Who’d a thunk it…I’ve got my own book
Who’d a thunk it…I’ve got my own book
Right then. Where do I start? The last month of the trip has been incredible. It has been full of amazing historical sights, fantastic scenery, wonderful food and some of the friendliest people in Africa. Here is a brief description of some of the highlights.
After leaving Addis I headed to Bahir Dar where I met up with an Aussie guy called Marc and we toured some of the monasteries around Lake Tana and went to see the majestic Blue Nile falls. After a couple of days there I decided to fly to Lalibella in order to catch sight of the ancient Meskal festival. Lalibella is home to a number of huge churches that have been carved straight out of the rockface and should be up there with the likes of the Pyramids and Machu Pichu as one of the great man made wonders of the world. It’s scandalous that hardly anyone has heard of this place.
After Lalibella I headed to Gondar to see some more castles and to spend a couple of nights out in some of the seediest bars I have ever seen. After Gondar I took the local bus to Debark and joined up with some Dutch and Israeli travelers for a wonderful 6 day trek into the Simien Park. We decided not to go for the all inclusive trip and instead hired our own scout (with compulsory Kalashnikov), a cook, 3 mules and off we went. It was very green, very cold and very good fun. We saw a BBC film crew following some of the endemic Gelada Monkeys (note to self to look out for Enchanted Kingdom when it arrives on screen)
After Simien I hitched a lift to Axum with some crazy Italians, took a look at the ancient Stelae fields and got blind drunk with some Russian girls. Two hours after falling asleep I was woken by the police and questioned about my Italian friends who may or may not have been using counterfeit Euros earlier in their trip.
After Axum I took the bus to Hawzein and stayed at the truly amazing Gheralta Lodge which is probably the best place I’ve stayed at in Africa. At 50 dollars per night it was about 10 times the cost of anywhere else, but as it was the end of the trip I felt like treating myself. I stayed there for four nights, met Charlotte from France and headed off into the Danakil Desert for the finale of my trip. I couldn’t have picked a better place to finish. It is one of the strangest and most beautiful places I have seen.
The Danakil Depression is officially the hottest place on the earth and is inaccessible for much of the year. When we were there the temperature was a relatively ‘cool’ 42 degrees. We drove for two days and hiked for 3hrs until we were standing at the very edge of one of the worlds only active bubbling volcanoes. Afterwards we went to see sulphur fields, a camal caravan taking salt back to town and slept out under the stars. It’s a magical lunar-like place.
I am now back in Addis and waiting for my flight home! What a trip it has been. I’m looking forward to boring you all senseless when I’m back. See you very soon
P.S It’s just occurred to me that this is the very first time in my life that I don’t know what I will be doing next week. Or the week after. Or the week after that… It’s a nice feeling!
“The vast majority of Ethiopians live on an elevated central plateau which covers half of the country’s surface area, enjoys temperatures of between 15-25 degrees all year round and is the most extensive area of fertile land in East Africa”
I don’t suppose you were expecting that? No, neither was I. It is green over here – very green. Yes, there is a desert and yes there is a drought and yes it is obviously very very serious, but the area affected is a relatively small part of the country in the south east where about 2-3% of the population lives. It by no means defines the whole of Ethiopia.
I arrived in Addis Ababa a few days ago without much of an idea of what to expect. I’d met a couple of travellers who had been this way but apart from “Ethiopia is amazing – you’re going to love it” I wasn’t really given much else to go on. Before I left Kenya, I spent two days searching the whole of Nairobi for a guide book and some foreign currency, but couldnt find anything anywhere. Zilch. It’s almost as if their next door neighbour doesn’t exist.
It is certainly very different here to the other countries I have been to in Africa. For a start its the year 2004 and when my western watch says 6am its actually 12am and when it says 6pm its 12pm. Confused? So am I. Trying to figure out when a bus is leaving is a nightmare.
So what is it like here? It’s really hard to put it into words. The people are very friendly and all speak good English, which I really wasn’t expecting. The food is amazingly good but totally different (their staple food, called Injera, looks a bit like a chamoix leather crossed with the underside of a car floor mat, but tastes better – thankfully) and the coffee is just to die for. There is definitely a ‘cafe’ culture with everyone sitting outside drinking machiatos. And i’m not surprised as it’s the best cup I’ve had anywhere in the world.
I think the fact that Ethiopia was about the only country in Africa to avoid being colonised (I think the Italians were here for a short while, but it was nothing like elsewhere) has meant that their culture, which has been developing for thousands of years, has come through relatively unscathed.
I had an enjoyable few days in Addis eating and drinking and soaking up the culture. Ethiopia’s capital city hasn’t been around for long (just over a century) and isn’t really what you’d call a photogenic place so I mostly left my camera at home. I’ve just arrived in Bahir Dah which is where all the really interesting history starts..
To be continued..
After leaving the Masai Mara, I decided to do the traditional Kenyan ‘Safari and Beach’ holiday and so made my way towards the coast. I had to go via Nairobi which I wasn’t really looking forward to. It doesn’t have the best reputation. Six years ago, when I was last there, two of the three other people that I climbed Kilimanjaro with were robbed during their stopover in Nairobi. I also remember being endlessly hassled by touts and beggars. So it came as something of a surprise that I was able to walk around for two days without a single person hassling me. And nor have I heard of any crime. Nairobi must have cleaned up its act a bit. Either that or I’ve contracted leprosy somewhere on my travels.
The first stop on the coast was in Mombasa which isn’t much to write home about. I met up with a guy called Mark from London and a girl called Adriana from Bilbao and we all headed north up the coast. We stopped over in Malindi on the way which is a bizarre holiday resort chock-a-block full of Italians. It’s cliche, but it was great to be able to get some decent pasta and pizza.
After Malindi, we headed on to Lamu which is the highlight on the coastline. Lamu is Kenya’s version of Zanzibar or Ilha de Mozambique. It’s an island that was colonised early on and used as a trading port by the Arabs, Portuguese and Omanis. It has amazing buildings, lots of tiny shops and alley ways to explore and a much stronger sense of culture and identity than I’ve found elsewhere. The three of us went on a Dhow trip around some of the islands and met up with two Irish girls, two English girls and a Canadian couple. The nine of us comprised almost all of the tourists on the island and so kept bumping into each other for drinks and meals. For one meal we were entertained by a one eyed albino man playing the bongos. That was interesting!
Tragically during the three days that we were there, the news was being filled up by one disaster after another. First a ferry boat in Zanzibar capsized and nearly two hundred people drowned. Then a British guy was shot and his wife kidnapped just south of the Somalian border. And then a fire broke out at a petrol pipe in Nairobi killing over 100 people. Hopefully bad news does only strike in threes and that’s the end of it.
Yesterday, Flash Mark opted for a flight to Nairobi leaving me and Adriana to brave the 18hr bus journey back to the capital. I’m only here for about twelve hours before I go to Addis. My idea of going overland has been kiboshed because unlike everywhere else I cannot get a visa for Ethiopia at the land border as they only give them out at the airport.
I can tell that I’m getting near to the end of my trip because London Calling by The Clash is starting to move up the most played songs on my ipod. Not long now. See you next month!!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FOR TOMORROW FRAN xx
I suppose the easiest thing to say about all the places I’ve visited on this trip is ‘Lovely People. Amazing Scenery’. I try not to say that too often as I know it would soon get very very dull, but I’ve been sat here for half hour now and I can’t think of anything else to say about Uganda. In fairness, I don’t think I really did it justice. It may have been because it represented the end of the trip that I had planned, but I think it probably had more to do with the fact that I was absolutely itching to get into Kenya. I just couldn’t wait. The reason being that the Great Wildebeest Migration is in town and its billed as one of the most spectacular events in the world.
Unfortunately, most of the safari lodges sell out months and months in advance for hundreds and hundreds of dollars, so I wasn’t too hopeful that I would be able to get in to the park. But I thought I may as well turn up and see what happens. I arrived on one of the local ‘matatu’ buses and pitched my trusty tent in a camp next to a Masai village just before the main gate. I hung around for a day or two hoping to hitch a lift with some other tourists, but it seems that no-one was too keen for me to crash their honeymoon or trip of a lifetime. So in the end I decided to go it alone. I managed to hire an old land cruiser and a Masai guide for 100 dollars a day and off we went. I’m not sure how to spell the guys name, but it sounded like Smiley, which was quite fitting because he was a miserable sod. One really good thing was that I didn’t have to pay the extortionate entrance fees because I was traveling with one of the Masai. I’m not too sure how legal that was, but the rangers seemed too respectful, or, more likely, too scared, to confront us as we drove through every day. Great! And having our own wheels was perfect as it meant we had the freedom to move around as we pleased and to get into the best spots.
There were animals everywhere! Absolutely everywhere. The Migration consists of about 4 million wilderbeest and about a million zebra and other animals. It’s like a predators’ wet dream. There were lions eating lunch to the left and cheetahs having dinner to the right. I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t know where to look. Probably the most dramatic event is when the animals want to cross the Mara river. We saw about a dozen crossings during the three days we were in the park. Most of the animals make it across safely but every now and then one of them slips and falls or can’t quite make it up the other side and its not long before they are picked off by the waiting crocodiles.
I’ve seen quite a few amazing sights on my travels but this one will take some beating. Here’s some pics. I hope they do it justice.
Thank you so much for all your comments
Here’s some pics from recent campsites… and i’ve updated the gorilla pics below
I’ve made it! Almost ten months after setting off from the equator in South America I have reached the same latitude in Africa.
What a trip it has been. I’ve traveled through 13 countries across three continents and have had one hell of a good time! Somewhat fittingly I have completed the trip exactly one year on from the day that I planned it all. I had thought of traveling many times before but had never had a concrete plan. On the 23rd of August last year, I came up with the idea of making my way down through South America, across the Atlantic by boat and then up through Southern Africa – in kind of like a ‘U’ shape. The power of Google meant that within 0.13 seconds of typing in ‘sail from south america to south africa’ I had seen a picture of Bark Europa and I knew then this was something that I had to do. I told my boss the next day and, well, you’ve read the rest.
It has been a great trip. I’ve seen some amazing sights and met hundreds and thousands of amazing people. I’ve learnt many, many things, but perhaps the most important is that the world is mostly full to the brim with good, kind, wonderful people and there is no need to be scared to go and see it. As for all the countries that I have visited, Bolivia stands out amongst the crowd. As does South Georgia. But really it’s all about Africa for me. In particular, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Uganda are the countries I have loved the most.
But…..it’s not quite over. I’ve been enjoying myself so much that I’m not ready to stop just yet. I’ve booked my flight home for the end of October. I’ve enjoyed doing this blog and keeping you all updated, so I’ll be sure to keep it going till I get home. If anyone is still interested, that is.
Thank you for all your kind words and support over the past ten months. It has meant a huge amount to me. See you soon!
p.s. Good luck Jon and Daz for the TDS!!