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We stopped at the Dashen brewery on our way out of town. The guard gave us a salute as we pulled up at the gates. He was very smiley and must have had at least four pints before going on duty! Beer is served on draught from a the bar in the grounds of the brewery and locals sat around enjoying a drink.

The road to Gogora turned horribly bad after we left the airport turn-off. An hour and a half later we pulled into the hotel belonging to the Marine Port Authority. Gogora is the main terminus for the ferry that travels from Bahir Dar on the southern shore of Lake Tana to Gogora. Again the surroundings were idyllic.

We must have been spotted going through the village leading to the hotel as a local guide was at the hotel just after we arrived. They are usually teenagers in Ethiopia who want to act as fixers for whatever money they can get from you. Some are worth taking on if their English is up to scratch.

We sat and had lunch. A few minutes later we were shocked to see the Malaysian couple who we first met in Aswan turned up in their Daihatsu. They have travelled from Malaysia in their city car and we are amazed how far they have gone. It was great to exchange stories not having seen them at all in Sudan.

Later that day, we gradually worked out that it was less of a tourist hotel, but more of a weekend destination for local Ethiopian’s. As we set up the tent, we heard the clapping sounds of a celebration. It turned out to be a wedding and it was coming right towards us. There was a green space right on the lake just after where we had camped. We were invited to join them. Without wanting to get in the way, we watched from the sidelines. The dress wasn’t that different from a western style wedding.

What made it unique was the singing that was  in the Ethiopian style of praise singing. A man plays a masinko whilst the women sings traditional and spontaneous songs in Amharic (A semitic language that is most widely used by the Orthodox church today). It sounded amazing and it got louder as more people joined in.  I’m trying to upload a sample of the singing I recorded. We made our way in closer.

Some Audio Recording here:

Audio Sample 1

Audio Sample 2

After a while we were given some Tej (Ethiopian home brew!, which is a mead-like drink made from honey). We were given three glasses each. The man serving it paid no intention to Bun asking for a half glass and made sure he poured it right to the top so it was almost spilling over. We felt right at home after this and were amazed at their hospitality at letting us join in.

Then came the cake cutting and champagne. They also had what you could call fireworks! They were lit and held by two men as they went off. One small firework made its way towards a women’s head and their was a bit of a scare for a minute before we knew she was ok. We made our way back to the car after that and left them to it.

Northern Ethiopia is a little tricky to navigate if you want to see all the highlights here. The Simien mountains block your way from heading east from here. We are going to travel north on Monday towards the Simien Mountains National Park for a few days before heading to Axum, Adwa and Mekele which is a good base for exploring the Danakil Depression. After that we will be staying at the Gheralta Lodge which we  had booked two months before, changing the dates of our stay when we knew we wouldn’t get there in time. After this we will down to Addis on a good tarmac road that goes through Woldia and Dessie.

In Mekele were going to try to join a convoy or take a local guide to see the Danakil. We hope to get to Erta Ale and Lake Afrera. The area is home to the Afar people, previously known for chopping off your testicles as a form of greeting. This is one of the driest and tectonically active places on earth. We are sure to see active volcanoes and hot springs. If we are lucky, we will see the salt caravans heading into or returning from the Danakil.

Bun’s feeling coldly and has filled the car with tissues, using up her valuable supply of andrex!

We’re watching: Top Gear – The Bolivia Special!

February 2010