2 – “You will enjoy it!”

2 – “You will enjoy it!”

Day two. We compensated for having little sleep the night before and had a chilled-out morning. We stayed in the hostel to use the WiFi and to plan the next stage of our trip. We decided the next town we’d visit would be Bahir Dah, 600km to the North West of Addis Ababa. Most of the tourist attractions in Ethiopia are in the North. We planned to visit them all in one big loop, from West to East, before heading back to Addis Ababa. To get to Bahir Dar the next day, it seemed the best option for us would be to take the bus (seeing as we’re trying to avoid flying). Our afternoon’s mission was to go to the city centre to buy bus tickets and, whilst there, visit St George’s Cathedral.

We arrived at the square where the bus companies’ hold their ticket offices. The street was crawling with people. Kids were running along beside us, calling out at us. Obviously, we didn’t understand a word. We kept walking swiftly and tried not to look impolite. A lady caught our attention; she shouted out to us in English that we should be careful of our belongings. We already had a strong grip on our bags, we struggled to see how we could be any more careful. She continued chatting, asking us where we come from and where we were headed. She then decided she’d personally take us to the right ticket office. She introduced herself as “Abeba”, a construction engineer for the government. She told us she wanted tourists to have the best possible time in her country, and for them not to be pestered in the street. She spoke very loudly, everyone around us was peering at us. She seemed to genuinely want to help us. We are often targeted by people who want to take us to their different travel agencies – they will all tell you they work for the best agency in Ethiopia. So understandably, we were cautious at first, especially as Abeba stopped to speak to everyone in the street. Despite our scepticism, we continued to follow her.

The three of us arrived at the right ticket office (Selam buses). Abeba pushed her way to the front of the queue and spoke directly with the salesman. Minutes later, she weaved her way back out and told us that Selam buses no longer go to Bahir Dar. Not only that, but the buses for all the other destinations were nearly completely full because everyone was trying to get home to their families for the New Year. She then animated the whole neighbourhood by asking everyone if they had any ideas to help us. After a lot of deliberation with crowds of people, we walked towards a different bus company’s office. Same result – so we were back to the drawing board. We returned to the first company who said we could go to Mekele. Mekele it was then! The tickets were for Friday morning at 4:30am. All long-distance buses seem to leave at this ridiculous hour. We found ourselves, therefore, with a new plan and an extra night in Addis Ababa. Abeba exclaimed with a big smile, “You will enjoy it!” as she scribbled down some contact details for us on a scrap of paper. Apparently, we should also go see Mohammed. Not much info, but that’ll have to do! It’s not like Mohammed is the most common name in the world. Abeba turned out to be very helpful to us, we are glad we followed our instinct and trusted her. We thanked her and went on our way.

Us with the lovely Abeba. Yes, we do have matching shorts

Oh yes, and after all that, we no longer had time to visit St George’s Cathedral.

We decided to change accommodation for something cheaper and closer to the town centre. Unsuprisingly, staying in a large double bedroom with a balcony in a hostel with WiFi, hot water and breakfast included, wasn’t great for our budget. We decided to put our tent, that we were lugging around, to good use. We opted for Taitu hotel as we had seen online there was the option to camp. On Thursday we presented ourselves to the two ladies at Reception and asked to camp. They both looked at us confused, told us it was unheard of, and called their manager. Their manager arrived, looked confused, told us it was unheard of, and called the big boss. We seemed to know more than they did about the contents of their website. The big boss seemed to like the idea. She even said they could take photos of our pitched tent for their website. We won’t lie, the spot for our tent wasn’t like something out of a magazine. It was more of a car park than the grassy patch we had imagined. Oh well, in any case we had to get up at 2:30am the next day to take the bus, so we weren’t looking for luxury. We payed 200birrs (£5.50) for the night, mainly so that we could each have a hot shower.

We said goodbye to Mr Martin’s Cozy Place Hostel. This was our balcony

Oh yes, and after all that, we still had time to go see St George’s Cathedral. It’s an octagonal building, made from stone. It’s quite pretty, though rather small. People come in its vicinity to pray and to kiss the building’s stones. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by Tomoca Coffee Shop. It was a lot more authentic than the first one we had visited. Here, there were no chairs. The locals gathered around tables, to debate the latest comings and goings over a cup of coffee. Again, the coffee was tasty: strong and flavourful. Everyone around us was drinking a Macchiato. We’ll know for next time.

Arnaud enjoying Tomoca coffee
Tomoca Coffee Shop

We walked back to the hotel in the pouring rain, praying it would soon stop long enough for us to pitch our tent. Our prayers were answered. The tent was comfortable, though our pillow-making skills need to be improved. No worries, we have got a year to perfect them. The hotel’s big boss made us doubt ourselves when she emphasised that the night would be very rainy and cold. We already knew that, but we also knew that we had the thinnest/lightest sleeping bags from Decathlon, so we invested in a couple of warm trousers for the night. We ended up having a good night’s sleep. At crazy o’clock in the morning, we were well rested, more or less awake, and ready to take the bus.

Can you spot our tent?
Our first camping spot – behind Taitu Hotel
The back of Taitu Hotel (named after Empress Taitu Bitul). It was built in 1898 E.C, and was the first ever hotel to be opened in Ethiopia

Miscellaneous:

Seeing as we didn’t do very many touristy things these past few days, we will use this time to share some of our observations with you:

Ethiopians are very smiley. They often say “Hello, how are you?” as we walk past. Some will even ask how they can help us. The Parisian RER train on a weekday is a distant memory. Heather is glad to be back in a country where the people know how to queue.

Not only do Ethiopians have their own calendar, but they also follow their own clock. They still count twenty-four hours, but midnight is placed (roughly) at sunrise, so at six in the morning. At this point, afternoon begins (so, after-six). Are you following? When it’s eight in the morning for us, the local clocks therefore show 2:00pm. Hence it’s the afternoon when it’s the morning (except after twelve), and you have to take away six hours. I hope that’s clear. Comforting information: we still managed to be at the bus stop for the right time, even if all the taxis we tried to book in advanced refused us when they understood that by three in the morning, we did really mean three in the morning and not nine in the afternoon.

You have most probably heard in the news lately that Ethiopia planted over three hundred and fifty million trees in a day. We have seen evidence of this throughout the streets and parks of Addis Ababa. We are forever spotting saplings, protected by makeshift barriers, dotted around.

New saplings, ready to be planted

There is a whole variety of tradesmen/women in the streets here. We find:

  • Shoe shiners. Lots of people stop by, whether they are wearing leather shoes or the latest Nikes.
  • Sweetcorn, samosa or doughnut sellers – all producing delicious smells!
  • Fruit and vegetable sellers who spend ages lining up their products in the most incredible ways.
  • Seamstresses using vintage sewing machines (like the ones that decorate bars in Paris).
  • Umbrella fixers – very handy at the moment!

Weather update: It’s the end of the rainy season here in Ethiopia. The weather is constantly changing, from sunny and hot, to rainy (even stormy) and cold. Not always practical when getting dressed, (Abeba had explained to Heather that her sandals really shouldn’t be worn during this season), but very practical when testing the waterproofing of our tent! Which, FYI, is great!

8 Replies to “2 – “You will enjoy it!””

  1. I did enjoy it! Fabulous, thank you 🙂
    Looking forward to the catalogue of stunning African campsites, it’s off to a remarkable start.
    God Bless lovely Abeba, may your path be frequented with many such guardian angels 🙂
    I can’t do Ethiopian time!
    Gang warily 🙂 xxxx

    1. Loved journeying with you.. first campsite ⛺️ and Abeba definitely stand out as memorable. Much love. Got behind on chapters so catching up 🏃🏻‍♀️♥️Lx

  2. Haha I love it. Must be refreshing to be in a place where people have time and want to help random strangers! Love the ‘campsite’.

  3. Merci pour ces nouvelles ! C’est super que vous viviez ces aventures. On s’y croirait presque.

  4. Just catching up and loads to read. I enjoyed this account… thank you. Can’t do the clock and time – too overwhelming. Onto your next blog. Yay!

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