this is why the signal is blocked. They do not really allow foreigners to have a SIM card, we loaned one from someone at the hotel. They also, apparently, monitor the internet and we know that they demand a paper trail of where you get cash from. Feels way too restrictive. Well, now we can use the sat phone again, but we have no cell phone or internet so we will type the blog and post it all when we can.

When we got to the room, it was not 10 minutes and Steve was asleep. This time we have 2 single beds pushed together. The charge here is KSH 1 500 for the room again.

Well, I am exhausted too so it is time to get rid of a layer of red dust and climb into bed…………

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