Misadventures in Ethiopia
Trip Start Jun 11, 2011
19Trip End Jun 26, 2011
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Where I stayed
The Lion's Den Hotel
I returned to the visa office empty-handed. Wolfi pointed out the sign behind the visa desk stating the cost of the visa - in US dollars and in euros
The lack of working ATMs was a big problem. We didn't have any local currency and all I had left for cash was the $40 for our visa money we didn't spend. We hoped it would last through the next 36 hours, passed through security and waited for our driver to arrive to take us to our hotel for the night.
We stayed at the Lion's Den hotel, which are actually apartments and not really hotel rooms. Our unit has a large lounge area with comfy sofas and a TV, small kitchen and decent-sized bedroom and bathroom. The wifi is free but we had to arrange a sitting area near the entrance door, the only place we get a decent connection.
We received a friendly greeting at reception when we arrived and the girl asked if we wanted to pay then or when we checked out. We decided to try to find a working ATM the next day so we could pay cash. We were very hungry as we hadn't had dinner and fortunately the restaurant was open so we ate there, the only customers
This morning we went downstairs and were greeted by Bubi, the woman I had corresponded with over email when making the reservation. She was very excited to meet us and wrote out an itinerary for our day today. We didn't have any real plans and no guide book, and we had searched the Internet for some ideas this morning and didn't come up with much. Bubi gave us precise instructions on which order to visit in, when to take a taxi and when to walk, and gave us very strict warnings about visiting the Merkato because we really wanted to see Africa's largest outdoor market and she wanted to make sure we didn't get robbed while we were there. After writing out our instructions, she called us a cab and negotiated the fare with him for us, and even got him to wait for us while we visited our first destination, the Trinity Cathedral, and then take us to our second stop, the National Museum, to see Lucy.
As soon as we stepped out of the car at the cathedral we were ushered into an office to buy our tickets then presented with an assistant. He took us into the cathedral and pawned us off on a private guide that was showing his two clients around the interior
We then were shown out of the church and our "assistant" asked for a tip - I'm not entirely sure he had actually done anything but at least he got us a free guide, so why not. Then we visited the facilities before walking over to the treasury, on the same grounds as the cathedral.
The treasury is well-protected; there is a gate keeper and he unlocked the door for us and let us in. The private tour guide was in there already with his two clients and we were told we could once again join in and listen, but this time we just walked around the room on our own, admiring the treasures and reading the placards.
We left the treasury and started searching for our driver who had left the taxi unattended. It was difficult finding him and Wolfi wasn't any help because he couldn't remember what he looked like. Luckily the driver spotted us walking around in circles and led us back to the car. We drove down the street only a few kilometres where he dropped us off at the National Museum
We walked around the three levels with curiosity but also anxious to see Lucy. The museum had other interesting exhibits but Lucy was nowhere to be found. We were about to leave when we noticed people going down into the basement. We decided to follow and discovered a world of archaeological discoveries on the evolution of humans. They described every species in our long line of ancestors and in most cases even had skulls or partial fossils to display. There were a lot of teeth. Once we covered human evolution, we continued into another area of the basement and learned about the evolution of some of Africa's more interesting animals like the hippo, giraffe, elephant and crocodile. At the very end of the series of rooms we finally found Lucy. She looks surprisingly good for her age - about 3.5 million years old.
When we left the museum we stood outside deciding what to do next. Bubi had put a visit to the lion zoo on our itinerary but we were pretty sure we didn't want to go there after an amazing safari. I guess we looked vulnerable in our indecision, because we were very quickly approached by cab drivers and children trying to sell us small packs of tissue and gum. We brushed off most of them while we walked and discussed our next move. We decided to go back to the city near the hotel, find food and an ATM and then drop off anything we can't afford to be robbed of before visiting the Merkato
We paid our $5 foreigner entrance fee and immediately regretted it. The lions, about 15 of them, are a bit different then the ones we saw in Tanzania. Here their fur is a bit darker and the manes are much darker, in some cases black. But they were grouped together in small cages, separated from the spectators by two iron fences. The lions all looked depressed and lethargic. They had absolutely no curiosity and didn't acknowledge the existence of their visitors. After seeing these magnificent animals roaming the Serengeti plains with total freedom, their territory stretching out for kilometres around them, I almost wanted to cry for these depressed souls behind bars. We passed by other caged animals we had just seen roaming freely a week ago, like birds and monkeys, as we headed to the exit as quickly as we could. The driver was still tagging along behind us. We told him our final price which he didn't like at all, but as we walked away he agreed and called over the world's smallest cab. We crammed into the backseat, our knees knocking against each other, and went to the hotel. When we got out of the cab he tried again to get more money from us, as he thought we were not paying enough, but we paid no attention and kept on walking.
We dropped our bags in our room then headed in the direction Bubi sent us to the ATMs
We stopped for lunch then spent more time walking back and forth and up and down the streets, but we didn't find a single ATM that worked for us. We did notice a lot of police though but didn't understand why they were all there. We realized we did not have enough money to get back and forth to the Merkato by taxi. We considered the mini-bus but it was crammed full of people and animals, and we both had nightmarish flashbacks of the dala-dala and hesitated. Even if we took the minibus, we still wouldn't have enough cash to eat anything for dinner. We went back to the hotel to see if we could pay our hotel bill with the credit card and see if they would charge a little more and give us the cash back. When we got to the hotel, the sky opened and the streets quickly filled with water from the intense downpour. We decided an outdoor market wouldn't be very fun anyway if we were soaking wet, and stayed in our room, waiting for the storm to pass
We went down to the restaurant again. I felt quite sick so I just ordered a bowl of plain rice. The server looked concerned at my order and I told him I had an upset stomach. He was so sweet! He told me rice was a good idea because it helps settle the stomach and when he brought me a steaming bowl, he also brought a lemon and asked if he could put it on the rice as it would kill any bacteria in my stomach. He squeezed the crap out of that lemon and then added a little salt to the rice. It was delicious and it seemed to do the trick. He also brought me some tea to help. We didn't have much cash left but we still gave him a generous tip because he was so fabulous.