A Travellerspoint blog

February 2017

Uganda and Rwanda

Gorillas in the mist

overcast 22 °C

Uganda
The pearl of Africa

Day 13.

We flew on Kenya airlines from Addis to Nairobi and watched the movie Tarzan which seemed really appropriate. A three hour layover in Nairobi had us looking for lunch and could only find a food fair. Expecting the worst we ordered some salads and samosas from Elvis, our sweet server. The salads were some of the best we have ever had! What a great surprise and followed by two delicious capicchino. The time flew by and before long it was time to board our short flight to Entebbe Uganda.

Flying over a huge body of water I was worried that we had gotten on the wrong plane, it looked like an ocean with small islands . It was lake Victoria. I had no idea it was so huge.

We had to show a valid yellow fever certificate before proceeding to immigration. An east Africa visa was applied for on line and now we had to line up, pay our $100US , hand over our visa application and passport and we are now in Uganda.

Our arranged driver was waiting for us and transported us to our home for the night, African Roots Guesthouse. The two women who greeted us were so happy and friendly, we immediately felt at home Our room is on the second floor and very small but tidy and clean. We have a private bathroom but I don't even think there are any other guests at this time. the twin beds each have mosquito netting and I immediately laid down and stayed there until 6AM the next morning.
Lana went for a walk down to the lake and stopped to chat with everyone at the guesthouse. We never ate dinner as lunch was quite filling.

Day 14

A delightful breakfast of fresh fruit, pancakes and juice were served, but Lana had a rough nite so didn't eat anything. She was pretty low key all day today.

Brighton from Churchill Safaris picked us up at 730 as arranged and off we went . Once again we are in a Toyota land cruiser but this one is much older and not as comfortable ride . The bar has been raised very high from our Ethiopia trip. Brighton is a nice man but does not say much.
I asked him how many children he had and he told me
"In Ethiopia it is custom not to say the number of children or cows that you have". It is considered tempting fate.
"If you have between 1 and 5 children you have a small family, if you have more than 5 you have a big family. I have a small family"

Once out of the rush hour of Entebbe and Kampala we are on a very well maintained two lane highway that is very straight and a nice change from Ethiopia roads. The downside was that every time you passed through a small town there was around 10 speed bumps. And it seemed that we were passing through a small town every 15 minutes. The small towns have lots of little shops with men fixing motorcycles, welding, metal work and lots of industrial work .
The air quality was not great, lots of burning of wood and metals. I did not see too many women, but sometimes would notice one in the traditional Ugandan dress, brightly coloured long dress with big puffy sleeves. They carry goods on their heads here instead of their backs.Most people however are just wearing western style clothing

The Ugandans are shorter, stockier and have rounder faces and darker skin than the Ethiopians. And as many cows that were on the road in Ethiopia it is now replaced with motorcycles. Thousands of them used as not only private transportation but taxis and transport as well.
Bananas . Yes we have bananas. I have never seen so many in one place. Huge stocks of green bananas on trucks being loaded onto motorcycles, bicycles or people carrying them.
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Ethiopians walked everywhere and for hours a day. You rarely see people walk here for any distance. They take motor bikes or bicycles. The bicycles are sometimes loaded down so much with bananas, lumber or other goods that they just push them and use them like a wheel barrow.

Security is very high. Every resort or restaurant we go into there is a guy , with a gun, doing a mirror check under the vehicle for bombs. Uganda is very safe because of this apparently. No one but police can carry guns here, unlike Ethiopia
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We stopped a few times to take pictures. The landscape is now changing to rolling green hills and is very beautiful. Winston Churchill fell in love with Uganda and called it "the pearl of Africa"
Uganda is a British Colony and has a lot of influence because of this. Most people speak English, the cars drive on the left with a right hand drive car and they have tea.
Tea is planted on the hills and goes on for miles. The plants are over 50 years old and quite striking with the lime green colours.

Uganda is very cool right now, we have to put on a light jacket and it has been raining. Last night there was a lot of rain accompanied by thunderstorms. This is a welcome change from the heat of Ethiopia

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The road has now deteriorated again to pot holes and missing pavement. This part will be fixed next year.

Our lodge for the next two nights is inside of Queen Elizabeth park and on the way we were lucky enough to spot some wildlife, and this guy was right at the edge of the road. The elephants here are forest elephants so they are darker in colour than savannah elephants. I have never seen them this dark before, almost black and with the white tusks he is so striking. We stood up and looked out the top of the jeep, (it has a pop up roof) and just watched him for a while. What a gift.
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Bush camp is not far from here and we arrive at around 5PM to a welcome juice and cold towel. There are tents for dining, lounging and looking over the water. Tables and chairs are set up around an open campfire, each one with its own kerosene lamp and set for dinner.
Down a manicured path through the forest we find around a dozen permanent tents on stilts named after the animals in the area. Ours is Kob ( similar to our deer).

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There is an inside compost toilet but the shower and sink are in a private area out the back. Laying down to rest for an hour we can hear grunting and snorting outside the cabin, it sounds like it is right outside!

There are lots of hippos here and sometimes they wander into the camp at night to feed. During the day they stay submersed in the water to beat the heat.

Did you know that Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal? We think of hippos as being funny looking things, Disney characters wearing pink tutus and dancing about. But they are nasty cranky beasts that can snap a crocodile in half with one bite. We have been informed not to walk to or from our cabins in the dark without a staff member.

Dinner was four courses and delicious. Early to bed again tonight. On the escorted walk home in the dark I was surprised by a soldier with a rifle at the side of the path in the dark. I almost screamed.

Day 15. Saturday Feb 18

6AM our escort was waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs for our walk in the dark to breakfast. Last night the jungle noises were great, deafening sounds of frogs and insects and this morning many birds.

After some fruit and bread Brighton picked us up and off we went on our hunt for lions!!!.
It is still dark out as we drive over the dirt roads of the open savannah passing by many kob, and other deer, warthogs, and buffalo.

As the sun is rising a beautiful soft light is embracing the long golden grasses. Brighton's cell phone rings and after chatting for a minute he turns the truck around and races back to where we just were. A friend has called to say they have found lions.

Five minutes later we can see where they must be, there are 10 safari trucks lined up and people standing with cameras and binoculars pointed in the same direction

Two males, which is not that common, walking slowly across the field. Wow. As they move, we move. Some vans moved on after a while, but we stayed and just watched them. All the cobs and animals nearby were watching them too. On high alert with heads and ears high, not moving and keeping an eye on where these two boys are going and what they are up to.

They crossed the road right in front of us, and then walked down the road to two puddles and started to drink. I have never seen this before and was so excited! After having a leisurely drink they wandered off again. Wow. Lions don't often drink water, usually just the blood from their kill. In 30 years this is the second time Brighton has seen this .

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We did some more game driving seeking other wildlife, but we were so happy with the lions it was hard to get excited about anything else. We did see a large pride of lioness lazing in the grass but they were quite a distance and my pictures were fuzzy.

Back to camp for lunch and a rest before our after noon game drive. We ordered a shower for 11AM. This means that a guy comes and puts hot water in tank on the platform in our 'back yard' The water was tepid at best, but it was great to have a shower, and outside to boot.
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This time the game drive was on a boat on Kazinga channel.

Brighton our guide is very aggressive. He sped to the boat launch, passing lots of other trucks, got our tickets and then rushed us down to the dock.

A two story boat is docked but not ready to board so he directs us to wait in this little hut. When time to board he grabs us and puts in front of all the people lined up so that we are first on. Gotta love it. Its not me being pushy so somehow its okay.

He told us where to sit. Left hand side.
Everyone headed upstairs, just like the hop on hop off busses, everyone wants the top floor. But I thought " why on earth would you want to be on the second floor and not level with the animals?"
So we sat on the bottom right in the front. We were the only ones on the bottom for quite a while but then a mom and daughter came and sat right behind us. They are from Winnipeg and we had a great time together on the two hour journey. The younger one, Stephanie is here on business with a science research team working on genetically modifying mosquitos to erraticate malaria. Mom was thrilled to come long for the ride.

A large group of young people arrived late, holding everyone up, and sat on the other half of the bottom floor.

In no time we we on our way and mere are feet away from large buffalo and hippos in the water and shoreline, sharing the space with crocodiles. The two hours was non stop wildlife and the bird life was so abundant and colourful. It would be a birders paradise here for sure.

In the distance we see four huge elephant which is an amazing sight.
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The baby hippo was biting the tails of the grown ups and they were getting very annoyed with him.
What a fantastic day. I really just thought of Uganda for the gorillas, I knew there was wildlife but didn't think it was this good. Not as abundant or varied as other African Countries but still pretty amazing.

Back at the cabin for a rest before dinner. The staff here is wonderful and the food so well presented and tasty. The portions are small but just the right amount for us.

Stayed up until 10 PM tonight!!!! We didn't put the flaps down and I could see the stars while lying in bed .

Day 16

Our escort came at 5:30AM to collect our bags and walk us to breakfast. Not much choice of what to eat because of the early hour, and we were off to go on a chimpanzee trek

I really don't know what I expected. I think I thought it would be like one I did in Costa Rica where you did a stroll through the forest and watched monkeys.
Silly me
We arrived at 7 and were joined by 14 others, all German with their walking sticks ready to go. Divided into two groups we had Deborah as our guide, a 30 ish woman who was short and heavy set but obviously fit. With machete in hand she set off with us behind her.

Within 15 minutes I thought " WTF ". I felt like I was going to pass out. I had a 25 lb pack on my back, camera gear and two water bottles, and was huffing and puffing up this long muddy hill. The rocks were very slippery, as were the roots and leaves. Really the best place to step was in the mud. Going down was worse. She gave Lana and I walking sticks, well tree branches to be used as walking sticks. One younger girl from Berlin didn't have a stick and was walking with her hands in her pockets. She was very fit.

After an hour or so we heard screeching and screaming. The chimps are on both sides of us and very active. We veer off the path and go into the jungle to track them. There are lots of vines wrapping themselves around my ankles trying to pull me down. We see a couple of the chimps jumping on the ground and yelling at each other. They are huge, about four or five feet tall. Then they are off again and we go back to the trail to try and follow them. They probably think this is great fun, " let's take the tourists on a wild goose chase through the forest"

In another 10 minutes we come to a place where there are maybe a dozen, it's hard to tell they are high in the trees. The canopy is very thick so it is quite dark. Picture taking was impossible for the most part because of this. They sat up in the trees eating fruit and and then would throw the leftovers down, we would have to duck.

Finally one guy sat up on a branch that had a bit of light so I could get a decent shot.
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We started the trek back and were done in four hours. All in all I could of done without it. I was so worried I would fall and hurt myself before the gorilla hike, but thankfully I didn't.
This gave us a taste of what the gorilla hike will be like. Yikes!

Back int the truck Brighton is driving like a crazy man to get us to our next hotel in time for lunch. Once again we came across a huge elephant on the side of the road and then further on some monkeys with a newborn baby in the moms arms.

A family of elephants passed in front of us, there were so many of all sizes they just kept coming across the road. There was a motorcycle that went ahead and we followed but one of the elephants didn't like this as there were still one or two of her family that were still on the other side. She started trumpeting and getting angry.
There was a lone guy in a small car behind us and he stayed put. I hope he was okay. Not sure how long he would have had to wait.

There were lots of family of baboons on the side of the road too.
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We enter Bwindi forest and climb to the top of a mountain to our lodge for the next two nights. I booked Haven lodge, which is new and part of the local community project so helps out with the locals.

It is beautiful, overlooking the mountains and forest, made of wood and very charming. We are served lunch and then shown to our beautiful room.
I immediately fell asleep for a few hours. It felt great to just relax

After dinner we get ourselves ready for the big day tomorrow and our 5am start.

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Day 17. THE DAY WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR

We were so excited this morning, all our stuff was ready the night before , three alarms set for 5AM and ready for breakfast 530AM. We had a hard time choking down our food, although delicious it was a bit too early for us.

The staff gave us a packed lunch, more water and we are off to do the gorilla hike.
It was an hour and a half drive to the check in point in the pitch dark on many switchbacks up to close to the top of the mountain. There are three areas in Uganda to hike from and we are starting in Ruhija and will see the Oruzolo group. After an orientation two other women show up, Nuala and Claire from Ireland. There are normally 32 people allowed who are broken in to 4 groups of 8 as there are 4 separate families here. But apparently it is slow season so only the four of us today. Yahoo.

It is quite chilly. We have four layers on, but I am sure we will peel off as we start hiking.

We are given information about the gorillas and the gorilla project. They are/were endangered from disease and poachers but the government stepped in and decided to encourage tourism, charge a lot of money $750USD for a permit ( which we had to buy almost a year ago) and all the money goes to conservation. The rangers and trackers all used to be poachers so they were given the opportunity to make more money this way. Because of this initiative the numbers of gorillas are increasing. They do the same in Rwanda and the Congo.

I am so nervous. Nervous that I wont be able to do this. Yesterday at dinner a man at our hotel regaled a tale of his hike and how a 'chubby' man needed so much help up the mountain and then had to be taken out by stretcher. I was so afraid that would be me today.

We hired porters to carry or bags and help us with the climb . This also really helps the local community . I convinced Claire to do the same, but Nuala decided to go on her own. The elevation is 6000 feet so my breathing is a little laboured already!

We had two guards with us as well with rifles just in case we got charged by elephants.
And I guess for other animals as well. They would just shoot in the air to scare them.

So four women tourists and five guys accompanying us.

As we are heading down the road I am thinking, oh this is okay. Then we veer off into the bush and head down the side of a mountain. There was an 80 percent grade and there was about two inches of leaves covering soft dirt and lots of vines to grab your ankles. My walking stick was a god send as sometimes it would sink in about 4 feet so you knew not to step there.
This is not a trail, there are no trails, just bush whacking.

My guy was Jackson, around 19 years old, shy and so cute. He was not very big but he was strong. He took my hand and led me down the mountain. Lanas porter Maboth did the same for her. I cant imagine doing it without these guys. They were slipping and sliding a bit too. I had my shoes resoled for mud before I left but they were terrible, no grip at all. But Jackson had me.

It was a slow going 45 minutes to the bottom of the hill and then we started up the other side. Up was actually a bit easier except for my short fat legs could not get up to some of these steep logs and areas .

Yesterday I was joking that I was going to hire a porter to push my fat ass up the hill.
Well today Lana s porter did exactly that a couple of times. Leave your pride and dignity at home.

In an hour we see that the ranger stopped. Low pitched howling was heard nearby.
"They are around the corner"

What? Already? We make our way up the last bit of hill and see some branches swaying violently and then we spot one in a tree.

We keep going and there before is a huge Silverback. Sitting there eating the leaves.

My heart is beating so loudly I am sure they can hear it.

I am not breathing. Breathe.
He is mere feet in front of us. We all stand and just watch him, taking a few pictures but watching him and not quite believing that he is right there in front of us.

Then he makes a loud noise, comes out of the brush, walks right in front of us and sits down to eat different leaves. He is a mere four feet from us. I ask if we should move, after all the rules say 21 feet away, but the ranger says , no we are fine.

If he charges we are not to run, just duck down. I am standing on a steep hill so know I would just fall over if that happened. But luckily it didn't.

The Silverback let out a loud and long fart like you would not believe. At first I thought it was one of the other women, but it happened over and over again. Quite funny

Words and pictures can not describe or capture the feeling of being a few feet away from a Silverback gorilla enjoying his lunch. He would look at us occasionally , but really not that interested. They are used to humans. For one hour a day one group of eight tourists can come and watch them so they are 'habituated'

We whisper to each other, "look there's another one there". Did you see the babies?
We have to be quiet and move slowly

The four of us kept looking at each other as though to say 'pinch me, is this really happening?"
And " holy shit"

A mom and newborn baby comes from out the forest and sits down close by in the bushes. She is rocking him and kissing him, grooming him. Every now and then she would look at us, and then give us a glimpse of her pride and joy. What a gift. He is one month old. We spent quite some time with her.

Another little one climbs to the top of the tree to eat some leaves and then one a little older and bigger climbs up behind him. He gets high enough that the young tree bends over and they both fall off. This is a game that they play.

It seems our hour is up before too long, the silverback and all the others have moved on, only mom and baby there now. This family has a total of 18 gorillas.

We are feeling so incredibly blessed. It could not have been any better. The hike back was up a different hill , just as difficult, and our drivers were called to pick us up at the new spot.
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Young children from the local school were standing at the top of the hill singing a song for us as we emerged from the jungle. We then were presented with our gorilla tracking certificate with much fanfare.

We paid our porters double as they were amazing and then tipped the other rangers as well which was appreciated.

Our packed lunch was eaten on the drive back. A toasted peanut butter sandwich that we squished a banana into. Best meal ever!

Back at our hotel around noon we just showered and laid in our incredibly comfortable beds for the rest of the afternoon and recounted the experience.

The two Irish women did not like the hotel they stayed at last night so I suggested they come to ours. They did and we had a great dinner together. They are also vegetarians and have been friends for 40 years and travel a lot together.
We have exchanged emails and will share photos etc.
In bed at 9 again tonight. Fantastic day

Day 18, Feb 21. Tuesday.
Rwanda.

My knees and thighs are talking to me this morning after that vertical climb yesterday. Hopefully I am better tomorrow for our next hike. Sitting on my butt for the past couple of weeks is showing itself

Another early breakfast and we head for Rwanda at 7AM. We pass the check in point to where we hiked yesterday and talked to the ranger for a minute ( stopped to use the bathroom). There were 32 people today for 4 groups of 8. Wow we were so lucky yesterday

The road is a red dirt road in great condition and Brighton drives an average of 50k at all times. Even as we are passing school children as young as 5 on their way to school. Kids here have to be street smart as soon as they can walk.

The children are all in school uniform, different colours for different schools. They are all very neat and tidy, as is everyone here it seems, all very well dressed. Most kids are barefoot though. Brighton said that even he did not have his first pair of shoes until he was 10 and he came from a well to do family. It is just not thought about to buy your kids shoes.

The scenery is breathtaking, so green with the many crops planted on the steep sides of the hills. Lots of banana trees, tea and potatoes as well as other crops.

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As we drive through the Bwinidi impenetrable forest it is pouring rain, sheets of it. But Brighton kept going the same speed .

A police jeep passes us followed by around 10 or more large busses full of people and then a couple of UN jeeps. Brighton tells us that these are people being relocated from a refugee camp at the border and taken to a small village where they will each be given a piece of land to farm and build a new life. Uganda takes a lot of refugees from The Congo, Rwanda and Sudan. They are a very kind and giving country and are hoping that the refugees will intermarry with the Ugandans and start their new life. A half hour later we pass the refugee camp which is now empty.

Brighton is from a small town near the border of Rwanda and tells us that his family still live there. His mom is 89 and his grandma is 114 and still doing quite well. The weather in Uganda is never hot, always spring like and he attributes that to long life. During the genocide in Rwanda he lost 17 family members, and you can tell by a few things that he says he still does not feel warm about Rwanda.

We reach the border and go to the first check point to hand over our passports.
" what is your occupation. Teacher?"
No. Retired.
"Retired from what ? Teacher?"
No, financial.
He makes a bit of small talk, hand us a tiny little white postage stamp size paper and tells us to go on our way.

Brighton tells us to go to another check point, we need to walk across the border and go into a building. We pass a check point and the guard takes our tiny piece of white paper. Then we proceed to another building
At the first window we are told, " next window". We line up at that window
"Next window". And so it went until we got to the last window.
" what is your occupation? ". Same questions.
"Go to next window"
Same question " what is your occupation?"
By this time I want to say neurosurgeon or something. But I don't. We get our passport stamped and then we have to go though one more check point.
This process took just over half an hour.

We are now in RWANDA
The houses are closer together, smaller pieces of land and the people are not dressed as well. It seems poorer than Uganda. Lots of bicycles. No motorcycles and not many cars. People walk. The bicycles are taxis, we see young men in green and yellow vests on bicycles with a large seat at the back to carry people or goods. Hundreds of them.

The women are dressed in beautiful coloured long dressing with matching head scarves and many have items on their head. If they are heavy items they roll up some cloth to put on the top of their head.

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As we get closer to our hotel, in the fairly large town of Musanze, the houses get much nicer and the landscaping is beautiful. Lots of flowers and the area is spotless.

Our hotel is okay, nothing too fancy but will do us just fine. We have a buffet lunch which is okay and then spend the rest of the afternoon lazing in the room until dinner time.

Tonight we prepared for our gorilla trek in the morning.

Day 19

Neither of us slept well last night, but we are up and at em at 5AM. After a small breakfast we head to the park headquarters. School children are heading for school, in their school uniforms and looking very smart. Brighton is driving slower today thankfully as there are so many people , children and bicycles on the winding roads. We pass lots of farmland, potatoes mostly, big plots of them.

We reached the check in point and are the first and only people there. Brighton likes to be early.
Lana and i want to do an easy hike today so hoping for one of the gorilla family's that is close by. Eventually the parking lot fills up, and there are over 100 people there. In Uganda there was three different starting points, but in Rwanda only one. It is very nice, quite fancy really, and we are entertained by some local dancers and drummers who were fantastic.

I notice quite a variety of people waiting for the trek, some in their twenties, some around 80. most have hiking clothes and boots on, but some are in running shoes and yoga pants. Others look like they just stepped out of an LL Bean magazine with their brand new clean and ironed safari clothes and spotless hats.

There are 11 gorilla families and the rangers will divide us into 11 groups of 8 . There are also a couple of groups going to visit the golden monkeys. We said we wanted a family close by.

Soon Brighton comes back and says mission accomplished. I knew he could do it.
He says " the early bird gets the big mouse"
We are put in a group with a couple in their eighties from Australia, one in their 70s from Santa Barbara and a couple in their early 30s from Little Rock Arkansas.

It took another 20 minutes or so to drive to our starting point, the last bit being on a potato field.
The walk took us though many fields of women working with hoes tilling the land. We hired porters again to carry our bags and had some fancy gorilla sticks Eventually we veered off into the bush. There is mostly bamboo and some stinging nettles to look out for. The weather is warm and the rain is holding off. ( this is a rain forest after all). Our ranger has a great sense of humour and stops to talk to us a lot, giving a chance for some to rest. He says we only have four more hours to go.

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The hike however is so easy, it is a breeze. Mostly flat, a bit of uphill, but there is quite a bit of mud. Boot sucking mud in some places and a tad slippery. But we are thrilled as this is so much better than the one in Uganda.
After about an hour of trekking he says, "Get your cameras, we are here"
We are visiting the Agashya group.

Around the corner is a huge silverback enjoying some bamboo. We watch him for a while and then he gets up and walks right past us, inches away.

The encounters with the gorillas is amazing. They are so close to us. One juvenile fell out of a tree , almost on top of Lana, and then tapped her knee and went into the bushes.

A ranger was taking some vines away with his machete so we could see better and one female gorilla swatted at him and growled thinking he was taking her food. The rangers were constantly talking to the gorillas in low grunts and groans. They understood their language.

Another ranger was moving bushes away and a gorilla grabbed his leg, so the ranger growled to back off. Again they though he was taking their food away.

They were constantly coming right up to us, brushing past and giving us a terrific thrill.

All too soon our hour is up and we start the walk back through the mud. The rain started just as we left, we are so lucky as the gorillas hide in the bush when it is raining. Blessed.

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Our shoes are so muddy, we take them off before getting back in the truck. We had to stop to drop off the ranger and and pick up our gorilla trekking certificates at a little craft shop. So we had to go in and check things out, in our sock feet.

Lana found a lady who would clean our shoes for us, she did an amazing job for only $5usd. I bought a couple of pairs of cheap earrings and a bracelet, and so did Lana.

After lunch we relaxed in the room till dinner and then a bit of work on this blog and to bed.
Tomorrow we fly to Kenya for the last part of our African Holiday.
Here is a link to a video I did of our two gorilla hikes

click here for video
What a phenomenal trip so far.

Posted by debbep 11:26 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

Ethiopia

Amazing!

sunny 40 °C

Day. 4. Feb 8. 2017

Ethiopia had never been on my radar until last year at Dougs family reunion in Calgary when I was talking to his cousin and wife who live here. They have lived in Ethiopia for a number of years and John is the director for Save the Children and his wife the head of another NGO. They suggested we come so I looked into what Ethiopia was like and was immediately intrigued. After a few emails back and forth we had arranged to go to their house for dinner last night, but reconfirming a few days ago found out that they were visiting in Canada. They left suddenly, probably because there was a six month state of emergency declared in the Fall and no one could move about very much. It is all fine now . It was disappointing not to see them however.

Fuad is a driver and guide that we hired to take us south to the Omo Valley for the next week and he was waiting for us at 7:30AM in the lobby. He is married with three young children and a very gentle and kind man with a great sense of humour and a vast knowledge of Ethiopia . We will be travelling around in a very comfortable Toyota Land Cruiser four x four. It took quite some time to get out of town as traffic was very heavy in the morning. Once out of town the landscape changed to rolling hills of farmland with mountains in the background. We stopped to take pictures quite often as it was all so unfamiliar and exciting.

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Ethiopia not only has its own time system with the clock but the calendar as well. The year starts Sept 11 and it is now 2009. They started the calendar when Christianity came to Ethiopia, 7 years later.
The average blue collar worker in the city makes around $10 a day. Around 60percent of the population is Christian of various types and the other 40 percent Sunni Muslim. Fuad and his family are Muslim.

The picture below is of a small farm where they put sorghum , a grain, on the ground and then have the cows go around in circles to crush the grain. It is a long and tedious job, and they usually make the young boys direct the cows. The larger cows have to have their mouths tied as they would stop and eat all the time otherwise. The land is all owned by the government and people lease it to farm and build their houses.

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I took out my good camera to take a picture and find that my lens is smashed to pieces. I almost threw up. I carefully took off the UV Filter and discover that the actual lens is fine. Thank goodness.

This house was typical of the next area where they paint the outside in beautiful designs. We pulled off the road and all these kids came running up and were happy to show us the inside. It was very neat and tidy, a sleeping mat on the dirt floor for the eight children, a straw mat as a partition from where mom and dad slept. A small fire in the middle where food was cooked and the other half of the home is where the animals slept at night. Seven in total, cows, goats and chickens, If they are left outside they are at risk from wild animals.
The kids were fascinated with Lanas hair and kept feeling it. It is so fine and so light in color.

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There are more cows and goats on the road than vehicles, Thousands of them walking down the middle of the road, slowly and taking up most of the road but Fuad was very good at maneuvering around them. People walk everywhere. Miles a day, about seven hours to get water every single day. They travel with big yellow containers for miles to wait in long line ups to have them filled with drinking water from a tap or pump from a well. Then they walk miles back and do it all again tomorrow. Some of the lucky ones have donkeys and can have them carry a few on their back or a wagon is attached. We see many people with huge bundles on the their backs of produce, firewood, hay or food for the animals. Again walking tor miles a day and wearing flip flops or sandals made from recycled tires. They have amazing posture though and look very fit and healthy.

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The cattle are being driven in the morning to a place where they can drink and eat grass which quite often is miles away, and then driven back again at night. The same thing will happen again tomorrow. The cattle is usually driven by boys and the heavy loads and water fetching by girls and women. Everyone is incredibly fit and healthy looking
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Lining up to get water

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Last year was a terrible drought in the area , then the rains came and flooded everything but did not last too long. Now most of the rivers are dried up again and the cattle is dying and getting very sick in some areas. We saw a few on the side of the road. Apparently they just stay there, or even in the middle of the road if that is where they land. No one moves them

We stopped for a coffee at a tourist hotel and had a wonderful Machiato coffee, very strong but delicious. A few hours later we stopped again for lunch, a local Ethiopian dish of very spicy chick peas and injura a local bread that is large flat and spongy with a sour taste. You break off a piece and use it as a way to eat your food, there are no utensils. It was very good.

It was getting late but we pushed on to visit the Dorze people who lived on the top of a mountain accessed by a gravel road of switchbacks. We pass so many women bent over with large bundles on their backs trudging up this big hill with goods to sell at the market tomorrow morning. I felt guilty driving past.

A young boy greeted us in front of his house and showed us how the houses were made and what they looked like inside. It resembles a beehive and is referred to as that.
His sister was spinning cotton and Lana and I tried our hand at it but failed miserably.
The women spin and the men weave the textiles.
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A local dish was being made from the stems of the false banana tree and we were shown how it is made into a bread which we sampled with some local honey and moonshine.

Young boys and girls played music and danced for us and before long the sun was setting and it was time to go. The days end early here, around 6 PM

Our home for the night was down the mountain and a few miles away in Arba Minsch called Paradise Lodge. We were so bagged by the time we got there we just had a small dinner and straight to bed.

Day 5

I usually get an average of 10-11 hours of sleep a day and lately it has been 3 or 4 . I am a mess I am so overtired. Another sleepless night last night, Lana too. I have decided to stop taking my Malaria medication because it can cause insomnia, and I never have trouble sleeping.

Our breakfast was in an outdoor resteraunt overlooking the national park and two large lakes. It was a beautiful setting

A local market is enroute to Jinka and was very interesting to see a few of the different tribes in one place buying and selling their goods. There were very few tourists there and we found ourselves surrounded by young children who grabbed our hands and followed us for the day. They would touch our arm s and hair because we look so different. One little girl stayed the whole day and had once crutch and one shoe on her good foot. She had been in a car accident and was doing to best to keep up with everyone. You rarely see anyone with any physical or mental impairments here.

We took lots of pictures. Fuad arranged a local guide to go around the market with us and explain things which was great.
He took us up to this tree away from the market that had a bunch of people sitting around drinking local made beer. They looked at us very suspiciously but eventually we felt a little more welcome when they realized we weren't there to take pictures.
One older woman took a shine to me and offered me some of her home made beer. It was in a filthy dirty plastic bucket and she lifted it up towards me. Our guide said that refusing anything offered is very rude, maybe I could pretend.

I took the bucket, held it to my lips and the smell of yeast was overwhelming I did my best impression of someone taking a big drink.
UMMMMGOOOD. I rub my stomach in gesture that it is good. They all laugh.

The heat is very oppressive here. I had not eaten since breakfast and with lack of sleep all of a sudden it just caught up with me and i felt I was going to pass out so found some shade to hide out for a bit until it was time to leave. Maybe it was the beer. :)

On our way out we stopped and bought the little girl a pair of new shoes, plastic sandals. Even with the guide negotiating for us we still paid way too much, but she was very happy. The six other barefoot kids asking for shoes were a little disappointed however.
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Jinka is our home for the next two nights in the 'Orit Hotel'. I knew it would not be four star, but this was a 1 1/2 at best. We were on the second floor, no fan , cant open windows at night, tap is broken, toilet seat not attached to toilet. I needed to sleep but it was so hot I didn't think I could possibly manage it. I asked for a fan, but they didn't have any, so I asked if Fuad would go out and buy one for me.
I covered my head in a cool cloth and even with the construction right outside the room I finally got some sleep. I felt like a new person.

Lana and Fuad and another fellow went on the hunt for a fan for me, found one and spent over an hour trying to put it together and then it didn't work. They took it back and got it fixed, what a god send. It makes all the difference in the world and worth every penny. I will just gift it to Fuad when we fly to Uganda.

Tonight we went out for dinner at a small local cafe.

Day 6. Friday February 10

Up at out by 6AM to beat the heat and the crowds. Fuad arranged for a local guy to make us breakfast to go as our hotel was not up yet and then we picked up a local guide who spoke the language of the Mursi People, the village we are heading to.

There are over 80 groups and as many different languages in the south. When someone gets an invitation to a wedding or celebration and it is say 10 days away, they tie ten knots in a rope and cut one off every day so they know when to be there.
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Travelling on switchback dirt roads over the mountain and through the National park was a dusty and bumpy few hours. We stopped at one point and climbed up a hill to stand and have our breakfast. Lana and I had a glass of pure mango juice which was amazing and that was followed by an egg sandwich for Lana and Fuad and toast for me. A dirty thermos came out and coffee was poured into thin dusty juice cups followed by some sugar. No milk.
It was probably the worst coffee i have ever had in my life. But I was standing on a hill in Ethiopia at sunrise overlooking the national park with Sudan and Kenya in the distance.

Lana pretended to drop something and bent over to pick it up and slyly poured her coffee out. I just said I couldn't drink it, So Fuad finished it for me.

This road is bring used right now as access to a newer road being built, so there are many big trucks on it and the occasional land cruiser.
Parts of the road is so soft, the dirt is like silt, these big trucks cant make it up the hills and are stacked up four to five deep waiting for the one who is stuck to get up. a few have even gone over the edge. The land cruiser just flys by with no problem.

Half way there we stop to pick up a park range with his AK47 to escort us to act as our protection. Not really sure what from........

Finally we arrive at the village. We are the first ones there and take our time walking around the village and taking it all in. We did not take any pictures right off the bat, tried to not be the tourist with the camera and not interested in the people. But that didn't last long.

People were coming up and asking us to take their pictures. This group is really quite aggressive and we felt a little overwhelmed after a while. A lot of their livelihood has been lost so they supplement their income by having tourists pay to take their picture. I don't have a problem with that but everyone wanted their picture taken. It is 5 birr per picture which is about 30 cents. It does add up quickly however. Thank god for the guide to keep order.

I would agree on four girls, hold up my camera to take the picture and there would now be six of them there.

I did arrange to dance with some women however and we ended up laughing and relaxing a bit after that. They really do dress like this but mostly for weddings or celebrations,

The lip plates were started during the slave days. The Mursai decided to cut the lips and put in plates to make them ugly so that they would not be wanted by slave traders and there fore not captured .
After a while the tribe considered it a thing of beauty so the tradition continued.
They also body scarring with razor blades which is very interesting. I brought a package of razor blades from home and gave them to the chief which was appreciated. We are also giving out little bars of soap to some of the people who are thrilled.
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We left for our long drive back and stopped to buy little sweet bananas and mangos from the side of the road. After we dropped off the ranger and the guide we went back to the hotel. A group from Israel checked out so we arranged to move downstairs to a much nicer room. Now we have a 2 star. (Maybe). We would have loved to take a shower to wash off all the sweat and dust but there was no water.

Lunch was fresh mango and bananas that were so good.

I had a rest for a couple of hours and then we set off to visit the home of OMO CHILD. When I was googling Ethiopia I came across a documentary that had just been filmed in the omo valley about the tradition of Mingi in the local tribes. It was thought that children who are born out of wedlock, or their top teeth come in first, are cursed and will bring disaster to the village. So the elders come in the middle of the night and take the babies and kill them.

A young man from the Kara tribe found out that his two older sisters had been killed and others children in the village and knew he would have to do something.
He finished his education, became a teacher and then started going to the villages to negotiate with the elders to give him the babies. He and his wife now have 2 daughters of their own and raise 50 mingi chilldren. The website is omochild.com.

I contacted him and omo child and said i wanted to bring some shoes clothes ipads toothbrushes and games. (With donations from friends) I am also a monthly supporter it really touched my heart. They suggested Fuad as our guide as he knew Omo child well. He has his own company and takes photographers from national geographic and other famous photographers around so i was thrilled to get him. He has also driven Will Smith and wife Jada for a week up north.

The home is very nice and so organized. They have a few nannies on staff as well as a nurse and teacher. The older kids were playing soccer with a ball on its last legs so they were very happy with the two new soccer balls we brought. The little ones were adorable, al the kids seemed really happy healthy and it as such an amazing experience
I bought a bingo picture game with English words that we played with them and they loved it, we had to play it twice.

I am so glad that we were able to help out in our small way. We had time to meet Lale as well, the man who's started it all.
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We came back and were looking forward to a shower to wash off the dust and sweat, but it was off. For good. They brought us three buckets of water to have which gave us a bit of a taste what the local people do every day.

Day 7

Our breakfast was included and porridge was not available so we ordered french toast. I should know better than to order western food in a foreign country. It was deep fried battered bread. Lana tasted hers but I didn't even bother. We just enjoyed our fruit from yesterday.

Fuad took us to a small museum before we headed out of town. It told us information about some of the tribes.

Today we went to a local market with the Hamar People. It was very busy with everyone selling produce and various goods. Women would have their hair coloured with a red clay mixed with butter. They braid their hair and then color it red and wear lots of color full beads and jewellery. Men can have three wife's and depending upon which number you are you have a different necklace on. It was lots of fun but incredibly hot.

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Everything is a long drive down a bad road. I had no idea we would be spending so much time in the car. It is all amazing however. We were moving to a new hotel tonight in a town called Turmi where we will call home for the next three nights. We are almost there when a young boy calls to Fuad ( he knows everyone) and they speak in Amari (the main language). Fuad says, there is a bull jumping ceremony about 20K from here, do you want to go? YES!!!

The boy jumped into the car because he could speak the language of the Hamar tribe and it took about an hour to drive down roads that disappeared and at times we drove on dry river beds. The cows are getting thinner and thinner the further south we go. There is a real drought here, no water. Cows are dead or dying on the side of the road. The goats still look good as they can eat anything. They even eat the Hawthorne branches. The people look good too, but the cows are suffering.
The people here use the cows for meat sometimes, but mostly they shoot an arrow in their jugular, catch a bunch of blood and then patch it up again. They drink blood mixed with milk for protein. They do this in many African countries.

We pass some local people who wave and gesture to keep going, you are on the right track. everyone knows there is a bull jumping ceremony.

This ceremony is for a young boy who is ready to marry to prove he is a man. The bull jumping part is at the end where he has to run over the top of 10 bulls, naked , four times. If the bulls keep still enough and he is successful then is able to start looking for a wife.
There were only around 10 other tourists there.

The boys who have passed this test but not yet married are called to 'whip' the female relatives of the boy who is jumping. I thought I would have a hard time with this but it wasn't as bad as i thought. The women dance and sing, blow horns, have bells on their legs and move about this big area and eventually pass one of the boys a switch from a tree. He then whips their backs. Not hard usually, but some of the women would hand the switch back to him and insist he do it harder. Sometimes he would throw it down, and basically say no. But she would hand it to him, put it in his hand and insist he hit her harder. So he did.
The more scars she has proves her love for her son, cousin, brother etc (the boy who is jumping)
One woman was getting very drunk and very insistent on the whipping. When ever he hit her hard enough she would do a little jump, that she was happy.
Her back is bleeding like crazy and it looks so painful. But I had to leave my judgement at home
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They have leaves to put over the sores to help them heal.
This went on for a long time. Then we moved up the hill to the area where the family sat and drank some more, more whipping and dancing.
We sat on a little dirt hill to get out of the sun and watch. We were surrounded by mostly girls, women and children. They were watching us intently. Out of curiosity and also to see if we were taking pictures of them. This one girl , a ways away, was really looking at me. So I did a fish face (where you suck in your checks and pucker your lips). Well they started to laugh. So I kept doing it and everyone was laughing like crazy, especially Lana who was crying she was laughing so hard.
A boy behind me asked Lana why she was crying, so I turned around and gave him a fish face. Now everyone was trying to do one. It was a great way to break the ice and pass the time.

Eventually we walked to the top of the hill, it was getting to be sunset, and the men were moving the bulls down from the higher pastures.

The boys were lining the bulls up, while the jumper was standing with the bulls trying to calm them and connect with them to help him do the jump.
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Eventually he ran, jumped on the first one and ran across the backs of the others to the other side. He did this three more times with success and the other boys came up and were so happy for him.

The sun was now setting and we headed back to our new hotel, the Buska Lodge.

What a gift that was to be a part of that.

Day 8

Our hotel is wonderful, little round cabins in a beautiful setting. This is an eco lodge so runs on generator. Unfortunately the generator is shut off between 10P and 6AM, which means no fans. We cant open the windows, it is hot as hell but no air flow which really affects me. I get claustrophobic. Not much sleep at all last night.

None the less there are lots of adventures ahead of us today. In the restaurant we talk to the other travellers, a few we have seen at different markets and villages and some at the bull jumping last night. We find that everyone we meet here is extremely well travelled, way more than me. I don't think Ethiopia is a place you go to when you are starting out traveling, more for seasoned and adventurous people. Most are also around our age. It is hard to back pack in this area i think.

There are six women from Edmonton, two separate couples form Australia, some from Poland and a number from Israel that we have met over our travels. Everyone is very friendly and it is great to share experiences with them.

Breakfast is always included with the room, sometimes a buffet and sometimes made to order. We have been able to get oatmeal every morning, some times it is better than others and quite often very milky, but good. Lots of fruit and the mango juice is outstanding. Only mangos with a touch of lime. So good.
The coffee is hit and miss. Unless I can order a Machiato, which is like an expresso coffee with milk, I don't bother. I only have one glass but it is tiny because it is so strong.

Today we will visit the Kara group. Another bumpy dusty dirt road for a few hours to reach this group who live by the river. They are lucky as they have water. This is where Lale is from ( the fellow from Omo CHild) and John Rowe, a professional photographer, arranged with the Kara that if they quite practising Mingi he would build them a water pump. And they have which is wonderful. The government also bui lt them a school so more kids will go and don't have to walk for an entire day to get there. They used to just come home on weekends.

We again had a local guy who showed us around, he speaks the Kara language. We had everyone following us of course. The other couple from Australia was there too, but they stayed in a different area. The decoration is completely different once again. They paint their bodies with white clay which keeps them cooler. Being by the river here is a very comfortable temperature in the shade however.

I had a hard time figuring out which were boys or girls, unless I looked at their chest. It is funny because after a while you don't even notice that they are either half or fully naked. They are all so incredibly beautiful and the face painting and beads only enhance the beauty. Some have a nail through their lips, a piercing, or sticks through their ears.

I asked the guide if they would dance with me, this seemed like a lively and happy group. He picked out a few who he thought would be good and they agreed. There were a group of teenage girls who were just too cool for this however, there was no way they were going to humiliate themselves.

We had such a great time laughing and dancing. We all really enjoyed it and it is a great ice breaker. I gave them each some Birr but also a package of 10 razor blades which they appreciated.

Then came the picture taking, they all want their photos taken for 5 birr (30 cents). We want to please everyone but there are just too many, so we pick who we want. Fuad is great because he has worked with professional photographers so knows where I should shoot them with the light and background . Some would ask me again, change something and I would say "I have already taken your picture"
'No....no you haven't " in their own language but you knew what they were saying. Then we would smile and they knew that I was on to them.

The men get the AK47s from the Sudanese and Kenyan armies. They use them mostly for killing animals but have been known to kill enemy's as well. Some of the tribes feud a lot.
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We are picture taken out and duck into a hut to have a cold drink. Only men allowed but they make an exception for tourists. I never drink pop but here it is very welcome for the refreshing cold drink but also the sugar to restore some energy. There are not a lot of choices but usually I can find Sprite or if all else fails a Fanta. Coke is the favourite for the locals.

Back at the hotel Fuad wants to take us for a walk down to a river or something. We say " no thanks, we are done and need some down time"
We were supposed to go to see another tribe tomorrow but after speaking to some of the other travellers find that it is very dusty and windy there. Bad for the camera and not so great for us either.

Over dinner we tell Fuad that we don't want to go. We have seen the best of the best, we don't need to check off a bunch of boxes and go for 12 hours a day non stop. I just cant keep up this pace, I am exhausted. It is all so amazing but we have five more weeks to go.

He said that most of his clients want to see everything and do as much as possible. We hopefully convinced him that he is a great guide and that we are very satisfied with all that we have seen, we are really happy, but need some down time.

For the next couple of days I really just want to be here. Experience being in Ethiopia and see the landscape and the rural village and people and learn about their way of life.

So we changed the itinerary, which is great. I loved our hotel but could not bear another night here with out a fan. Tomorrow we will head back to Arba Minch and then the last night in Awasa by the lake. This means that we have two days of only 4 hours driving instead of one day of 8. Suits us just fine.

Day 9

Fuad wanted us to visit the local market in Turmi. It doesn't start till 11AM, this gives all the people in the outlying areas time to walk here as it takes many of them hours and sometimes overnight to do so. We arrived at 1030 and it was no where near ready to start so we convinced him that nothing could be better than the Hamer market anyhow, we could just push on.
The country side changes so much every few hours. At one point we see a herd of camels cross in front of us. They are raised to meat and sold to Saudi Arabia. Young boys of around 10 spend a couple of weeks tending them, sleeping with them, and only eating bread and drinking camel milk. They are afraid if they eat anything else they may get sick and these camels are so important they cant risk anything going wrong
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All the children we are are so happy, playing and smiling all the time. They do have to help out with the work at a very young age however. It is common to see boys as young as 5 with machetes ( We wont even let ours have a table knife!). They also go all day with the goats and cows to graze. School is either morning or afternoon, but a lot of kids only get to grade 3 and then have to drop out to help with the chores.

When we are driving kids run up to the car, when they see a Toyota Land Cruiser they know we are tourists, they hold out their hand and say "highland". This is the name of the bottled water and they want the empties to use to fill with water or home made juice

We stopped for lunch and then picked up another local guide to take us for a walk through a Konzo village which was quite different from the others. A lot of rock was brought in to make walls and divisions of areas.
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Back at Paradise Lodge in Arba Minsch we are greeted by the staff like we are old friends. A cold wet towel and juice is very appreciated. At dinner we see once again many of our traveller friends, heading in different directions tomorrow.

Day 10

Wednesday Feb 14.
I woke at 6 to watch the sunrise on our terrace looking over the lake. I could hear the howler monkeys and animals making lots of noise below in the forest. This was a wonderful start to the day.

Our drive today is ONLY 4 hours over many large hills and the scenery changes often again. It is getting much cooler again the further north we go. We stopped for a Macciato and mango juice half way and it was very cool sitting outside on the grass. A welcome change.

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On the way we passed lots of farms and kids selling fresh produce on the side of the road. We stopped and Fuad negotiated a price for a bunch of bananas and a huge papaya to enjoy later on.
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Lewi resort in Awasha is beautiful. We are on the lake and there are many gardens and monkeys running around. It is valentines day, a relatively new holiday in Ethiopia, and we find that our twin beds have red rose pedals sprinkled on them.

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The resteraunt is all decked out with tables of two and pink table cloths and red balloons.

Fuad met us for dinner and we enjoyed our last night together. We had to put on light jackets tonight as it was quite cool. This town is high in the mountains so a popular vacation spot for Ethiopians.

Day 11

It was a real treat to have a relaxing morning sitting by the lake and finally getting a chance to work on this blog . The weather is quite cool but such a wonderful change. The Mango juice this morning was extra delicious.

At 10am we start our drive north and find that we are sharing the road with many big transport trucks. Ethiopia is really doing a great deal of road building and construction everywhere. The roads are terrible, but they are working on them
When we were in the south we found that the big trucks would hang branches of hawthorne trees on the back so that kids wouldn't climb on and go for a ride.

We pass by many farms, huge greenhouses of roses for export, fields for cotton , winery's and and strawberry fields.

THe smaller towns seem to have a lot of plastic garbage on the side of the road but the villages and larger cities are spotless. People take great pride in their homes and the outside and inside is also spotless and tidy.

A break was at a lovely place on a lake and we enjoyed probably our last machiato coffee in Ethiopia.

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After a few more hours we stopped again for some fresh strawberries which were delicious.

Back to the Sidra hotel in Addis Abbaba and we say our goodbyes to Fuad. He was such a great driver and guide. He wanted to go out for a traditional dinner tonight but we politely declined.

Tonight is going to be getting organized for the next part of our trip. Uganda.

Ethiopia is an amazing country. It is very large and we only covered a small portion of it but even so we found it quite diverse in not only landscape by the people and culture as well.

The people are very fit and healthy looking and incredibly attractive. Everyone we met is calm and friendly and very welcoming. I am very glad that we came here.

here is a video of my trip.
click here for video

Posted by debbep 20:02 Archived in Ethiopia Comments (5)

AFRICA!!!!!

Off on another amazing adventure

sunny 29 °C

We have now arrived in Ethiopia after a very long three flights to get here.
Doug decided that this was not on the top of his bucket list, so I am travelling with Lana again this time.

This is our itinerary:
Friday Feb 4, overnight Vancouver
Feb 5. fly to Frankfurt, overnight at airport hotel
Feb 6. Fly to Addis Ababa Ethiopia
Feb 8-15 Private tour to southern Ethiopia to the Omo Valley

Feb 16 Fly to Uganda
Feb 17-23 Private tour of Uganda including a gorilla trek in both Uganda and Rwanda.

Feb 23 fly to Nairobi Kenya, overnight near airport
Feb 24-March 1. Safari in Kenya

March 1 fly to Barcelona arrive March 2

March 3-10 Mediterranean cruise ( France and Italy)
March 10 fly to Brugge in Belguim for three nights
March 13 overnight Frankfurt and fly home March 14 to overnight in Vancouver.

Wednesday March 15th. Home.

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Leaving Coombs

It was a good time to leave, in the middle of a snowstorm. I walked on the ferry with my little daypack, carry on suitcase and a massive 50 lb suitcase full of items for the orphanage in Ethiopia. But when I put it on the scale it was over the maximum 50 lbs and the bells rang.
I have to take out some kids clothes to be allowed to check it onto the luggage transfer. Luckily there was a place at customer service that will donate them to Haven Society.

I took the greyhound to the bus station and then took a cab to have dinner with Taylor Reese and my brother Dave which was great
After dinner I met up with Lana at the Travelodge Airport Hotel for our overnight. Lana also has a massive suitcase so we juggled back and forth to make sure they were each under the allowable 50 lbs. We had to leave out a few more clothes .

Saturday Feb 5.
Day 1
American Airlines to Dallas was delayed by an hour due to having to de ice the plane but thankfully we had a good three hour connection so we were okay
We arrived in Frankfurt at 8AM local time and decided to ditch our two extra huge suitcases at a baggage locker in the airport. So many people are travelling with three or four huge suitcases. I don't know how they manage it. We were happy to just have the small ones for now.

Frankfurt airport is massive. Our hotel is in the terminal which is great and after a rest we went back and were able to check in our 2 huge bags and get our boarding passes for tomorrow morning.

Sunday Feb 6.
Day 2
We went straight to our gate as we were all set but had to go through immigration and security first. They said to bring out iPads as well as laptops which was a first for me. I brought out my iPad but knew I had another one at the bottom of my carry on but decided not to take it out. Partly because I was lazy but also a part of me wanted to know if they would see it. The extra iPad is for the orphanage. Lana was carrying an extra one too, but she took hers out.

Well......I got pulled aside. Now keep in mind that my carry on has six weeks of clothes for two climates and two different kinds of holidays and packed very strategically .

This lovely young woman said she was going to swab my suitcase.
Sure go for it
With a big smile she says " it has Tested positive for explosives". And laughs.

So I said " ha, you are kidding right?" She said, " I need to unpack your suitcase. "
Sure

She pulls everything out, then asks if I have another iPad. Sheepishly I pretend I forgot, "yes I do."
Okay, we just have to wait for the police. And she laughs again. So I assume she is kidding and I laugh too.
No, we are waiting for the police. Really. After some time he finally comes over, looks bored and not interested at all says it's all good and she says okay, you can put everything back now.
Well that was a challenge to get everything back in, but at least I didn't get arrested. Lesson learned. I am glad they found it though. They passed my secret test.

Our flight to Addis in on Lufthansa airlines with a stop in Jeddah Saudi Arabia first and is full to the rafters. In Frankfurt it seems most planes are not boarded by the jetties but by bus to the plane and it feels like we were driving to Ethiopia because it took ages to get to the plane.

Our stop in Jeddah was around an hour and it seemed that more than half the plane left us here. Lufthansa does not have the rights to pick up passengers so we were able to spread out for the next few hours to Addis enjoying the in flight movies and non stop food . Not great food but there was lots of it. The flight attendants were very friendly and joked a lot with us.

We arrived in Addis on time at just after 9PM and had to proceed to customs. Most on the plane were nationals so there were only a hand full of us who went to 'visa on arrival' area. I thought the young man there was making small talk but in fact he was asking me questions for the visa. He said where are you coming from so I thought he was wondering where I lived so I was explaining where in Canada I was from etc. He was laughing and being very patient with me, but he really wanted to know what flight I came off of.

Lana was also providing a comedy relief for her guy. She kept getting closer to what she thought was a microphone because she thought he couldn't hear her. He kept asking her to back up and finally she realized it was a camera and he needed to take her picture. Lack of sleep is what we are blaming this on. I saw as we walked away the two of them were chatting and laughing alot.

Around the corner we had to pick up our passports and pay the $50 US cash visa fee. This young man would hold up the passport and if you recognized your picture you would step forward. Lana got hers but he kept picking up new passports from the pile and mine was continually on the bottom. He finally held up mine, I was the only one left, and we were on our way to baggage.

It is always a relief to me when I see our bags. Another plane arrived at the same time so we had to form a long line to go through a security X-ray machine to scan our bags before leaving the airport which is different.
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The first order of business is to find an ATM. Getting Ethiopian birr before hand is not possible, but unfortunately neither one of the ATMs worked for us. A lovely young man tried to help but no luck.

Our hotel was sending a car to pick us up, I sent two messages, via. booking.com but there was no one in the parking lot to meet us. A nice young man from another hotel phoned ours and they said they would arrive in 10 minutes. We spent that time talking to him and he was telling us a lot about Ethiopia but also asking about Canada as well.

Our ride finally came, a young man with a huge smile loaded our bags into the van. Thankfully we had some US dollars to use for tipping until we can get the Birr.

On the drive I asked " did you forget about us?"

No, we were here earlier. In Ethiopia they use a different measure of time. A twelve hour day starting at 6am. Only daylight hours are counted. I am not really sure how it works but 9 o'clock is 3 pm in Ethiopia. I did send the flight number as well, but it all worked out and so now we know to check if it is Ethiopia time or western time

Our hotel staff welcomed us with huge smiles and open arms. are you hungry? Well yes we are but it is 11pm Ethiopia time.
No worries, we will open the restaurant for you.

Delicious bowls of soup were ordered and enjoyed while learning some Ethiopian phrases from our young server. We wrote them down phonetically however once we head south it will be another language once again.

" do you have crackers?

I will go and check in the kitchen
Around 8 minutes later he returns with two plates which he puts in front of us. I don't have crackers but I have this.
Pound cake with raspberry sauce.
Close enough.

Day 3
Breakfast was included with our room and we wandered downstairs around 930AM. We greeted the staff with Good Morning in the Ethiopian language which caused quite a pleasant response. A man in his mid 40s I imagine was sitting at a table with his laptop, obviously working and asked how long we had been in the country.
We arrived late last night.

Well he was so impressed that we knew how to speak the language already....ha ha. Seriously I think he was quite impressed. We talked over breakfast and then he offered to drive us around the city and take us to an Atm at the Sheraton hotel. We took him up on his kind offer and had a wonderful morning with him. He is AMerican educated, his parents sent him to California when he was 14 because Ethiopia had conscription at that time and sometimes the army would grab you walking home from school.
He went to university in Michigan and now owns many business such as television station in Toronto, communtincation companies and an private airline he was part of in Nigeria.

His wife is currently living with two daughters in Nigeria and she is with the UN. He has a house here in Addis but comes to the hotel to work to get away from the many questions at the office and also the WiFi is better. He was a wealth of information and such a kind and gentle man.
Ethiopia has never been colonized, because Christianity has been here since the beginning of Christianity. It is one of the safest countries in Africa. We notice how all the drivers are calm and polite, no road rage at all, not much honking. Addis has a population of 12 million, not what I would call a very pretty city but it is surrounded by mountains. The weather is very pleasant as it is at a higher elevation, Our breathing is a bit laboured when walking up stairs.

The sheraton hotel is amazing. He greets every worker there and they all seem to really like and respect him. The ATM worked and after a short tour of the hotel grounds, which had beautiful flowers everywhere, we continued with our tour around the city.

Back at the hotel we exchange email addresses and then I went off to get a few hours sleep while Lana went to the hotel Spa. She had a hair cut, wash dry and hair straightening and a short foot massage for $5 but she left a good tip

Skipped lunch and had a fantastic dinner at the hotel, went for a half hour walk up the street and then back to get ready for tomorrow. Everyone is so friendly and we feel so safe here. We stick out like sore thumbs though, especially Lana with being so tall with her white hair and blue eyes.
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We are so excited about everything!! I will post on each country , hopefully internet will be okay and I can include some pictures. We would love to hear any comments or emails from you as well.

Posted by debbep 08:34 Archived in Ethiopia Tagged kenya rwanda uganda ethiopia Comments (2)

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