Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Denah Nachu Ethiopia"… Monkey Magic, Goat Sacrifices and Machine Guns :)

Before I start, this is a really long blog entry as the Internet is pretty much non-existent in Ethiopia so I had to wait ‘till Nairobi to post it all. Here’s a brief outline of our route through Ethiopia…


So, one day after leaving Khartoum (Sudan) we finally made it across the border and into Ethiopia. It's so green and so mountainous, a welcomed change from the desert and heat of Egypt and Sudan.

No matter where you drive here there are people, they’re absolutely everywhere (population ~90,000,000). Every corner you go around you have to expect someone with a herd of cattle, goats or donkeys, or even just kids sitting in the middle of the road (as you do). It's very poor too.

Our air-con that we spent two whole days getting fixed in Khartoum a couple of days before hand only worked properly for about 30 minutes ($120 well spent), so it was a blessing to finally have a bit of cold. As we started to climb higher and higher through the mountains, we could even drive with the windows up. Then it rained, yes rain!!! Just like back in Ireland…

When you drive in Ethiopia, kids run up to the car from everywhere shouting ‘you you you you you’ and ‘money money money money’. They’re so used to NGOs and aid workers giving them stuff for nothing. They can be pretty aggressive little feckers too, but generally just don’t know any better. As soon as they see you, without even thinking their hand flies out. Check out this fella…


We eventually arrived at our first destination… Tim & Kim’s Village. Its a campsite in Gorgora, two hours from Gondor right on Lake Tana; the source of the Blue Nile. Tim & Kim are a lovely Dutch couple and great craic. Its such a gorgeous place. We were only going to spend one night and ended up staying for a whole week.

Supposedly, there’s a lot of wild life around the area including baboons, snakes, scorpions, hippos and hyenas to name a few. At nighttime you could even hear the hyenas howling on the hill. Kind of a woooOOOO-OPPP sound... I'm sure you're trying it right now!

When we pulled up to Tim & Kim’s we were greeted by Marc & Dela (Holland/ Germany) who we stayed with in Wadi Halfa along with the South Africans and Michael (German Fireman on motorbike who we met on Aswan-Wadi Halfa ferry). Try remember those names, they feature throughout. Later on we had goat for dinner that had been killed that day followed by a tonne of the local beer, St. George (50 cent a bottle)... a great first night in Ethiopia.

Tim on BBQ duty

On our second day, Janer and myself went for a long walk through the hills in search of some of this amazing wildlife we heard so much about… we saw two ducks!

On our second night in Tim & Kim’s I had a near death experience when the German family arrived in their massive tuck in the dark. The track up to Tim and Kim’s is very rough, bumpy and narrow. Myself and Marc were standing outside and could hear the truck coming in the distance, and Guido (the owner) shouting at some local lads… “get the f@$% off my truck and leave us alone”. There were 3 lads hassling them all the way from the village for money and climbing all over his truck... absolute arshenheimers. Lucky there were armed guards at the gate! Anyway, as the truck came in, I was standing beside it when the back right wheel went over a huge rock about one and a half foot high. It banked over about 40 degrees towards me and I was convinced it was going to turn over on its side.

This is the truck...

… it’s bleedin’ massive.

Podge was at the back and ran out of the way picking up one of the local Ethiopian lads like a rugby ball who was standing in his path. I just stood there staring at the big side of the truck getting closer and closer thinking ‘this is it Johnny, it’s been real’. For some reason, instead of jumping out of the way, I just put my hand up as if I’d be able to simply pop it back over. Thank God it flopped back down and I’m still here to tell the tale… I’m sure you’d all miss the blog!!!

The following day we all went for a long with Tim hoping to see some hippos and baboons. Again, we only saw birds but it was still class.

Tim, Myself, Podge, Janer, Fabien, Guido, Tania and Lilly

About an hour into the walk with Tim we had a serious casualty. One of my trusty flippy-floppies that I got fixed in Aswan broke. Naturally, I was devastated. However, luckily Podge just happened to have a trusty role of electrical tape in his pocket. Take note Bear Grills, even electrical tape can save someone’s life/flip-flops. I did a quick MacGyver job on them and they actually turned out to be pretty comfortable for the rest of the trek. I had to Pikey my spare pair back from Podge though when we got back.

On our last day at Tim & Kim’s, we went for a nice paddle in some local papyrus boats. They’re not waterproof, but the papyrus itself floats. Hence you get a pretty wet arse! Very difficult to handle, but somehow I managed to not fall in.

We had an amazing first week at Tim & Kim’s and it was a brilliant introduction to Ethiopia, but all good things must eventually come to an end. We’ll definitely miss them…

Kim, Tim, Janer, Podge and yours truly (getting knocked over by Podge)


Next stop was Gondor. We had another casualty the day we arrived… Podge made a balls of trimming his beard and had to shave the whole thing off…

The next day we visited the Castle in Gondor, then headed north for the town of Debark high up in The Simyen Mountains (around 3400 m).


The Simien Mountains are breathtaking (although maybe that has something to do with the altitude, wha, wha, see what I did there???? Wha???). The road up to them was terrible and certainly put the jeep to the test. We were accompanied by an armed scout called Bran to keep the ‘you you yous’ away and make sure you behave in the park. We also had a guide called Amara.

Finally we got to see some decent wild life, small deer called klipsprings and onyxs, eagles, vultures, hawks and baboons, lots of baboons.

The baboons were class, you could walk among them no bother and they just picked away at the grass as if you weren’t there.

Can you spot the odd one out?…

The next part is Rated-R, so any children or animal lovers reading this, avert your eyes or scroll past!!! I was taking a picture of the male baboon, when out of the blue a female ran up to him. Before you knew it they were making monkey magic, absolutely hilarious. David Attenborough would have been proud...

That evening we drove back to Gondor and after few Amirullas mixed with Macchiatos (which we christened African-coffees) we went out on the piss in a local bar and had a little bop with the locals. Brilliant fun, but no photos unfortunately.


After Gondor, we traveled south spending a night in Bahir Dar (in a complete dump called the Ghion Hotel). My camera broke :(, casualty number three in Ethiopia. Went to see the Blue Nile falls (the start of the Blue Nile river) before heading down to the capital city of Addis Ababa.

On our way south, we met some baboon on the road and threw one a few peanuts. Look at him, he was delighted with himself...


Addis Ababa, referred to as ‘Addis’ if you’re cool was the next stop. My Mum says I’m cool, so I’m calling it Addis! Anyway, we stayed in Wim’s Holland House in the middle of the city. When we arrived, Michael (German, motorbike) was there, and afterwards, Marc & Dela (team Holland/ Germany) arrived. We started drinking early and had a great first night. All lovely people! Wim with the Dutch delicacy, bitterballen -->

Spent a few nights in Wim’s and managed to get rid of the fleas we picked up a few days before. Yes, we had fleas! Unfortunately, its an inevitability in Ethiopia. However, in the words of Michael, “Ich bin floh frei”. This became the general drinks toast for the rest of Ethiopia… “floh frei” (flea free)! It's still popping up in Kenya.


After Addis, we drove south to Lake Langano to a hotel where we’d arranged to meet Michael, Marc & Dela. The only problem was, the hotel was closed down. We managed to find another campsite off the beaten track called Karkaro Beach and you’ll never guess who we met there… Michael, Marc & Dela!

Karkaro Beach is run by Eddie Murray and his wife Jasmine, both soooo nice. Eddie’s a retired Major in the US Special Forces who then studied cuisine with a Michelin star chef for a few years. His wife Jasmine (originally Ethiopian) is a pharmacist, a medical doctor and hotel manager. Lovely lovely people. Camping right by the water, Eddie’s jaw dropping war stories, Jasmine’s Ethiopia stories and their unbelievable food, what more could you want?

We went canoeing in the lake (this time in real canoes) and had a great pirate battle between Myself & Podge in one boat and Michael & Marc in another. Lets just say we didn’t represent Ireland very well and spent most of the time in the water, sometimes knocked in, but mostly through our own lack of balance.

Eddie and Jasmine bought a goat for us for dinner one night who I christened Billie. Look at her, she hadn’t got a clue what was about to happen! Again, children and animal lovers, avert you eyes for the next few pics...

Before she knew it Abu (an ex-corporal in the Ethiopian army) had Billie on the ground with a knife to her throat. It was some sight! They then strung her up by one leg, removed the skin etc. and started cutting it up. When the meat was in the bowl, you could still see the muscles flexing. It was cooked over an open fire (by another man with a gun of course) and eventually ended up on our plates tasting amazing… thanks Billie!

While the cooking was going on we had a slingshot competition and a little fun with the guards guns, what can I say, boys will be boys…

We were all leaving the following day when Guido and his family in the big truck (the one that nearly fell on me) arrived, so we decided to stay another day along with Michael. Marc & Dela headed on to Arba Minch. Those Dutch, always have to be first…sorry Marc ;-). We repeated the whole thing again the next night with Billie No. 2 and a few crates of good old St. George, as the Dutch say…“Lecker”.


After Lake Langano we spent a night in Arba Minch on our way to Konso. In Konso, we visited a local mountain village where they pretty much live the same way as they did hundreds of years ago. The road up to it was pretty much impassable in a norml car. Our guide Gurasho made it a great experience and even joined us for breakfast the next morning at our campsite.


The following morning we all headed for Moyale on the Ethiopian/Kenyan border and crossed that evening so we could make an early start the next day.

Ethiopia was an absolutely amazing experience, lovely lovely people and so different to anything I expected. Tough going at times, but definitely worth it.

Anyway, as they say in Ethiopia… “Ciao Ciao”!


BTW, Podge's Syria2Jordan video is now up on the Global-Slacker site, do it...