Wednesday, August 8


My Kenyan visa ran out in late July and, having already extended once, I needed to leave the East African Community before I could come in again, which provided an excellent excuse for a vacation in Ethiopia.

The hour-and-a-half flight to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines is a breeze. And the airport has got to be one of the prettiest I've ever approached, with the city popping up in the middle of a sea of bright green hills.

I only stayed one night in Addis before heading off at 4:30 am for the town of Bahir Dar. Due to the risk of bandits, inter-city buses don't run after dark, and most start at ungodly hours of the morning to cover as much ground as possible before nightfall. The Italian-built road was a pleasant change from the pothole-scarred highways of Kenya. The only unpaved stretch of road was crossing the steep Blue Nile Gorge, which apparently rivals the Grand Canyon in size. A Japanese (I think) company is working on that stretch. And I was relieved to learn that the groups of men riding around in pickups with rifles and no uniforms were just security for the project.

Driving in northern Ethiopia provides a mesmerizing series of green (some of the year), mountainous vistas, punctuated by the round thatched huts of the Agaw people - the kind of hut you might see emulated at a beach town eco-lodge and that you do see emulated in touristy Lalibela - and by the corrugated iron of the occasional town, which, while probably not any poorer than the huts, certainly look less pleasant. You also pass lots of skinny men with walking sticks and umbrellas and the occasional rifle; and skinny women usually carrying heavy things, like bundles of sticks, or jars of water, or occasionally, straight-up rocks. Most of them are wrapped to some degree in a white cloak/shawl/scarf. You also pass lots of old-fashioned cattle-herding and field-plowing.

These pictures, aren't from this particular drive, but the provide a bit of a sense of the northern Ethiopian landscape:
...More Ethiopia soon....

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