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Ethiopia: In transit Lalibela to Axum

Because Ethiopia is huge and buses suck, transport takes days not hours. This leg of my voyage was to the far north, close to the border with Eritrea (would have liked to go there but Eritrea separated from Ethiopia (without Ethiopias blessing) and since then there has been a very volatile border dispute.)

Leaving Lalibela turned out to be a two day process in itself. There are only two buses that connect with the main road that heads north and south. One goes to the town on the main road where you can connect with other buses while the second goes to Addis. The second bus however will not take passengers who are not going to Addis because they don’t want to waste the seats. The real problem is that the first bus is only a half size bus and there is a lot of demand to get out of town. My first attempt at leaving was a resounding not possible as I didn’t know about the process of buying a ticket the day before, and needing to be waiting for the bus to arrive and buying a ticket from the conductor. I attempted later on in the evening because I didn’t know, but was told that it was too late all tickets were gone. Kind of a bummer. I even tried with a tout thinking they could actually do what they say they can only to have the conductor slam the door shut on us when the tout went to ask again. Useless bastards. The next day, I was sitting at the lot waiting for the bus to arrive as I wanted the hell out of there. As soon as it pulled up, about twenty-five people were swarming the bus waving money and trying to get a ticket. The guys working the bus locked the doors and tried to get organized. I still forced my way to the front and waited for something to happen. Everytime the guy got up from his seat, the whole crowd would follow his movements from outside the bus, window to window. The only people it seemed to get a ticket were police officers who were allowed to get into the bus, buy their tickets, and then leave. About twenty minutes later still crammed against the bus, the guy opens the window and yells out “Sold out.” What the f….! Half the crowd dispersed while me and the rest of the crowd followed the different helpers as they left the bus. I kept asking for a ticket from one guy who would say to go talk to the other guy. I did this for a while but they kept saying that they were sold out. Finally, after another fifteen minutes and most people having left, one of the guys told me to follow his brother and maybe slip him a little extra. Ah, now I got it. I followed the guy to a shop and he handed me a ticket and told me a price three birr more than the actual price (about $.33 more.) All that crap for that. I was still pretty pumped that I got a ticket however and even made a deal with the guy to reserve a front seat for me and and I would kick him a few birr. It worked out in end, kind of like everything else in Africa, and boy it felt good walking by the touts with my ticket and telling them to piss off and get a real job.

The next day bright and early we headed off, with me in my front seat (the best in the house.) It’s a pretty nice view heading down the mountains especially when you see the two other backpackers you met, walking down the road as they were not able to buy a ticket on either bus. I would have actually screamed out expletives at them and possible thrown a water bottle as well if I knew them better as I ended up doing as we were on the same trail and pretty much traveled together through the North.

Let’s see, there is Chris the English guy from Edinburgh who is studying to be an astrophysicist or possibly it was a nuclear engineer, maybe stem cell research, I don’t know, it was one of those super brain degrees that will probably end up turning him into a crack head. Then there is Sergio the “Mexican” American super Catholic. I ended up doing my tour through half of Sudan with him, but he was on this super fast track and planned on never actually seeing Sudan if at all possible. Two totally different characters, but it was good to have some English speaking travel companions. They were definitely anti-bus so they ended up hitch hiking and riding lorries throughout the route where I preferred to punish myself on the buses.

I ended up making up my mind that because of the punishment I was taking on the buses, I would splurge on nicer hotels, so I would only stay at the places that had bathrooms with hot water, tv, clean linen, you get the picture (Super 8) level in the states but pure luxury in Ethiopia. I ended up doing this at three cities in route to Axum, Woldia, Mekele, and Adigrat. Really not much to say about these cities with the exception that I scored some great hotel rooms that I preferred over, let’s say rock churches. Mekele was a jump off point for the Dankalia which is renowned as one of the most desolate areas on earth. There was no way in hell I was going any where with the description of desolate. I like to target areas with hot water showers, and clean linens, or home of juice. Beyond that, just sleeping and eating was all that I did. It took me five days to do a two day route, but oh well, I am not so rough and tough as those people in there freaking Land Cruisers. Besides, how many people do you know that have been to Adigrat?

Oh yea, the best traveling food ever… carrots. We were flying down the mountain when you start seeing these kids way ahead waving these nuclear orange objects. The driver slams on the brakes and all these kids swarm the bus waving these bunches of the brightest orange carrots that I have ever seen. They charge one birr per bunch and they are the best travel food that I have ever had. They are chilled from the mountain air, sweet, crunchy, and downright refreshing. Wherever they got those things, it was one of the few bright spots of bus travel in Ethiopia.



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One response to “Ethiopia: In transit Lalibela to Axum”

  1. Laurice Hilt says:

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks

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