Day 27 – 28 June
Easy day at hotel. Updated blog for website in the morning. Paul and Rene decided to look for Holland House where we were wanting to camp the previous evening. After many a kilometer Rene decided to go back to the hotel while Paul decided to carry on looking. He was away for most of the morning. He says that he must have walked for at least 12-15 km. He did eventually find the camp site, but luckily for us , Paul said that the campsite was not up to the standard we were led to believe and could only accommodate two cars.
In the afternoon everybody went to town to do some shopping. Addis Ababa is the worst city we have been into on our trip as far as poverty, people driving, tuk-tuks en mass and untidiness. Lots of little stalls with everything one can imagine including literally hundreds of shoeshine boys and stalls with goods made in China.. Had an unbelievable storm n with rain and hail so heavy that we could not see for 3m in front of us.
Day 28 – 29 June
Set off after breakfast for Bahir Dar, however not expecting to get there in one day, hence the late start. The road into the city had taken 2.5 hours to get to the hotel so we expected to take the same time to get out of the city. Needless to say we were very happy to get through all the traffic and onto the open road in 40 minutes. The first part of the road was easy and we made good time.We encounter our first of many big passes that goes from a height of 3700m to 1100m into the valley and then up the other side again with plenty of running against compression and 1st gear work on the uphill. By lunch time we were already halfway to Bahir Dar and decided to push on. The afternoon didn’t prove as easy with people, donkey carts, goats, cows and poles along and in the road the whole way.
The trip was a stop- start affair all the way. Added to the obstacle course we had a number of extremely heavy showers of rain. Arriving late afternoon we then searched for a suitable hotel. After looking at 5 hotels which were all disgusting we landed up at the Tana Hotel on Lake Tana which turned out to be very pleasant.
Day 29 – 30 June
After a good breakfast we were taken by boat to see 2 monasteries on two of the islands on the lake. Very interesting to see and learn about the local culture and the history behind the religion. The trip on the lake went a lot quicker than expected so we went to see the Blue Nile Falls.
Driving to the falls was an adventure in itself with the road completely cluttered with people and animals. Unfortunately the falls turned out to be disappointing as the water was low and very muddy. Lunch was a hamburger at a local restaurant. The afternoon was spent at the hotel catching up on some free time.
Day 31 – 1 July
On the road by 600am for Lalibela, the place of the stone carved churches. We were expecting to take 8 – 9 hours as our maps showed the road as being gravel. What a pleasant surprise when the road turned out to be completely tarred with only the last 60km to Lalibela being gravel. Instead of the anticipated 4.00pm arrival we were in Lalibela by 12.00 noon.
Decided to find lodgings for the night before setting out to see the churches. Found the Jerusalem Hotel which allowed camping. The Bulldog and Lipstick teams however decided to have some luxury (we had just had four nights in hotels) and booked hotel rooms instead. The hotel manager advised us to take a guide, which turned out to very good advice. The churches were spectacular and our guide was extremely well informed about the churches and his general knowledge regarding his country and its history was excellent. We visited four churches, having to take our shoes off every time we went inside. The architecture, design, workmanship and the sheer scale of the work is mind blowing. Of all the churches visited the St Georges Church was definitely the best.
We still have meat in our freezer so we decide the best thing to do is have a braai with wors, chops, potatoes, onions and butternut which is most welcome after eating in restaurants for the last few days.
Day 32 – 2 July
We leave the hotel at 7.00am while the members of Bulldog and Lipstick are finishing breakfast. This enables us to fill up will fuel and start the day with a slow drive through scenic mountain passes while the others catch up. The first 165km is on gravel and consists of steep inclines ( 1st gear to get up a lot of the road) and descends with hairpin turns. All the guys have fun with action shots of the vehicles as they go around the bends and videoing the dust trails of the vehicles. Once on the tar road we think that we can make up time for the trip today is very long. However we are mistaken as the road has so many twists and turns that it is impossible to get to a decent speed. Added to the winding road are all the deviations and roadworks. We have a ‘technical section” for about 10km which is slippery mud. Luckily the drivers are all experienced and handle the section well.
The highlight of the afternoon are the herds of watusi cattle with horns extending to almost 1m between the tips.
Late afternoon and we are still almost 200km from our destination of Axum. The road is tarred but with extremely high passes which do not allow us to get any sort of speed up. The scenery is spectacular. Unfortunately there seems to be a constant haze over Ethiopia so we do not even bother to take any photos.
As it was getting dark a stone is thrown at our vehicle – we have been warned of this- luckily hitting on the rubber and the roof of the cab just above the windscreen. Just before 8.00pm we turn off the tar onto a terrible gravel road for the last 20km to Axum. The road is extremely busy with big trucks and cars, some with no lights or bright lights on. To top it all the heavens open and we have storm of note and the electricity is off in the town. At this stage we are the last vehicle in the convoy and arrive in Axum where Lipstick has stopped at the hotel that was recommended to us which is definitely not acceptable. So, in the rain we start looking for a suitable hotel.
We land up at the Consular hotel which is certainly the best so far. By this time we are drenched and it is 8.30pm. We park the vehicles at the back and grab our things for the night and book in. The food is very acceptable and we retire early, having been on the road for 13.5 hours. A tip to anyone intending to visit Ethiopia – do not travel at night!
Day 33 – 3 July
The morning is clear and we have breakfast and then are off to see the sites, looking like real tourists. We hire a local taxi and a guide from the hotel to show us the obelisks, the building that supposedly houses the Ark of The Covenant and the ruins of the palace of Queen Sheba. Everything is quite astounding. Axum itself consists of the new town and the old town with many stone ruins. Our guide tells us the there are still many ruins that are still being uncovered.
After the tour which finishes earlier than expected, we are on the road again i.e. after Bulldog and Lipstick have refueled. The first garage has no fuel and the second garage can’t help either as the power is still off. Eventually both vehicle manage to get 30l diesel each on the black market which should take us through to the next town which is 60km away.
We have been warned about the road conditions so we are anxious to get away as soon as possible. With the delay because of the fuel problem we only leave well after 11.00am, a delay which we are sorry about at the end of the day. The trip today is only 250km but with the continuous ups and downs and turns we arrive at the Simian Mountain Lodge as it is getting dark. The last section of the road is breathtaking as we climb right over the mountains with sheer drop-offs.
We actually wanted to camp but with the late arrival we are all happy to stay at the lodge, which turns out to be the best hotel we stayed in on this trip so far. The lodge is situated inside the nature reserve and the officials won’t let us in as it is after 6.00pm. Thanks to Willy, who managed to negotiate with the officials, we are allowed in. As it turns out we were lucky not to camp as we have another tremendous storm which seems daily now.
We are here to see the Gelada baboons and the Ibex which are only found here in the Simian Mountains.
The weather is freezing now and a lovely hot shower and a roaring log fire is most welcome.
A late supper and an even later evening around the fire with irish whiskeys turns out to be the order of the day.
Day 34 – 4 July
Freezing cold this morning and after breakfast we are off to see the baboons. We are very lucky indeed and see a whole troop on the mountain edge. We however do not get to see any of the Ibex. At about 10.00 we leave the reserve. We don’t know what the road to Gondar is like. Although it is only a short distance to Gondar we do not want to take chances and arrive late again today, having had such difficult conditions the last few days. The road turns out to be a mixture of very bad sections and wonderful new tarred sections. We arrive at lunchtime and book into the Goha hotel. Unfortunately as we are finding out there are not too many places to camp in Ethiopia, either for security reasons or because of the weather and mostly because there are no camping facilities available. The afternoon is spent catching up with our blog.