Further adventures in the land of the outstretched hand

November 26, 2008

17th November – 20th November

On our way from Addis to the Bale Mountains we got sidetracked for a couple of days at lovely Lake Langano.  We only intended an overnight stay, but found a great place to camp at the future home of Karkaro Beach Cottages, and decided to stay for a couple of nights.  Sean fished, I hung my hammock & thought about our plans for Kenya.  It was just us there.  We had fires in the evening, and in the mornings were woken by a deranged Hornbill, who had taken exception to his reflection in our windscreen, so spent a good 30 minutes each morning bashing his brains out trying to peck his ‘rival’ to death.

Honestly, it's tough this overlanding malarkey

Honestly, overlanding is hard work....

Enough of this relaxation, the Bale Mountains were calling so on Tuesday 18th we upped sticks and headed upwards and Eastward.  The road into the mountains was being upgraded and was in an incredibly bad state, tarmac hasn’t got this far yet, and we drove for about 6 hours at an average of 15mph.  Elsie continued to exceed all our expectations and handled it all, potholes, corrugations and mud holes without complaint. 

13,500 feet up in Ethiopia

13,500 feet up in Ethiopia

In our 2 nights in the mountains we broke our Africa altitude record, had our kitchen box raided by over familiar warthogs, saw 4 of the worlds rarest canids-the Ethiopian Wolf-which turned out to be common as muck, but only in a 200km sq area. 

Jackal in Fox's clothing?

Jackal in Fox's clothing

We saw our first kill in all our years of visiting Africa, albeit an Ethiopian Wolf ie a jackal in foxes’ clothing eating a rat!! 

Wolf biting some sense into a Giant Mole Rat

Wolf biting some sense into a Giant Mole Rat

We also drove over Africa’s highest all weather road.  Not bad for a 2 day side trip.  To repeat my previous sentiments about cold.  The Bale Mountains are freezing, literally.  We were above 13, 500ft on our second night, and the guides reckoned that with wind chill it was about 15 below.  We took advantage of an empty lodge and it’s wood burning stove, and managed to avoid an icy death, but only just.

That shiny stuff is ice

That shiny stuff is ice

My biggest oversight of this trip has been in the wardrobe department, and I sorely wished I had brought a hat and thermals.  Sean crowed incessantly about his daft Timberland hat, and I was very jealous.

Thursday 20th – Monday 24th November

Phew!  Back to the heat, we stayed overnight in Awasa, at a hotel where we were strangely treated like VIPs.  I think the owner got the wrong idea when Sean mentioned our website, and possibly hoped for a favourable review.  Awasa was a buzzy, busy little town, with an extraordinarily healthy population of Marabou storks, which were perched in all the trees around town.  We had a drink at a rooftop bar, and then had a strangely sporadic dinner where everything we ordered arrived separately. 

Friday 21st November

Today we drove all day, and nearly made Kenya, but not quite.   First of all we tried to use up as many of our Ethiopian Birr as possible & went a bit crazy in a supermarket, coming out with sparklers and balloons, amongst a few more sensible tinned goods.  We then set off for Moyale on the border.  As per usual the scenery was stunning.  The surroundings were firstly lush and tropical, with banana plantations & then the road dropped onto a plain, with Acacia scrub, red earth and termite mounds.  We started seeing wildlife, duikers, Thompsons Gazelle, bustards and baboons.  It felt very exciting to be back in the sort of Africa that we first fell in love with. 

We reached the border at 5pm but the immigration and customs offices had closed so we were stuck on the Ethiopia side. Drat!

A final word on Ethiopia:  All over Africa and the developing world children beg for pens, money and sweets, and I don’t find it distressing.  However, when a well-dressed, well-fed adult puts their hand out it is beyond the pale.  Ethiopia appears to have lost both its ability to control its population, and its dignity.  Approximately 50% of its population is under 16, resources are stretched to breaking point and the whole country appears to exist on handouts from Europe and the US.  I can’t see that continual external aid will create a happy ending for this country.

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3 Responses to “Further adventures in the land of the outstretched hand”

  1. rich and hugo said

    hello hugga wugga. love you. hugga wugga….

    that was of course Hugs- he misses you loads as do we all. we saw a picture of Uncle Sean at the rugby club yesterday and said hi to it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (HUgo likes ! marks…) anyway all well here. you ain’t missing much here- v cold and damp and the England rugby tea, would strugle to beat the Ethiopian B team. i did go to Magoos last week though and had a pleasnat hour with Messrs Francis and Hayes. keep blogging. xx Richie

  2. Vic and Sid said

    I think you should give the hotel in Awasa a plug anyway – untold millions may be reading your blog! Keep the posts coming. Eaten anything really gross yet?

    love you from SID 🙂

  3. luciet said

    Hey Leedhams one and all… The Hotel was called the Gebrekristos or something like that. It was good but wouldn’t warrant a side trip! XXXX

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