Well we have had quite an enjoyable trip to Moyale over the past two days. Our driver is a very pleasant 65 year old Amharic speaking man, whose English is just about good enough to allow us to have some superficial conversation. It’s lovely having someone who can communicate with the locals, not least of all when we, along with 7 other vehicles got stopped by the police for having gone down a ‘no entry’ road – well the sign was barely visible. It was really amusing to watch though. The policeman started talking to the first driver and with his ticket book in one hand and pen poised in the other. He was then faced with the 2nd driver (our driver) and then the 3rd, 4th, 5th and finally, there were 7 drivers, all of whom had made the same mistake. The policeman attempted to book all of them but each time he got his pen to the ticket, they would all start talking, gesturing about the injustice of it and then laughing, presumably trying to get him in a better mood. After about 10 minutes of chat, back patting, hand shaking and much smiling, the policeman was defeated and with his book back in his pocket, he gave all of the drivers their driving licences back and waved them on their way.
Apart form having been in the army for 29 years (including having served in Haile Selassie’s army), our driver had been a tour operator for the past 15 years and so he took us to some interesting places along the journey. We stopped off at a small village where there were dozens of people swimming naked in the lake, women washing clothes, men fishing, and the most ugliest, almost human sized birds hanging around for any dropped fish.
We were also taken to a resort that used to belong to Haile Selassie and was situated on the edge of the enormous lake Langona. After this, we had a walk around the lake at Awassa and stopped off at a coffee bar on the water’s edge where a young man balanced nimbly on a small raft to cut down some reeds; presumably to sell for roofing or perhaps to make furniture.
We finally arrived at Dilla around 6pm where we found a room for the night. It wouldn’t exactly meet any of the requirements for a star rating, particularly as you almost electrocute yourself when attempting a hot shower, which by the way, was futile anyway as it didn’t work. The wiring to the shower was, to say the least, very dodgy and I swear I got a tingle from the tap that was placed so high that I could neither turn it on or off. After a quick, cold shower, I divided the toilet paper rations that were left on the bed for us, providing just 9 squares each. Thankfully, I have developed an iron bladder since needing to travel in Ethiopia and visiting the toilet has become an infrequent event.
Apparently, this is a large coffee growing region and according to a coffee dealer that we met at supper, the coffee is of such excellent quality that it is often mistaken for Jamaican Blue Mountain. I did try to defend the Gimbie coffee region as there was clearly a competition for the ‘best coffee’ emerging. But the coffee dealer was adamant that this was most definitely where it’s at when it comes to coffee. We didn’t manage to find any being sold along the roadside the next day but will look for it on our way back in a couple of days time. After some amusing conversation with the coffee dealer, we tucked into our pasta and vegetables, which seemed pretty edible, although this may have been helped by the rapid consumption of red wine that came beforehand. Actually, we drank Ethiopian red wine as this was all that was on offer and for the first time, I would have to say that it was very drinkable – it came from Awash, which is in the south-east of Ethiopia.
We set off early the next day, stopping for breakfast of a dry sponge cake and coffee about 2 hours down the road.
The art is to drink the chai (spicy tea) without stirring in the mound of sugar at the bottom of the cup
As you go further south, it becomes more desert-like, with camels along the side of the road instead of goats and cows. There is also a deeper red colour in the soil and every now and again, the soil becomes completely white – presumably chalk. The red and white termite mounds, which are often as tall as the houses, are really quite dramatic, with the white ones looking like sculptures.
We arrived at Moyale in time for some lunch at the hotel. This is a bit more upmarket than last night’s accommodation, although would still fail the star rating, partly on the basis that the taps for the wash basin don’t work and when you pour water down the sink, it all leaks out onto the floor as it isn’t properly plumbed in. But this is Ethiopia; even brand new buildings like this one aren’t put together properly and so it is common to find a door hanging off as one or two screws are missing, a tap that rotates totally when you turn it on, or a socket hanging out of the wall as it hasn’t been fixed firmly. They try, but things just aren’t fully functioning, even in the smarter places.
We have made contact with the truck driver who has our car and he anticipates arriving at Moyale (Kenyan side) this evening so we plan to cross the border in the morning to meet him.