Northern Ethiopia – Land of plenty, accompanied by shouts of “Faranji”

Tim & Kim’s

First spot – Tim & Kim’s …… what is left to be said about this “little piece of heaven on earth” Tim and Kim are a Dutch couple who back-packed through Africa 17 years ago and when they arrived in goragora they were blown away by the beauty that surrounded them. 12 years later they decided to jump right on into the deep end and set up a lodge/resting haven for backpackers and over-landers. Thank god for them!!!! They have forged against every challenge Africa holds, lived in the local village (with rats, bats, snakes, and the constant  noise of life) for one year, waiting for the road to be built that would lead us all to their hideout. The story is endless and makes for good conversation over a many ‘St George’s beer’.

They are truly amazing people to visit and spend time with!!! If you ever have a chance to visit Ethopia – this is a must!

Tim & Kim’s

Lake turkana - going for a goof (AKA ‘a swim')

Ghonder

A beautiful little town as you enter, only to be ripped off moments later by a Rastafarian and his mate! It’s hard to explain the dynamics of this country. It boasts a historic background that most countries dream of, it can also bring you to your knees as all you seem to be is a walking dollar sign and people from the other side of the street will see you park and suddenly stroll up to you with their hand out saying “give me money” it’s that simple.  When driving through all the villages, the little kids run out to the car and wave at you with the biggest smiles…. You wave back with much excitement, but it’s a strange feeling she you don’t receive a wave back. It makes you feel bad and brings you back down to earth.

 

Ghonder - The Royal Enclosure

Simien Mountains

Off we all set, the two couples and us, to The Simiens….. we had heard a lot about this special place from the Swiss couple we met at Tim and Kim’s. Johan reminisced of his encounter with the Gelada baboons. He sat amongst them for an hour just watching them, being with them. With all six of us traveling together we thought this would probably never happen. It is compulsory to take an armed scout with you, we managed to convince HQ that we would only need 1 for all three cars. Our first camp site was at 3,200 meters. Just walking to the bathroom and back would Make you feel like you had just donated a lung to be here.

The temperature was 11 degrees and a fire was urgently needed. We bought a shoulder of lamb in the village and whipped up a morrocan poitjie – tough! But edible indeed.

The next camp was not to far away so we took a slow drive and met with a huge herd of Gelada baboons, we walked up slowly and sat as close as we could get snapping away and lapping it up. We then got into  our cars and headed to the top of the mountain where the Gelada’s migrated to. There we sat waiting for them to catch up, as long as you are sitting down they will walk right up to you, sit, forage, and stare into your eyes until they oved onto the next spot. The males have this impressive Maine that exaggerates the size of there shoulders when they run –  They really are amazing to watch, and they get really close to you too, sometimes to bare their talons which would pierce your leg in seconds. Yet they are so placid (A few pics in mike’s photo blog makes them seem otherwise)

What an experience!

Our next campsite sat at 3,700 meters high. It was beautiful. Here we saw, from the many view points that surrounded us, a Lammergeyer, one of the largest birds of prey – spectacular! The views were amazing and the when the sun sunk behind the peaks the cold set into your bones!!!! By now everyone had felt a bit of the effects one can experience from altitude, and because we were driving in a car, we were not acclimatising as well as you would, if you were walking.

At the campsite, Mike and I had a chance to sit with some baboons, one came so close he actually stuck his face right into Mike’s lens and as if he wanted payback for the great picks he then turned around and stuck his back into Mike’s hand expecting him to do a bit of grooming and parasite cleaning.

The Simiens were great, and the photo’s we have of the baboons are a real treat.

What our scout would have done if we had met with horrible bandits, I have no idea!!! He was not well at all and was getting quite sick at one point. They send them up with tourists with no tent, warmth, food or proper closed shoes. This was the saddest thing about the mountains. All the guy was doing was trying to feed his family. AFRICA AFRICA AFRICA – You can never ask “Why”

The Simien Mountains - spending time with the Gelada baboons

Simien viewpoint - From my perspective

Aksum

Like I said, this country boasts so much history everywhere you go. So much to see, it’s a pity that you avoid speaking to the locals, because Ethiopia has a lot to offer. Aksum was great and the best thing about Ethiopia is the food is all very spicy….. I honestly would feel very sorry for you if you did not eat chilli and you found yourself here. The sites were great, handy-crafts abound and beautiful!!!!

Aksum -Discovering one of the tombs

Tigray

Rock hewn churches are ‘the thing to do’ here. We also decided to spoil ourselves and stay at an Italian –owned lodge, Gheralto Lodge. We all had dinner at the lodge, a four course meal that included salad, the girls were pretty chuffed about this. We also had some great S.A. wine and retired early in anticipation for our first church which was situated within a cliff face. Lots of climbing involved and some heart quivering moments. The first 45 minutes of the climb is mildly challenging with a  couple of tricky sheer sections requiring toe-hold action. The last two minutes require nerves of steel (felt more like 10 long minutes) All I could of was how the hell we would get down.

Once you finally get to the top, you are surrounded by a 360 view of mountain peaks that tower over you and a baptism chamber that has the most amazing view (yup, ladies climb up here with their babies on their backs to get baptized. The best part that half way up, our guide shouts over the fields for the priest, who at that time was ploughing his field in the far distance. By the time we had reached the baptism cave, the priest was right behind us breathing quite normally….. embarrassing as I was out of breath at least 5 times on the way up. The church was beautiful and along with the view – A true reward after the climb.

Our guide treated us to a local lunch of Njera (Ethiopian pancake) and sheep cooked with garlic and chilli – delicious!

We bid farewell to our guide and headed for Lalibella.

We stayed at a Tukul-style lodge and camped in their garden. It was a great resting place, so we all spent our first day cleaning out the car and doing all the checks on the vehicle. Our tires have taken a serious beating on the Ethiopian roads so we will have to change the front and back tires round before heading to Lake Turkana to enter Kenya.

We did do our site-seeing on the second day, taking in all 11 churches that are based within the town.  These churches are all symbolic of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and The River Jordan. Most of Lalibella’s churches are monolithic, which means the King at the time decided to excavate from the top down. So you will come across a massive boulder and in the centre sits a church that once was a part of that very rock. It is quite spectacular. The other kind of church you will find is a cave church and it is exactly that. They built there churches like this to protect them from weather as well to hide them from other religious groups and looters – Pretty brilliant I say. After a full day of site-seeing we strolled home through the village, stopped for a beer and met an Ethiopian history student who knew the capital of every country we could name – he was seriously entertaining.

We had dinner at Ben Ababa with two Saffas we met up with, Marius and Claire. The restaurant comes highly recommended and looked like it had come out of one of those whacky buildings at Hogwart’s in Harry Potter. The next day we started our two-day drive to Addis Ababa, which means New Flower.

We spent a night at Lake Hayk, which was a spectacular lake with Pelicans, Maribou stalk and some groovy reggae tunes that sounded from a boom box for all to enjoy. We drank many a beer with the owner who played loads of Ethiopian music for us and then asked to listen to some of our music, so we entertained him with a little Matis Yahu, Johnny Clegg and Lady Smith Black Mamabaza. We had the local dish of Njera and spicy fish, swapped music and left with heavy hearts the next day. We both wanted to stay another night, but knew we had to move on.

Tigray rock-hewn church - Faith, certainly gets you up here!

An 800 year old Bible in Ethiopian script, Ge'ez

Addis

What can be said for Addis, The Lonely Planet makes you paranoid about walking around in the City because of opportunists that will prey on your pockets, ruck-sacks and anything else that may interest them. However, the people are friendly and it’s a good place to get some car-admin done. We all needed to get our cars looked at to make sure they were all in tip-top shape for the Lake Turkana road. We also stayed at Wim’s Holland House, Wim has a bar right next to where we were camoing, and it turns out we arrived on the evening of the Euro football final – great place to watch it!!! Big screen T.V., beer and of course a Dutch menu…… something Mike has been dreaming about for a very long time. For anyone heading to Amsterdam/Holland – do miss out of tasting the Kroketten and Bitte bolle. We feasted, drank to our heart’s content and watched the penalty shoot-outs with dismay….. GO CHELSEA!!!!!

Great food is to be had in Addis – Mediterranean, Italian, Arabic, Dutch, you name it, and you will find it here.

South Ethiopia has lots in store in terms of lakes, birds, crocs, and then The Omo Valley. Our crossing of Lake Turkana all depends on the amount of rain the area has had so hopefully we can cross the two big rivers and get into Kenya without having to turn back. Let’s see!

P.S. Sorry no pics, far too much car admin to get done – South Ethiopia here we come.

TBC… ciao

2 Responses to “Northern Ethiopia – Land of plenty, accompanied by shouts of “Faranji””

  1. Marius & Claire says:

    glad to see you guys are still going strong!! even after the tej 😉 have mailed u pics!! definitely a piece of heaven! bonne chance!

  2. Irene Proimos says:

    I never thought Ethiopia had such richness … i hope you write a full book one day on this adventure sparket or mike. thats really cool you guys are getting so much socail action amongst the locals there … and so true about Africa hey; its sometimes a forgotten place (referring to the scout story). Really sad.

    Mike must be capturing some amazing stories behind the lens … did you get a shot of mike and the baboon inspecting the equipment? such special mooments. xx

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