Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Graduation Day

Gondar as well as Bahir Dar were also celebrating their graduation from university.  How unlike my own graduation where the hired gowns are grabbed off you virtually as you get off the stage!  How nice to be able to wear it all weekend as a recognition of your hard work!

Many families had come up from the country and were therefore less likely to have seen foreigners in the flesh, only on the TV and so we were objects of curiosity.  People took our photos and some even asked us to pose with us for a picture such was our celebrity status. It’s a reversal of Georgia where black people were considered strange and wonderful and particularly in the villages, people wanted to touch their hair and skin and have their photo taken.  It was actually quite nice!

Proud Family
In one of the castles Gillian told me that this cutest of all little boys, no more than 3 years old, done up to the nines for the celebration saw me as he came into one of the rooms of the castle.  He was so startled at seeing a ‘faranji’ (foreigner) that he literally jumped in fright and banged his head.  As a mother and teacher it won’t be the first or last time I will have scarred a child for life lol. 

A Graduate and his family
Proud Graduate
People were happy to pose for us and didn’t seem to feel it was intrusive.  They were basking in ‘their day’.  However when I asked permission to take his picture he mumbled something about being paid for it.  In England that would have been considered a joke but here …. Well.  I just ignored him and took a picture.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Historic Gonder

We sat and chilled in the Hotel Ambarrass for the rest of the day and made arrangements with our new found guide. His brother who was a registered guide would take us out the next day to show us the sights and with the car, entrance tickets and his fee this came to 1800 ETB (£20 each).  I haggled from the original quote of 2000 ETB. It is such a pain and exhausting to have to negotiate over everything and you always feel you have been done over no matter how successful your bartering has been!

Gonder is a lovely place, with a bunch of castles built by different generations of royalty and it was interesting to see how different they were in design to other medieval castles we had seen, not only in England, but in Spain and Portugal.  I guess we are in Africa! and its influences are distinctly un-European!

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure!
Gondar, Ethiopia
Gondar, Ethiopia
Gondar, Ethiopia
Gondar, Ethiopia
Gondar, Ethiopia

Gondar, Ethiopia
Gondar, Ethiopia
Gondar, Ethiopia

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Another Memorable Bus Journey

Our journey to Gondar was another interesting bus journey.  We were the first passengers to be picked up and of course the minibus wasn’t going to be going anywhere without being full. We stopped in the town, in a side street outside a row of small pension type hotels. 

Pension type hostel for local people
 A couple of people approached the bus itself, but after a while, as this strategy wasn’t proving to be too successful, the driver and its money collector decided to take the bull by the horns and go find customers. This meant that we trawled the streets, stopped where there were lots of people and then they ran off, found people, put them on the bus, took their money and ran off again.  Finally, the bus was full and the ‘conductor’ person did the ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ trick with the roll of money and the door and we were off.  Well almost.  We picked up another 4 passengers despite being full, who squeezed in by sitting on a small stool, a large tin and the wheel hub.  Luckily their destinations were villages en-route and so their discomfort was minimal.  As these passengers disembarked others took their places and so we travelled.

Three points about this journey.

Firstly we had a really fierce policewoman stop the bus and give the driver a real rollocking for having too many people on the bus.  We didn’t understand the actual words but the meaning was very clear from her hand gestures, tone of voice and demeanor!  She was telling them to leave the ‘faranji’ (us) in the bus but get rid of the excess passengers.  This went on for about fifteen minutes and in the end they went on without ejecting anyone.

Secondly the toilet break for the ladies was very civilized as led by an Ethiopian lady,  me and my sister went into a nice but empty hotel in one of the small towns and used the bathroom of an unoccupied room that was on the second floor along a corridor.

Thirdly, as with Georgia, stationary buses with passengers inside are sales opportunities, so at every stopping point people rushed towards us trying to sell us stuff.  People bought large bunches of garlic and bags of leaves that when chewed, apparently give you a very pleasant legal experience.  What they didn’t buy on this occasion was an un-plucked chicken with its neck wrung even though the particularly aggressive sales technique involved trying to slide open the window from the outside in case we changed our mind when it was thrown onto our laps.  Luckily they couldn’t open my window.

All in all a very interesting time for 150ETB (£5)

When we reached our destination the driver asked us which hotel we wanted to go to.  We hadn’t worked out that part yet so he rang his mate who jumped on the bus and was ready to help us make up our mind.  He walked us up a hill to a reasonable looking hotel for a reasonable sounding price.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Chocolate Nile Falls

The Blue Nile Falls was a bit of a drive a way but well worth the wait.  We saw a lot of the landscape and people walking by on our journey and the rain looked like it was holding off.  After the “Big Rip-off” the day before, we decided that I would be the person to look after the money and be the haggler as neither Martin or my sister Gill had quite the same killer instinct as me and so I was sent into the Blue Niles office to pay the fee.  They said after that they felt a bit intimidated by the crowd of boys who came over to the bus and was telling them that they had a football team but no ball and would they give them the money.  This village is another example of an Association as the entrance fee goes into a communal pot to support the whole village.

We were driven for another few minutes and then got off the bus to make the climb to see the Blue Nile Falls.  This involved a 40 minute walk up-hill and it was a quite slippery.  Mountain goats we are not and our guide and his helper held our hands and helped us very graciously.  The land as I have said is stunning; hilly and mountainous, green with red earth and it was fantastic to walk through the village and up high to look over a beautiful waterfall.  Luckily it is the rainy season and so there was quite a bit of water although a new hydroelectric plant also reduces the water flow of the river.

The funny thing was that it was actually chocolate brown in colour because of all the earth being washed along with it.  The pictures I had seen show it in full flow and a distinct blue.  That’s what it looks like in September at the end of the rainy season. 

Ethiopia. Blue Nile Falls.

Ethiopia. Blue Nile Falls.
Ethiopia. Blue Nile Falls.

Ethiopia. Blue Nile Falls.
Ethiopia. Blue Nile Falls.
Our guides wanted paying and tipping before we reached the top so that the other boys didn’t see what we had given them.  Corruption is rife even in the village association.

Gillian and her trusty guide
When we returned to the hotel we met up again with the receptionist who had arranged our trips.  We hadn’t yet paid any money to him and as our driver had disappeared it was going to be interesting to see what he was going to ask us to pay.  

The Papyrus had asked us for 1500ETB just for the Blue Niles trip! “1000ETB for the boat trip” Immediately without thinking I said “Absolutely not!” and then he backed down to 600ETB.  We were still ripped off I am sure.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Ordinary People

By ordinary I don’t mean insignificant.  On the contrary, I mean the very people that make up the very fabric of the land.  As we drove through villages we marvelled at the astonishing landscape that was so earthy, verdant and staggering in its immensity at the same time as being so foreign and not of this time.   

Houses made of branches and mud which are painted bright colours, rows of little shops, more like kiosks, made of metal and painted again in bright colours that held a few items, its owners sitting outside, chatting with fellow shop owners.  These little retail outfits may have been small but space was utilised for maximum sales.  Rows of meat on hooks, sneaky pole extensions  fixed to the roof with goods strung on them.  Extra tables in front.  Fridge-freezers, electric lights.  Table football games, which are covered with tarpaulin when it rains. 

Lots of quick glimpses as we rush by and the camera can never quite capture the smell and feel of it all.  Coffee beans being roasted and cooking fires burning. 

Mud House
The Ethiopians have long legs.  They walk miles and miles.  We see them on the side of the roads.  They are walking and walking, great long regular strides, fast and upright, without hesitation.  

Some have shoes; flip flops, plastic sandals, or some leather wrapping around their feet.  Occasionally, we spot trainers, but mostly they are barefoot.  It’s like they are riding a bicycle, they stride so quickly and so far ahead.  All of them are carrying something.  The women balance bundles on their head and children on their backs. The men carry sticks, sometimes Dick Whittington style over their shoulder with bags tied to each end. Other times they use it for walking with a bundle of wood or a bag of flour over their shoulders. 

Other direct heavily laden donkeys and follow in their wake. Still others are on bikes or carts drawn by small raggedy horses. 

We seem to drive a long way before we see the next village and wonder at how many miles they must walk to and from market each day.

Walking back to the village 
Walking back to the village 
Walking back to the village 
Walking back to the village 
Walking back to the village 
Walking back to the village 
Farm work
Looking after the cattle
Basket making
Overturned lorry

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Peaceful Lake Tana and the Islands

Lake Tana itself is peaceful and beautiful and just what we needed.  The three of us sat quietly on the boat simply soaking up the atmosphere and the quiet.  It was wonderful.

Sun on the lake
Lone fisherman
Martin and Jen
Martin and Gillian
There are several islands in the lake with 9th century churches and we stopped at two.  Tourist associations have been set up all over Ethiopia so that local people actually make money through tourism rather than a rich outsider.  What this means is that only registered guides are allowed to operate and these are people from that village who have studied tourism and any entrance fees and tips go into the pot for the benefit for all the village.  I am not sure how this actually works as it seems to be different in each place we visited but you get the general idea. 

When we arrived at the first island, we got off the boat and we were met by the official guide who charged us 90 ETB for his services.  The guide was very humble and ingratiating and he was flanked by a line of hopeful young boys.  It was an uphill muddyish walk to the church and naturally a young boy leapt to the rescue to hold our hand and support us on the slippery uphill slope.  We passed by a number of stalls laden with jewelry, baskets and icon.  “Later!” we called and with a sinking feeling we knew we were going to have to pass through this gauntlet on the way down.

The church was absolutely amazing and nothing like I had seen before.  It was a traditional round building with a two concentric design.  The outer ring is for chanting, the inner circle is for people to pray and three entrances (one for the priest, one for men and one for women).  This inner space has a dividing wall which is called the “Holy of Holies” where only priests are allowed.  The roof is made of grass and the outside wall is made of bamboo.

Church and Martin putting his shoes back on
Inside looking out from the chanting area
From the back
The bell – seems to be a hollow piece of stone
The outside walls are beautifully painted with vivid reds, yellows, blues and greens.  I say the walls are painted but the paintings are made on cotton fabric which is then stuck on the mud walls.

The story of the cannibal

Drums for Chanting
Everything about the design of the church and the artifacts are symbolic of some aspect of either the Old or New Testament.  The three doors represent the trinity; father, son and Holy Spirit.  The drums used for chanting is also full of symbolism representing the tomb where Jesus was buried (it is hollow with a stone inside) and the binding represents the cords that were used to whip Christ.  The guide was very good, explaining all the bible stories that were depicted on the walls, and his face lit up when he talked about God and the church.

Crowns, robes and books (9th century)
Religious book written on goat skin (9th century)

We were charged 100 ETB each for entrance to the church.

On the way back, as expected we were met with a barrage of demands to look at their stalls and buy their wares.  The guide “negotiated!” on our behalf confirming that the prices they were demanded were reasonable. We were suckered all round.  My sister (“Soft-touch” is her new nickname) bought a nickel and plastic necklace for 350ETB and I bought a small cross for 150ETB and an icon for 250ETB.  It was like taking candy from a baby! Goo Goo!

We made it back onto the boat with our purses lighter and our hearts heavier with that sinking feeling that we had been ripped off and set off for our second mauling of the day to island number two.  We were ready for this one and we were met with the same routine, but the prices were cheaper.  This guide charged 75ETB and the churches also included a visit to the “museum” where priceless 9th century bibles and prayer books are exposed to the sun and flash cameras.

We had no more money with us and so we appeared to be playing it cool when we refused to buy the goods on sale.  In the end they were offering us better jewelry at less than half the price of what we had paid on the other island.  Goo Goo!

We had a lovely boat ride back to the hotel, a nice lunch and then got ready for our trip to the Blue Niles falls.  The guy on reception had organized this for us and we had arranged for the driver to stop at the bank for us and then at the Ethiopian Airline office so that we could book the next leg of our journey.  We came out of the office and looked for our driver but her was nowhere to be seen!  We waited – had he had to make a call, drive round the block? WE waited but he didn’t show.  In the end we went to the Papyrus Hotel and arranged it from there.  It was getting late and I really, really didn’t want to miss this visit and this was our only chance to get to see it as we were catching a DAY BUS (!) the next day to Gondar.  There was a bit of a wait but the new driver turned up in a minivan and we began our road trip to the Blue Nile Falls.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Kidnapped by a Tuk-tuk driver in beautiful Bahir Dar

On our first afternoon we caught a tuktuk into the town centre to see if we could organize our travel to Gondar; having learned from experience that sooner than later is the best policy in Ethiopia.  He was a friendly chappie, our tuk-tuk driver, chatting away unintelligibly, but we were cool about it as it added to the atmosphere of being squashed into the back of his little vehicle.

“Just here please!” we said when we arrived into what we recognized as the kind of town centre.  Jabber-Jabber ignored us and carried on jabbering.  On we went, up this road and down this road, being thrown around all over the place as he took his corners tight.  At one point another tuk-tuk or van (we never found out which) hit us up the arse as we didn’t accelerate as expectedly.  It was like we were being kidnapped! We were taken on a tour of the town without checking with us first and then ignored all requests to stop in the town.  

By this time (after 20 minutes) it was pelting down and we had seen enough roads built by the Chinese for a lifetime.  Finally he stopped and then wanted 50Birr.  I gave him 10 and he argued like billyo.  This is all so exhausting, arguing over money at every point we look.   We walked around and found Hotel Papyrus. We had steak and chips with a dollop of no-harassment and it was great.

Inside view of the outside view from a Tuk-Tuk - stationery
Inside view of the outside view from a Tuk-Tuk – moving
Pimp my Tuk-Tuk
Inside view of the inside view of a Tuk-Tuk
There were signs up everywhere in town “Congratulations!” It was University graduation weekend and there were lots of people walking around in full graduation gowns or suits, carrying bunches of flowers.  Many people and their families had come for the weekend and it there was a very festive atmosphere.

Went back to hotel and told the reception guy about the trips we wanted to do and also asked how we could get to Gondar.  He sorted it.  For a mere 1500ETB we could all go to on boat trip across Lake Tana and visit the island monasteries and then in the afternoon go to the Blue Nile falls.  The next day we could get a minibus to Gondar – he would phone and they would come and pick us up at the hotel.  Sorted and happy we went to bed looking forward to our trips the next day.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A memorable bus journey

We may have been loaded onto the bus but it was another hour and a half before we actually moved out onto the road to Bahir Dar.  We stopped to pick up several more passengers and the bus became more and more crowded.  There were a lot of phone calls by the driver presumably to pick up new passengers and the “Bus Conductor” liked having the roll of notes in his hand and counting them continually.  He could hang on to the bus as it moved away and at the last moment slide in and slide the door closed at the last minute.  It was a big show of look at me “Who’s the Daddy?”

After an hour and a half we actually set off to our destination and bumped along the road squashed up for the anticipated 4 hour journey, expecting to arrive at around 3.30 in the morning.  We tried to sleep so that we would be as fresh as possible when we arrived.  After about 20 minutes we were stopped by armed police / army who checked everyone’s passport; fortunately to his satisfaction and he slammed the door shut without asking us for identification.  Evidently not looking for foreigners. The door opened again and another army bloke just casually looked at us three sitting there and then shut the door again.   We could hear laughter from the others side of door and can only assume that we were the source of some amusement for them.  Maybe it was our tense little faces squashed together in the dark that gave them such a buzz!

I think our driver was living on the coke side of life
We slept most of the time and then we were suddenly woken with a jolt and a loud bang.  The mini-bus stopped and we were all a bit confused, having been asleep and being suddenly woken.  Everyone got out and we realized that the wing mirror on the driver’s side had been taken off by another vehicle.  It didn’t surprise me as we had had a few near misses earlier in the journey.  Of course the drivers are nothing like the crazies in Georgia, they just ride a bit close to the wind.

On closer inspection the driver’s side of the door as bashed in as well and Martin pointed out the skid marks on the road.  Evidently he had been driving on the wrong side of the road and then made a very quick turn to avoid an oncoming vehicle and it had clipped the minibus then went on without stopping.  However, some activity a couple of hundred feet behind us showed us that a lorry was upturned and in the ditch.  The collision had caused the lorry to swerve and drive into the ditch.  No-one was hurt miraculously but when you think about it - and we don’t like to of course, we could have been killed.

We all climbed back in the van and the driver sat in the back – he had been replaced by another driver ad went on our way.  We stopped for about half an hour at 4 in the morning at a bar / hotel and this provided a convenient loo stop and time to eat.  Then we were on our way again.  It was still dark and it was obvious that the 4 hour estimated travel time was not gonna happen.  At around 5 am there appeared on the side of the road ghostly apparitions.  This turned out to be women clothed in white with white blankets / shawls over their heads and they were emerging from an opening at the side and spilling out onto the road.  As we drove on, more and more appeared.  They didn’t look like they were going to market so I wondered if it was a religious thing.   I checked later and there is a religious week where women go to mass and process through the streets.  Don’t know quite what it is about but will find out more.

There were no more exciting events except that we were unceremoniously dumped at the bus station (not a bus station as we know it more like a seedy backstreet at the back of some houses)  despite the diver being told to take us to the hotel.   Our ‘friend’ at the hotel had sad that The Extreme hotel was to be recommended but we decided to take our power back and told the tuktuk driver to take us to the Lake Tana Hotel.  How we squeezed into this moped come tricycle with a hood, with all our luggage is yet to be discovered but we were duly taken to our destination and dropped off for the princely price of 15 birr.  I had tried haggling to 10 much to the disgust of Martin who simply is incapable of haggling (he has to go for a walk and smoke a cigarette) but he was having none of it and I was too knackered after what turned out to be 11 hours crushed into a minibus.

Lake Tana hotel is a 70s built concrete hotel in the style of a safari lodge if you can imagine.  We dumped our bags in our very nice rooms and had breakfast overlooking the lake.  

Monday, 23 July 2012

Getting to Addis and out again.

Our journey to Addis went very, very smoothly.  There were no hiccups at all.  My sister arrived on time; she collected a prescription for me, the taxi for the airport arrived on time and our six suitcases plus 3 pieces of hand luggage plus 2 laptops plus 2 handbags fitted into the taxi without a problem.  We were on time to check-in; there were no queues and the check-in staff made a point of changing our seats so that we were all sitting together (we had made separate bookings and so were seated separately)

We worked out that we had time for lunch before going to the boarding gate.  We asked a passer-by where McDonalds was and was told there wasn’t one at Heathrow airport and as a French man he was horrified that we would even consider such food and directed us to a French restaurant that co-incidentally turned out to be managed by himself.  We were horrified also about eating McDonalds of course, but lead by a miniscule budget, it was a sensible choice.   The burger we had in the restaurant was delicious and instead of tomato ketchup we were given Harrisa sauce which was very tasty.  However, we worked out that we had spent a third of our total travel budget so far with the cab journey and the yummy francais burger! 
We had enough time to get to get to the boarding gate and in fact this was the least stressful travel time that I had ever experienced.   Being used to airline travel at the economy end of the spectrum we were loving the luxury of ”Egypt Air” with room for our knees plus food and a metal knife (with a blade under 6cm) and fork. We were particularly excited that we were given free headphones and could watch films and TV shows.  The time flew by (pardon the pun) and even our stopover at Cairo was smooth with an immediate boarding for our flight to Addis.
New Arrivals!
The flight was fine and we slept most of the time and we collected our baggage without problem and our first step was to apply for our visa.  The Visa Office is a small room with 2 guys, one at each end of the room seated at tables.  The first one was good cop and the second was bad cop.  We filled in our forms and then me and sis went off to change up money as they only took US Dollars or Euros.  The exchange desk was un-manned and so we had to hang about for 20 minutes until a bloke came in messing around with his shoes and wearing a mack.  This was the man we had been waiting for.  We managed to change up some sterling into dollars and then sterling into Ethiopian Birr all the while people behind us were thrusting money over our shoulders and actually being served; in fact he was serving about what seemed like 8 customers at once.  We returned with the cash and was sent to bad cop to pay.  “How long are you going to be in Ethiopia?” he says “ 2 months” we say.  Consternation.  Finally he signs our application and then sends us back to good cop who sticks our visa into the passport.

Having been warned not to let anyone be “helpful” as they will expect and then demand a tip, Martin was hanging on to the luggage with all his might.   We nearly made it to the exit when there was another inexplicable security check where we had to feed our luggage thought yet another x-ray machine but there were no personnel checking anything.  People with official name badges grabbed our bags and shoved them on to the rollers and then demanded payment for helping us.  We refused.  We hadn’t asked and had actually said “No, Stop!”but it didn’t prevent this guy calling out how he didn’t earn a salary and just got by on tips.

The taxi was the next hurdle and we had been told that the fare from the airport would be $10 to $12 which is 255 to 275 Ethiopian birr.  “400 Birr” said one of the orange bibbed drivers and I, not yet skilled in the art of haggling I offer a mere whine “but the owner of the hotel said 250 birr”  I did nothing and so another orange bibbed driver said “350 - there is a lot of baggage”  So I agreed, as it was 4.30 in the morning and we had been travelling for 12 hours or more.  They piled the luggage on to the roof rack rather precariously and a small boy was doing the piling.  I gave him 10 birr and he went away but came back and said that it was “too small”.  I gave him another 10 birr. (36p)  But I was learning fast.  Or so I thought.   I had been warned about the leeching but it is hard to know what is the right amount to give.  You can’t compare it to English prices (which is what you do because you say well its only 36p in England) as the salaries are so low here.  What to do?

We arrived at our hotel and was swiftly put into our rooms and so went to bed and slept till 11 when we woke up and gathered ourselves at about 10 in the morning.  I sent a text to Daniel (the brother-in-law of Dawit) to check what time he wanted to come and pick up our luggage.  But at 11 Dawit from the school turned up. He had been at the hotel earlier but we were asleep so he left us to sleep and rest.  He had come to collect our luggage as Daniel didn’t have a car.  The trouble as that we had so much luggage that had been carefully packed and Martin (poor bloke) had to take out the stuff we needed for our tour and fit everything else back in the bags so that it could be taken to the school ahead of us.  This took about an hour to do!  Dawit went on his way and then we got ready and went out exploring with the view to making our plans to travel to Bahir Dar the next day.  We planned to fly so that we could have a relaxing time after traveling especially as Gill had only just got back from Turkey 2 days before we left.  However we had trouble finding anything. 

It was latish afternoon by the time we set off and we were hungry so were looking for a restaurant.  Our walk from the hotel to the centre of town was a bit overwhelming as we had several kids and young people approach us for money.  We had been warned about the boys who have trays around their necks, like the old cinema usherettes, selling cigarettes and tissues and the like, as while they thrust their wares at you, someone is stealing your wallet.  Me and Martin were walking quickly but my sister was a bit slower and she became separated from the pack as such, so we re-grouped and made our way out.  We stuck out like sore thumbs.  We were the only white people and tourists are thin on the ground in rainy season and so we were like fresh meat.  We moved on quickly and found the office for Sky bus but it was crowded so in our infinite wisdom we said we could go and find food then come back. 

Addis is not like capital cities elsewhere.  Capital cities are normally the business centre of the country and quite impressive.  Not so in Addis which looked a lot like Brick Lane without the character. We found an agreeable looking cafĂ© / restaurant and had some tasty cheap food while it was really pouring with rain. I was surprised at the extent of the rain; knew it was rainy season but thought it only rained at night lol.

Here are some pics to give you an idea of what Addis looks like:

Addis billboard: "Corruption is an impediment to development"
Addis Ababa. Modern and old methods of transport co-exist. Is this a new branch of Primark?
Addis Ababa. Looks just like Aldgate.
Addis Ababa. Fruit seller.
Addis Ababa. Fumes.
Addis Ababa. Donkey going the wrong way down the road.
Addis Ababa. Dead creepy - looks like a crowd.
Addis Ababa. More fruit sellers.
Addis Ababa. Building site.
Addis Ababa. More building.
Addis Ababa. Funeral parlour.

Anyhow we ventured out and tried to make our way to the Hilton to check out the Ethiopian airlines office and flights, which was miles away, gave up and returned the Sky bus office only to find that the bus was full up for the next day. What to do?  Could we face another day in this place? We were down but not yet out and so we searched out the tour guide round the corner to find out our options.  He had nothing to offer us only that the Ethiopian Airlines office was now closed and therefore there was no chance of booking a flight for the next morning either.  So we seemed destined to spend yet another day in dreary Addis after all.

Back to the hotel and we explained our predicament to the son of the Hotel Owner.  His suggestion was to get a cab for 200 birr to the airport on the off-chance we could buy a ticket then and there for the 20:15 flight.  If we were out of luck he would drive us in a mini-bus the next morning for 350 birr each.  With nothing to lose we packed and got a taxi to the airport and asked about how we could buy a ticket.  We were told to queue up at check-in office and then buy our tickets.  Finally we made it to the front of the queue and were told that the plane was full.  Why couldn’t someone have just checked?  It wasn’t a bad way to spend and evening! Anyway we got a taxi back the hotel and asked about the private bus trip for the next day.  The deal had now moved from him driving us in a private minibus to his friend driving us that night with other people.  We assumed that it was perhaps that he couldn’t actually borrow the minibus the next day but that obviously was not the case.  Totally confused but desperate to get out of the city we accepted and arranged for the bus to come to the hotel and meet us in an hour’s time. 

We went across the road to the Hotel Wutwo to eat.  We were happy and relaxed because we knew we were on our way and me and Martin tried traditional Ethiopian dishes.  I had injera which is the traditional Ethiopian bread with a casserole served on it and Martin had a puff pastry jobby with egg and tomato in the middle.  Very cheap food and the egg and tomato pastry jobbywas particularly tasty but the injera was something else.  It not only looked like a grey dishcloth but it also tasted like a wet dish cloth.  It had a distinct vinegary flavor and was grey / beige in colour, like when you give a toddler a bit of pastry to play with for a couple of hours.  I tried, we all tried, but it just couldn’t be eaten.

Pastry with egg and tomato. Yummy.
Injera and something that was quite tasty
Nice pic of Martin and Gillian

We went back over to the hotel to catch our minibus but surprise, surprise, found that it wasn’t going to be driven by his friend for us but instead it was a group minibus (think Georgian marshutka).  Our luggage was loaded onto the roof rack and one customer was shifted to make way for us to sit together.  We had paid the owner’s son 350 ETB for setting it up and 600ETB to the driver for taking us.  This was the same price as tickets on the Sky Bus route – a large coach with air conditioning and on-board toilet.  Do you think we were ripped off in any way, shape or form? It was now 9:30 at night; the door was slammed shut and we were excited to be on our way out of Addis for the next stage of our journey.