18 April 2013- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
It’s a rainy morning in Addis and cold (well relatively)! Addis sits at 2000m, so much chillier than we normally wake to. We arrived yesterday afternoon and took hours to drive from the southern part of the city to the northern part (where we are staying) through traffic that doesn’t move a great deal and if your side of the road is backed up just drive over the median and go up the other side, which then of course gets backed up quickly with cars going two ways.
We went on a food tour last night- mmmmm. The food here is brilliant. Not everywhere has a national cuisine and the staple in many African countries we have been to is pap (called all different things) but is essentially a maize meal based plain starch. Other things often include greasy chicken and chips (which are soggy) etc and we cook very similar things over and over (beans and rice with cabbage is a staple) so we are delighted to have so many new and interesting things to try! We had enquired about the food tour earlier in the day and said we didn’t know what time we were going to arrive in Addis. We arrived at 3:30 and had to meet at a church in the south of the city at 4:30 which we didn’t think there was any chance of doing because it had just taken us hours to do almost the same thing. Staff where we are staying (camping in the car park of a guest house in central Addis) said it should only take 30 ish minutes in a taxi so off we went. We jumped in and arrived 15 minutes later after beeping and zooming our way through the chaos that is Addis. We feasted- we went to four different little local places and tried heaps of different things. My favourites were a sour goat cheese and a lentil dish. Olly’s favourites were a very rare beef (a dish called gored gored, which is basically lightly cooked chunks of raw meat) and chicken wat (which is a bit like a curry or stew with minced chicken and a boiled egg) everything was served with injera, a thin, large, spongy sour pancake type thing that is served under and with most (for locals, all) food here. Its one of the staples and would certainly be the equivalent of bread elsewhere but is more than that, as it’s what you eat everything with, tear a bit off and fold it around whatever you are eating, including very saucy or juicy dishes. Delicious!!! Usually the food is served on a large silver platter covered in a large injera and different dishes are dumped around the platter on the injera and you dig in communal style. Yummmmmoooo! It was interesting to hear a bit about the different foods as well, something you don’t know when you try things on your own, gave us a bit of info on what we were eating and have been eating.
Ethiopia is a feast for the senses! It’s so different and there are interesting people, sights, sounds and smells everywhere you turn. What a place- Ethiopia has a different way of expressing time (what we would say is 7 am is 1 o’clock to Ethiopians) they also follow a different calendar with 13 months in a year and are 7 1/2 years ‘behind’ our calendar. There are many many different tribes (all with fascinating and different cultural, dress and practices), and an incredibly interesting history. We have noticed it is very simple in many ways, especially in the rural areas – there is much cultivated land but no mechanical equipment being used- wooden plows pulled by bull and most of the people use sharp sticks for their work in the field. We have really noticed we are no longer seeing people carrying things on their heads as we have for months but in pouches on their back made of animal skin or cloth. There are few private cars, plenty of trucks and buses and UN vehicles but most people and their goods get around on donkey drawn carts- piled high with people and produce, often driven by a child. Women here carry the load of the country on their back, literally. The other day we approached what we thought was three donkeys carrying massive loads of grass, one had a much larger load than the other two- we said wow poor donkeys and as we got closer noticed the one carrying the larger load was an elderly women. We have seen this a lot everywhere we have been in the last few days.
We spent a few days at Konso cleaning Landy and resting up from our northern Kenya experience as well as checking our the local market and a local village (with a guide, well done and low key). We then headed north to Arba Minch and checked out a lodge (that has camping) that had been suggested to us, amazing view over two lakes and the Rift Valley but a bit pricy for us (to camp in the car park outside the lodge!) we decided to have lunch and leave the noise and heat and go up the mountain. Lunch was delicious and we were a little awkward as we tried eating with one hand only (the left hand should not be used) and then made our way up to a simple perfect place with a few small huts and a patch of flat for us to camp on. What a view! We set up the chairs and enjoyed just looking out over the Rift Valley and talking about all we have been seeing and our impressions of this fascinating and different country. A bit later a friendly German guy came up and said he had bought a goat and had it butchered as he is sick of fasting food- it is the time of year here when Ethiopian Orthodox Christians (which make up at least half the countries populations) do not eat animal products and do not eat until 3pm each day (3pm Western time which is actually 9am Ethiopian time). He invited Olly to join him for some goat soup which was delicious but made Olly cry real tears from its spice! We left the next day after sharing some fresh ginger tea with the German guy, a French girl and some staff and headed north again to a nice camp on a lake in the town of Awasa. On the drive down children popped out onto the road dancing all sorts of crazy dances as we drove past!
In Awasa we camped on the grounds of a very basic hotel right next to the lake, they let us use a room for the toilet and shower (we didn’t bother with the toilet but the dribble of cold water in the morning was nice). We made dinner and sat next to the lake until the mozzies chased us inside. Yesterday morning when we got up and got breakfast ready it was the first time in ages nobody was starting at us, it was amazing. Just us, no one watching. We were not sure where we were headed so after breakfast we had a look at the map and calendar (our visas expire at the end of the month) and decided to head north. We had wanted to go to the mountains near where we were (Bale Mountains) but decided to go north to where we want to spend most of our time and to make sure we have plenty of time there and if we have some days after that go to the mountains up there (Simien Mountains). So off to Addis yesterday. The roads here are rather good. A LOT of people (including so many children!) on the road and of course heaps and heaps of cows, donkeys, goats etc but otherwise driving is ok. The main thing is the kids, keeping an eye on them, although they look after herds of animals and are obviously used to the road, there are not actually many vehicles on the road in some areas so they get startled when you drive past. Goat herders or not they are still children, a make shift toy (plastic lid that they roll on end- very common) rolled in front of us the other day and sure enough a child nearly darted out in front of us to get it.
Today we are going to get a few bits done and then go to some museums- Lucy lives here (Lucy the v v old ancestor of humans)! We will likely leave Addis tomorrow and start north again.