Sudan to Ethiopia
Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
158Trip End Aug 08, 2005
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Well, on our last night in Khartoum we were all invited for dinner by a couple of English teachers, Geegee and Jaylee, that we had met (and who had offered us jobs!). The food, underground alcohol in the form of date wine, and satellite TV all served up in their open coutyard living room, was excellent. The next day we said goodbye to the burger, shwarma bars and family parks of Khartoum and for the third time, got lost in the streets trying to leave the city. Eventually we found the right road and were heading for the Ethiopian border, passing a range of mosques from massive new complexes with single minorets to large white beehive shaped structures. As sunset neared we spotted the 4x4 Unimog of a couple we had met in Khartoum. Thomas (Dutch) and Roselea (Ethiopian) had broken down the day before and had been stuck in a field ever since
We camped in the nice gardens of a once grand hotel overlooking the royal enclosure, which proved to be a mistake as their easter holiday celebrations started at 5.30 am the next morning by loud speaker. Honestly, Kev was ready to find that speaker and shoot at it on sight he was so unimpressed! After breakfast we set off to discover Gonder's history of Kings, castles and legends
At night we celebrated Jeff's (South African biker we met in Khartoum) 30th birthday with a meal and several fine Ethiopian beers on the top floor of a local hotel overlooking the city. The next morning as we set off for more Royal sightseeing, Paul was running around looking for a fuel filter to combat the dirty Sudanese diesel he had inadvertantly purchased. Unfortunately, there were none to be had so we wandered around town and fed some of the local street kids with meal tickets that we bought and which we gone in seconds. We dined that night and watched sunset over the town at the most expensive hotel in town and our 3 course meal was 3 dollars each
The road cut deep into the mountains, twisting and turning up and down all day long to well over 3000m altitude. We travelled through some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery we had ever seen passing high over mountain ridges, the road dropping away on both sides into thousands of green, terraced fields. The land is so fertile and dramatic, not at all what you would expect from Ethiopia and most people carry umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun. In some places, the ground seemed to have been ripped open to create canyons thousands of metres deep, exposing the colourful cliff faces with tiny pockets of huts and small villages clinging to the sides of the mountains, it was more what we expected from Nepal rather than Ethiopia. Men with whips drove ox drawn plows through the incredibly rocky earth while the women climbed the high roads with large clay vessels full of water on their backs. The occasional monkey or baboon swung from the trees around us. The road was rough and slow going so we bush camped the first night and arrived in Axum the next afternnon after passing countless wrecks of tanks and military vehicles.
Axum was well worth the 2 days we spent there, it's history dates back over 4000 years and it was once the most important city in sub-saharan Africa. There are palaces of Emperors, the infamous Queen of Sheba and hundreds of unexplored tombs marked with a variety of stone stelae ranging from your standard (Asterix type) to the largest stone carved structure in the world cut from granite, it resembles a modern day sky scraper with carved windows high up and stands 23m tall, weighing over 300 tons
From Axum we spent 3 days travelling south on very rough roads through more awe inspiring scenery to reach Lalibela, home of 11 churches hewn from the mountain rock both inside and out. Hundreds of years old, many are below ground level, complete with ornate windows, decorated pillars, walls and doorways, interconected by a network of tunnels that we explored by candlelight. The whole place was magical and too much to take in.
Well as this is already far too long and not nearly finished, we have ran out of time so we'll finish it in our next update from Nairobi in a couple of weeks!
Take care all,
Love Kev and Sian.