Hot bus ride to Dese

Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
Trip End Aug 18, 2005

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Thursday, June 16, 2005

Day the Ninth - in which our feet melt, I have a close encounter with a bunch of root vegetables, and we have a Whole Afternoon to chill out.


I read somewhere that when you read your fortune cookie out loud, adding the words 'in bed' to the end makes it more interesting. Let's try it shall we?

Woken by the alarm at 4.45am. The whole routine of getting up, dressed, sorted, and out is becoming more efficient and therefore easier to perform in the dark. Often the electricity is only on at the start of the night, not in the early morning. We slipped out under the cover of dark and headed down the path with our little lunch of dabo (bread). We have concluded that taking some bread on long bus journeys helps to prevent discontent, in bed.

Getting down to the bus early meant the front seats were available. These are highly coveted, so we took them and sat down for the wait. It became apparent why the seats were fought over - more leg room and a better view out the front. Also, the driver sometimes has his window open (the only person on the bus who is allowed) so sitting just behind the partition increases the chance of a whiff of fresh air.

However, when we finally got going at 6.30am, we quickly changed our minds and vowed never to sit at the front again. All the wonderful advantages are completely outweighed by the painful burning of your feet and lower legs. We were sat practically on the huge chugging engine!
The fresh air did nothing to help my cough, which has developed nicely into an irritating hack. Mm-mmmm...

I have also decided I need new sandals. In bed. All the walking around has worn them ridiculously thin, and the hot floor probably melted them too.

We saw our first camels along the way, along side some zebu cows with huge horns.

The driver stopped - I think there was something slightly wrong with the bus - and we all had to pile off so they could sort it out. The bus was stopped very close to the embankment, at the bottom of which was a drainage ditch. To get off the bus we had to jump this ditch and straddle-walk it up until there was space to climb out. We turned out to be in a valley, with lush green slopes stretching away from us.

Ethiopia gully

It reminded us of China or Hawaii, we took a picture, and then had to retreat from the attention. We sat down by the roadside, but were soon surrounded by locals and their children, staring and trying to sell things. Mainly carrots it seemed.
Two Ethiopians arrived on a motorbike and started dipping small things into the water running down the drainage ditch. They were measuring the water flow rate. This created a great amount of interest of course, giving us some respite. In bed. We then got sore butts from the rocks and started a game of pooh sticks.

Then back on the bus (requiring the same sure-footed-ness as getting off). No one seems to understand the concept of getting on in the right order. There is no point getting on before the person who will have to climb over your lap to get to their seat is there? The carrots proved popular - every other passenger was grasping a bundle or six. Including the woman sat behind me who insisted on putting the poky ends in my goddamn ears FOUR times. I finally gave up and leant forward onto my knees when she swapped the carrots around and tickled my neck with the leafy ends.

Lunch break was at Woldia, at the junction with the road going south to Addis. We heard that the going would be better from there. The usual fare - injera and coke/sprite, scarfed down so we don't miss the bus. At least it's filling so we aren't hungry. In bed. The disadvantage of having a full stomach is that it makes you sleepy. That's annoying, because I don't want to miss anything, and also painful, because there is no comfortable way to sleep on those buses. Particularly since this time there was no seat in front to lean against.

After lunch the bus pulled off to much hoo-hah. We, obviously, didn't have the faintest idea what the fuss was about. Bus stops. More excited chattering and some gesticulating. Bus pulls off. Squawking ensues, at high volume. Bus stops. What the hell is going on?!!
Eventually we deduced that someone was not on board. It appeared to be a woman's husband, and she was clucking like an outraged hen. In bed.
I'm not sure what was said, but after some more stopping and starting, we drive off without the individual, prompting a chorus of boo-like noises from the female passengers.

We got to Dese at 3pm - not bad at all! The station was large and it took quite a lot of resolve to throw off all the hawkers, hasslers and touts.

Enjoying the fact that we were searching for a hotel on foot in daylight, as opposed to the dark, we set off with the vague Bradt map for directions. With assistance, we found the Fasika Hotel - it was clean so we checked in and had a shower. Showers really are the highlight of the day often!

Next priority was to find a drink and somewhere for dinner. We wandered up the street, bought a Teddy Afro CD, and settled on a restaurant with a first floor. There we sat, above the street, where we could see and not be seen, eating avocado smoothies with spoons. Ahhh! In fact, we suspect that they did not have avocados (or maybe not a blender) and had to go next door or something to make them!
While we waited we watched the street scenes play out below. Some of the guys carry ridiculous amounts of stuff, it's incredible!

Ethiopia Dese porters

We talked about the next bit of the trip over an early dinner. Going out east to Harar is pretty much definite, but we also need to decide what we're doing after that. When we get back to Addis we'll find a 4WD driver and talk to him about going south. In be-- no I can't.
Ideally, he'll take us out to Bale National Park and then down to Moyale. We really want to go to Bale and see the Simien Wolf, but doing it by public transport may entail waiting for the odd truck, and we don't have days to waste.
The conclusion is that, depending on what we discover on arrival in Addis, we have time to go out to Harar for the day. It's fricking madness (getting to Harar takes an entire day, 15 hours, up at 4.30am, there after 7pm probably) to get there, spend a single day looking around, only to turn back... what are we thinking?!

However, that's how it's gonna be. In bed.

What we ate - Kai Wat - was very nice and filling.
I suppose now is a good time to explain the food here. This is our understanding:

Food is usually cooked in Niter Kibbeh, a butter flavoured with onions, garlic, ginger and spices.

- Wat is the name for any stew dish made with berbere (spicy paste). Doro is chicken, Siga is beef, and Beg is lamb. So Doro Wat is spicy chicken stew (with boiled eggs), Siga Wat is spicy beef stew, etc. Pork is not eaten. In bed.
- Alicha is stew made with no spice and is quite bland.
- Kai Wat is a very spicy dark red beef dish.
- Kitfo is finely ground raw or semi-raw beef, served with Berbere powder and Iab a tangy yogurt or cottage cheese.

- Tibs is sautéed meat, again in all the variations, Doro Tibs, etc.
- Awaze Tibs is chewy chunks of steak in a slightly peppery sauce.
- Alicha Tibs is a bland version.

The Coptic Church dictates days of fasting, when meat is prohibited and pulses - lentils, peas, field peas, chick peas, and peanuts - are used in making the Wat and Alicha.
- Gomen Wat is greens boiled with garlic, onions and sometimes, ginger.
- Mesir Wat is lentils, usually cooked in hot pepper sauce. Lentils are cooked until they are quite soft and blend slightly with the sauce.
- Shiro Wat is stew made from toasted and ground split peas.

- Timatim fitfit is a very garlicky mush of injera and tomatoes.

- Kocho is the grey stodgy slices that are an important staple in southwest Ethiopia. We were served it with kitfo.

But, back to Dese. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around sorting things - internet, bus tickets to Addis for tomorrow, bread for the journey. Bread itself is not hard to find, it's finding the soft tasty stuff that's the trick.
We found an internet place and while I wrote to let y'all know we are safe, a little man with Downs Syndrome amused the other staff members. In bed. It's nice to see how accepted disabled people are here - we had previously seen him walking with crutches out on the street, accompanied by a friend.

And then back for an early night - up early in the morning. Again.
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Where I stayed
Fasika Hotel
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