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Gondar – Addis

June 21st, 2010


 Sunday 22nd May

 Seeking some outdoor activity, we gladly accepted an invitation to play football with the local lads up at the nearby field. The previous days rain had turned the pitch into a mudbath, which had subsequently baked solid in the midday sun. The resulting surface was as smooth as sandpaper, which unfortunately affected Tom’s otherwise world-class football skills.

 Meantime, the long awaited election got into full swing, with all voting being logged and recorded on Saturday morning. The Election has caused a fair bit of quiet mumblings of discontent here, but the people are for the most part either claim to be governed by fear or maybe are heavily influenced by Government propaganda.

Monday 23rd

An unexpected demonstration was called today in the main square, following election results and EU reports of inconsistency. The main diatribe was directed at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, with quite a large crowd turning out to hear the misguided musings of the local Party man. We think it was much more a ‘sheep following sheep’ situation rather than a genuine portrayal of the people’s beliefs. Naturally, due to this impromptu rally, school was cancelled so we played footy again and Adam stopped by for the evening, sleeping in the rooftent.

Tuesday 24th

Delays and delays trying to find a truck suitable for shipping Adams broken bike to Addis.

Eventually got Adams bike loaded onto 10 foot high lorry, but only after 2 lorry’s cancelled and one doubled the price when they heard he was ‘feranji’. Gits.

Whilst loading, crowds of local kids were fiddling with everything they could get their hands on, driver nearly knocked the bike over whilst reversing. Adam later informed us that the drive took 20 hours, with the driver chewing chat the whole way.

Whilst dealing with friendly local chaps over the previous few days trying to sort out the truck one thing became apparent; some guys are really nice and genuine here, they just don’t seem to be able to properly organise anything.

Departure times always changing, prices always changing; organising the lorry was a bloody nightmare and very frustrating. This is in stark contrast to ourselves however, as we have twice now organised very effective piss-ups in a local brewery.


Thankfully a normal day of teaching. Overall the teaching schedule was very relaxed, four days a week for 4 hours a day, thus giving us enough time to get fully into the programme, but leaving enough time to explore the local culture, meet friends and make sure the car was in tip-top shape.

We taught in the local secondary school, Fasilides, with students ages ranging from 15 to 20. Whilst Link Ethiopia volunteer teachers normally focus on English Communication skills and principally pronunciation, we were also aiming to incorporate some more practical skills.

Before our arrival in Gondar our ideas changed from wanting to focus solely on sport to trying to get the students to experience many of the benefits from sport such as leadership, teamwork and communication. So to this end we scoured the internet for activities we could use and found a wealth of information on both Scouting and Army websites – for these are the skills which both of these institutions try extremely hard to develop. Thanks to our friend Chris Rumsey for sending over lots of ideas to us in a very short space of time.

Examples of some of the exercises we got students to complete were ‘racing chairs’, where a team has to get to one end of a room using less chairs than the number in the group and guiding colleagues blindfolded through improvised assault courses.

This variety of exercises was coupled with trying to eliminate common mistakes which Ethiopians make such as saying ‘ship’ instead of ‘sheep’, ‘sink’ instead of ‘think’, ‘pin’ instead of ‘pen’ to name a few.

What was brilliant was the willingness to learn. Whilst we were at times frustrated that some things we were saying were not being taken on board, there was never a lack of desire for most days we would physically have to shoe students out at the end of the day.


After teaching, we were invited to dinner with the Embrace kids. A dinner of injera and shiru, with a small bowl of kolo. Kids seem well, but keen to move from their present compound.


No school today, so we allowed ourselves well deserved lie-in’s, reading books and writing up the text for the latest LRM article.

In the evening, dinner with Saufe and then a drink with his two friends, one of whom professed to be a great admirer of a poet, Sidney Sheldon. A long discussion followed as to whether or not he was British or American. To conclude this argument, we all trooped off to Suafes’ friends internet cafe at 12am and dialled up Wikipedia. Thankfully, we were proved right; he’s American.


Met George and Becca, other Link Ethiopia volunteers stationed south of Addis, who are up in Gondar travelling for a few weeks during a school holiday. Nice couple, whom Tom may travel to Lalibela with next weekend.


Cooked a very British lunch of bangers and mash for Saufi and Mully, then went to watch England’s final friendly match before the World Cup. We all left slightly disappointed, no-one entirely convinced that this team could go on to win the WC.

 The nearby Ethiopians would hear nothing of it however – ‘England world champions, England world champions’ we were repeatedly assured. After the football it was off to the ‘Golden Gate’ restaurant for the best Lasagne in town, though as usual it required at least an hour to arrive.


Spent entire evening watch uploads of photos for latest article. Pics can’t be compressed as the mag requires high quality images (so no pictures of Carl), which in all took 5hours to email 33 photos out of 40!


Tom managed to arrange airline ticket to Lalibela and will travel with Becca and George, the other teaching volunteers.

Dinner at Quara and beers with the local chaps. On the nightly ride home, two bajajs arrived at once as we were looking for a rid, so we were able to play them off each other and get the usual 10 birr ride home for 8 birr. A saving of almost 10p! Get in.


School dead due to  national exams for grade 10. The Director insisted on us trying his extra spicy firfir breakfast which has us both in tears at 9am. Pretty spicy.

Played football, went to the market for a good session of price-haggling, then spent the afternoon trying to sort out the laptop with the help of Saufi, after it picked up a virus. Kassahun and Saufi came down to the house for a faranji dinner.


No students again in the morning due to exams. Hopefully more in afternoon as last day of teaching.

Also cracking on with washing the entirety of our wardrobes, got on with the blog writing and nagging Saufi to fix our headlight relay.

That evening, met three English backpackers (one of whom is apparently Kenny Daglish’s godson) and had dinner together. Nice chaps, been backpacking south from Lebanon.


Becka’s birthday. A trip to the Dashen brewery with three other English lads in tow was certainly in order. Went round the castle in the rain, which helpfully cleared up before the end of the day.


Finally, after a lot of hassle, we were able to start moving the Embrace boys today. Arguments and stupid fees coming out of nowhere, the landlady suddenly remembering different fees that needed paying. All in all very stressful, but once the boys were moved to their new house, it was all smiles.

The boys invited us over for some food at the new house, clearly as relieved as we were!


An early start today, as Tom left for Lalibela, home of the rock hewn churches. A small dustbowl of a village, the main attraction is the presence of the 11 chapels and churches, cut directly into the rock. A truly awesome sight, blew the Pyramids at Giza out of the water. If you’ve never seen them, have a quick Google search for Lalibela rock churches, specifically the church of St George.

Meanwhile, Carl and Saufi took the Landy out for a spin and travelled the 40mins down the road to Tim and Kim’s campsite in Gorgora. Unbelievably quiet place, malarial mosquitoes in abundance.


Fixed our inverter problem, the RCD kicks in when power has been turned completely on or off so just needed resetting. We’ll just put all those fuses we just check away then….

Back to Gondar through huge thunderstorm, roads turning to mud in seconds, other cars and minibuses not slowing for the conditions at all.


Tom arrived back from Lalibela at midday. After a quick lunch, we immediately started packing up at the house, cleaning the cooker and making lunch. Another torrential downpour in the afternoon kept us indoors all day whilst we packed away. The rainy season is definitely on the way!

That night, as we intended to leave the following day, we went out to dinner with Embrace boys and Link Ethiopia workers, Mulugeta and Belaynah. A lot of fun was had, especially by the boys as they encouraged us to eat spicier and spicier sauces, whilst they themselves ate whole green chillies with no ill affects! The cheeky scamps.


Left Gondar by 11, having spent a long time saying goodbyes and searching for diesel. We have an addition to team To Hel And Back in Saufi, very friendly local chap from Gondar who runs the techno solution mobile phone and electronics shop.

Pressed on to Bahir Dar and searched around for diesel to no avail. Had a beer with hotel manager and he asked us to critique his proposal for the expansion of his hotel.


Left Bahir Dar at 10.30 am after searching fruitlessly for fuel. 100kms down the road we managed to find some, but were limited to buying a maximum of 30 litres. Made it to Debre Markos for lunch and met Abel, an ex student of Carl and Joel’s from 5 years ago.

After lunch, we tried to eat up the miles to Addis. Along the road, we dropped down into a magnificent gorge, pulling over half way down to give the engine and brakes a rest as the motor had been screaming trying to engine brake over 3tonnes down a steep steep hill.

Getting to the bottom we discovered that the car actually had some power again and didn’t throw out it’s customary clouds of black smoke. Newly re-invigorated by the drop in altitude, we flew up the first half of the gorge but slowed down as the altitude sapped all power.

Whilst stopping to admire the view, our hearts stopped as we saw the oil pressure warning light flicker on. We jumped out, checked everything and concluded that it was a poor earth on the wiring. We were delighted to spot no temperature issues at all as we chugged up the gorge for half an hour non stop. Clearly all the bits we put on from Twisted performance and Aaron radiators are doing their job! Cheers boys.

Eventually arrived at 9.30pm in pitch black, pouring rain. Twisty and turning all the way, unbelievable concentration required. Bosnian motorbikes, people and animals in road all day. Amazingly populous country, no matter where you stop within minutes kids or people will be around you.

There was however one casualty that day. Tom hit a chicken with the front left wheel at 45mph. In a 3 ton Land Rover. Suffice to day, it isn’t looking good for the chicken. On the plus side though, Tom has learned how to kill a chicken quickly after taking 10minutes in Gondar whilst trying to prepare one for dinner.


Awoke to look around and see Addis and our hotel in day light for the first time. A fairly quiet part of town, near to the old train station and current bus station.

Addis prices are however a bit higher than we were used to in the country, but not astronomically so. Met old friends of Carls that he worked with years ago, Chewy and Ashu.

Spent the evening teaching two Swedes and a German how to dance in local nightclubs. Very successful night for some of the boys; all other headed home to bed at 5 or 6, to be greeted by the sunrise and a splitting hangover.


Recovered from night before, met Friew (another friend from 5 years ago) and the met up with Becka and George, watched inaugural England football game. Disappointment all round, completely sincere commiserations offered by  our German friend.

Spent a whole afternoon fruitlessly searching for somewhere which would exchange travellers cheques. Eventually ended up at the Sheraton but here they demanded the original purchase receipt for the cheques – the first time we have EVER come across this.

Fed up with trailing round town and irritated by the rude cashier, we decided we would see what the Sheraton service was really like. At the door, we asked for the loan of an umbrella for the 50 metre walk to the gate, as it was raining again. No umbrellas were available, so asked reception to order a car to take us to the gate, 50 metres away.



After another long night out, Tom and the Swedish boys arrive home at 6am, having toasted the sunrise with Tequila.

Carl goes for a romantic breakfast with Jan (the only other person now hangover-free) and then spent the rainy afternoon learning how to make videos – now just to work out how to get the video camera footage of the trip so far onto the computer!


Searched for English restaurant to have a proper cooked breakfast at. Sadly, the English lady had moved back to the UK, so no Full English! Ate breakfast with boys and had ice cream, then to Kenyan embassy after rumours that visas no longer issued at the border. On the way back from the embassy, Carl was pickpocketed on the minibus and we had our phone nicked.

In the afternoon, Tom took the cab apart to start looking for our earth problems, whilst Carl set off around Addis searching for parts shops. Diff lock switch is now top priority and, until now, utterly unavailable. All the broken LR’s we’ve seen in the scrap yards have been classics, so cannibalising them for parts was not an option.


Collected some small spare parts for the car for the LR spares shop, of which there are several in Addis. Namely, we needed a diff lock switch, a bonnet rubber and a couple of replacement hub cap seals.

Adam and Carl got badly caught out in the rain in town, Carl in just sandles and shirt, arrived home absolutely soaked having had to walk through roads flooded 10cm high.

Bad news for the others: Jan and Alexis heard that their expected parcel wouldn’t be here for another few days so got on the beers early. Challenged to an international drinking competition we duly followed suit and eventually came out joint winners with Germany – Jan also making it to 6am whilst one Swede had fallen asleep at the hotel and the other had gone home to bed early.



Made as much progress as possible with the work to be completed on the car. Then dinner with Chewy and Friew.


Pick up our Kenyan visas, only took 48 hours and cost the equivalent of $25. Searched fruitlessly for a place to change travellers cheques again, unwilling to go all the way back to the Sheraton. Tried to finish work on the car but rain kept interfering with wiring work.


Busy day with Tom up early at 7 to get some photos of the old Addis Ababa train station and it’s abandoned trains and workshops.

From there we headed off for breakfast and met Carl’s friend Ashagere (Eddie Murphy stunt double) and got cracking with our busy day of sight seeing.

First up was a visit to Merkato, rumoured to be the largest open air market in Africa. After a few hours of haggling and rain dodging we stopped for some Injera for lunch, saw Germany lose in the football and headed to the very nice and fantastically priced National Museum. Now we can claim to have seen ‘Lucy’, the oldest human descendant remains ever found, approximately 3.3million years old.

After an expert tour led by Ashu, we headed down the road to see the slightly run down Lion sanctuary, home to the dozen or so lions remaining from Haile Selasse.

Very cruel existences for the animals as they each have the run of about total 5 square metres of concrete, but a truly amazing experience to crouch and be face to face with a fully grown Abyssinian lion, less than one foot away. Seeing the pupils in the eyes change size and feeling their breath as they yawn is something which we wonder if we will ever experience again.

That evening, settled a plan for the route to Nairobi and watched Englands latest debacle that was the World Cup.


The Sweeeeds and Ze German left at 7 this morning, being waved off by Tom as Carl was still out on the town from the night before, making the most of limited time with old friends and following another shambolic England performance..

Put the car back together and changed the rear diff oil seal, which thankfully fitted. Now to test it and hope that it doesnt leak!


Hopefully, last day in Addis. Heading south for Debra Z, to meet Becka and George for the evening. Then, its on to Arba Minch and the Omo valley, to see the tribes and the wildlife, before Suafe leaves us for his flight back to Gondar and we head over the border into Kenya, down the east coast of Lake Turkana.

See you all in Nairobi in a week and a half!

Don’t forget to log onto mapvivo to keep track of our progress using the interactive map.

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