The route to the capital city Addis Ababa we knew would be long, and so we started early in the morning to utilize the sunlight hours, so as not to drive on the roads at night. Our exit from the hotel wasn’t as hasty as expected though, as three minibuses had blocked us in overnight.
The roads were the same as on the journey to Lallibela, and once again we experienced some amazing scenery, eventually dropping down into a valley near Waldia that from my reckoning must be the most fertile place in Ethiopia. The whole valley was covered in various plants and crops, and the only visible part that wasn’t green was the grey and dry rocky river delta at the bottom.
The darkness was looming and we were still a long way from Addis, so we decided to try and spot a decent hotel for the night in one of the many villages along the roadside. The hotel that we found in a small village in Robit cost us around £2.00/€2.20 for the night, and the only thing to do there was to eat and drink, but with the price of beer and food being just as cheap, this wasn’t a bad thing.
We left Robit early and continued towards Addis. The leaking from our fuel tank had worsened over night and we had split around five litres. This left us with a small cash problem, as we had budgeted to spend just enough money on Diesel to make it to Addis where we could once again use a cash machine to withdraw money.
We needed to change our emergency supply of dollars to ensure we had enough fuel, but once we had found a bank with a cash machine, we were fine. The next task was to phone Rolf and get directions to his house where he had invited us to stay. After getting directions, we proceeded to the nearest liquor store to buy him a crate of beer as a welcome present, and once we had arrived at his house, the old mans eyes opened wide with delight!
We spent the evening drinking and eating with Rolf and Rut in a local restaurant called Road Runner which was owned by a guy called Lule, a crazy Ethiopian who had spent many years abroad in the USA and Columbia to name but two. We were enjoying Ethiopia without end, and meeting some brilliant people along the way.
With the tank needing to be fixed we spend the morning removing it from the Landrover and by the afternoon we were at the metalwork compound ordering a local firm that Rolf knew through the owner to fabricate us a brand new tank from zinc galvanised steel for 2000birr/£95/€105.
Then started the long wait for the tank to be made, and with nothing really to do or see in Addis, we proceeded to eat and drink our way through the Addis Ababa restaurant directory under the advise of Rolf and Rut.
In one of the bars in town called Kiel Bar we met a German student called Silke and her Ethiopian boyfriend Sultan, who after a few drinks invited us to try chat the following day, a stimulant plant native to Ethiopia and quite popular amongst the locals.
Chat is a drug that is banned in many countries worldwide, but is legal still in a few including Ethiopia and even the UK, although I have never even heard of it in the UK. In Ethiopia it is chewed for long periods of time especially students and people of other professions who wish to stay awake and alert during the night.
The method of consumption by chewing and retaining the chewed leafs in the mouth appears to be a very social event (almost a ritual) and we were joined by Sultan and Silke and two university friends of Sultan. The leafs taste really sour, and one way of counteracting the taste is to simultaneously eat salted peanuts.
After two or three hours of chewing and conversing with each other with bulging cheeks full of chewed up leafs, we both agreed there was a small effect, with us both feeling more alert and awake, but only similar to taking a high dose of caffeine. We spent the rest of the evening in a local live music bar called Harlem Jazz drinking the one drug we know and love.
We spent most of the morning and early afternoon trying to find a decent internet café so that I could update the blog, but all of the connections in Ethiopia are amazingly slow. We were informed that the fastest internet café in Addis is across the road from the Kiel bar, but one of the frequent power cuts in the city meant that the computers would not run, so instead we went for a beer across the road.
Rolf came to meet us and invited us to dinner at a large restaurant on the top of the hill overlooking the city called the Face of Addis, and we enjoyed a brilliant meal that cost less than £2.50/€2.75.
Then Rolf took us around a few bars in the Checenyia area of the city, unknown to us, this area is the red light district of Addis, and every small ramshackle bar with neon lights was full of prostitutes trying to ply their trade. Rolf at the age of 65 was loving every minute of the attention of the young girls that warmed to his old charm, but the only thing me and Nathan wanted to buy in these bars was a cheeky beer.
Waiting for a fuel tank to be built in a city where the only thing to occupy the time is to eat and drink (and for the more uninhibited gentleman, to get a taste for the ladies) was taking it’s toll after drinking for four nights on the trot, but Rolf had arranged a barbeque in his house for a group of friends, and so we spent most of the day preparing the food, alcohol and a fire.
Ingo had now been joined by his brother Mark, and along with another overlander called Joachim that Rolf knew, we started cooking around 4 kilos of meat just after 5pm. The evenings musical entertainment was provided by me and my guitar, and lasted for hours with everyone requesting songs that I had the tabs for on my laptop.
The rain started late in the evening and the fire was abandoned as we took all of the furniture, food and alcohol inside to continue playing music and drinking under shelter.
We awoke late with a hangover and were too late to go and get our Kenyan visas. Instead we tried to be productive finding a bank where we could withdraw money and an internet café with broadband.
This was supposed to be the day that the tank would be ready, we were hoping we would be able to pick it up in the evening, and be able to fit the tank in the morning then to take the Landrover to the garage, but the tank was not ready and we were unsure of how much longer it would take.
Yet again in the evening we went out for a meal and stayed up late drinking with Ingo on his last night in Addis before driving back to Bahir Dar.
The Kenyan embassy opened at 9am, we were out of there by half past and then had to pick up our passports again in the afternoon. We were glad the process wasn’t as frustrating as obtaining our Ethiopian visa.
In the afternoon we drove to one of the overland camping grounds to meet Joachim who was interested in taking an unusual route into Kenya on the western side of Take Turkana and was hoping that we would be driving with him. We met up and told him about the delay with our fuel tank, which meant that if we wanted to drive together he would have to delay his departure from Addis which he wasn’t keen on doing after spending two and a half months in the city.
In the evening Lule from the Road Runner bar and restaurant had invited me to play the guitar in the courtyard of his bar after hearing from Rolf that I was playing at the barbeque. I played in front of around 30 people for two hours with the musical genres ranging from Irish folk, rock and country and western. For my troubles Lula had offered me free food and drink all night, but sadly I had a dodgy stomach and couldn’t take advantage of the free beer!
With the tank taking longer than expected the Landrover was stuck in Rolfs compound still needing to be fixed, so we decided to see if the mechanic would come to the Landrover to fix it. He arrived to take a look at the Landrover and give us a quote estimate, but insisted we should really wait until the tank was in and drive it to his garage.
We still needed to buy some new bolts with which to refit the tank and so we took a drive to a hardware shop just around the corner. On the way there we bumped into Chimay who owns the Kiel Bar, and Rolf had arranged with him that we meet up for a drink in another bar nearby which served draft beer.
Every morning at breakfast Rolf would say “No alcohol today.” By lunchtime we would be drinking. After one drink he would say: “This is the last beer now.” Then after we had finished that one he would say: “One for the road.” We only went out to buy some bolts and we ended up drinking from sunset until after midnight, but as Rolf said: “When you buy some bolts, you have to have a beer!”
We were hoping all day that the tank would finally be ready, and in the afternoon we phoned up to see if it was complete. It wasn’t so in the meanwhile we tidied up the back of the Landrover and waited for the call.
Later that day at around 3pm we had the phone call that the tank was ready. We drove out to collect it, and it looked good. We paid and drove back to Rolfs house, donned our clothes reserved for getting dirty and tried to fix it back into the Landrover before sunset.
The tank had been built three or four centimetres too wide and wouldn’t fit between the chassis. We were really frustrated by now, and had to drive back with the tank and inform them to fix it. We knew yet again that our wait would continue for at least another day.
- David Jennings & Nathan Topham
- Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom
- For the past 5 years, me and my best friend Nathan have talked about the possibility of travelling around the world by land and sea, and so finally we have a route, savings and time to set off around the world. What we are doing is living out a dream, a dream we share with many people worldwide, a dream of travelling this vast, diverse, beautiful and interesting planet, but unlike the many others who keep it as a dream, we have the tenacity to make this dream a reality.