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Saturday 28 Feb 2009
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In Ethiopia!

Just a quick one to let you know I'm alive and well and living it up Ethiopia-stylee.... won't be much internet here, so I'll probably write up all the blogs when I get back home.

See ya!

...the following has been written post-trip...

That above message was written in the Jupiter hotel lobby in Addis before I had to catch the early 7.30 flight to my ultimate destination, Bahar Dar. Literally as soon as I arrived in Addis the night before, I was whisked away to my hotel, so I wouldn't get a chance to see the city properly until my return several days later.

Monastery of Narga...
Monastery of Narga...

All internal flights run by Ethiopian Airlines are in Fokker 50 planes. Not quite as luxurious as the incoming flight (which had decent food too it had to be said), but small and fun propeller-driven planes nonetheless and a great view over Lake Tana as we arrived.

I sat next to a German guy working for a shoe company that are setting up a factory in Addis. He was taking a weekend away to visit the monasteries with his Ethiopian mate. When I asked him about how much corruption there was in setting up a company here he immediately said "None whatsoever". Even he was surprised at how progressively-minded and honest the Ethiopians are.

My trip plans for Ethiopia were still in the air, but I had a rough idea what I was going to do: Go to Bahar Dar to check out the monasteries on the lake, take a bus to Gondar to explore the medieval castles, maybe go for a trek in the Simean mountains, fly to Lalibella and spend a few days here exploring the ancient churches, then back to Bahar Dar to get my return flight home.

Sounds simple enough, but as I was soon to find out the day after next, I'd have to completely turn all those plans upside down...

Arriving into Bahar Dar I first noticed the immense heat of the place, despite being beside huge Lake Tana, the breeze coming off the lake carried hot air and the hotel I had selected, Ghion Hotel, despite having a great position at the lakeshore, had mini bungalows built in the 70s with no fans or AC in them! Not a promising start, but at least the beds were clean and flea-free and cheap at $17 per night! Not to mention a great lake-side view from the front porch of the bungalow!

Lonely Planet warns of fleas in some of the cheaper hotels and even in the monasteries and churches on Lake Tana and in Lalibela. But to be honest, unless it wasn't the season for them, I've no idea what they're referring to. I saw nothing like that in any of the hotels and only once saw some small flies (that I assume were fleas) on a cloth that was lying outside one of the churches in Lalibela (maybe it had been thrown out for that very reason?).

St George beer
St George beer

Mosques beside Orthodox...
Mosques beside Orthodox...

After a lunch of testing out the local fish in the hotel (which was delicious, make sure to get the fish in garlic and chili as opposed to the breaded fish if you ever visit!), and the local favourite beer St George, I decided to go for my first real wander around town...

I decided I'd try heading up to the market square which is along the "main street" near the hotel. At first it was quite bewildering. Tourism here is still a relatively small thing, and I was the only faranji on the road so I was the main attraction and every second teenager would come up to me and ask "Where from... American? UK?". It was all entirely innocent and friendly. They didn't want anything else apart from practicing their english a little bit. Then you got other people that wouldn't give you a second thought as if you were just part of the crowd, which was refreshing. I felt I could even live here quite easily (if it weren't for the rather oppressive heat!).

Walking up that street I encountered all sorts of people. It's a large university town, so many well-dressed students are walking around, or hanging out at the many juice bars that line the street. Yet also I saw some immense poverty juxtaposed with this and at one point passed by a teenage girl completely naked sitting down on the side of the street with her head in her hands & bewildered look on her face, and also saw several old men with leprosy and wooden stumps for feet. Some quite disturbing sights, but I suppose they congregate in this town to get some birr from the wealthy students/visitors as I didn't see quite the same sort of poverty in the other towns I would later visit.

I'd heard some Ethiopian music on the radio while in various taxis since I'd arrived, and I fell in love with it straight away! The music is like a complex mixture of Arabic, Reggae, Jazz and African tunes mixed in with some haunting vocals, or occassionally interspersed with a woman in the background making the distinctive "ululation" trilling sound that so defines Ethiopian Orthodox celebrations. So anyway, I decided to buy a CD of the music by a guy called "Eyop". Later on, I also managed to get a full DVD of Ethiopian music when I got my memory card contents backed up.

When I got to the market in Bahar Dar, it was crowded and dusty and nothing particularly interesting for sale, so I wandered on a bit further and ended up at a place called "Delicious Juice". I gotta tell ya, the juice here WAS delicious. They have a special concoction made by mixing 3 rather "heavy" juices: Avocado, Mango and Papaya. It's packed full of vitamins and is like a smoothie (the 3 different juices don't mix so the drink is served as separate-coloured layers in the glass), but you wouldn't want more than 1! While sitting here, I was joined by two students who also double as tour guides during their free time. This was fortuitous as I was looking for transport for the next day in order to get to the island monasteries! "Heile Judah" was the name of the first one I chatted to (most Ethiopians trace their ancestry to King Solomon so often have names with semitic references in them). We chatted for a while and eventually agreed on a good price for a trip out to the monasteries leaving in the morning! Sorted!

TIP: While sitting at Delicious Juice, I sat on the seats outside, but in retrospect this wasn't such a good idea as I became a prime target for beggars. So the best place to sit is inside if you ever visit this juice bar!

Heile also showed me a great place for internet beside the main roundabout in town, used by most of the students, and beside a cool pool hall that was packed with young trendy things. Although the internet in Ethiopia was pretty suspect. Extremely slow when it worked it was also subject to one of the banes of Ethiopia: the intermittent electricity supply! Many a time would I be writing an email or blog entry and the power would go off suddenly for about 2 hours throughout the city. This seemed to happen several times a day all across the country. Ethiopia would seriously do well from an investment of solar panels around the country as they have sufficient sunlight ("13 months a year" as they say). Time will tell.

3 Comments for this Travel blog entry

Gretta Says:

28 February 2009

Wow Peter - you're getting around! Keep safe and we'll be looking out for your up-dates. Don't forget to take your Malaria tabs! Mum,Dad,Gary and Teddy

peterforan Replies:

28 February 2009

hiya .. just found some good internet here in Bahar Dar, Ethiopia, so I'll try to write up some of the blogs now (a bit!)

sis Says:

9 March 2009

Pete - someone here told me that the Kili climb is harder than the climb to Everest base camp!! You should try that next!!
Speak soon... can't wait to hear all the news.
XX

peterforan Replies:

9 March 2009

it's absolutely impossible at some points... true mind over matter stuff ... will write up soon

Quentin Says:

9 March 2009

Waou! Great job for the Kilimandjaro Peter!
Hoping everything is going well on Ethiopa.

Profites-en!

peterforan Replies:

9 March 2009

Merci mon ami! :)

I bless the rains down in Africa

Travel blog by peterforan

Day 3  ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro

Day 3 ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro


With Toto's defining tune ringing in my head, I don khaki pants and venture full-throttle into Africa! Elephants, lions, huge mountains, men with spears intent on stabbing me (probably) and the "Cradle of Humanity" (tm)... 4 weeks ain't gonna be enough!

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