Back Into Ethiopia
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
I psych myself up for the drive back and up over the nasty road, and clear the city early in the morning. Of course the worst of the road is not nearly so bad during the day when I’m well rested, and I’m at the scorching border soon after 2pm. Everyone at the border remembers me, and so the formalities are extremely simple and straightforward when played in reverse.
The 2000 trucks that drive over this road per day take the toll – both on the road surface and the drivers. I see multiple trucks that have crashed – some have simply gone off the side of the mountain, some have burnt out and some appear to have crashed into other vehicles. It’s a sombre reminder of the crazy driving in this part of the world and it’s very real consequences.
I don’t want to drive into the dark again, and after lucking out with gas on the black market on the edge of a town I ask at a hotel if I can camp in the parking lot. For $4 I get a great spot, and access to a shower, water to fill my drinking tank and there is even an on-site restaurant and bar. It takes a minute to click, and then I realize this is a travel stop-over for locals. Hundreds of beds are setup outside, each with their own bug net, and then a few buses pull in for the night.
Soon the restaurant is hopping with Ethiopians on the road, and tons of people come to my table to say hello and talk about Canada – it seems almost everyone has a relative or friend there, and they are excited to hear what I think of Ethiopia and all about Canada too. The local dish of Njera is fantastic here, and of course everyone laughs when I mention the hot sauce is *really* hot!
In the morning I’m on the move again, and drive deep into the mountains to Lalibela, the town famous for churches built into the rock and on the mountains. On the road I encounter kids who throw rocks at the Jeep – something Ethiopia is infamous for. The kids beg on the side of the road, and then when I don’t give them any money they get furious and hurl rocks. I’m thankful none hit the windows, though one does take a good chip out of the paint on the rear tailgate.
From the minute I drive into Lalibela, however, I don’t like the vibe. Almost immediately men are shouting about selling me this or that, or guiding me for this or that. I see hordes of tourists getting around, and quickly lose interest. This is not the place for me, I’m sure. A big festival starts the next day, which helps me make up my mind.
I get word from friends who are nearby somewhere much more exciting, and so I camp just one night before pushing on, aiming for much, much bigger mountains.