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05.09.2006, Gedaref, Sudan – Gondar, Ethiopia, 360 km (part 2)

In Metema it was the same. We only found the hut of the immigration office with the help of a local kid – it was behind some normal huts, some washing and some stables. Inside we were welcomed by two very friendly officers. None of the officers was wearing a uniform and when asked they said that it was simply to warm to wear an uniform. We had to laugh because at that moment a man entered the office casually dressed in sneakers and rapper shirt who had asked to see our passports outside and we hadn’t given them to him because we didn’t believe he was a customs officer. We apologized and he laughed and said that we were actually right to be suspicious. While our passports were handled we were asked to fill out a customer satisfaction survey!!! We couldn’t believe it. We were sitting in a hut made of mud and cow shit and were asked to give our opinion. We got our entry stamp and were free to leave. The customs for the car had to be done 30km east of Metema in Shendi (N12 46.596 E36 24.437). Next to our car were some customs officials sitting asking whether we had any electronic devises with us and after we waved with our mobiles they let us depart. This always works. We did not declare our notebook, camera or GPS once.
Ok, so this was it. We were in Ethiopia and everybody had warned us about the people – especially the kids – here. Quite contrary to Sudan the people here erupt into screams of “you, you, you, give me money!” as soon as they see the car. We were also warned about people throwing stones at the car. Bracing ourselves for the worst, we were quite surprised to find that it wasn’t as bad as we expected. When driving through villages there were some “you, you, you” screams, but they could be easily ignored. What was more striking was the amount of people and cattle on the road. There were people literally everywhere. And with the change of country also came a change of attire. The majority of the population is Christian orthodox and so the traditional shepherd outfit consists of a pair of shorts and big blanket rapped around the head and shoulders and the women wear long dresses and do not cover their hair. The most impressive was the change in scenery and landscape though. From the desert bad lands of Sudan we emerged into the high mountain area of Ethiopia. The road was for ever winding up hill offering us breathtaking views. The quality of the road was very bad however and so we didn’t make a lot of progress. We had to reach the town of Gondar though, because there was no other sleeping option possible (bush camping is impossible in Ethiopia). The sun started setting and still there were 60km to go. Soon it was pitch dark and we had to navigate around potholes, people and cattle – the latter using the road as an overnight sleeping spot – and it started raining. We could see many shepherds walking around with large guns slung around their shoulders and we didn’t feel too happy about that. Finally we hit tarmac in the town of Azezo and we drove up the final kilometers to Gondar overjoyed. We felt very relieved to be back in civilization. On the way to Gondar we passed the Dashen Beer Brewery and we couldn’t wait to drink our first cold beer since Aswan.
We managed to find the nice Belegez Pension with the help of some local kids and when Tembo was safely parked in the courtyard and we got out of the car, I realized how tense I had been these past hours. We had some beer right away to celebrate our safe arrival and then we let to local kids Peter and Armstrong take us to a restaurant. We had injera (local bread) and yummo shiro (chick pea mash) and enjoyed chatting with the boys. We knew that they were expecting something in return, but we didn’t mind and it was interesting to hear about their lives in Gondar.
We said our good-byes to Armstrong and Peter – they would meet us again in the morning – and fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

06.09.2006, Gondar, Ethiopia, 0 km

After the exhausting drive we decided to stay one day in Gondar to recover and to get used to the new climate, new language and new people. Also Gondar hosts one of the oldest churches in Ethiopia with famous paintings, so we planned to look at it as well.
Gondar is located in the mountains at 2210m and for the first time on our trip I took a HOT shower. It was still rainy season in northern Ethiopia and the temperature was hovering around 16°C – that was about 30° less than the day before in Sudan. We were greeted by Armstrong and Peter and they took us to a local breakfast joint for some omelet and some ful (ful in Ethiopia is made of chickpeas not of beans like in Egypt or Sudan) and some excellent and very strong Ethiopian coffee.
During the breakfast our two friends asked us many questions about Europe and Germany. It is very difficult to explain what life in Europe is like and when you tell them that we also have a high unemployment rate and pay 50% taxes and that it is tough to earn good money if you don’t have a university degree, they got very silent and in the end Armstrong said: “So, maybe I just stay in Gondar. It is cheap here and I know the people.” They told us also about friends that buy forged Italian passports (there is a good forger in Addis) and tried their luck, but (surprise) got caught at the airport in Rome. These boys paid a lot of money for nothing. When I explained that in Europe the passports are wiped through a special machine to identify forgeries, Armstrong said “yes, but maybe there is a power outage that day and the machine won’t work. Then you can make it.”. Another trend among the friends of Peter and Armstrong is to marry a Western woman – mostly many years older – a 21-year old just moved to Germany with his 65-year old wife!
If you look around Gondar one can understand that the kids want to get away. With a population of 113.000 people roughly 2/3 is under 25 and unemployed. The streets are packed with people idling along. On top Gondar is a sort of bleak and gray town with an old and gray fortress in the center, muddy streets and gray clouds.
Despite all that we set off to change some money and then had a look at the Debre Berhan Selassie Church (meaning “Trinity at the Mount of Light” in Amharic). The church is tiny, but covered in drawings telling the stories of the bible in a very vivid and colorful way. The ceiling is covered in drawings of the winged heads of 80 Ethiopia cherubs. It was quite a change after all the Islamic countries to be surrounded by Christians that still practice rituals and a way of life like it was done in the medieval times in Europe. After the church visit we had a delicious guava juice in a small juice shop – one has to try things – and then we bid good-bye to our new friends to spend the rest of the day in front of our little room at the pension reading and drinking Dashen beer. When we offered Armstrong and Peter 50 Birr for their help Armstrong asked if we could buy him a school uniform instead, he didn’t want the money (he might spend it on something else …). We told him that it was in his responsibility to take care of his money, and sorry, a school uniform was not in our budget. With hanging heads they strolled away. Later we heard from other tourists that they had the same experience.
In the afternoon all the “faranji” (Amharic for “white foreigner” and used constantly) guests of the pension returned from their trips and we decided to have dinner together (franaji food, i.e. Spaghetti and no injera!). There was Douglas from New York, now living in Berlin, collecting information on Jews in the area of Gondar (it is along story, but most of the Ethiopian Jews got flown out of the country in the 80ties during the war and the famine). Then there was Jan from UK, who just quit his job as technical engineer and started a new career as photographer for aid agencies. And finally there were Laura and George, two UK girls who were travelers like us, also on the way to South Africa, with public transport. We had earlier agreed to give them a lift to Bahir Dar the next day, so they could escape the Ethiopian busses for one trip.
It was fun to have dinner together with such a large group and we had a ball telling all those travel stories. When we got to the topic of kids throwing stones at cars in Ethiopia, Jan told us an interesting story how a local bus driver – the kids throw stones at locals and faranjis alike – dealt with it. The bus got hit by some stones and the bus driver stopped. Right away the kids ran away and hid. So the bus driver started waving an empty water bottle shouting “Highland, Highland” (that is the name of the local water and the kids always shout it running next to your car). So the first kid got out of his hiding place thinking the bus driver was going to give them the bottle (they always ask for empty bottles). As soon as the kid got close enough the bus driver took the bottle and smacked the stone thrower with the bottle. This happened three times until the kids had understood that there was no “Highland, Highland” for them but only smacks on the head. We just hoped that we would be spared from stone throwers.

07.09.2006, Gondar, Ethiopia – Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, 189 km

After a hearty Ethiopian breakfast with Laura and George (omelet with ful and STRONG coffee) we squeezed the girls into the back of Tembo (they actually found it very comfy) and set off towards the city of Bahir Dar on Lake Tana. However we had problems getting started since Tembo’s engine was acting strange and he refused to climb the smallest hill. Secondly we were stopped by a bike race taking place in the streets of Gondar. A bike race! Sure enough there were 4-5 cyclists fighting the potholes of Gondar and the police officers were being very important. “No, Sir, there is a bike race, you cannot pass. Yes, it takes the entire day. Sorry, you will have to wait.” In the end they let us cross the street and we were off through the rolling hills towards Lake Tana. It was nice to have company in the car for a change and Laura even played some tunes from her ipod. At one point we stopped for the much needed wee break at a spot “no one seems to be around”. I am not going into details here, but there was actually an entire village around watching us girls pee. I filed it under “interesting experiences”.
Getting closer to Lake Tana we entered areas hit by bad floods. Entire villages were under water and the road built on a small dam was the only dry spot for miles. In consequence entire village populations of people and animals alike were squatting on the road in the pouring rain. We saw people walking through hip-deep water towards their villages and people were actually still living in their flooded huts with the water reaching up to their knees … It felt very strange to drive through all this with a big strong Land Rover dry and secure (well, when it rains the Landy is not really all dry …). We reached Bahir Dar in the afternoon, dropped the girls off at their pension of choice and checked into the Ghion Hotel situated directly on the lake shore. We spent the rest of the day watching the rain, writing our trip dairy and drinking G & T’s. Laura and George joined us for dinner (they had moved to our hotel, since their pension of choice offered toilets that were in another pension across the street …) and we exchanged some more traveling stories. The girls were planning to stay for 2 more days in Bahir Dar, but we were hitting the road again towards Addis the next day. Tembo’s engine was worrying us and plus we had a hotel reservation in Addis for the 9th.

08.09.2006, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia – Dejen, Ethiopia, 329 km

The next morning we said our good-byes to Laura and George and took off towards Addis. Well, first we had to change some money (a never ending story …) and get some diesel (also a never ending story). Task 1 – change money:
- 1st bank: “we need a copy of your passport!” “No, we don’t know were you can make copies.”
- 2nd bank: “yes, we change money.” “Oh, you got the new dollar notes. Sorry, we only change old dollar notes!”
- 3rd bank: “we don’t change any money, sorry.”
- 4th bank: “we don’t change money, but our other branch office does …”
After a heated argument with the branch manager of the 4th bank we finally found the right branch and after a complicated process (1st bank clerk fills out a loooong form, 2nd bank clerk enters the serial numbers of the dollar notes and checks them for forgery, 3rd bank clerk quality checks the work done so far, 4th bank clerk carries the case to a 5th bank clerk who authorizes the transaction and a 6th bank clerk than hands out the money) I finally got in the possession of Ethiopian Birr.
Task 2 – get diesel:
We then could not find a petrol station that was not out of diesel until we finally found one exactly across from our hotel … finally we were on our way.

The goal for today was the village of Dejen right above the Blue Nile Gorge, roughly half way to Addis. The day’s drive was a typical drive through Ethiopia with shouting kids, speeding busses and 100 villages to cross. The road was partly very bad and we were glad when we reached Dejen in the late afternoon. We found an ok-enough roadside hotel (Alem Hotel) with clean rooms and a nice bath. Unfortunately the entire town was out of water – that was probably the reason why the bathroom was still in such a good condition … There was a small bar & restaurant next to the hotel and we spent the evening there watching the village life go by, tucking into some delicious Ethiopian food. Dejen seems to be a popular overnight stop for busses coming from and going to Addis and there was quite a lively crowd, including sheep and chickens that were also passengers on the busses. In the bar they were showing some local music videos. They were all from the same singer and every song sounded exactly the same and every video was roughly the same and the “dance” the background girls were doing was also exactly the same – a sort of shaking with the head & shoulders. Very different!
For the night we shut out the great Ethiopian singing with our ear plugs (never leave home without them). The next day the rough and steep Blue Nile Gorge was lying ahead of us and we were a bit worried whether Tembo will be able to get us through it and all the way to Addis.

09.09.2006, Dejen, Ethiopia – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 225 km

The next morning heavy clouds were covering Dejen and the surroundings. And after the obligatory diesel fill up watched by the obligatory village crowd we started our descend into the Blue Nile Gorge. Ahead of us lay 45 km of dirt road consisting of a descend from 2.400m to 1.000m and back up to 3.200m altitude. The bridge over the Blue Nile was built by the Italians and is one of only two bridges that cross the Nile and is therefore heavily guarded by the Ethiopian army (they are scared of Eritrean rebels, amongst others). The descend was breathtaking and steep. The scenery was unreal with the misty clouds and again there were people everywhere walking up and down that road – we even saw a group of people carrying a dead person on a stretcher up the steep road. Half-way down it started raining and the road became slippery with torrents of water spilling down. We finally reached the bridge and crossed the muddy, wildly rushing Blue Nile. This was our final meeting with the Nile – we moved south towards Addis while the Nile moves west towards the Sudanese border. Across the bridge we started the much dreaded ascend. The road was winding up and up and up, the rain was pouring down on us and along the road we saw truck and car wracks lying in deep gorges and ravines along the road. Luckily Tembo was doing fine and slowly climbed the hills in first gear. At a point where we thought the road couldn’t possibly get worse, there was a sign warning us “Attention, bad road conditions ahead!” And so it was. The road disappeared into a heap of mud, stones and dirt and we barley made it through with Tembo engaged in low gear 4WD. Around us were busses and trucks fighting the mud and the steep, slippery hills. Finally, finally after we already thought that we will never reach the summit, we hit tarmac (thanks to the Japanese) and the Blue Nile Gorge lay behind us. It had taken us almost 3 hours for 45 km.
Tembo wasn’t too happy about this tour de force and he started adding strange sounds to the humming of the engine. We kept on promising him a big treat in Addis if he would only take us there today. But alas, 60km before Addis the engine started such a loud clicking and banging that we didn’t dare to go on. Reluctantly we stopped next to a tiny village to check the problem and to wave down someone for help.
As everywhere in Ethiopia we stopped next to some small huts and in no time there was an old and half-blind grandmother walking around us and the car shouting “faranji, faranji” und mumbling something. Soon two boys appeared laughing about the old woman’s words. While the old lady was still circling around us we opened the hood and stared helplessly into the engine. We were convinced that we needed to be towed to Addis and I was wondering whether something like a towing company actually exists in Ethiopia … meanwhile granny started to look towards the sun lifting her walking stick skywards mumbling with “faranji” being every second word. I sincerely hoped she was not cursing us :-)
We didn’t have to wait long and the first car stopped. It were two Ethiopians going the other way and while we were discussing with them what we could do (they had never heard of a towing company …) a second car stopped going our way. In it were two Ethiopians who offered their help right away looked at Tembo’s engine with knowing eyes. So we said thank you to our first helpers while our second helpers started analyzing the problem. When asked if he was a mechanic he laughed and said that he used to be one, but that he had forgotten a lot. Nevertheless he dove into our engine – wearing a white shirt and well ironed trousers – and identified one heater plug as the evil doer. Luckily we had brought spare heater plugs and they were even the right ones! While the boys worked on the car I entertained the ever growing bunch of children – small kids carrying even smaller kids – and got their minds off begging for money by chatting with them and taking pictures. They love to look at the pictures in the camera. Meanwhile another car had stopped and a French guy working for the French embassy enquired whether he could help us. He said that the Ethiopian diesel is really bad and that it was probably one reason for our problems. He also told us not under any circumstances to leave the car by the road at night. He didn’t go into detail, but he sounded serious. When he saw that our Ethiopian helpers were doing a good job he left us, promising to take us into Addis, if we would still be there by the time he was returning for Addis. Minutes after the French guy drove off the next car stopped. It was a western man and his Ethiopian wife. They enquired if we needed any help and got out of the car to check on us. The man spoke excellent German but I heard him speaking French with his wife, and when asked he said that he was actually French. What a coincidence, the second French person within 5 minutes stopping to check on us in Ethiopia. When I told him about that, he said, oh it must have been a colleague of his then. It turned out that he was the French Ambassador and that he was on a trip to visit a monastery with his wife. They were very helpful. The ambassador called his embassy to get information about garages in Addis, where we could take the car and his wife talked with our Ethiopian helpers to see whether everything was ok. They then waited for us to start the engine again and to see if we would be able to move on. Our helpers had done a great job and it looked like we could actually make it to Addis. We said good-bye to our helpers who took off hardly accepting our gratitude and the French ambassador promised to bring us back to Addis if he will find us along the road on his way back from visiting the monastery. With glowing faces we started our last kilometres towards Addis completely taken aback about how a bad situation again had turned out to be something good and how all these people had taken care of us and helped us. What a piece of luck. So we travelled chatting happily. We made it into Addis without any problems and finally rolled into the parking lot of the Hilton Hotel where I had booked us on my “Diamond Hilton Honors Points” – reminiscence of my consulting days.
By entering the Hilton compound we entered a different world. We looked shabby and misplaced between all the UN workers and army personal, but they had our reservation and we got a huge room with a door that one could lock, running hot and cold water and a TV!!! We were in heaven. The Hilton in Addis is an institution and the compound sports among many a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, 3 restaurants, a pastry shop, a super market and a beauty salon.
We changed into more civilized clothes and went for a beer and a sandwich at the pool bar. A couple of hours ago I had thought that we had to spent the night in a small Ethiopian village defending our car against bandits at night and now we were sitting safe and sound at the pool bar munching french fries and drinking cold beer. Thank you!
We checked with the reception about a garage where we could take Tembo (he still wasn’t perfectly all right), but since it was the Ethiopian new years on the 11th, there was nothing we could do before the 12th … excellent!
We had a huge pizza that night and watched American soaps.

10.09.2006 – 14.09.2006, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 24 km

OK, the following days are quickly told, because we didn’t do anything at all. We enjoyed the facilities offered by the hotel – especially the pool, the gym and the pizzeria. We admired the new years fire works (it is now the year 1999) and we got Tembo repaired. With the help of one guy at the Hilton we found a small garage and they identified that one injection nozzle had a little cut and therefore was not injecting correctly. We got it exchanged and Tembo seemed to be doing fine again.
We had a huge breakfast everyday (Mia, Christoph, Andi, Tim and Ernst will know what that implies at the Hilton) and enjoyed some excellent Italian coffees in the afternoon. It was really nice to have this luxury break after the hot and dusty roads of Sudan and the cold and steep roads of northern Ethiopia … and it was for free!
However the crowd staying at the Hilton – aid workers, UN workers and army personal – was somewhat irritating and we didn’t really feel like getting into contact with them. We overheard a very drunk, somewhat older German in the hotel bar complaining to an Ethiopian how bad his life is. Here are the best quotes (imagine this in English with a very strong German accent): “I have a lot of money, but I am poor! Because I cannot f*** the money, you know. And I cannot f*** this building. I am drunken (a glass and the bottle hit the floor). I need fresh beef (probably to be translated into “Frischfleisch” in German, which basically means young girls!). I need fresh beef!” Yep he was right, one cannot f*** this building. It is now an often used phrase among us, when something goes wrong :-)
However, we met a nice Ethiopian guy from Stuttgart who works there for Daimler and organizes events in southern Germany and who acts as a double for Ronaldinho – and he really looked like him, only the teeth have to be clipped on :-)

We got to know the hotel staff well and when we told the lady in the pizzeria, that it was our last night, we got offered coffees and desert as a farewell present.
We had enjoyed the time very much, but in the end we were glad to move on to new adventures.

15.09.2006, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Wondo Genet, Ethiopia, 267 km

After a last opulent breakfast we moved our things back into Tembo. We bought fresh baguette and croissants at the excellent pastry shop and then we were on the road again. Back to street life, sleeping in tents and eating injera. Leaving Addis was easy and soon we were heading south towards the Kenyan border. Roughly 40km outside of Addis we saw a huge dead hyena lying on the street. The animal was enormous and looked like the werewolf from the movie “American Werewolf”. We were back in the wild. Our goal for today were the hot springs of Wondo Genet, 15km south of Shashemene.
Shashemene is the home of the Ethiopian Rastafarian Community. When the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was crowned in 1930, the “return to Africa movement” in Jamaica saw the emperor’s coronation as fulfilment of an ancient biblical prophecy. They created a Religion of their own, with the emperor being the Messiah of African redemption, and moved to Ethiopia. Ras Tafari was the name of Haile Selassie before he assumed the crown (from Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea). Round Shashemene one can see many Rastafarians with dread locks and Jamaican-colored knitwear. They look very different to the average Ethiopian inhabitant.
We had heard from many Ethiopians that the streets in the south were not always safe because of shifta (bandits) and that one should not move away from the tarred “highway”. I didn’t really think the shifta were a problem during daytime, but when we turned off the main road to drive towards Wondo Genet, I got a strange feeling. The road was very bad and because of the rain everything looked sinister. The people on the road looked at us with the typical Ethiopian unmoving faces and most of them were carrying large pangas (knifes) for cutting sugar cane and wood. Of course nothing happened and after the last 3km on an almost non-existing road we reached the “holiday resort” of the Wondo Genet Hot Springs.
The hotel is a government-owned hotel build in the sixties during the communist regime. And that is how it looks. The surroundings however are spectacular with lush forests, beautiful flowers and vervet and colobus monkeys in the trees. The hot springs are 200m from the hotel, there one can swim in hot thermal water and enjoy the view into the mountains and forest. Because of the constant threat of rain, we decided to take a room. It was ok, but had the same charm as the rest of the resort. We liked it very much though and it was definitely better than sleeping in some simple roadside hotel along the main road.
Among the guest cars parked at the hotel was a Land Cruiser from Belgium and we were curious to see who these people were and where they came from. However we didn’t see them at the hot springs or the restaurant that day. Dinner in the hotel restaurant kept up the promised communist-atmosphere including the waiters and the food :-)
We had an early night for tomorrow we wanted to move on southwards.

16.09.2006, Wondo Genet, Ethiopia, 0 km

We checked out the next day, had one of the most bizarre breakfasts (5 different kinds of injera and french toast placed in the middle of a huge table, so one could not reach the dishes) and were ready to leave. The engine was already running and then we met Karel and Joke the owners of the Belgian Land Cruiser, we started chatting (they wanted to leave for Addis today) and after 20 minutes we all decided to stay one more day and spend it together soaking in the hot springs and exchanging travel stories.
So we moved our things back into the room, armed ourselves with guide books and GPS data and went to start a very nice day in very nice company! Karel and Joke were on the road since February having shipped their car “Otto” to Capetown. They were going north – our route – and we were going south – their route.
We had many stories to tell and spend the entire day together. How nice to meet same minded people for once. Unfortunately they were going north and we could not travel together. We had lunch in a local restaurant in “town”, went for a soak and some swimming lessons in the hot springs and then had dinner at the hotel restaurant. After dinner we went to sit on our terrace, had the last of our whisky (thanks Daniel and Leoni) and chatted till very late. It was an extra day perfectly spent! Thanks Joke and Karel – we hope you made it safely up north and you are enjoying the Sudanese hospitality by now. We will see you in Antwerp!

17.09.2006, Wondo Genet, Ethiopia – Yabelo, Ethiopia, 329 km

The next morning we drove with Karel and Joke up to the main road and there we separated us going south towards Yabelo and the Belgians going north towards Addis. Everyone told that the drive towards the Kenyan border is easy and flat without any hills or mountain roads. Well, that is not true, quite contrary: the road is very mountainous. So found ourselves again driving in first gear up steep slopes through villages covered in rain clouds. Jens was getting more depressed by the minute because he saw himself driving through rainy mountains for the rest of his life. I kept on pointing to the horizon saying: “look, it is clearing up and I think the mountains are getting less and less!”, while I was using a sponge to soak up the water that was entering Tembo from all sides.
In the end I was right. The closer we got towards the town of Yabelo, the countryside got flatter, the sun came out and the there were long stretches without any villages or people. It started to look real African!
Jens mood was back to normal and when we stopped at the Yabelo Motel we felt like we had climbed Mt Everest and made it back down safely. It was very scenic driving through Ethiopia’s Highlands, but we do not necessarily have to do it again.
At the Yabelo Hotel was a wedding going on when we arrived. It was a strange sight to see a bride dressed in a European-style dress and all the wedding guests in suits and fancy gowns in the middle of an African desert. We could set up our camp behind the motel on the compound where the staff lives and under the eyes of the village population we enjoyed the last rays of sun and the last Ethiopian beer (St. George’s is very nice!). We witnessed a goat being killed for dinner right next to the car and in the evening we had dinner (without meat though) watching together with the rest of the village the match Arsenal vs. Manu – Arsenal won and the Ethiopians were happy (they love Arsenal for some reason).

The next day was going to take us to the Kenyan border at Moyale. This area and the drive down to Marsabit and Isiolo are famous for its atrocious roads and shifta attacks. We were a bit nervous and did not know what to expect from the upcoming days.

18.09.2006, Yabelo, Ethiopia – Moyale, Kenya, 214 km (part 1)

The drive to Moyale was a pleasant and easy drive through a pretty African landscape so different from the past days. Tembo was doing fine although his engine was still not running smoothly and he still kept on accelerating by himself (he has been doing that since Libya and we hadn’t found the reason for it yet). We lovingly called this the “Tembomat”. We just hoped that he would not fail us on the important parts in Northern Kenya.
In Moyale on the Ethiopian side we topped up with diesel one last time (it is cheaper in Ethiopia than in Kenya) and moved on to go through customs and emigration. As always the officers were just on their lunch break. While we waited we changed our Ethiopian Birr into Kenya Shillings on the black market – for a terrible rate, but what can you do. I had tried to change money officially at the Ethiopian bank in Moyale but they looked at me as if I had gone barking mad.

- Clerk: “Change Birr into Kenya Shilling? No, we don’t do that!”
(the border being 6 meters away from the bank …)
- Me: “Ok, do you then change Birr back into Dollar?” (they change Dollar to Birr, so they might as well do it vice versa … that’s what I thought …)
- Clerk (looking dumbfounded): “Ah, I need to ask my boss” … minutes later … “No madam, we don’t do such thing.”

Anyway, we got rid of the Birr and we got the stamps in the Carnet and in our passports and were ready to leave Ethiopia. Dan, an Ethiopian kid who showed us the customs office, gave us the tip to camp at the Kenya Wildlife Service in Moyale. Dan was a very nice and clever kid who didn’t want money, but a book he could read. His goal in life was to become an engineer or a professor. So, thanks to Dan we had a very nice farewell from Ethiopia. We passed the road barrier and drove up towards the Kenyan side.

Summary Ethiopia:

we had heard many unpleasant things about Ethiopia and so we were prepared for the worst. But it wasn’t that bad at all. It actually was very nice. However it was not our favorite country. The landscape is stunning and especially the Ethiopian Highland is beautiful. One cannot imagine that so many things can grow on one spot. The people and the weather (rainy season) however were not that much to our liking. Although whenever we had a crowd of people around us (so, every time we left the car), we mostly managed to distract them from begging and actually has some nice chats with the kids. I would like to come back and do the Blue Nile Gorge again, but this time with a car with a stronger engine and in dry season.

Costs: Ethiopia is a rather cheap country, although it depends – as always – where one is going. One can have two teas for 1 Birr (0,10 Euros) but one can also pay up to 3 Euros for a coffee (in Addis). The average night in an Ethiopian hotel/ pension for a room with a bath is 80 Birr (8 Euros). The average vegetarian injera one can get for 10 Birr. Entering and leaving the country didn’t cost a thing. Nice! There are also no toll roads.

Driving: driving in Ethiopia is a problem if you have a slow Land Rover. The roads go either up or down. We spent 80% of the driving time in first gear. The roads we took were mainly tarmac (apart from the stretch Metema–Gondar, the Blue Nile Gorge and the road to Wondo Genet) and in a fairly good condition – thanks to the EU and Japan. As soon as there is no tarmac the roads are very bad though. There is no in between. Again the bus drivers are complete maniacs and the buses are in the worst conditions. We also saw many wrecked, turned-over and still spilling petrol trucks – not a good time to light a cigarette.

Nach oben


Highland mountains on the way to Gondar/ Äthiopisches Hochland auf dem Weg nach Gondar 
Dashen Beer!!! 
Paintings in Debre Berham Selassie Church in Gondar/ Christliche Gemälde in der Debre Berham Selassie Kirche in Gondar  
Lake Tana 
Crossing the Blue Nile Gorge/ Überquerung der Blue Nile Schlucht 
if you think it cannot get worse ... it will get worse (in 3.000m)/ wenn man denkt es kann nicht schlimmer werden ... dann wird es schlimmer 
And again a selfless helper who saved us from being stranded 60km outside of Addis/ Wieder einmal Hilfe von einem selbstlosen Helfer, der uns davor bewahrt hat 60km vor Addis gestranded zu sein 
Real coffee ath the Hilton/ Echter Kaffee im Hilton 
At the hot springs in Wondo Genet/ Bei den heißen Quellen in Wondo Genet 
Tembo has a visitor in Wondo Genet/ Tembo bekommt Besuch in Wondo Genet 
Meeting Joke & Karel from Belgium with their Land Cruiser Otto - on their way up north/ Joke & Karel aus Belgien mit ihrem Land Cruiser Otto - leider auf dem Weg nach Norden 
A typical Ethiopian road/ eine typische äthiopische Strasse 
The last St. George beer in Yabelo before moving on to Moyale/ Das letzte St. George Bier in Yabelo vor der Fahrt nach Moyale 

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Belegez Pension, Gondar (let a kid guide you there, it is worth it)
Ghion Hotel, Bahir Dar, N11 35.874 E37 23.170 (easy to find, no kids necessary :-))
Alem Hotel, Dejen, N10 09.183 E38 09.361 (waypoint roughly 3km off. Hotel is on top of gorge behind small shell station)
Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, N09 01.135 E38 45.899
Wondo Genet Resort & Hot Springs, Wondo Genet, N07 05.017 E38 38.266
Yabelo Motel, Yabelo, N04 53.029 E38 08.408

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