After a few days in Nairobi where they had lovely bread at the Art Bakery and we had the mounting of our Malawian brake caliper checked, we decided to proceed to Ethiopia as our visa are running out mid-May. So we left crowdy Nairobi and headed north.
On the next day, quickly after passing the equator and mount Kenya, we saw the confirmation of reaching the northern part of Africa: the first camels (well, dromedaries, or Camelus dromedarius to be precise). And during the day we would see many more: large herds along and on the road, sometimes guided, mostly by children.
As both the scenery and roads were brilliant we made good progress and reached the border with Ethiopia at the end of the afternoon. As there was no possibility to camp in the bordertown Moyale we stayed in a Arabic-style hotel.
The border crossing the next morning went relatively smooth and one of the two ATMs on the Ethiopian side of Moyale actually worked. The first 200km of road was mostly good tar, until turning left at Yabello onto a 100km rocky gravel road with a few water crossings. All in all it took us a good three hours to reach Konso. This town, itself a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Omo valley west of it are home to many of the ancient tribes in Ethiopia, many still living in much of their traditional ways.
On our way to one of the Mursi villages (the Mursi being the people famous for women decorated with big discs in their underlip) in Jinka we ran into a German overlander we met before at Jungle Junction in Nairobi. He shared us his experience of the Mursi village (“a zoo with people”) and that there was a weekly market in another village we had just passed, Key Afer. So we changed our plan and went there.
After the market we headed straight for Arba Minch where we camped on a lane in the Paradise Lodge as their formal campsite did not accommodate for cars to be driven onto the grass. The next two -weekend- days we spend along Lake Langano, relaxing and cleaning before going into Addis Ababa.
Our schedule in (and around) Addis was dominated by administrative bureaucracy: first our visa for Egypt (three working days, embassy closed on Monday because of Orthodox Easter), then our transit visa for Sudan (one working day, but ran over the weekend so another three days of waiting). So besides visiting the National and Ethnological museums, a few markets and some restaurants we also opted for two get-aways.
The first was to Awash NP, about three hours from Addis, which was mostly dry prairie along the Awash river.
Our second get-away was a visit to the Blue Nile gorge, also around three hours from Addis. There the river cuts more than 1 km deep through the surrounding highlands.
And then when we had our visa on Tuesday we left Addis, just in time to visit a few more sites before our Ethiopian visa ran out. Our first stop on the way to the border were, of course, the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela.
This incredible site with in total 11 monolithic churches was chiseled out of rock by King Lalibela himself in the 12th century, to make “the second Jerusalem” (after the first was captured by the Muslims). According to the legend he got help from angels, so I guess that makes it a little less of a miracle 😉
Before leaving Ethiopia we also wanted to village the Dutch-run Kim & Tim Village campsite at Lake Tana where some of the country’s oldest monasteries are to be found. With Uwe, the German overlander we had met before in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, we made a relaxing boat trip over the tranquil waters of the lake with me (Jasper) jumping out at each of the monasteries to have a look inside.
The afternoon we spent in Gondar, visiting the Camelot-like castle before setting off to Sudan early the next morning.