Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ethiopia: Day 2: To Addis from Lalibela

We pulled away from the Meron Hotel at 5:00 a.m. Still dark. First, the driver trolled the town for people looking to go to Addis. Yonas, the assistant, leaned out the window to call to people on the road, with his sometimes-cracking-adolescent voice, "AH dis ah BAH ba? AH dis ah BAH ba?" We picked up one woman traveler in Kombolcha, then moved out of town.

In the dark, while Betty and S&S slept, I saw: a string of camels loping slowly and gracefully alongside the road; a small herd of big-horned cattle ambling down the middle of the road; solitary figures walking toward town with their white gabis, wrapped around their heads and torsos, gleaming out of the darkness; at intervals, Yonas calling out "Ah dis ah BAH ba?"... a police man boarding the bus before we entered one town, looking us over, getting off, and then another doing the same when we left the town (we learned they sought a killer or jail escapee).

After light came:

Market day in one mountain town - people and their wares streaming toward us.

Detour around tunnel construction, necessitating hairpin turns on a very high mountain, amidst the clouds and a cold wind.

Lunch at the mountain summit, where one walked precariously down a sharp, gravelly, slippery incline, past the goats, to the "shintebet," the less-said-about-it-the-better latrine. (Amazingly, the driver had pointed us to this one rather than another, as it was "better". Seriously, I would have like to compare the two, because if this was "better", that other must have really been something to see.)

Stunning mountain scenery.

Forgot to mention why it takes two days to get from Lalibela to Addis Ababa. I mean, it can be done in one day, but the driver explained these reasons why most do it in two:
  1. Kombolcha is the last place for a long distance where one can be assured of available hotel rooms in the late afternoon or early evening.
  2. After Kombolcha, there are towns where malaria is a factor, so it's not desirable to spend the night in these towns.
  3. The road goes through Afar region. If the vehicle breaks down, there is the fear that Afar will board the vehicle and steal all valuables from the passengers.
And having now traversed that mountain detour road, I'd hate to be on that at night!

Arrived in Addis around 2:00 p.m. where the driver deposited S&S close to the Selambus ticket office so they could buy a ticket for a trip to Harar tomorrow. He dropped me and Betty off in the Piazza area, close to our hotels, the Ankober Guest House and Taitu Hotel respectively.

(S&S also intended to visit the hospital, as they both picked up fleas somewhere, and Shin Su's appeared infected. Shin Su remarked the other day that she'd read that fleas find Asians more inviting than other folks.)

Betty also intends to go to Harar tomorrow, but via Skybus; it has a ticket office at the Taitu.

We both got checked into our hotels, each of us had a cup of coffee on our own, and then we met up again at an internet cafe. We splurged on a very, very good (and expensive) dinner at the famous Castelli's Restaurant, and Italian place. Expensive meant $15.

Upon return to my hotel, I had the best shower I've had in Ethiopia, watched some bad television (and I guess NOTHING is going in the BBC world except the crisis in Egypt), and realized with dismay that I had come down with a cold -- scratchy, dry throat; nasal congestion; sneezing. I popped some pseudoephredine I brought from home.

Am hoping to get over it soon.

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