What a great time we had in Ethiopia! We went there because our elder son Jamie has been working in Addis Ababa since the beginning of the year, and it was wonderful to see him, where he is living and his surroundings, and also to take advantage of the opportunity to travel in a truly fantastic country.
There is SO much to see in Ethiopia, a large country with many tourist attractions, but we almost didn’t make it there. A couple of days before we were due to fly, the Ethiopian government declared a State of Emergency (martial law), due to growing unrest in two of the regions around Addis. After frantically checking various websites including government travel advice sites, the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forums and TripAdvisor, we reckoned it was completely safe in Addis, and our only concern was whether we’d be able to travel north and south of the capital. In the event we encountered no problems. The roads north were fine. There were a few roadblocks on the roads south, and we saw a number of burnt-out buses (we were told that the green buses which are run by the government have been targeted), but usually we were just waived through.
What I noticed on returning home is how old all the people are in the UK! Ethiopia’s population has doubled in the past fifteen years, so the vast majority of people you see there are young. And don’t the folk in the UK drive sedately! My goodness – more than a hundred yards away a car slightly pulls out unexpectedly, and the brakes are slammed on and lights are flashed, yet the cars miss each other by 80 yards and there’s no more chance of an accident than me going to the moon. In Ethiopia you overtake despite an oncoming truck within sight, and you pull in front with inches to spare. No wonder the tailbacks in the UK are so long – you could easily get at least three abreast most of the time, plus a tuk tuk, two goats and a donkey. In the UK if a driver is swerving all over the place, you assume he’s drunk. In Ethiopia anyone who drives in a straight line is probably drunk, because he’s not trying to miss the potholes. Having said that, we encountered roads which were in good condition for many miles in Ethiopia, but every now and then there would be a bit with potholes, sometimes unexpected.
The Hilton Addis is one of those famous African hotels which have featured in history. The Nile Hotel, Kampala, where Idi Amin was held aloft by four white men with frozen grins; the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda (Hotel Rwanda); the Hotel Intercontinental in Kinshasa where journalists watched the downfall of Mobutu Sese Seko; and the Hilton Addis, where Mengistu’s spies used to hangout.
Jamie was working through the week, so we spent time with him during two weekends and did two trips, one up north to Bahir Dar and Lalibela, and one down south to the Omo valley. I’ll write more about these incredible places later.
The above armoured vehicle was situated outside the hotel we stayed at, in Bahir Dar. Beside it, an armed guard at the hotel entrance made us feel safe.
My balloons went down well with the kids.
The awesome Ethiopian landscapes speak for themselves.