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.  






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