Monday, 4 October 2010

Addis and the journey south

We had been told that our matatu minibus would turn up between 3.30 and 4am. We got a knock on our door at about 3.15am for which we were not ready! We reached for the light switch to do our final packing - things we need during the night like our mosquito net. No electricity. I ran out in my pajamas to borrow the night guards torch. Groggily we packed and went out to the minibus. It had started at 2am to pick up the first passenger so we were lucky!

The first bus journey - to Gondar - had involved getting out and walking for a stretch - so we weren't too surprised at the various interruptions on this long trip. We snoozed through the early hours, then stopped for breakfast and continued to get lovely coffee even in the small towns. Then we had a couple of stops were we had to wait for half an hour and pretend we weren't going the whole way from Bahir to Addis because of the new bus regulations apparently. One of these involved leaving the bus stop the back way and getting stuck in mud and me and the other guys all pushing the bus out! This was all quite good fun and we made a friend who spoke English. We also stopped for a 'carwash' - done by the driver and conductor in a small waterfall amongst beautiful mountains. By the way, had we mentioned Ethiopia is COLD! We are wearing all our clothes in the evenings when it is, brace yourselves, below 20C! We had got used to 40C until a couple of days ago so this is freezing to us!

Our friend 'helped' us find a hotel room, i.e. took over and wanted something different from us, which turned out to be quite stressful after something like 12 hours since we left in the small hours. We eventually got away after me saying stupid things, like "We've taken up too much of your time" - HIM "oh, no, not at all... (has this line ever worked?)" We found a quiet, sweet little hotel ran by women. This was nice for Cate after the long period of male dominance of the past few weeks where we had almost no interaction with anyone but men.

Addis was quite tough as the visible poverty and begging was much more than we had experienced in the north. We always try to stop for people, but here we got overwhelmed at times and just going to the internet cafe was a tiring voyage. We also felt the tension of wanting to live simply and needing to transition from the lifestyles we are used to, especially as this trip tires us out. So as in Cairo we went to the Hilton for a coffee and an escape. In both of these a coffee is less than we would pay in London, but here it feels like something out of place and yet is somewhere we can escape when our capacity seems run dry.

We spent our day off catching up with the internet or admin for the Mozambique school that is coming soon. We went to a cafe called Kaldi's that amusingly has copied the Starbucks design and font and uniform exactly and it even smells like Starbucks! We also had another get-lost-in-a-taxi experience where the taxi driver pretended he knew the restaurant we wanted. It turned out to have shut down a year ago so he really was bluffing. We eventually found our second choice and had a lovely meal, though we got thrown out at 10pm when they closed!

We had done a fair bit of research into whether we thought northern Kenya was an acceptable risk or not. But we decided to do some more before heading on from Addis the next day as this was the last chance to change our minds. Cate had had a wake in the night fearful moment a few months ago about it, but as this was after we had read some of the horror stories, we weren't sure whether it was understandable fear or a warning from God. The first time round most people that we'd read online had been saying the area was much better in the last few years. This time it seemed that the majority of what we read seemed to suggest it was a fairly dangerous stretch. There were stories of bullets through windscreens, armed robberies, much inter-tribe fighting etc. There was also the issue of it being by far the most difficult part of the trip in terms of road quality, transport and accomodation & we were finding it pretty hard as it was.

All in all, we felt like it was worth flying over this stretch from Addis to Nairobi. I had been pretty adamant against flying at all for most of the trip. We are really concerned about cutting back our carbon footprint for the sake of those in poorer countries who are the most effected by climate change. The UK average footprint is about 10 tonnes, and 2 tonnes is what we're supposed to cut down to. I had worked out that a flight from London to Mozambique was about 2 tonnes - i.e. a whole year's budget of carbon - meaning our year's footprint would be well over that. Going overland, though more costly in pounds, was only about 1/2 tonne.

A short flight though, would only push it up a little - to 0.6 or 0.7 tonnes - so I knew this was do-able, but we've always felt that when most people seem to be ignoring the warnings that scientists are giving, it is much clearer to give things up completely, which was why I was unkeen. But I changed my mind on reading about the Kenya-Ethiopa border.

So the next day we found ourselves in Addis Ababa airport. We love playing looky-likey's - we're always spotting people that look (a bit) like people we know - and Cate said, "I've got an excellent Bridget" so I crept forward for a good look, and lo and behold...It was Bridget! She and a bunch of our friends were on their way home from a trip to Zimbabwe. It was lovely to catch up and be prayed for and see familiar faces.

To prove I am no longer a seasoned air traveller, I was carrying my swiss army knife in my carry on bag. Apparently this isn't allowed. I pleaded with the lady, saying I'd had it since I was a boy and she said they could carry my bag on from there to the hold & I'd get it on the luggage conveyor. I'm not sure I would try this at Heathrow, but I was very happy.

1 comment:

  1. wooop yes it was me and us and it was SUCH a pleasure to see you both and really we were blessed and your friends back here could NOT believe it. you guys rock. love you both xx