Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Our Transafrican Adventure in numbers: four nomads, one Land Rover …. aaaand …

37,521

kilometres alltogether

This might sound a lot ... Actually the distance northern Germany - Cape Town as the crow flies is way shorter than those 37.521 kilometres. But as we zig-zagged through the Balkans and Africa according to our daily feelings and never followed a fixed route, it was of course way longer.

A bridge in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

At Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

"There are no roads in Sudan", somebody said to us ... they were actually quite good in most places!

Above Fish River Canyon in Namibia.

34,600

kilometres in the Land Rover

And we still love driving in the Landy. From our point of view it was quite comfortable and we enjoyed driving quite a lot as we spent most of the time talking, singing, listening to audiobooks together and at the same time interesting people and landscapes passed by our windows. Sometimes the road traffic was challenging - before we started the trip we had imagined the road conditions being more challenging.

Driving a Land Rover is great fun!

And there's a lot to see next to the roads!

 
 

2,921

kilometres in rental cars

It was strange to drive a "small" rental car after having driven so many kilometres in the Land Rover. It felt like our bums were scratching on the tar actually! Still, if you ship home your Landy, you will definitely  either have to wait without a car or use a rental.

Is it a CAR?

Really!?

905

likes for our Facebook site during the trip

We have never been too much after "Likes" on Facebook but still they were a way people could tell us that they were interested in what we wrote and pictured. This made us happy, we have to admit!

384

days on the road

... and we could have gone on!

290

days spent in Africa

... were definitely NOT enough! Africa is absolutely gripping! It is like a virus you cannot be cured from!

160    

nights spent on campsites

Campsites in Africa vary a lot. You can get everything from being in the absolute wilderness (Okavango Delta) and having a private ablution block, barbeque et cetera in Namibia or South Africa. You will almost never have a German-style campsite (GOOD!). Sometimes we also camped next to restaurants, lodges, in the courtyard of hotels.

Our camp on a farm-campsite in Namibia ("Mesosaurus Camp"). A bit like in the wilderness.

But you do have campsites with your own "house" with all kinds of personal facilities ...

... like a kitchen ...

... and a veranda with a view.

 

Our camp in the Okavango Delta ... no fences and loads of animals. So, elephants, hippos, gazelle, lions and whatever else pass through the camp, mostly at night! Never go to the toilet at night! At least we didn't!

 

127

nights spent in private households (in 21 different households ranging from a 1500 year-old mountain-village-farmhouse in Ethiopia to a big house directly below Table Mountain in South Africa or a Beach House directly at the Indian Ocean)

This we had not imagined. Completely unknown people contacted us before and during the trip to invite us into their homes, just because they found our blog on the internet and somehow must have liked us or at least found us interesting enough to invite us. This actually shows the immense support, blogs and Facebook can provide for any traveller. We also feel that it was a good decision to blog in English, as that way we could reach more and international people. The friendliness and hospitality we were approached with was unimaginably touching. We wish that Europeans and Germans especially were as nice to strangers as Africans and people on the Balkans were to us.

In most cases we felt like being family members from abroad.

Especially with the van der Merwes in Namibia on their small farm "Eisgaubib".

In the Tigrinyan mountain village Zik'allay - Anouk's favorite place in Ethiopia.

In here - the kitchen - people from the same family have lived for the last 1500 years. For now, it is our bedroom.

106,36

Euros spent per day

This sounds a lot and probably it is. We had saved up for years for the trip and had 125€ per day. Still, we did not wild camp too often (as we could probably have done) ... and we have to admit that we did give us treats with good food and restaurants quite often. For sure, this sum could be way cheaper. Also, from what we have heard and read, East Africa is not the cheapest overland destination. So, also the area of the world you travel in definitely affects the daily budget a lot.

Yes, we do spend quite a lot money on good food. Here it is fresh Barracuda for Christmas in Kenya.

Lobster in Tanzania ... 8€ for 1,5 kilograms!

97,71

kilometres per day on average

Nearly one hundred kilometres per day might sound a lot on average, but it actually is not. This includes all the autobahn-kilometres and those on very good roads we easily put behind us in Europe and southern Africa ... It also includes the stretches, we just drove through non-stop (like from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border to Nairobi). We had many lazy days during our trip where we did not move a wheel at all!

94

days spent in Europe

Europe is wonderful and there is so much to discover. Period!

The old monks' rooms and monasteries in the cliffs at Meteora in Greece - an absolutely magical place!

Lake Koman ferry in Albania.

71

nights in hotels, B&Bs, hostels and holiday flats

As I said, this could easily be reduced. We just needed that every now and then to relax, recover and enjoy.

A family room at a lodge in Namibia.

And a hostel room (yes, this is no mistake ... this really is a room in a hostel) in Girokastër in Albania. The kids thought the house was haunted!

18

foreign countries visited

The original plan was to visit more countries on the way, but we did not want to "tick" countries but wanted to travel. This is where our route(s) took us.

16

nights spent wild camping

We love wild camping and we were surprised how easy and wonderful wild camping can be. Absolute highlights in this sense were Greece and Sudan. Still, there are countries, where camping in the wilderness for us was not an option, such as Ethiopia, where nearly every square meter is inhabited and we didn't like the feeling of being openly watched by tens of persons all the time.

A wildcamp in the Sahara desert in Sudan ... absolutely safe but (nice) people (and camels) will find you in the morning and try to trade with you.

Our wild camp at the (nudist) beach in Lefkhada in Greece. A wonderful place!

15,15

€ per night on average

Prices for accomodation vary considerably from country to country and region to region. The Balkans were cheap and good, whereas East Africa was quite expensive. Some campsites in southern Africa were completely for free for people driving a car licensed from overseas.

12,8

average fuel consumption in liters

Not much different compared to the consumtion we have recorded during other overland trips in Europe.

7

nights spent at family member's houses

... at the beginning and end of the trip.

6

things that broke (both water pumps, front prop shaft, central locking right rear passenger door, double shocker keep, Foxwing awning)

We had expected more things to break. And due to heat, dust and road conditions, we constantly expected more to happen. Maybe the small number of things that broke was due to using a relatively new, well maintenanced car and constant maintenance on the road (i.e. service every 5000 to 10000 km and directly before the trip). We think it is worth buying quality products intead of going for cheap options.

When the front propshaft started making funny noises, we used it for educational purposes immediately. We got it fixed within 48 hrs! In Africa!

On the way to Ol Doinyo Lengai in Kenya, the keep of the double shock absorbers broke. The village blacksmith easily fixed it at a very considerably price.

6

malaria tests

Malaria felt like a constant threat, especially thinking of the kids. We now think that we might have overrated Malaria, but are also 100% sure that being on the safe side healthwise never is a bad thing to do. Malaria tests and medication in Africa is relatively cheap (for us Europeans with hard currency at least) and doctors know more how to treat Malaria than our doctors sometimes as they are constantly exposed to the problem.

3

uncomfortable situations

Actually, two of these happened in northern Africa. Juliane had two situations where she felt uncomfortably approached by men, in Egypt and Sudan. But there is a big difference between cities like Cairo and Khartoum and small villages. We felt absolutely safe and extremely politely treated in the villages. Mischa would have had no problem of leaving Juliane and the two girls behind there for a while. The third incident was a misunderstanding with customs officials at a checkpoint in Ethiopia about 200km away from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border. We drove on without being allowed to (which we could not figure out because of unclear signs), people stopped us, came running at us in uniforms waving weapons and made us go back behind a piece of rope across the street . While reversing, Mischa bumped into a concrete pillar on the road and went mad.

 

This barber stole a kiss from Juliane while Mischa and the girls were in the same room. Juliane didn't want to tell Mischa right away as she feared he would go wild ...

 

3

times servicing the Land Rover

As we said before, service is the key to everything staying in good shape car-wise!

 

First service at "JBK" in Athens - the Greek Land Rover "horse whisperers".

 

2

speeding tickets

Mischa got his first two speeding tickets in Africa. His first two EVER! ... on two successive days. And he was speeding!

Quite beautiful actually! BUT I DON'T drive a LANDCRUISER!

1

car breakdown

Only one time our car broke down completely ... on a major crossroads in Arusha, Tanzania, when the president was visiting the city. ... 2 km away from a Land Rover garage ... It took 45 minutes from the time the Landy broke down to have the car towed to the garage. ... And the manager of the garage took us home with him for the night. The next day everything was fixed again.

1

visitor from Germany

Mischa's mother visited us in Ethiopia, which was absolutely great. It was a brave thing to do for a lady of 67 who had never been to Africa before!

Bajaj outing with Oma Babs.

And she brought Swiss cheese - a rare thing in southern Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia ... worth its weight in gold almost!

0

bribes

We never pay bribes as the next travellers have to pay even higher prices. Also, we never give "gifts" for services that are not special. Whenever people really do things for us, we pay a fair price, though! We don't want to support a "bribe and beg" mentality, but want to make people start their own initiatives to make a living and support their families. When people are ill and sick, we sometimes go and buy food for them or give some medication.

0

punctures

... good tyres pay off! BF Goodrich Mud Terrain KM2! Never change a winning team!

 
 

0

robberies

... even though people could have robbed us easily. Was it luck? We don't know! We nearly always felt safe!

0

abductions

... see above!

0

days in prison

... see above! Although we were absolutely happy to be out of Ethiopia, as the traffic there is an absolute mess (Mischa would love to drive again in Cairo and Khartoum, but NOT in Ethiopia) and pedestrians don't know how to cope with modern road traffic. There are hundreds of people on the road, cattle, sheep and goats everywhere ... at night, people even sleep on the road. If you injure or kill somebody in an accident, you have to expect being lynched by the mob or will be put into prison for seven years. Even the embassies advise people to leave the country immediately after a fatal accident with a local person.

...

countless

new friends, experiences, things we learned

That's why we love traveling so much! There is nothing more to say!

Our kids make friends easily everywhere. Here in Namibia with Max and Irmgard.

The Calders in South Africa.

At the friday prayer in Omdurman in Sudan.

In "Anouk's mountain village" Zik'allay in Ethiopia.

Games in Kenya ...

... and in Ethiopia.

Farm friends in Namibia.

... with their wonderful parents.

Juliane and Zeinab in Cairo.

With Sam Watson in Cairo.

With Mohammed ("Mo") of "Adam Home Overland Camp" in Aswan.

... more friends in Khartoum, Sudan.

With Tyseer on a boat trip in Khartoum.

And with Sheikh Mohammad Mubarak and Tyseer in Khartoum.

With Chief Mkwawa and his family in Iringa, Tanzania.

With Ian, the manager of the Land Rover garage in Arusha.

With our travel friends "Six en Piste" from France who are now travelling in South America.

Lars - a wonderful family father, friend and Land Rover mechanic with a most wonderful family - in Nairobi.

... and so many many more! We miss you guys! Dearly!

Back Home Again …

Until recently we still enjoyed wonderful South Africa ... having traversed Europe and Africa from North to South ... and just as if it was only a short holiday, we are suddenly back in our every day life at home. Time and space have definitely proven to be very relative during the last couple of months. The complete distance of 37.521 kilometres which we have at most times wonderfully dawdled away within 384 days, but which still was at times hard-earned, we have on our way back just flown by airplane ... from East London in South Africa via Johannesburg and Dubai to Frankfurt in only 22 hours! Unbelievable how we today are able to just "tunnel" vast distances like that and also the wonderfully colorful life down on the Earth's surface. We can literally "beam" us from A to B and thereby skip countless and wonderfully exciting parallel worlds.

Coming home after a year full of experiences, adventures and personal and deeply touching encounters with other people, after a year with a wonderful distance to our "normal" every day life at home emotionally to us seemed like a whole mountain-massif.

"How will we be able to cope with the system-constraints of our every day life after this vivid freedom which every day allowed us to do whatever we actually wanted to?"

"Will friends turn their backs on us because of envy and jealousy?"

"Will the constellations in the circle of friends of our daughters have become re-arranged completely without them with the result that they will have become outsiders and social loners?"

"Will we - after all the intense cordiality of the people we have experienced on the Balkans and in Africa - be able to cope with the German mentality again (which we actually have never really been able to cope with even before!)?"

These and other questions ran through our heads, especially so during the last two weeks in (South) Africa.

It was perfect that we had decided on a "gentle return" which enabled us as a family to relax from traveling, to talk and reflect and dream of further plans.

We spent 14 wonderful days in the beachhouse of our dear travel friends Stan and Anne Weakley (their absolutely great African travel blog is www.slowdonkey.com) who we met by chance on the road between the Simien Mountains and Axum in Ethiopia (here is our blog post from Ethiopia).

 

Juliane had just recovered from eight days of diarrhea then ...

 

We met them again by chance at Kilifi in Kenya (here is the Kilifi blogpost) and because of the intensive time we spent together they have become very close friends, for our daughters even something like "elected grandparents".

"Granddad elect" Stan ...

Baking ...

... enjoying Anne's Bobotie ...

... campfire cuisine ...

... and Braai ...

 

... and Potjie of course!

 
 

And Pete's gorgeous farewell dinner.

 

With freshly shackled Cefani rock oysters,

mussels

 

... and Stan's crayfish. Delicious! Fattening time!

 

So, we felt very much at home with them, went to the beach, went shopping, cooked and feasted extensively (thanks to Anne & Stan, Pete & Christel and Mischa), talked, talked and talked and enjoyed the time as an "African" extended family. ... Until the day came when Stan and Anne took us to the airport.

It was like saying goodbye to dear family members ... affectionate, sad ... "When will we meet again?" ...

On the flights back, the European fear of terrorism draws level with us. Because of what we had heard and watched in the news during the last twelve months we already had an uneasy feeling to fly back home to Germany, to Frankfurt, one of the hubs of air traffic in Europe which thus could be a highly endangered location for terror. And - as if we had foreseen it - somebody scribbles a security comment on our boarding passes. Somewhere a thorough security check would be waiting for us. Not for the first time, as Mischa had been suspected to be a terrorist already in 2006/07 at JFK airport when we came back from our honeymoon trip to New York and Costa Rica. This time it might be because we have been to Sudan and fly back to Germany with Emirates Airways via Dubai. America has a firm grip on worldwide air traffic and all passenger information!

What we did not know at that moment was the fact that at the same time when we left South Africa, several people were shot at a shopping centre in Munich by a man who at that time was suspected to be an ISIS-terrorist. Because of this a warning had been issued by German and international intelligence to thoroughly check all people traveling to Germany. Lucky enough, the flights were long enough so that by and by people found out more about what was really happening in Munich and the assassin turned out to be a mentally ill person. "Welcome back!" from "dangerous Africa" to "safe Europe"!

We arrived back in Europe one week earlier than originally planned due to the fact that on the trip our daughter Anouk dearly missed her 96-year-old great grandmother.

 

Good old gran with her four great-grandchildren. May she rest in peace!

 

So, we wanted to surprise both and secretly booked the flights one week earlier so that Anouk would have a full week with her great-grandmother. However, because of this plan, we found out what we were not supposed to find out: Anouk's great grandmother and "chief" of the whole family was on her deathbed. Just days before we came back to Germany she closed her wise eyes for ever. Together, we had cried and talked "at home" in Stan and Anne's beachhouse. Now, back in Germany, Mischa's complete family was waiting for us in great-grandmother's house. We spent moving days together and said farewell to a wonderfully strong woman who had seen so very much during her long life.

...

As a challenge for the new stage of life after our overland adventure and after many interesting encounters, we had decided to get an addition to the family.

 

Something had happened ... our daughters who feared dogs suddenly loved dogs!

Look at THAT!

 

At Cape Agulhas (here is the blog post), we had decided to buy a Border Collie puppie after we had discovered that our two daughters after some warming up just love dogs.

 

Border Collies are cool!

 

So, we informed ourselves about good dog breeders in northern Germany and on the way to pick up our Land Rover in Rotterdam, we managed to check one. As soon as you see those bubbly-fluffy puppies, all doubts vanish instantly. As the puppies at that time were still too young for us to directly take them with us, we had to leave "our" dog behind ... We left full of thrills of anticipation about the new family member and drove on to meet Marit and Jan, travel friends from the Netherlands, who would help us get our Landy "Nyati" out of customs in Rotterdam.

 

With Marit and Jan in the Okavango Delta

 

Well, imagine us sitting with Marit and Jan, whom we had last met in the Okavango Delta (here is the blog post) and Kruger National Park (here is the Kruger post), in a typically Dutch restaurant somewhere near Amsterdam when an email reaches us from the freight forwarders ... telling us that we can't collect our beloved Land Rover as the container it is in seems to be inhabited by a multitude of spiders.

 

At least Nyati is not alone in that container ... but SPIDERS!?

 

Thus, the whole container has to be gased to kill the animals. We can only get back our Landy after it has been gased and thoroughly aired. We react with a mixture of amusement and disappointment, but Africa has made us considerably more relaxed and what else can we do than proceed to the harbour of Neuharlingersiel in our rental car to sail back to our little North Sea sandbank called "Spiekeroog".

Having just arrived at the harbour in the "beeeautiful" rental car ...

... we are on board a sailing ship ...

 

... crazy Sóley loves it ...

 
 

... even though the weather turns bad in no time - "traditions"!

 

There, we are being picked up by Mischa's mother and her partner with their sailing boat. After a sunny cup of tea during the passage to our island, the weather veers, dark clouds appear and the sea is getting rougher and rougher ... just like on the very day when we had left home more than a year earlier.

 

That's how we had started one year earlier ... slightly younger ... but more relaxed!????

 

Christina, Sóley's beloved kindergarten teacher, gives us a surprise-welcome.

More unexpected friends ... thanks Lasse, Merle and Swaantje! Did you see the tears of happiness in our eyes?

But in spite of this "typical North Sea weather", friends who had found out about our "secret" homecoming, were waiting at the island's harbour to take over the ropes and take us in their arms again.

 

If good friends take on the ropes it might not be a bad sign at all!

 

What a warm and wonderful welcome! Just as we like it! Maybe, coming home will not be too bad after all!?

The few days we have to wait until we can move back in into our old house on the campus of our boarding school, we spend in the house of Mischa's mother to celebrate her birthday.

Our home is so unexpectedly beautiful!

Lazy Sóley!

On my first bicycle trip from the island's village to the boarding school, I amazedly observe how wonderfully colourful the blooming meadows next to the road are, the horses and birds and the evening mood. "How sad that I don't have the camera with me!", I think even though in our every day lives, we speed this way without realising its beauty focussed on the hamster wheel of work and lose the eye for this beauty.

The two weeks we have for "nest-building" go by so very quick and we take the chance to re-furnish our house even more snugly than it was before, not least because of all the "treasures" we brought home from this overland trip. Us adults finally again enjoy to have our own bath, bedroom, sofa and laundry machine and our two daughters are extremely happy to have their rooms back. Still, Sóley feels lonesome at night when she is supposed to sleep alone in her room. She says that these nights are more creepy than any night spent in Nyati's "belly" in the middle of the wilderness with lions roaring in the distance. At daytime, she is impressed by the multitude of books and toys she seems to have forgotten about. The room we had "on board" of our Land Rover for toys and everything else of course was very limited and it had become normal for the girls to play with sticks, stones, plant seeds, sea shells et cetera in the sand. Most other children they had met on the road didn't have more than that and it was a real highlight whenever Anouk pulled her "Double Dutch" out of her pocket.

Yes, very different worlds collided for us during our trip and when coming home and constantly challenge(d) us in our cultural adaptability. Really "classic" social rituals at home suddenly feel "strange".

After we had arrived just in time to witness our older daughter Anouk being officially "thrown out of kindergarten", we could now experience the school enrollment of our first child.

In my family the first day at school is a big family celebration and Anouk had sent invitations already from Africa. As it is usual for this occasion, Anouk got a multitude of large school cones full of sweets, toys and useful things for her time at school. After a relaxed weekend with the family, the first-graders were, as it is the custom here on Spiekeroog, blessed by the priest of the Protestant old island church and the school's headmistress during a powerful church service. Strangely, the religious background of the families present did not play any role in that. Here, everybody "has to be a Christian", obviously ... And maybe not a world citizen!

Our party with the "Bundu Rovers" in Kenya ... still one of our absolute highlight ...

... and extremely open and respectful regardless of different skin color, ethnic background and religion.

We remember our campfire night with the Bundu Rovers in Nairobi in the Ngong hills (remember "Once I had a farm in Africa!"), where all religions present were treated with a natural respect and everything from food to alcohol to the complete celebration was planned and put through not to offend anybody present. Is Europe as open, democratic and culturally considerate as it pretends to be?

 
 

The fire brigade gives the kids a lift and finally, after a staged odyssey, drops them off at the island school.

You ring that bell on your very first and very last day at school.

Proud parents!

After a "birthday marathon" now, our first steps into our boarding school life are there. What wears us out the most actually is the bio rhythm of our bodies ... not only have we exchanged South African winter with European summer with long days and short nights, but also on the road our complete life was more adapted to the natural cause of time, natural requirements like hunger, tiredness and safety. My watch, which broke right at the beginning of the trip, I never really missed. Here back home, it was one of the very first things I bought to be able to survive the neatly clocked everyday (work) life which is not following any natural and individual logic by a systemic order only.

 

Sailing with Stefanus.

 

A few weeks after the revival of our old work-routine, Stefanus, a friend, more like a new family member, from Namibia visits us. He traveled through Africa from England to his home in Windhoek in his brand-new Land Rover Defender together with a friend.

 

Jep, the same man! Would you have recognized him??

 

We met the mysteriously-unkempt Land Rover brother together with his so-called "sister" at "Jungle Junction" in Nairobi and later at his parents' place in Windhoek, on their family farm South West of Windhoek (here is the blog post) and later in Cape Town. Having a beer in the school's discotheque, the "Beathaus", we philosophy about our time in Africa and about the fact that sometimes the whole trip now feels like "a movie", something that tore us out of "normal life", has deeply moved and enriched, but suddenly is over and one is back in normality. But we completely agree that such a break with all its encounters, experiences, adventures and challenges, leaves deep and sustainable traces in peoples' characters. What impact these will have on the long run only time will tell!

Stefanus has brought a Zebra hide from their home-farm ... yes, all paperwork done!

And a Nguni hide as well - we will exchange that with a hide of one of our Galloway cattle.

After a wonderful late summer, the rough autumn winds not only sweep the leaves from the trees. It also takes the soothing joy of the reunion with it and leaves countless shades of grey with many people who only want to think in black and white. And there it is, "Bang!", we are again confronted with the cold, German mentality, which after having experienced the multitude of warm and welcoming encounters, cordiality and helpfulness, feels icy cold and bitter. But we already know this, have experienced that before and have expected this to happen, so that we can comment it with relaxed but maybe still sad smiles. But balancing costs an awful lot of energy!

Agulhas!

Deeply in love already!

Very helpful in that are our two daughters Sóley and Anouk who seem to take everything way easier than we do ... and of course our new Border Collie puppie "Agulhas", named after one of our favourite places in Africa, Cape Agulhas.

Yes, even though it is bad manners for Germans to say such a thing, we can be very proud of our family and of what we have managed to successfully do together! A new travel dream, idea, plan saves us from falling into a sort of limbo and motivates us to work for a wonderfully colorful future against all odds! And it is fascinating to wait what will evolve from that!

Oh, yes, and - of course - after some time and getting rid of the spider-pest, our beloved Land Rover Nyati finally arrives back home as well.

 

Yes, they tried to keep Nyati! But we stole him back from those crazy Dutch! Thanks Marit and Jan for your help and friendship!

 

Nyati is ...

... back home! Re-united!

Many thanks to everybody who have followed and supported us during the last year! All our love we send to you!

Of course, on this blog there is more to come, so "stay tuned"! Also, we look forward to launching our second blog www.Ocean-Gypsies.de . The "Ocean Gypsies" Facebook page can already be found here.

Why many people don’t go on extended travel

Why actually do so few people from the "western World" travel the world overland long term?

During a long "kitchen party" together with another German overland-family we discussed this question.

 

We love long kitchen parties ... not just before a long day of traveling!

 

Especially in industrial nations many people are extremely focused on consumerism and competition. Long term travel is nearly always connected to a long-term withdrawal from the competition with colleagues at work, which can even lead to a jobwise "powerloss". The jobwise position can most surely not be kept during a long term travel. Earning money in the "normal" way most of the times also doesn't work, so people can't consume the products advertisements make us believe we need as life-essentials.

Fearing these two aspects deeply combined with a general and all-embracing angst concerning the "dangerous world out there" is the basic reason why so many of the citizens of the so-called "Western World" do not go out to take a personal look at the rest of our globe.

But it is also the simple fear of "being singled out because of being different" that stops people from going on a long term travel, as everybody knows that every single bit of "differentness" from the "norms" can lead to social isolation - in spite of the fact that we base our governments, cultures, job-culture and circle of friends on democratic systems stating that everybody is appreciated, approved and recognized in their otherness.

By many members of the so-called "upper classes" and the "educated classes", for example, the overland traveller is being looked down upon from the safari-cars as being somewhat inferior and being some kind of "left-wing-progressive camper rucksack tourist" who is not able to afford "proper travel".

 

This is real luxury: a warm night, a blazing fire, good food and drink, nice company ... and all "homemade".

 

From the perspective of the so-called "lower classes" long term travelers are viewed as "posh tourists who can afford constant vacation" ... We have met members of all occupational groups on our travels: from bus driver to university professor and from nurse to medical doctor or teacher.

People who do long term travel have to accept that for the "system", they have now thoroughly become "strange" and even "suspicious" persons.

Fundamentalists? ...

Terrorists? ...

... or just culturally interested, aware and respectful?!

To just give one example here from entering the USA, please read the following conversation between a traveler and US-customs: "Why did you travel to the Middle East?" ... "I didn't!" ... "Your passport states that you have recently been to Egypt!" ... "Ah, but that is Africa, isn't it!?" ... For government bodies and system followers it is unimaginable that people travel to Egypt or Sudan out of pure personal cultural interest, so everybody suggests terrorist motives these days.

When in Rome do as the Romans do!

Deep in conversation without a shared language!

For families with young children the situation with long-term travel is even more difficult, because everybody assumes that because their kids have been out of the school system, they will miss out on subject matters and thus will have less good starting positions on the jobwise competition-sprint.

 

Travel school can look quite "traditional"

 

Because schools have been "invented" by countries to recruit young talents for industry and economy, caring parents assume that their offspring will become disadvantaged because of long-term travel. Educational failure as the result of long-term travel! We are clear that schools have always been and today especially are very intensively controlled by the industry and do not focus on education from and for the child - why else still subjects such as music, arts and P.E. are the "Cinderellas" of school subjects at ALL schools from state to private!? In this context it by the way is quite enthralling that the internationally famous "PISA-study", which compares different school systems in different countries, is being financed and controlled by the international industry and economy.

Alongside the educational aspect quite a few people assume that "travel-children" might become "asocial monsters" because they allegedly lack contact to peers.

There are many opportunities for social interactions when traveling!

Everybody loves playing games!

One of our former colleagues postulated before we left home that all travel-children she had met until then had social adaptive difficulties and were eventually unhappy because of that.

Additionally, parents fear illnesses and diseases and because of that don't travel. Africa in itself is life-endangering! But with the help of good means of communication when traveling, vaccinations, medication, intensive planning, good travel-insurance and consulting specialist medical doctors it is possible to reduce those risks considerably. The long-term-traveler from industrial nations is anyway privileged, as he can always "pull out the trump-card" of a hard currency in the case of any medical problem and immediately be treated in a good private hospital ... even in Africa ... and in opposition to the local population which is not able to afford any good medical care of this kind!

When hearing of our travel plans, people accused us of being egoistic because we decided on traveling long-term instead of asking our kids (which, by the way we did and thus they were the major force to change the continent we planned to travel to).

 

Our kids just love Africa ... and decided to come back here because in Germany they missed the warmth of the people!

 

Everybody reading this might be ask themselves who exactly is the most egoistic, the parent who goes to work nine to five seven days a week to earn enough money for consumerism and then when they are traveling stay at a club for two weeks and send their children to the club's child care for most of the day to be able to play tennis, go running et cetera ... or the parents who invest time in family and children and "even" do without earning a wage for a long period of time.

Time with their parents is what young kids really need!

Child labor or sharing responsibilities?!

One thing that includes all the aspects described above for parents and their children alike are the media, the true "opium of the people", which are used to create a fear that makes people seek refuge in investing and saving money, over-insurance, travel-reluctance and at the same time is soothing, tranquilizing and satisfying addictions. The media-reports are the "modern sea monsters" that once used to be painted on maps at Columbus' times to instil fear in the too adventurous and restrict trade and navigatory knowledge to a small circle of insiders. People are not supposed to go out and explore on their own because they then would start to question the reports, prejudices and news and would realize that the all-encompassing fear homespun by bestseller-negative-news, half-truths and lies is completely made-up and unnecessary. People would maybe then discover that Muslims can be quite nice or African policemen not always corrupt ... the power to control and navigate people using fear would be gone then! Fairly dangerous!

It is intended and piloted by economy, politics and media that the Germans, Europeans, "Westerners" do not travel to far away lands because of this fear and in case they travel abroad in spite of that, then at a max they should travel to "safe trade partners". The "precious Euros or Dollars" are please to be spent in the domestic economy zone and rather not travel as a form of private foreign aid to Africa! And if Africa is the destination, please only book via overpriced European travel agencies so that a substantial part of that money can be skimmed at home instead of traveling individually without any pree-bookings!

...

But what is the real situation like during a long term travel concerning the aspects and concepts above?

Traveling definitely is an absolute "eye opener"! Apart from many learning experiences on the more intellectual side the most essential new experience caused by travel is to learn how to get rid of your fears. These fears eliminate themselves in any case when people realize that the "world outside" is not as bad as the media make us think it is.

For us it was for example quite scary at the beginning to wild-camp somewhere in the Sudanese desert because due to one-sided media cover, Sudan is considered an "absolutely dangerous country".

 

A wild camp in the Sudanese Sahara ... very relaxing and deeply touching instead of being dangerous!

 

We have finally camped wild regularly in Sudan and have felt very very safe, safer actually than in other places in Africa or even Europe!

An intensive openness concerning new situations is something that "just happens anyway" when you are traveling outside of your comfort zone and cultural sphere.

At the same time one learns to restrain oneself on the bare essentials.

 

Everything has to fit into the "small" Land Rover ... bare necessities of life!

 

With that, you automatically leave the consumerist-competition and instead of consuming "things" one indulges in deep, intensive human encounters ... traveling definitely also is making a move to a more social being. Once people asked us whether it is not boring not to build, create, construct something for one complete year ... our answer was and still is, "We do exactly that: we establish new ties and relations and stabilize those within the family, with the partner and with our children.

...

But what about the problem areas concerning children and education as stated above?

While traveling we have witnessed how our children "naturally" learned a foreign language, English, without any teacher in the traditional sense and without any learning material.

Natural learning: hatching turtles (science)

... zoology ...

... geology, mineralogy ...

... and gardening.

Furthermore, our two daughters were allowed to find out about their limits, could test themselves and by that find a different "inner ease of mind". Definitely, our children have become more culturally aware and also more cosmopolitan and open minded.

 
 

Life in the open in combination with more attention by the parents (who don't have to go to work) and simply more time gives the chance to include the children in many ways in travel planning, navigation, cooking, car-maintenance et cetera.

Mechanics and car maintenance ...

... help is always needed!

The great majority of contacts kids establish to other traveling children, adults and Africans of all ages are not rational but highly flexible and creative, especially when it comes to language(s)! At the same time even very young children learn a natural media competence by communicating with family and friends at home using emails, Facebook, Skype and the such.

 

Even "old school letters" reach us sometimes!

 

Believe it or not: our kids so far have not become "asocial monsters" - quite the contrary is true!

 
 

Ill or sick our kids were probaly not more than they would have been had we stayed at home. It is only more inconvenient when you are traveling! Our two daughters had gastro-intestinal problems (Anouk once and Sóley twice), tonsillitis (Anouk once and Sóley twice) and an ear infection (Anouk once). That was "it"! Still, we nearly always had the fear for malaria at the back of our necks even though all of us were on antimalarials.

...

Still, extended travel is not a "universal remedy" just as any "prenatal musical character coining" of all children using Mozart without taking into account the mother's favourite music is! Certainly, we don't want to persuade anybody and we also don't want to be fundamentalist in this direction! Those who love traveling will love long term travel and will profit from that and will experience great benefits in their children. Even the people you meet on the road will benefit from these encounters! On the long run travel will establish more mutual understanding! In addition to that long-term travel enables you to spend relaxed and intensive, sometimes challenging time together as a family and escape the competition about power and consumerism for a while! Certainly, after such a travel one has changed many points of view in many different fields!

For sure, we don't want to give the impression here that everybody HAS TO TRAVEL! There are many ways of living and what we do is just one of them! With this blog post we try to discuss why the majority of people in "our world" might fear long term travel! ... and we want to provide "food for thought"!

 
 

“So, how was Ethiopia?”

Since we arrived in Kenya and especially during our three stays at Jungle Junction, the well-known overlanders campsite in Nairobi, people again and again have asked us for an account of the experiences we made in Ethiopia. Most overlanders at the moment seem to start in South Africa and don't plan to go further north than Kenya but still some are planning to go through Ethiopia soon and are mainly interested in road conditions and rumours about begging and stone throwing children. Had they asked us these questions a year ago after our first four weeks of Ethiopia, we would have been a bit more positive about these topics.

The four godchildren of our school ... It was great to meet them again after 10 months!

 
 

Last time we took a plane to get there, stayed at the non-touristic town of Adigrat, most of the time volunteering for a German NGO in a kindergarden. This way we were integrated, drove around with locals in local cars and bajaj and were being appreciated for bringing knowledge to the country. Because of these positive experiences and deep personal relationships we were able to establish, we actually decided to go to Africa instead of going to South America as initially planned.

This time while overlanding in Ethiopia, our experiences are different. This might be due to many causes. Certainly the quite exhausting travel to Ethiopia through the desert instead of boarding a plane makes a huge difference and can be one point in the list concerning this aspect. Another one is that for the people next to the road, we travel in our own car with a foreign license plate and thus obviously are rich tourists. We don't work at one place but go sightseeing and have a completely different "status" now. As one of the participants of Mischa's free English lessons at Agoro Lodge in Adigrat quite openly stated, before she had worked in the tourist business, "Ferengi" (foreigner) were only "dollarnotes on two legs" for her. Now, overlanding here, we have to endure continuously begging children at all the sights we visit and even whereever we stop along the road. In Adigrat we really enjoyed the liveliness, but this time we really have to endure the negative sides of Ethiopia's overpopulation. Juliane, suffering from diorrhea, has to cope with a group of more than six children watching her while she has to find a place to relieve herself (the rest you can imagine!).

Still, also on this trip, with nearly all adults we meet we experience the sudden and non-expecting help from locals, such as Dr. Hayelum (who has 16 family members living on what he earns and who don't feel they have to go to work to bring in their share), who treats Juliane without accepting any payment ("You will do the same for me when I visit your country!" was what he replied). Also, well-educated locals were a great help in bridging the language barrier gap due to poor English skills of most Ethiopians. They translated and explained a lot.

A major negative aspect definitely are the the road conditions on some main roads which are really bad if you compare them to those in the southern part of Africa. Many roads have been cheaply "Made by China", and thus, roads are sometimes full of potholes, deep wheel ruts and sometimes whole parts of the roads have gone down the hillside. Generally, we feel that Europe and the "western world" in general still doesn't have a correct picture of Africa in their heads ... which leads to the Chinese (and Indian) governments and businessmen freely and rather successfully following their neo-colonialist policies. We hear that the African Development Bank has given all countries in East Africa money to improve the road conditions on the road between Cape Town and Cairo so that in the future the complete road will be tarmac. This at the moment actually leads to hundreds of kilometres of completely unstructured chaotic roadworks, also because the foreign contractors (China and India again!) building the roads simply don't care about the locals who have to use these road-wrecks in their everyday lives.

In addition to the road conditions there are constantly a lot of animals and people on the roads who are not following any rules, simply because they don't have private cars and just don't understand how to deal with traffic. If in this traffic-chaos somebody by accident kills a pedestrian, he will immediately be sent to prison (if guilty for at least seven years). Policemen at checkpoints usually are not at all interested in us. But at one incident, the rope (i.e. the barrier across the road) is lowered, we go through ... and all of a sudden people come running, yell at us and push us back behind the barrier waving their guns at us. We respond too quickly and bang the Land Rover into a concrete pillar next to the road, which did not really lead to a more relaxed atmosphere!

We would definitely recommend a proper 4wd car for anybody who is intending to visit Ethiopia! Don't ever drive at night and during daytime, be extra careful and never speed! An on-board toilet might be a good thing to add to the list of equipment!

...

"But, after these many negative aspects stated, is it really worth traveling to Ethiopia at all?" We can give a definite "Yes!" as an answer!

According to legend, in this church the "Ark of the Covenant" is kept.

St Giorgis, one of the famous rock hewn churches in Lalibela.

"Yes" because the cultures in Ethiopia are so unique in Africa and in so many respects so very near to "us" in Europe and closely related (i.e. the story of the "ark of the covenant" which is kept in Axum, the churches in Lalibela and the century-old connections between Ethiopia and the Jewish, Christian and Muslim world) and at the same time other cultures in the country are so extremely different that it seems really unimaginable that we live at the same time on the same planet with them. Another "Yes" is closely related to the cultures, because there is one thing nearly all Ethiopians have in common: if you get to know people and make friends with them, you are treated as a family member and they will give everything for you even though they sometimes have so very few material wealth to share. We can learn so much from their humble and even-temperes manners!

There is no "Yes" if you want to go to Ethiopia for game drives watching impressive African wildlife, but a definite "Yes" if you are interested in impressively beautiful and magic landscape á la Grand Canyon, Monument Valley et cetera. The only "thing" Ethiopia is missing actually is the sea.

Next time (and there definitely will be a "next time"!), we will have to see the Danakil depression and the Erta Ale lava lake. At the moment our two daughters simply are to young for this adventure!

...

What are our hopes and visions for Ethiopia's future?

Ethiopia has an impressively high touristic potential which so far has not been used to its full potential at all. Instead the rather "colonial" tourism mentality simply has spoiled the Ethiopian society by many tourists throwing candies out of their windows as if traveling Ethiopia was a visit at the carnival in Cologne. Tourists are freely giving away pencils and even footballs and by that downright instigate the kids to go on begging for more whenever they meet tourists. What has worked once so fast becomes a habit, especially with young children! This does not help at all but causes dependency which in Omo Valley leads to the situation that if you want to take photographs, you have to pay some dollars per photo you take (we heard of US$5 per photo). As the "models" know exactly how to position themselves, all photos look the same, just compare them on the internet and you know what we mean. Most of them even have the same people portrayed. The photographer does not capture a special moment but here we simply speak of a mass product! This is why we did not want to go there. We wanted to avoid the "Disneyworld-atmosphere" because for us, cultural experiences have to be reciprocal and taken seriously which includes respect from both sides.

Then, "help for Ethiopia" should and can not be achieved by anonymous money or donated items and dependency resulting from this, but by personal commitment by PEOPLE like you and me transfering education, knowledge and personal encounters in all imaginable fields (hygiene, education without the use of violence, effective teaching at schools, economy et cetera). In this, the local traditions and customs should definitely not be ignored. A new approach to foreign aid can not mean creating "German" schools, kindergartens, farms or factories in Ethiopia. The traditions are so very much deeply rooted here, deeper than in many other cultures, that this aspect has to be taken care of intensively! But especially these deep roots and this deep connection to history and land is what gives Ethiopia this unique charme, which is the base of the immense tourist potential and which makes every visit extremely interesting and also rewarding for the traveler in spite of all challenges and obstacles that may appear.

...

What tips for other travelers would we pass on here?

 

Take your time, stay a while at places and get to know the locals.

Get into personal contact with the locals and please don't worry eating with them from one commonly shared plate using your hands - only this way you can really experience the traditional ways of living and begin to understand this wonderful country and it's peoples even rudimentarily.

Do not expect to be able to have a life like it is at home in Europe and reduce all expectations concerning hygiene, electricity or water supply, proper milk products (no butter, cheese and milk to be found normally!) et cetera and instead of insulting employees at restaurants, hotels and lodges or being annoyed, just prepare and have bottled water with you, use solar torches and buy local sim cards for telephoning or internet (you will be surprised how good the coverage in general is!).

Try to prepare from a medical point of view as well. Train your body in advance, vaccinate, bring with you desinfectives, medication and use probiotics to reduce the chance or duration of diorrhea (it worked wonders with us!).

...

And: Please, whatever people tell you, go to Ethiopia, be open and make your own experiences. You will not regret it!

Ethiopian roads – from Addis Abeba to Nairobi using the “worst road of Africa” from Moyale to Isiolo (incl. border procedures, places to stay the night and visa issues)

 

The Kenyan border post at Moyale ... so very friendly and welcoming!

 

We avoided Addis Abeba, as for European citizens it is possible to get on-arrival visa at the border, and stayed in Awash National Park at the Awash Falls Lodge (N8° 50.574' E40° 00.753') overlooking the famous Awash Falls where you can watch the Nile crocodiles while you are having breakfast. There is a national park campsite about 300m away from the lodge (N8° 50.871' E40° 00.273'), which is a really nice camp in the bush - just beware of cheaky baboons!

Awash Falls Lodge - a great place to stay!

From Addis Abeba there are actually two parallel ways to reach the Ethiopian/Kenyan border town of Moyale about 1,000 km to the south: #1 The direct route via Shashemene, Hawassa (Awasa), Dila, Mega and finally Moyale and #2 the route which from Shashemene goes parallel to route #1 through Sodo, Arba Minch until it joins route #1 in Yabelo. Actually, we had expected the road to turn bad on the Kenyan side as the Moyale - Marsabit - Isiolo route had the reputation of being the most dangerous road in Africa for many years, we did not really check which route to take on the Ethiopian side. So we took route #1, which apparently was a mistake, as the roundabout 230km from Hawassa (Awasa) down to Surupa are the worst road we have so far encountered in all Africa, actually in all our travels. It is impossible to ravel this road with a normal car and in a 4x4 or truck it is really challenging ... the roundabout 500km from Shashemene to Moyale take between eleven and fourteen (!) hours and are a hard test for man and material. When we asked drivers working for local tourist agencies, they told us that route #2 is the better one which is even manageable to drive in a normal car or even camper van.

Aregash Lodge

This is our "room" ... gorgeous when normally you live with four people on roundabout six square meters!

If you still decide on taking route #1, the "Aregash Lodge" (N6° 44.954' E38° 26.629') in Yirga Alem, owned by an Ethiopian/Greek/Italian family is a wonderful place to rest a while. The lodge is a peaceful haven for the weary traveler and the bamboo thatched Tukuls simply are pure luxury and the prices (also negotionable!) are quite reasonable if you bear in mind the nearly European standard not to be seen too often here in Ethiopia. The food the on site restaurant prepares (both buffet and á la carte) is splendid and a good fusion between international and traditional Ethiopian recipies.

After having experienced the road conditions on the Ethiopian side of the road between Addis and Nairobi, we did not really know what to expect on the Kenyan side.

In Moyale (Ethiopian side), the "best" place to stay for one night is the Koket Borena Hotel in Moyale (N3° 32.678' E39° 02.909') which has a walled courtyard where your car is safely parked. Rooms are cheap (around 500Birr, about 23€) but the standard is rather low and nobody speaks proper English.

The border procedures are easy (coming from the north: first go to immigration, then to customs on the Ethiopian side and check in with the police first, then go to immigration and then have your Carnet stamped at customs on the Kenyan side) and there is absolutely no hassle by any "agents" or "fixers" of the kind every traveller in Africa just "likes"! All officials we met both on the Ethiopian and Kenyan side are really friendly and helpful. On the Ethiopian side immigration opens at 7:00 in the morning and customs at 8:00 (counter three, if that one is not occupied you have got to ask at one of the other counters, if you don't ask, it might be that nobody serves you in a long time!).

On the Kenyan side (when traveling southbound), make sure that you get an East African Visa which is valid for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda alltogether for three months and costs US$100 per person (needed documents: passports, no passport photos needed!). This way you save a lot of money, as the Kenyan visa is US$50, the Ugandan (as we heard) is US$100 and we are not sure about how much the visa for Rwanda are.

 

This is supposed to be the worst road in Africa?!?!?!

 

The supposed "worst road in Africa" is good and new tarmac for more than 80%. The remaining 20% (not more than 100km alltogether in two stretches between entering Marsabit and leaving the Marsabit National Park and in the complete Losai National Reserve plus detours around bridges under construction and a short stretch directly in Moyale after entering Kenya) are relatively good gravel or dirt road. The worst part actually is the road through the city centre of Masabit, which is deep mud in the middle but if the weather is relatively dry, you can go around most parts easily. The road was also famous for the bandits that raided unsuspecting tourists and trucks ... this time seems to be over as well! We felt very safe and secure and the Kenyan Army is taking care of security (some checkpoints but everybody is extremely friendly and welcoming).

There is one good campsite in Marsabit, called Henry's Rest Camp (N 02° 20.739' E 037° 57.941') and another campsite in Isiolo, just in case it takes you longer due to rainy weather conditions. For the roundabout 800km from Moyale to Nairobi it took us about 12 hours. After Isiolo, it is no problem to drive at night as the road conditions are good. Only watch out for trucks (very slow on ascends!), minibusses and the local buses which do not follow any traffic rules.

In Nairobi, you can stay at "Jungle Junction" (S 01° 21.767' E 036° 44.438'), which is a safe, reasonable and very friendly overlander's camp with easy access to all conveniences of Nairobi shopping and sightseeing. Chris from Germany and Diane from Kenya are wonderful hosts, can help with almost anything and Chris is known to be a really good and thorough mechanic (especially so when it comes to motor cycles!). Their kids are simply lovely and great playmates for any travel children. Note that "JJs" have moved to "Karen" on the outskirts of Nairobi and many GPS navigation systems still seem to have the old address.

Lalibela

 
 

To go from Adigrat to Lalibela, we avoided the main road south of Mekelle as this road is supposed to be where a lot of kids throw stones at tourist cars. We took a parallel running road further inland instead which turned out to be a really beautiful "dirt road". Still, our friends Stan and Anne from "Slow Donkey" had a melon-sized rock thrown at them by two youngsters which missed them only by half a meter while they were ascending into Lalibela.

 

Our first Baobab tree ... they are really impressive!

 
 

Lalibela!

 

Visiting the Ethiopian rock hewn churches in Lalibela or at other places is an experience totally different to visiting other churches.

You've got to use narrow and steep defiles to access the churches to be able to reach their ground level. Sometimes, it is the other way round, and you have to climb steep cliffs using wooden ladders that look like they will collapse under you in the split of a second.

 

From hell to heaven ... this is the "heaven end" with direct access to the church ... before, it is a 30m long walk through pitch dark darkness!

 

In Lalibela, some passages leading to the churches are very narrow and sometimes pitch-dark (a guide told me that that was planned, as the passage should symbolize going from hell, i.e. 30 metres under the rock in total darkness, to paradise, i.e. the church).

 

Bete Methane Alem, the largest church here in Lalibela and the largest rock-hewn church worldwide.

 
 
 
 

Beta Maryam

 
 

Bete Kiddus Georgyis - the most well known of the rock hewn churches ... impressively beautiful!

 

detail ... window

...

...

... the "no window window"

 
 

Then, you stand in awe in front of an immense church hewn out of the mountain by hand and, after having taken your shoes off, you enter a completely different world of religious contemplation.

It is a twilight world of silently praying shapes wrapped in white garments sitting on the carpeted floor and priests continuously humming their prayers.

 
 

You go further in look in awe at the beautifully decorated ceilings while your feet feel the dust on the worn-out carpets that have been lying here for ages. Frankinscense vapours tickle your nose and candles burn in hidden nooks. While you visit, Ethiopians continue to silently pray.

For us, it is really unimaginatively impressive how these churches must have been built, hewn right out of the hard rock by the hands of long gone generations of Ethiopians using only hammer and chisel. ... Was it the deep faith these people had that made them "construct" these wonderful pieces of architecture ... or was it fear of death and hope for a second life after death reached through hard work and praying?

From a historical point of view, the churches were built between the 8th and 12th century. There are many stories about why they were being built, most of them named after the 12th century king Lalibela. He seemed to have wanted to create a new Jerusalem, because either he was not able to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or he had to fled to Jerusalem in fear of persecution from his brother and vowed to build a new Jerusalem if he had the chance to return to his home country.

 
 
 

Awash Falls Lodge - a great place to stay!

 

On our way down, we stay at the Awash Falls Lodge, a wonderful place overlooking the Awash River Falls where Nile Crocodiles are relaxing while you have breakfast.

 

The Awash River Falls ... unfortunately, an upstream sugar factory doles the waters with acid so that fish and crocodiles die and antelopes abort their unborn ...

 
 

Nile Crocodile.

 
 
 

Cheaky monkey waiting for something it can steal ...

 

Our first Oryx Antelope

 

Back in Anouk’s favourite place in Ethiopia – the remote mountain village Zik’allay

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

"I hope that we will get old enough to be able to witness you coming back one day!", was what the village priest of Zik'allay said in his farewell blessing for us when we had to say "Goodbye!" for an indefinite period of time to the fastly embosomed villagers 10 months ago.

At that time, we had worked for a German/Ethiopian NGO in the northern Ethiopian city of Adigrat just a few kilometres away, further educating nursery school teachers. Hagos, the "country representative" of the kindergarten, who is teaching sociology at the University of Adigrat, took us to the mountain village Zik'allay where he was born and raised and where his family has been originating from for countless generations. Electricity, water from the tap or even cars do not exist here!

While our three hours' ascend with donkey-assistance the conditions of Hagos' way to school became apparent to us. And not only this ... read more in our post from winter 2014/15.

Hagos and many other people grew very dear to us during the time we spent in Adigrat and especially our two daughters Anouk (6) and Sóley (3) developed deep friendships. Anouk cried on the way to the airport in Mekelle. Never ever, she said, had she made friends so easily!

 

Believe or not, these guys are old friends!

 

Until that trip, our plans for the next following summer were "fixed": it would be a twelve months overland trip to South America. Meeting our new Ethiopian friends again seemed impossible, not only from a childs' perspective. But that especially Ethiopia, being one of the most challenging countries in Africa in so many ways had been possible for us as a family with relatively young children really made us hesitate after having come back to Germany. It was not only the magnificent and majestic landscape and the impressive culture, steeped in (human) history, it was definitely the many really warm personal encounters with Ethiopians - not least in the mountain village - which apart from the deep wishes of our children made us adults rethink our travel plans.

After a virtual travel with friends in the "Klimahaus Bremerhaven" along all climate zones the 8th degree of longitude the new destination for our overland trip was a fixed plan: it was going to be Spiekeroog (Germany) to Capetown (South Africa) along the eastern route which had not really been completely traveled by overlanders going from North to South for a while until then. "Greaaaat! Then we can meet our friends in Adigrat and the mountain village Zik'allay again!", Anouk and Sóley happily stated. And suddenly, there it was: a common decision on the travel destination for our sabbatical year which for our kids was not as "abstract" as traveling to South America, because they did not have any imagination of how it would be.

 

Strong Anouk ... even carrying her own backpack!

 

Especially Anouk's motivation was increased by that, which - now in November 2015 and back in Ethiopia during our overland adventure through northern, eastern and southern Africa - culminated in the fact that converted her thrill of anticipation into energy and motivation for the long and exhausting ascend to the village: this time she managed to hike all the way completely on her own, without donkey-assistance (and without cactus-acupuncture in the middle of the night like last time). Her iron will does not move the mountain, but it gives her perseverance, which she never had until then and which makes both us and herself immensely proud.

 
 
 

Do you find the rock-hewn church in the cliff wall?

 
 
 

Hagos and Sóley

Again, we wander into the magical mountain darkness.

In the mountain village we are not received as the "foreign" family who has the courage to travel up here, but as family members everybody is happy to meet so unexpectedly soon. The small presents we take up here are more suitable this time as well ... the very few things the villagers do not produce "up here": coffee, salt and a bottle of locally distilled "Ouzo".

Winter 2014/15

... and November 2015

Apart from that, we also bring paper copies of the villagers' portraits we shot last time which cause a lot of cheerfulness and laughter.

Everybody now is addicted to UNO ...

... everywhere!

Anouk brought a new deck of her favourite card game UNO which does not only attract the children of the village: just like at a family celebration of a big extended family, children and adults alike are gambling round after round in spite of all language barriers.

After having dinner together - as usual it is Injera from a commonly shared plate - we sleep in the kitchen of the farm, the oldest part of the 1,500-year-old farm building owned by Hagos' family. There is not much privacy but instead there is the smoke from an open fire in the middle of the room, farmyard smells and animal noises and so very much cordial gregariousness. For hundreds of years, people have sat together here, shared food and stories, have quarrelled and loved. Oh how wonderful it would be if those adobe walls and beams would be able to tell all the stories they have witnessed over those many years!

After a long and relaxing time breakfasting, dreaming and talking (... and countless rounds of UNO!), we go on an excursion together with Hagos.

Last winter we found a secret cave full of human remains.

One of six human skulls in the cave ... it would be great to find out about the background!

Last year Hagos and Mischa had explored "Mundugu", the "enchanted" part of the mountain guarded by leopards and had discovered a cave here containing the remains of at least six humans. This part of the mountain and Zik'allay as a village is deeply connected to the stubborn and rebellious monk Stephanus, who at his ordination did not accept bowing down in front of the emperor to receive his blessing because the emperor is a human just like Stephanus and certainly no person nearer to God. A long persecution by the official Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the state was the result of this disobedience. Later on Stephanus demanded the separation of state and church and also demanded that clergy and monks farm the products they need instead of taking half of the annual harvest from the poor farmers as church tax.

Breathtaking mountain scenery!

 

The family's ancient cave dwelling.

 

This year we go to "Be'ati Goitana" ("the cave of the lord"), the old cave dwelling of the family, which had been used as the family home until about 1,600 years ago for about three to four hundred years, but was still used every now and then in the time of Hagos' grandmother to produce certain home made products or for storing money and other valuables in times of insecurity. Still, just like more than a thousand years ago the well "May a'Ewaf" ("the water of the birds") in the middle of the cave's kitchen provides fresh spring water directly from the heart of the mountain.

With wide-open mouths we try to catch water drops falling down from the stalagtites hanging from the cave's roof and listen to the family-stories Hagos is reciting. "About 2,000 years ago, a man from this region came here and built the first settlement on this mountain. He was with his wife who came from what today is Yemen and their son. After a while they separated and he married new, this time a lady with Jewish descendancy. With her, he had another son called "Shum se Essad" (governor of the fire), the first family ancestor known by name."

Again, we are impressed by the long orally transmitted family history. History is old here and the people have a close connection to land and ancestors, something that has unfortunately mainly been lost in the cause of individualisation and modernisation in our "developed" world.

Again, we take in the breathtakingly beautiful view from the mountain plateau down into the canyons deep deep down below us which is really ditching Grand Canyon.

We enjoy and take in the relaxed atmosphere of life in the mountain village ... everybody just follows their everyday work but still has a lot of time to chat with us or simply laugh and enjoy.

 

... wild drum dances ...

 

In the afternoon, we are visiting the neighbors together with Hagos' family members because they just recently married. It is the tradition that for the following thirty days all the neighbors, friends and family members are invited to celebrate. We are sitting in a dark room, drink "Suwa", the home-brewed sourly-refreshing beer common here in the Tigray province and on the party goes. With several drums the friends of the newly weds dance around the room and sing newly invented songs in tune to the drums. Again and again, we hear our names all the while the other listeners smile a bit embarrassed. Supposedly because they think our names sound so funny, but we are sure that there is something else behind it as well. But here everybody has the ability to laugh about themselves! Our daughters get sweets and their fingernails are being painted in glaring colors. Cheery and tired at the same time we go back to our "home" and enjoy the wonderful evening mood in this world so different to ours.

...

Heavy heartedly we leave our friends after two nights. Again, especially Anouk is so very sad because she would really like to stay here a bit longer and could maybe even imagine staying for ever because she so very much likes it here - apart from the food here in Ethiopia which our daughters do not really like.

Still we guess that Zik'allay is in so many respects a happy "island" in Ethiopia, not having known hunger, famine and other major human problems for hundreds of years. Diseases of civilisation are not known here but still the medical support is a big problem and issue here as many mothers die while giving birth or during childbed. Because of that Hagos thinks about ways to be able to build a small clinic for the village which might be financed with the help of a small tourist lodge owned by the village community.

...

 

... when will be come back here next time???

 

On our further journey through another 2,000 km of Ethiopian roads we will have to experience that the mountain village Zik'allay is only the "romantic paradise village" of Ethiopia. The "life along the road" shows different faces and flushes in queer and nasty noises with the sreams "Youyouyou!" or "Moneymoneymoney!", which makes the people you meet so very inapproachable compared to the people up there in Zik'allay.

 

.... eehm, yes, we did not ask ... but that's the way they lock the main door of the farm building!

 

Maryam Tsion, Axum

After the "Axum-virus" has stopped us from visiting this important city twice (first due to a gastro-intestinal virus Mischa caught when we were in Ethiopia last winter and second due to the recent virus which kept us busy for over ten days), now it finally is the right time: we drive to Axum and we even do this on one of the most important celebrations of the Ethiopan Orthodox Church, Maryam Tsion.

At Maryam Tsion the Ethiopians celebrate that Holy Mary seeked refuge from King Herod here in Axum with young Jesus.

Also, Axum is one of the most important cities and sites for Ethiopians and Ethiopia as a nation in general. Between roundabout 400 BC and 700 AC, Axum was the capital of the Axumite kingdom, reaching far into Sudan and southern Arabia, with trade routes going as far as Italy, Syria and India, it being one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient world.

 

An overview on the Axum stelae.

 
 
 
 

This stela is 33,3m long, weighs 517 tons and is the largest manmade monolith of the antique world ... it seems that it broke when people tried to erect it first time.

 
 

This is the second largest stela in Axum (24m, 152 tons), which was stolen in 1937 by the Mussolini government of the then occupying power, Italy, and brought back to Ethiopia in 2005 (as the result of a contract signed in 1947!).

 

The famous 1800-year-old Axum Stelae are still impressive symbols of power.

Axum is also said to have been the capital of the mysterious kingdom of the queen of Sheba in 1000 BC. Here, another story unfolds to explain the long connection of Ethiopia, Israel and the Jewish faith: the queen of Sheba and one of her noblewomen once went on a long travel from their home in Tigray, Ethiopia, to visit the famous King Solomon in Jerusalem. Apparently, both ladies got a "special gift" from Solomon to take home: both women came back pregnant from that visit and later on would both give birth to sons. These sons, after having grown up, went back to Israel to visit their father. The son of the queen of Sheba, Menilek, being more intelligent, found and recognized his father who then wanted to make him his successor. But, the people did not want him, so he had to leave. Because his father had to send him away back to his home country in Ethiopia, he ordered all families in Israel to give their firstborn son to accompany Menilek.

 

This small church built by emperor Haile Selassie I. is supposed to keep the Ark of the Covenant brought to Ethiopia by Menilek I.

 

Menilek being not only intelligent, but also quite rakish, took the famous Ark of the Covenant (a wooden container keeping two tablets of the Law on which Moses wrote down the ten commandments) from his father and brought it to Axum, where today it still is supposed to be kept in a church specially made for it by Emperor Haile Selassie (before it was in the older church nearby). It is guarded by one monk only who also is the only one allowed to see the Ark (no scientific investigation on this matter has been accepted by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church).

 

Enda Maryam Tsion ... maybe the first Christian church on Ethiopian soil and the place where Menilek I. had the Ark of the Covenant stored after having taken it from his father King Solomon, in Jerusalem.

 

After this gate, only men are allowed to pass into the courtyard of the church.

The old gate to the church area.

 

Women praying outside the wall of the church's courtyard facing the Ark of the Covenant.

 

The kings and emperors of Ethiopia have until the end of the monarchy in 1974 based a main part of their right to power on this Solomonic ancestoral connection which brought them into one line not only with the mysterious queen of Sheba and King Solomon, but also with King David and even Jesus.

 

By the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God

 

This connection and prophesies from the Bible (e.g. Zephaniah 3:10 "From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshippers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring my offering" and Psalm 2 "Yet I set my Holy king on My Holy hill of Zion") then were interpreted by Marcus Garvey in Jamaica in the 1930s to found the Rastafarian religion (the term "Rastafari" coming from Emperor Haile Selassie's title "Ras Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael" when he was governor of Harar) who believe that Halie Selassie was the living god (Jah!).

This shows the deep connection of Ethiopia with both the Jewish religion and Christianity ...

 

 

The mosque at Negash ... this small village south of Adigrat being the very place where The Prophet Mohammad sent his wife and children because they were persecuted in Saudi Arabia because of introducing Islam.

 

But there is also a strong connection with Islam, as the story goes that The Prophet Mohammed, after having been persecuted in Saudi Arabia for introducing the new faith, sent his family to the village of Negash, just a few kilometres south of Adigrat. The site where the Negash mosque is situated today is said to have been the site of the second mosque ever existing and because of that is an important pilgrimage for Muslims not only from Ethiopia.

Thus, even though Ethiopia is geographically so very far away from Europe, Israel and northern Africa, and even was a very isolated country until quite recently, it is still deeply connected with three religions and continents alike.

Back in Ethiopia at last!

It is only ten months ago that we left Ethiopia: On the 15th January 2015 we flew back to Germany after volunteering in the kindergarten in Adigrat. The hospitality of all the people we met in Adigrat and the deep friendships that evolved from these contacts after four weeks were the initial sparks that directed our overland-travel plans for our sabbatical year more and more back to the original idea of Transafrica on the "eastern route". Both us and our daughters were so very sad that we had to go back home to Germany and leave our new friends and this beautiful country behind.
At the beginning of February, we went with Anouk's kindergarten boyfriend Lasse and his family to the "Klimahaus" in Bremerhaven. There, people can go on an imaginary journey along the 8th degree of longitude. All the four of us independently from each other felt like being back in Ethiopia in the "desert of Mali-room": the air was full of dust, it was hot and even smelled like Ethiopia. At this point in time latest, it was "decided" that we would try to do Transafrica. Still, it took a while until we had really realized this decision and so, finally, there were only less than six months for preparing and planning anew ... because before, we had actually planned to go to South America, started to learn Spanish and established first contacts in South America.
...

Now it is November 2015 and we are back here in Ethiopia and Transafrica is no dream anymore, but our every day life.
Our first experiences while crossing the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, we already described in our last post. This Impression indeed did not match with what we had experienced while working in the kindergarten of Adigrat Vision e.V. last winter.
After our drive through the night because we did not want to stay in the border village, we spent our first few nights in Ethiopia in "Tim and Kim Village" near Gorgora south of Gondar.

Drying the laundry

Traditional fishing boats

What a romantic place!

The Schlumpfs, Swiss overlanders whose Land Rover we spotted in Khartoum.

The "village" is a wonderful place overlooking magical Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and our camp directly under a giant fig tree was just like being taken directly out of a fairy tale. But the hot showers as promised on the internet do not exist here. Showering is icy-cold, which is really annoying after having spent days driving on dirt roads through the desert. Also, in other aspects, the "village" seems to be following a policy of cutbacks. Saving energy, for example, means that if you don't pay attention, the fuses for the lights in the showers get switched off. In the restaurant, you can order high priced European dishes made with cheap local ingredieces. Which projects resemble the "fair" and "social" background of the "village", we could not find out! Falling asleep was not easy during three of the four nights we spent here as the owner partied with her new Ethiopian husband and male employers. In spite of this criticism, this place really has great potential which still is not fully used.

We go on to Gondar, Ethiopia's "Camelot" and former imperial city, and are really impressed by the romantic castles in the "royal enclosure", which especially impress Anouk who is deeply in her fairytale world of princesses, princes, kings and queens.

 

Our two little princesses

 

Most Ethiopian churches are decorated in the national colours.

The three men symbolize the "Holy Trinity" ... Doesn't the Bible say we should not make a picture of God?

Beautiful ceiling

In the evening we indulge in the wonderful food served in the famous "Four Sisters Restaurant".

Unfortunately, a nasty gastro-intestinal virus invades us in Gondar, which is going to affect all of us on the next following ten days.

The Simien Mountains ...

... South America or Ethiopia?

 

Gelada Baboons - endemic to the Simien Mountains.

 

Driving on to Axum, we reach the Simien Mountains. The good tarmac road changes to a rough stony piste and suddenly, we imagine being in the South-American mountain rainforests. We are in the middle of an impressively beautiful landscape and deeply enjoy the gorgeous view into the magical mountain world around us. Suddenly, a group of the endemic Gelada Baboons appears - directly next to the road. Awesome! Especially the children are extremely enthusiastic.

 
 

Sometime after the mountain gravel-piste we realise that we are driving behind other overlanders. We soon discover that they are "Slow Donkey", a South African couple who have an immensely detailed and helpful blog which we have been following for a long time now. So, we overtake the donkey-Landcruiser and signal them to find a place to stop and chat. Stopping and talking, we realise that they also know us from the internet and have been reading our blog as well. It is a matter of seconds and "nomads" and "Slow Donkey-Team" decide to continue together for the next few days. So, our route leads us to Axum where we set up camp in the courtyard of the "Africa Hotel".
Unfortunately, we are not able to visit the famous sights witnessing the ancient Tigrinian civilization here in Axum because our gastro-intestinal problems have got hold of Juliane completely and with full force.

After two nights in Axum, we dare pushing on to Adigrat, where we plan to stay longer and where Mischa's mother is planning to visit us from Germany.

But on our way through the beautiful "Roof of Africa", we are harrassed whenever we stop by children screaming "Moneymoneymoneymoney!", "Youyouyouyouyou!" oder "Pencilpencilpencil!", trying to squeeze whatever possible out of the tourists they see. This behaviour definitely is the result of years of senseless "foreign aid" by western countries and China and especially is a result of really stupid tourists giving away "presents" like pencils, sweets and even money to children wherever they can. Why do people from "developed countries" so often hurl around with money and material things instead of investing in capacity building!? The motives are highly egoistical because they only want to make themselves happy and want to feel that they "do good"! But, on the contrary, this behaviour causes dependency and introduces new behavioural traditions which do not motivate people to commit themselves for a better future, but will make them into lazy beggars. It is especially sad, we think, that a proud nation as Ethiopia, the only country in Africa not being colonized by any other state, being deeply rooted in history both concerning Ethiopia as a nation and Ethiopia being at least one of the birthplaces of mankind, is represented to many travelers by these children. During this stage of our trip, we also have to experience the first stone thrown at our car by children along the roadside which are so very much infamous with overland travellers. Suddenly, there is a big "Bang!" on the passengers' sinde directly underneath the window causing a centimetre sized paint damage. Unfortunately, we can't see and get hold of the delinquent to be able to drag him to his parents, who surely will not approve of their offspring's behaviour. We are angry and also quite confused because of this behaviour ...
In spite of our stomach problems and the stone throw we savely and relatively relaxed reach Adigrat. All of us are immensely happy to be here again and be able to take our friends into our arms again. We stay at the "Agoro Lodge" just one or two kilometres south of Adigrat, a lodge being cempletely in Ethiopian hands situated in the quiet countryside looking down on Adigrat and being surrounded by a beautiful mountain scenery.

The Agoro Lodge

 

The view on Adigrat from the Agoro Lodge.

 
 

Mischa is giving English classes for the team at Agoro Lodge.

 

This lodge is professionally run by a most friendly team making you feel welcome and at home. All profit of the lodge is used to help supporting the social life in Adigrat, helping single mothers, HIV patients, unemployed youth et cetera.
Unfortunately, our first six days here are dominated by Juliane not being able to cope with the gastro-intestinal infection. Finally, after eight days of diorrhea and vomiting, we decide to consult a local doctor ... who downright refuses any payment only stating, "If I come to your country, you will do the same for me!". It is really sad that in case he will come and visit Germany, most people would not help him the way he does for us. Strangely, directly after visiting the local doctor, Juliane is feeling better again without taking any medicine apart from the ones we already took for the last eight days. Maybe, the positive change is due to the probiotic bacteria treatment she had just begon.

Farewell Ethiopia …

 
 

Nearly four weeks have passed and now, the moment to say goodbye has come. The pick up is waiting to bring us to Mekelle. I hate saying goodbye! I still do and am sure I will never learn it ... Let's get over this quickly! ...

After far too many goodbyes we, finally, hit the road.

...

On our way to the main road, the students from my English classes run past the car and yell "teacher Mischa" (instead of the "Ferenji" some weeks ago!). The first few kilometres on the main road, everybody in the car is totally silent. We take in a landscape passing by the car's windows that was so new to us some weeks ago; now, it starts to tell stories to us, our stories! We pass by the crossroads leading to the foot of the mountain of Desta's village, we pass by the oldest synagogue in East Africa (no photo so far, unfortunately! ... we have to come back!).

...

But we are on our way back home ... home? Yes, certainly "home" is still "home" for us, but here in Ethiopia we felt very much at home for the last few weeks as well! We came here to share knowledge and learn about the culture and now we will come back with an immense wealth of impressions, stories to tell, and what is the most important thing: we come home with plenty of new friends, even people who now call us their family members.

At one moment of the drive to Mekelle, Anouk is really annoyed because she does not have enough fingers to count all her new friends. Anouk states that this situation is hard for her, as she knows that it will be difficult to meet all these friends again, because it is not easy to get here. She says that she feels at home here and asks why we can't stay. Then, she starts telling us what she will bring for her friends when we come next time! Yes, we do miss Desta, his wife Elsa and son Stefan, Desta's extended family, his brothers, sister, nieces, the people from Zikalay, the staff at the kindergarten, Alam, Samuel, Kidane and his family, Beniam ... even the friendly people on the streets we will miss! It's hard to leave them behind - even for us adults! But they and the moments we shared will go on travelling with us where ever we'll go. But that's exactly what it is: wherever you go, it's not the sights that are important, but the people you meet and share time with.

A typical Ethiopian church ... not the one we were stopped at!

At a church, priests and children in beautiful clothes stop all traffic. A priest gives us Injera and two boys, one wearing a crown and the other with a beautiful turned-around umbrella, collect money for the church.

Later on, we pass a burial ceremony with a car bearing the Ethiopian flag in the lead and a long row of first men and then women in deep mourning following.

We pass a camel and a donkey caravan from the salt lakes of the Afar desert (another place that has to be visited next time!) bringing salt slabs to Mekelle for processing. We see - as usual - hundreds of colourful people on the road and drive through a rugged landscape with "table mountains", a landscape that is dry and stony, but still every single bit of land is used to farm something. It would be really wonderful to come here in the rainy season when everything is dark green as Desta had told us ...

...

Ethiopia has stroked something in us, something deep inside of us, something archaic. When we think of Ethiopia, we think of people and encounters. During these four weeks we never, not once, encountered a negative, scary or even annoying situation. Ethiopia for us means friendly, open and life affirming people who are willing to share everything they have. Deeply religious people who seem to be living peacefully next to each other even though they follow different religious beliefs, religions that elsewhere are fighting turf battles about who will dominate the others. Ethiopia is immensely rich because of its people and their interhuman relations. Then there is the diverse culture, I should better say "cultures" deeply rooted in the history of all humanity ... and we have seen only an immensely small portion of it!

Let's hope that what we call "development" will not change the wonderful face of this country and its peoples to the negative or to a copy of what the western world implies as the "perfect" one! This actually makes me think of the so-called "Human Development Index": before leaving for Ethiopia I have read in some guidebook that Ethiopia is on position 173 of 187 countries on that index and is thus categorized among the countries with only "minor human development". "Human development index"? "Human"? What is wrong with our world??? On a real "human" development index, Ethiopia would score high, most certainly among the first few countries. Only from our western perspective that ranks material wealth, infrastructure and income higher than community spirit, openness and friendliness, this way of ranking countries (and thus people and cultures) is possible. But, this index, apart from including the average income also is including the other two "dimensions" "life expectancy" and "education". Certainly, there are a few steps to be taken concerning education and, even more so, in the medical sector! Still, we do not really feel confident with the title of this index!

...

We reach Mekelle, step out of the pick up and say goodbye to Zagay, our driver. As we step out, some Ethiopian ladies who want to go to Adigrat jump into the car. African car sharing!

 
 

Flying across the northern Ethiopian highlands, we suddenly understand what all these yellow dots are that we had discovered four weeks ago when flying here: they are the places where the farmers thresh the cereals.

Yellow "dots" we could not interpret on our way to Ethiopia.

Yellow "dots" - the explanation!

The complete country is covered with these places. They indicate that nearly all farming is done by hand using the methods we have described in our post on the life in Desta's village. Thinking of the "Human Development Index" again, this shows that not only the term "human development" is queer, but also at least one of its three dimensions used to calculate it: if a large portion of the inhabitants of a country make a living based on subsistence agriculture, this means that they don't "earn" money in the western sense (no per head gross national income adjusted to buying power in US$ will work here!). The farmers simply use their own production and the little money they earn by selling their minimal surplus, they almost immediately spend on the same market where they sold their products to buy the (very few) things they don't produce themselves, such as sugar, salt, soap and coffee. They don't get any wages! As nearly everybody is a farmer here, nobody gets any wages! At all! This renders at least one of the three dimensions used for calculating the "HDI" completely unusable! Crap! Eurocentric, Westernocentric world view! Comparing apples with bananas, that's what it is, nothing more! Crap!

At the airport in Addis Ababa, we have to wait. Wait until we can check in our luggage. This means waiting for almost six hours. We sit in a cafe, drink coffee and talk about the impressions of our last few weeks. Soley is totally tired and we put her down to sleep on top of our luggage. Electricity fails, but everybody just goes on working as if nothing had happened!

After checking in, we enter the international area of the airport. Addis Abeba Bole International Airport is the hub airport of northern Africa, maybe all Africa. Hundreds and hundreds of people here are not visiting Ethiopia but just passing through! Cultureshock strikes without warning, without mercy! Everybody is in a hurry! We try to find Injera and avocado juice or at least some decent European food. What we get are french fries (cost: 110 Birr, 4,40 €) and a bone-dry toasted cheese baguette with acidy orange juice and an unbelievably expensive St. Georgis beer (5 US$ instead of 10 to 15 Birr, 0,40 to 0,60 €). In most shops only US$ are accepted. The prices are sometimes over 20 timer higher than on the Market in Adigrat, a city of 100,000 inhabitants (e.g. 10US$ instead of 10Birr for an accessory needed for the coffee ceremony)! Unbelieveable! A complete rip off! What does this do actually do to the sellers and the customers. Here, nobody is customer friendly, as we had experienced everywhere else in Ethiopia during the last few weeks! They simply don't care because they won't ever see their "customers" again anyway. The same is true for the people shopping, they act like people do behave when there is nothing to lose: impolite, rude and ruthless! The people working here most certainly will only get minimum wages in spite of the sky high prices! Shocked, we leave for the gate and sit down shaking our heads. Now, the only thing we want to do is board the plane and leave (or go back to Adigrat ...).

On our flight back, a protestant priest sits next to Anouk. He is on his way to Norway - further education. He flies to Norway every three months and has to leave his wife who is expecting their third child behind. We exchange emails and from now on will stay in contact!

Suddenly, Anouk has to vomit ... the french Fries from the international airport in Addis are back in daylight and don't look any better than before! Crap, crap, crap!

When breakfast is served she feels better and eats her pancakes with apple sauce ... I have to look twice to really realize it: the five year old girl who did not eat Injera even once during the complete stay in Ethiopia, now uses her pancaces to perfectly Injera-like wrap-in the apple sauce! Intercultural knowledge and adaptability! Wonderful! Well-bred European children don't do that at home! Thank God they do now!

...

Back in Germany, we don't realize what's different here on the roads. Then, the penny drops: it is quiet, so very quiet. There is no music, everybody goes by car, it's cold and the streets are not filled with hundreds and hundreds of people wearing the most colourful dresses, talking, herding animals ...

...

On the ferry to our home-island and at the harbour we meet friends and family members. Everybody is happy to see us and we feel more comfortable again. The evening ends with French cheese and red wine ... We show the photos we took and miss all the people in Ethiopia!

...

Why didn't we use the time spent waiting for our luggage to be checked in to pay a visit to the German school in Addis?! One never knows!

 

Africanize dem!