Dila, Ethiopia | 3 May, 2007 | $3.40
One day on the bus from Addis brought me to the unremarkable town of Dila, for an overnight stop on the way to the Kenyan border. It was so unremarkable that the photo above is the only one I have from the trip. Enjoy!
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | 2 May, 2007 | $7.95
Arriving back in Addis, I did a little souvenir shopping, visited the restaurant with Mexican food and made arrangements for my flight to Madagascar. Sometime while I was up North my bank canceled my ATM card, leaving me unable to pay for my hotel bill or a bus to Kenya. Add in a bank holiday and you can imagine I spent a lot of time frantically running around town (when I wasn’t running away from the cockroaches in my hotel room’s walls).
Dessie, Ethiopia | 26 April, 2007 | $2.84
It took two days to get to get to Lalibela and another two days to get back to Addis Ababa. Although I would have liked to head as far North as Aksum it was long, lonely trip and I decided to head back South. Traveling in a country with so few ways to get money means that you have to be very careful about watching your budget.
Dessie wasn’t of much interest, and the few hours I had after getting off the bus was spent finding food and watching some sort of parade or demonstration in the street on my way back to the hotel. I shot some videos of the bus trip to Dessie, during which I had the good fortune to hear Staying Alive translated into what I assume is Amharic. You can see the rest on Vimeo.
Lalibella, Ethiopia | 25 April, 2007 | $7.95
There was no direct bus from Nefas Mewcha to Lalibela and the local buses heading East were filled to standing capacity. Despite getting to the bus before dawn all were already full. Before I could think about my next move an official came by and kicked people off so I could get on. I felt bad until I realized they were only traveling a few miles and I was traveling all day.
The bus ended in a little town called Gashema, where I ate lunch and watched men break rocks by hand while a Chinese supervisor stood and watched work on the new road progress. Lalibela is one of the most touristy areas in all of Ethiopia but it was still very underdeveloped when I was there in 2007. I tell everyone who asks to visit before it turns into a circus.
Nefas Mewcha, Ethiopia | 22 April, 2007 | $2.27
The two Americans I traveled with in Southern Ethiopia flew to Lalibela from Addis and came back before I’d left town again. Good thing they came back, because they forgot to pay their hotel bill and stored all of their luggage in my room. I took the slow and cheap way around the North, as the locals do. Riding the bus is a great way to meet people and participate in local culture. Even so, with no buses driving at night I was stuck with a two-day journal from Gonder to Lalibela.
My bus was carrying two Polish tourists, one of whom was pick pocketed in the Gonder bus station while getting on the bus. They were nice guys and welcome company for my forced stop in the middle of Northern Ethiopia. Nefas Mewcha wasn’t more than a few dusty streets, but we did manage to find a tiny hotel and some beer downstairs. Eating beside men in Ethiopia is amusing since most women in bars are prostitutes—I witnessed their propositions throughout my time in Ethiopia. They were never very nice to me since I guess I got in their way.
The local residents must not see many tourists and followed me around town in a large group, posing with animals, homemade toys and with their friends. Portraits are my favorite form of photography, so this unwelcomed stop turned into a great opportunity to meet photogenic people. Waking up at 4am for the bus the next morning wasn’t quite as surprisingly wonderful.
View more photos of the friendly residents of Nefas Mewcha in the gallery.
Gonder, Ethiopia | 20 April, 2007 | $7.39
The cobblestone streets of Gonder were more fun to explore than Bahir Dar and the downtown area had a lively group of teenagers hanging out, eating pizza and drinking expresso. There wasn’t many places in Ethiopia where I could find Western food but this was one of them. By nightfall I was safely behind the metal doors surrounding my small hotel’s parking lot, but I made the most of my three days here. I ended up staying much longer than I would normally in towns like these because the travel time between towns is so long. I wasn’t eager for the ride to Lalibella—a two-day journey by bus.
View more photos of Gonder’s castle and more in the gallery.
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia | 18 April, 2007 | $8.52
The hotel grounds were lovely, with flowers and a lakeside location, but it was run by indifferent staff and had few travelers to talk to. My first room had no hot water and I spent hours trying to change rooms. Looking back, I don’t know why I spent three nights in Bahir Dar. The first day was wasted, catching up on sleep after driving all night and by the the third day I was wandering around town, finding little to hold my interest. The main reason tourists visit Bahir Dar is to visit the monasteries surrounding the lake and islands.
These monasteries were painted with amazingly colorful murals butI wasn’t allowed to see some of the best art. One island was “men only” (not even female animals were allowed!) and I was instructed to wait in the small boat. According to the male passengers this was the highlight of the day.
View more photos of Bahir Dar in the gallery.
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia | 17 April, 2007 | $8.52
Driving after dark in Ethiopia wasn’t allowed since the war. I’m not sure how the private minibus companies got around the restrictions or if public buses were being extra careful. The minibus I arranged to take me to Bahir Dar, in Northwest Ethiopia, arrived at my hotel at 3am (an hour early) and took twelve hours door-to-door.
It’s hard to sleep in minivans, especially next to young men watching pornography on their phones. I’m pretty sure he wanted to be caught so I didn’t give him the pleasure of any reaction.
View more photos of Bahir Dar in the gallery.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | 13 April, 2007 | $7.95
After eleven days driving around it was nice to start exploring by foot again. I hadn’t had any time to look around when I first arrived so I visited the museum when Lucy is kept, walked through the market and came down with a horrible case of the flu. My hotel room was convenient but covered in cockroaches. They crawled out of the fixtures while I showered, which was pretty gross, but I wasn’t bothered enough to move rooms.
Downtown Addis has a long strip of cafes and restaurants to be seen in but I was content renting DVDs of American TV shows from the shop next to my hotel until I felt better. I did, however, make the long walk to a restaurant run by the former chef of the U.S. embassy for salads and Mexican food. Outside of Addis you’re eating local—injera is definitely an acquired taste, especially three times a day.
View more photos of Addis Ababa in the gallery.
Awasa, Ethiopia | 10 April, 2007 | $7.60
Finally back to a descent-sized city! We arrived late in the day and walked down to the shores of Lake Awasa where local sweethearts walked hand-in-hand along the shore, sharing snacks and watching the sunset.