Ethiopia Ends / Into Sudan

Moving down from the mountains we camp a night in the parking lot of a hostel in bustling Gondar, where we also wander around and re-supply everything we need. Town is still hopping from the recent religious celebrations, and Ethiopians certainly get rowdy.

In the morning we decide two vehicles will continue on while one stays in town attempting to replace a destroyed tire. I move South and setup camp on the shores of stunning Lake Tana where we will relax for a couple of days. In the late afternoon our friends arrive with bad news. Their vehicle we surrounded by men who were yelling and screaming, and they hit it with sticks hard enough to dent the steel and break headlight covers.
An extremely scary experience, and something none of us has ever had before anywhere on the planet.

lake tana island 720x480

An island in Lake Tana

In the next couple of days we learn of a nearby bicycle traveler who is hit in the head with a rock badly enough to require stitches, and then only a day later is violently attacked and almost has his entire bike stolen.
Our host at a campground quietly tells us a foreigner was beaten almost to death just a month ago.

Ethiopia has been a very difficult country for me – in all my travels it is the only one I have felt unsafe and in fact unwelcome. Backwards to everywhere I have ever been, the cities are mostly OK while the rural areas feel very sketchy.

Someone explains that rural Ethiopians are sick of tourists, because they bring a lot of money that all winds up in the hands of educated city people. So although the tourists are passing through their towns the rural people get none of the money.

lake tana sunset 720x480

Sunset over Lake Tana

Whatever the reason, I genuinely feel foreigners are not welcome in Ethiopia, and unfortunately I can’t recommend it as a destination. I know lots of people have enjoyed Ethiopia in the past, though I think it’s an utterly different experience when you’re on a guided tour and hustled from tourist enclave to tourist enclave.
I really think they need to solve their internal problems before they can properly accept tourists.
I feel disappointed for a country to have gone this way, but feel helpless to do anything about it. While sitting in a small town in the drivers seat of the Jeep multiple men grab at everything on the jeep, try to forcibly open the doors and even try to open the gas cap – while I’m clearly visible watching them.
I’m furious they have no respect for my stuff, and again, this is the only country I have ever been to where this happens.

The only road from Ethiopia to Sudan is notorious for armed conflicts, and in recent weeks it has been extremely bad. I bumped into a couple who were caught in a gunfight, who saw burning houses and even dead bodies on the street. I’ve been keeping my ears to the ground for a long time trying to get all the information I can, and eventually it’s time to simply go for it. It’s important to note all of this trouble is within Ethiopia. Sudan is perfectly fine.

It’s about 100 miles of tense driving in convoy with another couple as we drop down out of the mountains to almost sea level at the border of Sudan. We see multiple military posts with armed men, burnt out vehicles and even villages that are burnt out, but fortunately we don’t see or hear any actual problems or violence.

jeep federal democratic republic of ethiopia 720x480

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

The border is the usual affair of getting myself stamped out at Immigration, then cancelling the Jeep paperwork. I lie to the Immigration officer and say I have enjoyed my time in Ethiopia. The temperature is a scorching 110F (43C), and a handful of men continually hassle us to change money with them.

To be honest I breath a huge sigh of relief when I drive out of Ethiopia, for once happy to be done with a country. I am happy to have made it out safely.

On the Sudanese side the paperwork begins, and friendly people continually pop-up to help us along the way. We previously got visas to enter the country, though it’s also required to “register” as a tourist here, and happily we can do it right at the border. With Immigration all done we move onto Customs, where most of the men have already gone home for the day.

jeep sudan 720x480

Into Sudan, country number 34!!

Again everyone is very friendly, and we are finally free to drive away from the border just before the sun hits the horizon.
It’s hard to believe I only have to do that one more time on the entire expedition. We push on a handful of miles and dive off the road into the scrubby brush, getting far enough from the road to feel good about it.
I have been told endlessly that Sudan is possibly the safest country on the planet, and I’m perfectly safe wild camping, so with little choice I put it to the test on the very first night!

jeep sudan wildcamp 720x480

Sunset over the wildcamp for the first night in Sudan

Sudan begins – country number 34 – a county I have been looking forward to for a very, very long time.


13 Responses

  1. Good to hear you’re safe!

    My kids and I have been following your journey with interest for quite some time without commenting.

    I’ve spent a fair bit of time throughout Africa over the last 20 years for work. Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced what you have in Ethiopia. In fact, once I checked into a hotel in a rural town and 20 minutes later had my host breathlessly pounding at my door, yelling that we had to leave immediately, that it was too dangerous to stay there. I’ve always wondered what might have happened that evening if I would’ve stayed…

    Needless to say, enjoy your trip through Sudan. Sounds like a fantastic adventure!

    I’m glad to hear you have only one more border crossing! I have been wondering for some time if you were going to attempt going across Libya?! I’ve spent some time in that general area…it’s not a place for tourists at the moment, unfortunately.

    Enjoy your time in Sudan!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Johnny,

      Thanks for commenting and following along all this time!
      Wow, that sounds like an interesting time you had in Ethiopia!

      As much as I want to cut across the top of the continent, you are spot on that Libya is not a great place right now.
      It’s impossible to get a visa now, and the police in Egypt won’t let me drive over there to the border, so on both counts it’s impossible for me. Unfortunately that means the adventure will come to an end in Egypt. It sure has been a ride!

      All the best,

  2. shiva says:

    All the best for your Sudan expedition Dan .
    Are you going to visit Nubian pyramids ?

  3. Robert B Brown says:

    After reading your whole blog along the way I’m blown away you’re saying this!

    It must really be bad there.

    Something must be getting in their heads that foreigners are bad.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Robert,

      It is certainly the first time I’ve ever felt this way, and it was a real disappointment after looking forward to Ethiopia for so long.
      So be it.


  4. Adam says:

    oh dang. Dan, I was so hoping you would be able to make it to Libya and be able to checkout some of the old WW2 battle sites such as Tobruk (where my grandfather served). It’s been wonderful following along on your grand adventure, and I’m glad you managed to get safely out of Ethiopia.

  5. Kris says:

    Hey Dan. Good reads as always. Whats up with your map? Shows your still in Kenya which was obviously countries ago lol.
    Any chance you can skip Libya and drive down through Chad and Niger or are you out of time/budget?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Kris,

      Thanks for the update on the map, I’ll update it right now!

      From what I have been able to learn lately, there is not safe or good way to get into Chad from this side, so it’s off limits for me.


  6. Barker Marcus says:

    Hi Dan, we are just about to cross into Rwanda which we are looking forward to after an excellent time in Uganda. We are around 6 weeks from entering Ethiopia so any tips or advice would be most welcome. Areas we should avoid, how to deal with the people etc. Sudan sounds great! All the best Marcus and Pauline.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Marcus,

      I’m happy to hear you are having an awesome time! For sure take the Lake Turkana route into Ethiopia from Kenya. It’s extremely remote, and you’ll have to be careful with petrol and water, but it’s supremely beautiful and remote, and it has none of the violence problems that the big border seems to have all the time.
      In Ethiopia, the touristy areas are the worst for sure, and my advice would be to stay away from them if you can. When I was there both petrol and diesel were in short supply, to fill up every chance you get.
      In the North going to Sudan, try to get as much info as you can – that road also has had some very bad violence in recent months, and it turns into an actual war zone at times. Talk to people in and around Gondar and see what you can learn.
      All the best, good luck!


  7. Orion E says:

    Hey Dan, I been following you ever since you got your foot into Morocco the love i have for a jeep and traveling i will do the same route you have taken soon but as an Ethiopian American living in NC I’m heartbroken when you say Ethiopians don’t welcome foreigners. We are the most welcoming people on Earth. Many had crossed Ethiopia through out the years and will continue for many years to come.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Orion,

      I know many people have a fantastic time in Ethiopia, and I was really looking forward to it from everything I had been told. I think the country is going through some big changes now with the new, more ‘liberal’ president, and so the people and their attitudes are in flux.

      Hopefully it can soon return to the friendly and welcoming place you remember!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>