Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, September 2, 2006

Ethiopia! Mention to most people that you're going there for a holiday and they'll look at you kind of strangely. It's a country with a serious image problem, from what I've heard from other people and read about myself it really is a great place to visit. I really hope that I'm able to change people's perception of Ethiopia, as a land of amazing history, food, people and countryside. With a bit of luck maybe I can persuade a few of you to consider it as a holiday destination yourself.... That's if I actually like it myself afterall! Ethiopia also represents my last month of travelling, it's 14 down, 1 to go! I'll be in Scotland again before I know it.

However, things didn't get off to a wonderful start..... I hope it's not the shape of things to come.

I had to get a visa on arrival, and I was really chuffed that it didn't take at all long. I just now had to wait in the queue to get my passport stamped. This was no fun, it took about an hour, very very frustrating. At least I'd just come off a 2 hour flight unlike some others around that'd flown in from Europe. I eventually get to the front, and the woman looks at the visa in my passport in a strange way.
"What's wrong with it?" I asked her.
"When did you get this?"
"About an hour ago, here in Bole [airport]"
"Ermm, it's been stamped already, you can just go through"

Oh, now that made me mad, it'd have taken the visa man about 2 seconds to tell me that I could just go straight though the passport section. Now to get my bag....

The Nairobi flight wasn't showing on any of the baggage belts, I must have been a bit slow getting through immigration, Mmmm. So I asked some staff which belt "WAS" Nairobi. Nope, they tell me to go to the baggage counter in the corner. That'd be the one with loads of customers waiting and not a lot of action coming from the staff. I waited for a few minutes but get impatient and have a quick look along the belts without luck.

Maybe I asked the wrong member of staff, so I try again, but nope, I'm directed to the baggage counter again. I've had a long couple of days and I'm now frustrated, tired, dehydrated. So, if that baggage man just happens to be reading this, I appologise for what I said to you!

I take a longer look at each of the baggage belts and finally I see my bag going round, it was probably having feelings of abandonment itself! but we reunite, have a little kiss and cuddle and head off to find somewhere to sleep for the night in Addis Ababa, it's only 10pm now afterall.

I have the opposite problem as usual. I can't actually find a taxi! I need to wander out into the carpark to find one for myself. When I do get one, it's an old Lada, it's cool to be here though and we drive off into the night.

But then halfway into the journey the car starts to shudder and stutter. We then get some kids to push the car down a big hill that we're near as the driver tries to bring the car back to life, but no luck. So now, I've no idea where I am, who I'm with or what to do! A little crowd of locals stand round the car, just to see what's going on and then a few of them start asking for money. I really can't handle this right now.

My driver has a fiddle under the bonnet and decides that he can't do anything, so he phones his friend who comes past 10 minutes later and takes me to the hostel, which fortunatly has a spare room. It's time for a well deserved sleep now.

Addis contains about 4 million people, but you wouldn't know it. Walking down the streets it's not uncommon to see goats and sheep grazing away at the side, or middle!, of the road. The center is fairly small and it's easy to get around on foot without having to resort to taxis (please not again!) or buses. The streets are also wide which gives you an amazing feeling of space that you'd not expect.

I spent 2 full days in Addis, getting out whenever the rain stopped long enough. I guess that's my fault for coming here at the end of the rainy season. I met Kris from Oz, and Rene from Senegal and I ended up spending a bit of time with these guys. They were kind enough to show me around a little bit, and allow me to get my bearings. I went to a couple of museums with Kris, the National museum was nice enough, it wasn't great. However we then went to the Ethnological museum, that was a blast.

It was a fairly sad place, filled with stuffed animals, moths impaled with pins and snakes in jars. However for some reason we managed to have a good joke about most of its contents, especially the two Hyenna heads that had really weird facial expressions. It's a superb place to visit so long as you don't get too upset about the obvious death that had to take place to fill the museum.

At one point while walking through Addis, Kris was passing on some information about Ethiopia in general.
"Don't pay more than 80 Birr for a donkey" (That's about 10 US Dollars).
"Is that for a half or full day?"
"No, that's to buy the donkey".
Now that's the kind of information that I need.

In the evening we went out to a little place for some food. The food wasn't too bad and we were still hungry by the end, so we ordered some seconds. When it arrived Kris picked up the little bowl of diced fried meat, spilled it into the middle of our Injera and then watched as a cockroach sprinted out from it. Kris casually scooped it out flicked it away and continued eating, as did I. Afterwards we did ask each other why we'd continued eating, maybe we'd had too many beers.

The biggest problem that I'm going to have here in Ethiopia is the poverty. Not surprisingly a large number of the population are very very poor. This means that you're constantly approached whilst walking down the street, being asked for money. It's impossible to give to everyone, so you have to learn to keep walking, saying no. I've been in poor countries before and been approached by beggars before, but nowhere else was the problem on this scale.

So overall, I've probably not painted a great picture of Addis, maybe when I get up country things will change? Who knows.
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