Drive to Axum through Simien Mountains

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
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Trip End Nov 19, 2012


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Simien Mountains

Flag of Ethiopia  , Tigray Region,
Saturday, November 3, 2012


I had a bad night last night.  My blanket and bedspread left my bed and my sheet was virtually wrapped around my neck.  I was cold.  I gathered them all up again and straightened them, but the blanket and bedspread left again.  I woke up a little before 6 with a scratchy throat.  When I went down to breakfast I got my coffee and had some bread but my and Gerri's scrambled eggs did not arrive until everyone else was ready to leave.  I joined Gerri at her end of the table since we were the only ones left now and gulped the eggs down, but she did not and left most of hers on the plate so she could get to the bus on time.  We were still a few minutes late but Kibrom was paying the hotel bill so we were OK. 

I sat in the back with Gerri - since we were the last on the bus - and we chatted quite a bit about our lives while we drove from 7 am until about 6 pm when we arrived at our hotel in Axum.  We had quite a day - most of the road was dirt or under construction until we got near Axum.  It was bumpy and windy and mountainous but the scenery was beautiful.  First we had the Simien Mountains - there were lots of patchwork fields on the mountainsides.  We would see the usual cattle, donkeys, goats and people along the road, especially since it was Saturday - the big market day.  Kibrom said people can walk as much as 20 km to get to the market- or was it 15 km?    As we approached Axum, we began to see camels as well.  Everyone was very excited by the camel sightings and there would be a chorus of "camel, camel."

We also went through a number of villages during the day.  The house construction seemed to change from mostly wood or wood and mud to rock the closer we got to Axum. There were more corrugated iron roofs than thatched too.  In general, there is a preponderance of corrugated metal here in Ethiopia.  We marveled at the road construction because there was a lot of rock to cut through to make the roads - the number of switchbacks - and the stone barriers to keep vehicles from going off the road.  Even though today was Saturday, there were lots of workers on the road.  We passed the main construction camp.  Kibrom had told us that the Gondar to Debark road was being built by a Chinese construction firm, but the Debark to Axum road was being done by an Ethiopian organization.  He had told us earlier that engineering is a valued and highly promoted Ethiopian university degree.  He later told us that the Ethiopian air force (I think it was that branch of the armed services) has a very large university where it trains engineers of all types and they assist in road construction projects.

There was a lot to see on the road.  We stopped a few times for photo ops - with great views of the Simien Mountains and the other river valley that has the huge hydroelectric plant and has gold panning in its southern part.   We passed an Eritrean refugee camp with about 35K people - mostly young people, according to Kibrom.  He said that many young Eritreans were coming to Ethiopia to escape compulsory military service and their families were coming with them because they would be jailed otherwise.  He said 100,000 a month were coming but I am not sure I got that right.  Hmmm, what else did we see?

We were extremely dirty from the dust of the dirt road.  Every time a truck came by, it would stir up a lot of dust.  We could feel it on our skin and hair and see it on our clothes.  My black pants and purse and pack were especially noticeably dirty and the water from our showers was disgustingly brown-  I know mine was and I heard several reports of others being so as well.
Our hotel seems quite nice.  The restaurant was very crowded with tour groups this evening and the service was a bit erratic.  Aga ordered some wine for us but when it didn't come - after other people got their orders - she decided to skip it and we had beer instead.  The set menu was good enough.  We have learned not to deviate because that makes the service less reliable.  The layout of Sian's and my room is just like the last government hotel but we have a bucket of water in the bathroom - I assume for flushing the toilet if it doesn't flush quickly enough.  We did have nice showers though and I think my bedclothes will stay put tonight.  There is some big insect buzzing around the ceiling.  I thought it was something electrical at first. 

I uploaded my photos and it may be my eyesight, but they look a bit weird to me.  I took most of them from the bus window so maybe it was taking them at the fast speed that has flattened them so much.


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