Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fw: Ethiopia 1

Ethiopia 1.Arrival
 Dubai.So how come they can build some of the world's greatest and now the tallest buildings, but can't provide enough toilets at their international airport?  Only place in the world I've ever had to queue 15 deep for a cubicle!.
Flying Dubai to Addis Ababa is less than 4 hours but takes you over interesting scenery of  Yemen and the Red Sea. The route takes you over Djibouti,possibly to avoid flying over Eritrea. Clouds obscured much of Ethiopia, but through the gaps the land has greened up with the rains and vast areas are cultivated, with a scattering of villages or straw roofed huts.
If you're getting visa on arrival,as  you enter the Immigration hall, on your immediate left is a prominent bureau for Hotel bookings, and just past that is an office door with a small sign up saying 'Visa on Arrival'. You can pay in Euro,US dollars or Bir.$20US each. And there are Foreign Exchange counters on the far right of the Hall. We  experienced queues at neither, and had exchanged money,bought our visa, passed through Immigration and looking for our bags within 20 minutes. Our bags we'd checked through in Wellington were waiting for us. Isn't that an amazing feat of organization? 4 flights. We had packed toiletries and a change of clothes in our carryons, just in case!
Being very jet lagged after 4 flights and 32 hours since leaving home, we could have haggled harder over the 120 Bir to our hotel Ras, about 25 minutes drive. This was  another hair raising taxi ride for our 'Taxi Rides We have Survived Chronicles'. It was bucketing down with rain. This is the height of their rainy season. But our driver seemed to believe that you only turned the wipers on if absolutely necessary. He probably believed it flattened the battery using them constantly and with the humidity fogging up the insides we just couldn't see out. But the congested traffic meant a very slow speed so collisions were avoided!
Our hotel was the Ras.....yes well how do you describe it. Long past it's heyday and ancient splendour. Yeah sure, may have had some famous names staying here in it's glory days of the 60's and 70's but now seems it's main business is the overland tour groups judging by the trucks and buses parked outside. Backpacker may be a better description.Ooops, just remembered, we're joining one!
We may just check out the restaurant. But wandered down the road to a cafe at the Ethiopian hotel. Very nice pizza served to their own unique style. A 1cm thick base, no cheese but smothered in tomato paste,paprika and hot peppers and tomatoes.
The Ras Hotel is looking a bit better this morning. The sun shining,and we're both probably (now we've caught up with sleep) more accepting that we are in a third world country after all, and if you want luxury, you book and pay for luxury. Breakfast was superb. Huge choice. But it was just dive in and try any of the dishes. The bread was excellent,fresh,and very crusty on the outer. But don't expect a bottomless cup of coffee. Refills are extra cost. All of 50 cents US.
Just back from a short sightseeing tour. We negotiated a rate of 100 Bir an hour for a taxi and guide to take us around. Merkato Markets was a must for us. But getting in to see the inner sanctum of this sprawling mish mash of markets,wholesalers and recycling small industries, as a tourist can be unsafe. We're flaunting unattainable wealth in front of the poorest of the poor, people who sleep on the street, beggars and cripples,and just abject poverty, and just the glint of a cheap gold plated necklace can bring upon you a snatch and grab. So we were warned. There was no way we wanted to miss having a good nosy, but that wasn't wise on our own so our taxi driver offered as part of the sightseeing deal, to take us through and suss out the safe places we could wander. We were warned that there'll be a clamour for money if we wanted to photo anyone. So photographing was on the move, very quick, or  taken of a general street scene. But what a wealth of scenes for a photographer! Streetlife can be so fascinating. The vibrant chaos of small craft industries, mixed with the flow of raw materials , and all manner of produce being hawked was just exhilarating to observe.
Some of the very narrow backstreets were extremely difficult to negotiate, as they are just very uneven rocks,in very poor state of repair, flowing with the wet seasons water, and here and there an open hole where you could disappear into the sewer! Quite a juggling act , watching your footing,avoiding the holes,manoeuvring through moving trucks and cars,jumping out of the way of loaded donkeys, or human 'mules ' with piles of boxes on their heads and at the same time taking it all in ! Too much going on to miss any of it. And then there was the ever present need to keep an eye out for anyone following,perhaps to thieve something. I noticed a guy had been following me up close, and turned often so he couldn't get at my back pack, but still we found the zip had been opened. Luckily, there was nothing taken, and just our rain jackets in it anyway.
It is rainy season, and at 12.30pm, it buckets down for a few hours. So we've done our sightseeing by then, and back at the Ras to catch our breaths as we'll be out tonight for dinner and cultural performance.



Red Nomad OZ said...

Hi! Glad you survived the journey - if I had the choice between a toilet queue or luggage on arrival, I'd pick the luggage every time! Can't wait for your next installment!! Happy travels.

Jim said...

Hiya Red Nomad, there'll be plenty of instalments as it was a very interesting country to explore, and exciting at times with road washouts, and collapsing bridges.Stay tuned!