HELLO + WELCOME as we attempt to cross Africa and make our way from Sydney to London!
It’s Kirsty here today with our second post on Ethiopia. You can find our first week here tracking Ethiopian Wolves.
Driving in Ethiopia as white people comes with a chorus of ‘Youyouyouyouyou’ and ‘Farangeeeeeeee’. The children and even adults broke into hysterics when they saw us. People would drop whatever they were doing and start waving, racing, dancing, jumping up and down. We had heard stories of Ethipoian kids enjoying throwing rocks at vehicles and motorbikes – so we were on the offensive with engaging with everyone who noticed us.
Over the past 60,000kilometres we have learnt that people out the window 98% of the time mirror how we greet them. If we wave with both hands, guess what, they do too. And it’s fairly difficult to throw a rock at a car when you are waving two hands 😉
The road is essentially a footpath in Ethiopia. It was the country where I felt most fear that we might hit someone or something. So we took it slow. Sometimes it was so ridiculous all you could do was laugh. Driving out of the Bale mountains we encountered market day! Which meant thousands of cows and camels walking on the road towards us. Unlike other African countries the herders made no efforts to move their animals. Instead it gave them a chance to stare and greet us as we slowed down.
While we are talking about roadside meetings. It was here in Ethiopia that we met some ingenious little buggars. Who stand by the side of the road pretending to pile in dirt to a pothole. And then sticking out their hand as you pass for payment! If you were to pay for every pothole in Ethiopia I dare say you would be broke.
:: Market day and all the cows, camels, goats and people walk along the footpath (err, road?) to town
:: Washing day
:: Even pumping fuel draws a crowd
:: It was disturbing seeing so many children working in Ethiopia and collecting water from muddy puddles
Rather than drive through another African city we dodged Ethiopia’s capital in favour of venturing to Eastern Ethiopia through the Afar region.
The temperature dropped from freezing cold to ‘Holy sh!t it’s hot!’ as we drove through the Great Rift Valley. The region is home to the Afar people – who are fascinating to look at. The women have intricate braids that puff out at the bottom and the men carry a jile (a curved knife) and wear long cloths. They also wear serious faces that break into the most glorious white toothed smiles when you catch them off guard. As recently as 50 years ago the Afar men would kill male visitors to the region and chop off their balls!
This region is also home to the hottest place on Earth and we struggled to understand how the humans we saw exist in this environment. There would be nothing but desert and camels – then all of a sudden some haphazard humpie houses put together in the distance.
This region also brought us uncomfortably close to Somalia and with that we were keen to veer West!
It was this day, that we did what we always said we wouldn’t do. We drove into the night. We kept aiming for the next town. But each town just felt wrong.
We then decided to wild camp once we put a little more distance between ourselves and Somalia. The road changed to dirt, then the road works began and then the confusing diversions – in the dark. Afar men walked down the road in the pitch black with dangling knifes and guns. It’s difficult to describe how we felt; we didn’t feel unsafe but a little on edge I suppose. We just wanted to keep going. We smashed back cans of coke to stay alert. A dirty habit we have developed in Africa.
We pulled a 535km day. The biggest we can recall doing in Africa. On Ethiopians roads that is more like a 1500km day by Australian standards. After rattling along offroad in the dark for 100kms that took four hours we found a spot to camp and assured the securuity gaurd we would only stay a night. We gulped back a beer for dinner; while glancing at our filthy surrounding and down at our own filthy clothes after days without a proper shower. We fitted right in.
:: Into the Afar region
:: Desert and then tiny towns
:: Sun going down and we didn’t really want to camp here
:: Sun down, lights on
:: Doing what we never wanted to do in Africa, driving at night
:: Exhausted the next day we dug into some local injera in Adama
Thanks for reading guys. We love having you here. Next up we drive to the rock hewn churches of Lalibela and get hit by floods.