web analytics

The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Category: Ethiopia (page 1 of 2)

Sunday Border Sunday

It was time to bid farewell to Northern Kenya , her great hospitality and those roads , Ethiopia was not even a kilometre away , so after breakfast we packed up and headed out , the crossing out of Kenya was just great , the customs official offered me a seat and some of his samosas for breakfast , scanned and stamped me out and I was on my way . The immigration process on the Ethiopian side was fantastic , and I was stamped in , all that was left to do was get my Carne signed , stamped and   with so many hours left I was convinced our first night stop would be Dilla 400 kilometres from the border .

 

The sign a reflection of what the welcome was to be.

The sign a reflection of what the welcome was to be.

 

I took a walk across the road , to customs , found the office open ,  no staff ,  just very unhelpful police . I was told by a money changer that he would have to phone the customs officer to come and stamp me in . It being a Sunday they don’t work and if they do come in that there  is  an overtime charge . So my five hour ordeal started .

I met Mohammed a clearing agent while I was waiting and he offered to help me , he phoned the supervisor , who promised to send an official  , and so we waited , by now me fearing I might have to return to Kenya and try again in the morning .

The police , so many , so unruly , having the run of the small border  town , their uniforms worn as badges of fear and  authority , yet dishevelled , no pride , all about big guns , cammo and ammo  , like bandits they roam . So I  waited an observer of border life with my new friend Mohammed  , as the hours ticked by.

Eventually the customs official arrives , what a nice guy , introduces himself , shakes my hand asks me a few questions and that I should follow him into the office . In passing he mentions the overtime , but he is glad to help me . Finally we can be on our way , the noon gun long sounded and I needed to get going . Thinking I was only minutes away from my departure , so began another chapter  . I was transported to a world that only existed in slow motion . His movements so slow they formed their own shadow  , his pen stuttering and stammering across the official documents , duplicate , triplicate , more questions and so time dragged . I just needed one more piece of paper , he turns to me and those words , please wait I need to phone  the examiner to come and verify the chassis and engine number . The call made and so we waited ,  so I stood , so I sat , so I paced , so he paused . Finally just after 14h00 Vic and I said our farewells to Mohammed who without him I might still be there , we went in search of petrol.

This was to be equally frustrating only one of the 4 I tried had regular but I had to wait for the power to return , tank full tyre pressure done at a price we set off . I had to change my destination for the night to  the town of Yabello , luckily only 200 kilometres from the border , a breeze . Then I saw the condition of the road , diversion signs to many  to count , road works , trucks , busses ,  we were back on mini hell road , the first 100 kilometres like a teenagers first bad acne  outbreak , it would just not clear .  I was thinking to myself , this is one of those days the sun beats us home .

 

Harsh and dry , you wonder how life exists out here.

Harsh and dry , you wonder how life exists out here.

 

The landscape started changing , white dryness replaced  by red dryness , more anthills I have never seen , the diversions covered in that fine red powder Vic hates so much , it clogs her pores terribly . So the first 100 kilometres haunted us .

 

The teenage outbreak.

The teenage outbreak.

 

You have to wonder , how do people do it ?

You have to wonder , how do people do it ?

 

One of the many that fill your vision as you ride.

One of the many that fill your vision as you ride.

 

In this place the only colour  comes from the clothes the people wear , the sand and the pale blue haze you find surrounding the mountains in the distance , in this place hard labour returns to the roadside , the wind and sun  the dominant constant .

 

Big sky country , must be amazing at night with all those stars out.

Big sky country , must be amazing at night with all those stars out.

 

I must  have inadvertently rubbed a genie lamp , before my eyes it appeared , smooth as silk , wide and dreamy , the road that  took us to Yabello Motel before the sun and  moon changed guard  .

 

Just look at that dream road.

Just look at that dream road.

 

Yabello Motel where you trade big dollar bills for no frills , where being a faranji ( foreigner )  costs you double ,  the pricelists compiled with invisible ink , rooms that have not experienced fresh in years , a shower that shocks while the dribble tries to make its way onto your skin. That been said the shower done , sitting out under the trees having my first Ethiopian coffee , heaven it could have been.

 

Trusted Vic

Trusted Vic

 

Please sir , more.

Please sir , more.

 

Yabello junction.

Yabello junction.

 

Some glow some no.

Some glow some no.

 

Light starts to fade , the heat of the day replaced by a cool evening breeze , carrying words I have never heard  until this night , mixed with German , Italian and loud claps , as the locals demand service . I sit once again the observer in a place that feels ever so café life , sipping my macchiato . I look to my left the neon motel sign flickers to life , as night arrives ,  not in its entirety but enough to beckon the weary traveller . I initiate myself with a Ethiopian red as the plump  moon , still a little coy using a cloud or two to cover her fullness rises . The customs , the ragged  road , washed away as the delicious red of the wine and hypnotic moon take my mind to beautiful Ethiopia .

 

No it's 250 ml . Need you ask?

No it’s 250 ml . Need you ask?

 

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Heading for Hawassa

Leaving Yabello , I had been warned that the road all the way up to Hawassa was under construction , so I was up early to get a good start . I rode to the fuel station next to the motel , they were out , then across the road to join the ever growing queue for petrol , there must have been over 100 plastic containers lined up and around 20 tuk- tuks and motorcycles  in front of me , so I joined the line . The pump was only to open after 8 , being a faranji has its advantages , more so a faranji on a scooter , we made many friends who took it apon themselves to take me to the front of the queue , so as the pump came to an unconvincing life , Vic and I filled  tank and container and headed out .

The road works started in town as did  our nine hour journey to cover the 300 kilometres up to Hawassa . The price of progress the inconvenience and road trauma . Those who take this route in years to come will find a very different Northern Kenya and a silky drive to Addis , in many ways sad , the time on the scooter though hard and slow allows  you to see and feel so much . The lives who live here , touch you as you pass and sprinkle  a little of their magic dust  for you to carry in heart and mind as one journey’s on . Speed and comfort the tar will bring.

What is astounding about Ethiopia is how fast the landscape changes and within such short distances , from that harsh dry world just a couple of hundred kilometres back to the beauty and immense greenery as we started or climb in to the highlands.

 

Dust for dense greenery .

Dust for dense greenery .

 

So the ride became more and more beautiful , with mountains , valleys and lush landscape ,villages abundant with produce , camels left for horses , dust became mud , hot turned cool and the rain came in.

 

Asphalt in such short supply I took a photograph to remind me that it is out there .

Asphalt in such short supply I took a photograph to remind me that it is out there .

 

The scenery richer , greener , the people fill the road with their daily lives , transporting , walking , talking , soccer played  roadside , pool tables of a different Africa traded for table tennis , the excitement and screams that never cease as you ride ever so carefully and slowly through the mountains.

 

Heading into the mountains

Heading into the mountains

 

The ride up to Dilla took me to afternoon , the busy life along the road , the road conditions and the You , You , faranji screams were making for an exhausting day .

 

From the dust of Moyale to the Highlands of the rift valley.

From the dust of Moyale to the Highlands of the rift valley.

 

One of the many villages that line the road to Hawassa.

One of the many villages that line the road to Hawassa.

 

One of the many children that run alongside , the instant crowd when you stop.

One of the many children that run alongside , the instant crowd when you stop.

 

Finally Dilla emerged  out of the mist and rain , it had been a hard long ride to get here , I found  fuel for Vic and coffee for me . I sat in one of Dilla’s café s savouring every sip , looking across at Victoria on the pavement attracting all the attention , thinking to myself , we thought hell road would be the last for us , yet here we go again , now just wet and muddy with 100 kilometres to go .

Ethiopia was starting to reveal herself ever so slowly , so dramatically different to the Africa I have travelled  , a new door has opened for me , both daunting and exciting , it was the first time while travelling that the barrier to communicate had grown so , even ordering my coffee took me to the guide book to stammer out the Amharic words buna watat .

 

Getting g the photograph was far easier in comparison.

Getting g the photograph was far easier in comparison.

 

The rest of the day got me to Hawassa , exhausted , road fatigued and so grateful to this damn fine scooter for getting us here , through the rain ,  those mountain passes where the tar had slide downhill to form ruts and folds that shook us and slowed our progress to a crawl .

As I rode into this beautiful town I knew I had to take a few days to recover from the last 5 days , the haven of Hawassa was to prove just what I needed .

 

View from my room

View from my room

Welcome to Hawassa , Palm fringed , wide avenues , the lake and that holiday feeling my mind jumped back to my coffee and cake days in Swakopmund . I had to try a few hotels before finding a room in this busteling town , finally we set our wheels down at Ker – Awud  international the hotel  that glitters from within and out  . Unpaked  I tucked into a superbly spicy Ethiopian yefigel tibs , and injera , yes you guessed delicious goat .

 

Never have I had a shower like this , the lighting of a night club with piped music while washing.

Never have I had a shower like this , the lighting of a night club with piped music while washing.

 

The hotel

The hotel

Lazy walks alongside the lake , breakfasts that last till 10 , coffee , and a little wine to help pass the time , a hard comfortable matrass on which to lay my head , so my time has been hanging out in Hawassa ,

 

Lake Hawassa

Lake Hawassa

 

The promenade lakeside , lined with locals , fish resturants and coffee houses , Am I in Africa?

The promenade lakeside , lined with locals , fish resturants and coffee houses , Am I in Africa?

 

Fish and coffee

Fish and coffee

 

I spent the day wondering the streets , getting Victoria cleaned again , fuelled up and ready to ride we both will be in a day or so .

Ethiopia a island of culture , life and language surrounded by a continent we call Africa .

 

DSCN4772

 

 Mosaic's combined to keep memories alive.

Mosaic’s combined to keep memories alive.

 

At the car wash again.

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

H 2 H via Chiro

After three relaxing days in the lake town of Hawassa it was time to move on to the ancient city of Harar in the East of the country , a ride that would take me two days to cover the close to 700 kilometres . We started off in the cool morning  mist leaving an already bustling town full of people taking their produce to market , the roads full of people , livestock , the gari loaded to capacity being pulled by a couple of bouncing donkeys , the blue Bajaj ferrying the population anywhere and everywhere . In Ethiopia the roads really are full of life of all kinds , one has to maintain very  high levels of concentration to navigate  these roads , focus , focus I keep repeating to myself.

 

Ethiopia full of these beautiful holy places of worship.

Ethiopia full of these beautiful holy places of worship.

 

The ride was to be a very interesting one from a landscape perspective that took me from the lush , green farm lands through  deep black volcanic rock strewn  bad lands ,  then back into the dry dusty arid flat  before being delivered to a place much like Lesotho , valleys , mountains and the deep enchanting Ethiopian green .

On the ride up I passed 5 hyena’s being devoured by vultures roadside ,  in very  populated areas , to many truck carcasses to mention , more  truck accidents to add to the road litter , a whole lot of camels  and a traffic apocalypse involving  hundreds vehicles all stationary  , waiting for a jack-knifed truck to be cleared . How I love two wheels , as we left the tar and went dust side to carry on our journey , hardly missing a beat.

 

Rural villages run alongside Vic and I

Rural villages run alongside Vic and I

 

I made it up to a town called Awash , where I met Doctor Lemessa from Harar university , while grabbing a cold water and filling up Vic , we got chatting and he advised me to push on another 100 kilometres to escape the dreadful heat and dust of Awash to a small town called Chiro , damn glad I did what a reprieve it offered in the lovely tranquil setting.

One has to cross the Awash river to continue up to Harar , unbeknown to me it is a military zone and no motorcycles are allowed to cross unless they have been granted permission and a permit in Addis. I knew none off this so down we rode bobbing and weaving amonst the trucks , dust and chaos we bounced to emerge on the other side , how I managed to miss the two check points is still beyond me , maybe the chaos and bad road condition that gives you the feeling you are in the eye of a dust storm .  As Vic and I came over the rise we where met with very hostile and surprised personal who had no idea how we managed to get across the bridge . Spikes pulled across the road in front of us ,  arms at the ready we came to a very surprised and abrupt halt . The language barrier was again to be an issue . My heart racing I tried to explain who I was where I was going , got all my documents out , finally after a very stressfull time all was sorted out and all parties via various means of communication departed as friends .

Ethiopians seem to love South Africans as our late president spent time here  training and he is highly revered here as in most parts of the world , but Ethiopians seem to have an exceptional love for our Madiba , all know of him and his time in Ethiopia and in a way  , proudly have adopted him into their history  , so between Madiba and that precious green and gold document we proceeded to our destination . So a word of warning if you are on two wheels and by any chance want to go up to Harar make sure you stop explain as best you can , get the authorities to call and get you permission , the other alternative is to put your bike on the back of a pick up and get driven across. This is allowed and encouraged .

 

Exceptional Ethiopia

Exceptional Ethiopia

 

After a few very deep breaths and finding some good music I rode for Chiro Town . A little Oasis it was , great food , very helpful staff in a cool calm setting , so I sat down to dinner to reflect on my very hectic day and was glad to have the sun set on us here , tomorrow we ride for the city of Harar , the place that is home to the hyena men .

For those who rode up to Lesotho earlier this year , I was having flashbacks to those  green wet mountains , those steep inclines that robbed Victoria of her ability to clear the 30 kilometre per hour mark , those treacherous  downhill’s , those sharp curves and those unbelievable views that clear your nostrils and  mind by beauty and  then fear of not making the corner , enjoying a flight unscheduled to a messy landing .

 

You do feel speck like as you ride in this place

You do feel speck like as you ride in this place

 

The ride up from Awash to Harar  takes you through Oromo country , where you are privileged to experience the magic colour and incredible beauty of these people while you ride the snake and ladder like roads .The woman definitely do all the work , at best I think the men leave the shade of a tree to relieve themselves and then return to the tree. The woman on the other hand tall , elegant and beautiful , dressed like a celebration , fill the land in their bright colours hard at work , doing everything from tilling the land , tending to the livestock , collecting wood and water , so we rode amazed by the beauty , touched by the people and inspired by their cultural magnificence , still so intact and practiced .

 

Wheels down in Chiro Town

Wheels down in Chiro Town

 

So well fed and less frazzled  off to bed , for tomorrow Harar .

Until we meet again.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Cultures , Coffee and CHAT .

The 200 kilometres to Harar took just over 4 hours to navigate  the  roads ,  highland winds twists and turns . We arrived in this ancient walled city where I was going to experience a way of life frozen in time , blended with the new world of construction , tech and commerce , where within one city different  religions and cultures  walk free and proud all wrapped in the fabric of what it means to be  a citizen of Harar .

 

The road to Harar .

The road to Harar .

 

Smaller villages one passes through en route to Harar . Still very busy .

Smaller villages one passes through en route to Harar . Still very busy .

 

I met up with Dr Lemessa who kindly introduced me to the hotel staff and who asked the hotel to find me a guide to enrich my time in the city and to show me a little of their world , so by 16h00 I was with Tedy Zion  my appointed guide touring the city both old and new .

 

The new .

The new .

 

The old and my first gate

The old and my first gate

Once you enter the old city  through one of its five gates , you are transported back in time , you expect to look down , see your feet in sandals , your clothing transformed to rough spun cotton or your body  caressed by fine silk  , your coin bold and brass , the  weapon at your side  forged by hammer and  flame , adorned with a  jewel  encrusted handle , so  your life is thrown back hundreds of years to a lively rich  place . Trading , living and eating on the street , your world protected  by an ancient wall . Your life free  , your senses full of scent and spice , your eyes adjusting to the frenzied  activity , your step more cautious  to the cobbles and narrow  alleys , your space and movement robbed by congestion  , you come alive , with your mind imagining you here in this old place living in the time of  kings , prophets and warlords . So I took my first breath of old .

 

First breath of this ancient place.

First breath of this ancient place.

My excitement feverish I tried to take it all in , my eyes unable to settle or focus , always being shown something new , bigger or  brighter , a scent takes them from trade to seek its source  , a bump , a touch , a face , eyes meeting and moving , I was less than 100 meters in , so let me take you visually through these streets before we meet for coffee down an alley in a home ancient in construction as condition where I will tell you more .

 

The colour of heat .

The colour of heat .

 

Pastels and print .

Pastels and print .

 

Colours of Harar

Colours of Harar

 

One of the magnificent restorations in the old city . Rimbaud House.

One of the magnificent restorations in the old city . Rimbaud House.

 

Second of the five gates as we walked the streets.

Second of the five gates as we walked the streets.

 

Third , two to go .

Third , two to go .

 

The fourth

The fourth

The last , not the least .

The last , not the least .

 

The main road tat leads you in and out of the walled city.

The main road tat leads you in and out of the walled city.

 

So I emerged in a home for the age old tradition , the coffee ceremony , to take an hour of my time yet give me insight into a tradition that holds the old ways fiercely in a miniature cup of deep and black liquid extracted by art and ritual from the  bean  we all know as coffee . So it began with preparing the charcoal that would provide the flame and heat . Next the beans washed and placed over the heat to roast , the heat the first turn of the key to unlock the aroma hidden within .

 

Preparing the bean for pounding .

Preparing the bean for pounding .

 

Aroma to tease .

Aroma to tease .

Then the pounding and crushing of the roasted beans , followed by placing the freshly ground powder into the pot , placed on the coals to heat , before the first of three are poured , to gift you with , peace , then love then the third for peace and love . Do you think John Lennon and Yoko Ono drank too many cups of Ethiopian coffee ? I wonder .

 

More coffee foreplay . Smelling the freshly ground , my nostrils alive , please hurry .

More coffee foreplay . Smelling the freshly ground , my nostrils alive , please hurry .

Finally my first cup is handed over with a humble pride and a knowing  smile that tells me before my first sip , that this is going to be a life altering event  in my coffee life . First the aroma fills the deepest of recesses , trying to prepare you for what you are about to receive . The liquid gold touches my taste buds they can’ t understand what is happening , spontaneously I feel them doing the Mexican wave in my mouth , I hold the temptation to swallow , I savour the flavours , close my eyes so I have an extra sense on hand , let the liquid rest on my tonuge , I gently swallow to complete the ceremony , yes truly the best I have ever had .

While at the coffee ceremony , I was educated about the  Chat universe , not a physical enlightenment  but a verbal account of its tradition in Harari culture , the addictive nature of the plant as well as the mind altering properties it holds within its leaf , to be extracted by chewing on the leaves . Hallucinations , alertness and various other advatages Tedy tells me . You are able to remember what you have forgotten , not only that but it helps you think twice , helps you think twice I repeat , yes he tells me , no further explanation offered . So now with my education well underway  Tedy  explains the different grades , experiences to be had and how Harar chat is the best in the world . Should he get some for us to enjoy after coffee he asks ?  Having noticed the effects of chat on the Harari people I had to decline , but damn that coffee will live with me forever .

So next up to the view point to enjoy Harar at sunset before we head for the hyena’s and the men that feed them .

 

Tedy Zion , always the guide with funky hair .

Tedy Zion , always the guide with funky hair .

So the sun down we made our way out of the old city to the outskirts where the hyena men are . It starts with him calling them by name , apparently , I am told around 30 or 40 live around Harar  , and are basically fed in one of two locations . When I arrived about 10 hung around waiting for their commands . These predators , very obedient I thought ,  maybe to much so . I went down on my knees to await the beast to mount my shoulders and feed , so gently I felt her paws wrap around my shoulders while her weight pushed them down slightly , she turned her  jaws to devour the meat dangling above my head , so gentle she was , the command given , she left . I traded cash for experience and left back for the hotel , overflowing  with the intoxication  bottled in Harar.  I had met a couple from the UK earlier , John and Charlie , so we shared our travels over that superb wine the Rift valley produces and off to bed .

 

Easy tiger .

Easy tiger .

The next day , Tedy arrived to take me around further Harar highlights and delights , back to the old city to look at a few museum’s , shops and the tomb of the last King of Harar . Tedy not as attentive as the day before , I was coming to realise that Tedy  like a lot of Harar really enjoyed his chat , so the second day out was like been guided by the Duracell bunny , and chat did not help Tedy remember twice , actually not even once , yet I still really enjoyed my time hanging with Tedy Zion not from an educational perspective but the ability to enjoy a city with a citizen .

 

Breakfast on the street , boiled potato , fresh tomato , onion and chilli , special spice and coffee for three Rand .

Breakfast on the street , boiled potato , fresh tomato , onion and chilli , special spice and coffee for three Rand .

Interior of an Harari home.

Interior of an Harari home.

 

Resting place of the last King of Harar.

Resting place of the last King of Harar.

So my day and time in Harar was coming to an end , we started our exit from the city when a young woman called out, for  us to come back , she invited me in, to see her home , offered me some chat and coffee and so I sat down to enjoy the company have a chat without the chat . The conversation polite and enquiring , then was I married came up , after my answer so came the proposal to get married , I politely declined to laughter and banter all around , the last proposal was just to provide a child , as she told me , she has two breasts one for her existing child the other for the one I should provide  her , so amongst the chatter and  laughter I said my goodbyes with a heart full of joy for what Harar had shown me .

 

DSCN4888

So my final  night was shared with Dr Lemessa for a coffee and goodbye , then Charlie and John for dinner before I ride North and they fly South . I start my trip back to Addis , the two day return with another crossing of the bridge .

 

The Ras Hotel

The Ras Hotel

Ancient city with ancient ways thank you for the privilege .

Until we meet again.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Why I like Ethiopia

I love the intensity with which Ethiopians greet , the handshake , the  way they lean in  and shoulders touch .

The coffee , the best in the world by all measures  no matter where you have it.

The fresh juice , plump with pulp , flavour and freshness .

The way the attendant  always shows me the  pump has been zeroed before they start re fuelling Victoria .

The enquiring and inquisitive  ways of her people.

The way they love Madiba and thanks to him me.

The tibs be it meat or fish.

The dramatic landscape.

The wine from the rift valley.

The diversity in culture and language.

The natural beauty  to be found and experienced in the people .

Totally safe yet a little wilder in a way than the Africa that I have travelled.

The preservation of culture held with a distinguished pride.

Beautiful features unique and varied just like the landscape and languages.

The hardship tempered by the colours.

The words guttural the smile true.

You will never out stare the youngsters , they hold their gaze with laser precision.

The birdlife , like I have never seen both in size and colour.

Addis , busy Addis.

Oh did I mention the coffee , the wine and Juice.

Until we meet again.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Older posts

© 2017 The Solo Scooterist

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑