Star Date: May 2015
Come see us in Bali on You-tube - (An interview in English for a Russian journalist and audience). What fun to have this appear almost a year later on you-tube! Hope you enjoy it.
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"Salam na fikr"
"Life is one
great day after another!"
Unknown into the unknown. Heading towards remote Eastern Ethiopia was rough, intrepid traveling. It was kind of like slipping back into a pair of old bedroom slippers. Our 12 plus years of continuous traveling have prepared us for just about anything life on the road can throw at us. Our needs are simple and our hearts happy. We are happy with the simple things in life, and still amazed at the cultures, places, and diversity we encounter as we travel the globe. We live in gratitude.
When looking at the Ethiopian map we didn't realize the vastness; the valleys and mountains or travel times involved. In the mountains the distance can be only 40km but it could take 3 hours of breath holding switchbacks; one side crammed against a rock face and the other side of the narrow road a 2,000 ft drop. The countries' infrastructure is improving but the modern roads leading out of Addis didn't prepare us for the bumps ahead. To visit Ethiopia by road you must get yourself ready for a long and winding potholed road; but interesting and worth every bump. We traveled by large very old busses, crammed to the gill's mini buses, trucks and even horse carts. We skipped the camel wagons. We like traveling with and communing with the local people, something flying or taking tours misses.
Traveling by public transport is a whole new dimension. There is the big rush to get to the bus. Then to secure a seat. Once departure frenzy has subsided there is a kind of camaraderie that develops with that group of passengers for the duration of the trip. When sharing the same space with other travelers for 4-10 hours you become a sort of family. The driver and his assistant set the mood and everyone just settles in to enjoy or endure the ride. We often share photos of family and Hawaii to those around us, give stickers to well behaved little critters nearby, and talk to anyone wanting to practice their English. People share food or snacks around and sometimes sing along with the latest tune belting through the tinny speakers with a loose wire. Sometimes achieving the perfect volume requires a pair of ear plugs. When we have a rest stop, which is way too infrequent in Ethiopia (you have to have a bladder like all the camels along the road) we have people show us where the best little stall is to eat and help with the "We don't eat meat" routine. Bellies full, bladders empty, tucked back on the bus people go into their quiet or sleeping phase, then I often listen to audio books and get some of my best reading done on long bus rides. Currently I am working my way through 'Shantaram' an edge of your seat 900 page story of a man who escapes over the front wall of an Australian prison and finds his way to India, dissolving into the back alleys and underworld of the streets of Bombay.
Whatever the trip length it seems to end abruptly as we pull into the promised land bus station. All ties are severed as each sore and tired passenger is thrown out into the throng of street touts; each vying for a few bir to fill their stomach that night.
We stopped in Adama to explore the unknown Savannah park in nearby Dera. Only a widening in the road, we caught a horse cart to the entrance to the park. Hiking through the small mountains we saw several types of deer, birds and monkeys, and no 'farenji's' or foreigners. In fact we only saw two other locals in 3 hours. Ethiopia has few tourists and most stick to the beaten path or the 'northern circuit.'
As we headed East towards Somaliland more and more herds of camels welcomed us. Arriving in Harar we walked endlessly through the maze of streets in the walled Old Town. Rich in history this is a fascinating look into Muslim life, now and centuries past. Dating back to the 7th century there are 99 mosques, vibrant markets, and food stalls to tantalize anyone's taste buds. Just as the echoing calls to prayer would calm down, there were places in the bustling, colorful market where stall owners had their transistor radios set at maximum distortion; blaring out Middle Eastern tunes, the latest political rhetoric or ads enticing locals to buy something they didn't need. Transistor radios soon will be a thing of the past, replaced by cell phones and modern technology. A flash from the past, from a land where in many places Facebook is just a strange word. Just beyond the stall that sold camel meat, we made friends with a woman who cooked 'foui' or 'wadi' little pots of mashed garbanzo bean/maiz puree mixed with onions, shiro, oil and spice over an open fire. Add a couple of warm, freshly baked crusty rolls and for 25 cents it was a culinary delight. If we walked by in the market she would yell out to us and we simply 'had to' sit on the long low board provided for customers. Besides being by the fire on a chilly night warmed us 'regulars' up. We would even invite some of the street boys to share a bite with us. One woman sold boiled potatoes with chili and onions sprinkled on top. Another stall served up 'suposas' a kind of somosa filled with spicy lentils. What can I say, we eat our way across the globe!
An interesting occurrence just outside the old walled city is the nightly feeding of the ornery and feisty hyenas by none other than the 5th generation hyena men. Supposedly done generations ago to appease the wild creatures so they wouldn't attack villagers, now it has become a sort of weird tradition.
We spent 3 enjoyable days at Haramaya University, soaking up the energy of young aspiring students. They offered a great buffet but I ended up cooking a couple of nights. At first the staff was confused as to why I was in the kitchen but within a few minutes I had the music blasting and we were all getting really "Happy" together! When I told them we were leaving they were sad and said goodbye to "Dancin Nancin", which they had nicknamed me because they couldn't remember or pronounce Nancy. Talking to my Mom in Hawaii that night she shared more of her pearls of wisdom: "Nancy, I'm telling you, you just gotta keep dancing!" And so I shall! What an inspiration that wonderful, loving woman has been to me. Dancing my way around the world I guess I'm just honoring my Mom. She used to join in gladly and was always up for an impromptu dance party, either when we traveled together or at home. Deep down everyone likes to laugh, dance and have fun. Had any real fun lately??
We traveled by truck to Awash,
sighting large flocks of pink flamingos in the
shallows of Lake Alemaya and endless camel caravans on the way.
North from the main highway at Awash is entering 'No Man's Land'.
The mainly tarred, but at places pot holed road is the main road
between the Djibouti ports on the Red Sea and Harar. A
combination of driving too fast, drinking, and chewing 'chat' leaves
which are a stimulant, is a recipe for disaster. We saw so
many truck accidents that it got a bit eerie.
have just found out that after we were dropped off in Kobolcha our
dear friend professor Dr Sewnet Mengistu and the driver were injured
in an accident with a truck and are still in the hospital 2 months
later. So sorry to hear that this happened. We had such
a good time together. We wish that you get well soon!
Twelve hours north driving through Awash National Park savannah and up to Gewane then Mille, we realized how desolate this area was and abandoned our plan to stop at Asaita, venturing East into the even more remote desert and salt lakes. When in Purgatory, why continue on to Hades? It would have taken us forever to work through the area back to Desse with only random mini buses or hitch hiking, so we hung with the truck. It was over 40 degrees (over 105 F) with constant dust devils or willy willies. We felt like dust covered raisins. Neighboring Danakil Desert gets to easily 50 C (110 F). Turning west at Mille we heard those words that make travelers cringe: "The bridge is out!" This is the land of the fierce Afar tribe. They are nomadic and survive on goats, alive and recently deceased animals of all types, blood, milk and occasional traded sorghum, cabbage, maiz with a chaser of coffee skin tea and tobacco. Feisty and proud they don't take attitude from anyone and above all Never, Never make fun of their 'James Brown sculpted afros!'
A long dusty detour proved to be a real adventure filled with wild ostriches, Afar tribes people, dik diks, savannah deer of all shapes and sizes, camel caravans, and stands of ancient yellowwood trees surviving along dry riverbeds. This is the wild side of Ethiopia. Taking a 'haha, shortcut' we headed down a road that our truck barely made it through and should have been closed. We arrived for bite to eat in a local stall and a cup of tea in Bati, while our driver went to the mosque for prayers. Every Monday up to 20,000 tribes people converge to go to the infamous camel and cattle market! As it was we rubbed shoulders with bare breasted women with wild plaited hairstyles and elaborate beaded jewelry. The men strutted around carrying sticks, daggers or kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, quickly switching from severe warriors to the widest smiles ever as we greeted them. Sheep, camels, dogs, beggars all roamed the streets. This is the true Ethiopian wild, wild west!
And so it
goes.........................................Next month heading to
Northern Ethiopia, an ancient land filled with mystery and a rich
history. Few discover the treasures it has hidden for
thousands of years, as the road is long and hard. Let's
remember that life is just one great day after another. Sure
we have bumps in our road but don't get bogged down in a pot hole.
More great days are on the way!
Love, Light & Laughter,
1 US Dollar equals 20.37 Ethiopian Birr
Dera: Wan Gaari Hotel, main road
Carter, who we met in Harar
Amisa Bed & Breakfast near main Mosque- down a side alley simple, quiet, authentic 400 bir
Good, reliable, calm, not pushy "rasta" guide, Daniel We don't usually use a guide, and none is required by the local gangsters, but we wanted to help give this nice guy a job. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: (+251) 09 13 82 07 75
Charges 200-300bir for
the day to show you all around the old town. Mohamed Kemi 911449278
Sunnyside Hotel - big, expensive 700bir for foreigners, but great
pizza and good internet in the garden.