Blue Nile Gorge

18th August 2014 by Helen

This morning started with being woken by the sound of prayers long before the first rays of daylight and followed by an unscheduled delay while we investigated some more mechanical problems: the clutch not engaging properly, which has been happening since we left Nairobi, and a new noise (road speed linked clacking) that started yesterday, which may or may not be linked. Paul spent some time on the forums checking for information as well as talking to the mechanic at our accommodation from last night.

After some abortive attempts at getting cash out of the ATMs in Addis Ababa we found one that worked and left town a little after midday, far later than we wanted if we are to make our appointment with the shipper in Port Sudan in seven days’ time! It actually took us about an hour to get out of Addis – lots of new road works meant that our SatNav lady didn’t know where she was most of the time so we went back to the old method of following our noses and headed north. We found a seriously steep and winding road that got us out of town and on our way.

As soon as we left Addis we notice how much cleaner the countryside is. It’s more open – the dense jungle trees have given way to open fields and although there are still lots of people the houses look larger, better built and less cramped together as they line the roadside. As well as crop farming the main industry here appears to be cattle and goat herding. We also noticed how many people were carrying umbrellas as well as their sticks (staffs). We soon found out why as we passed through several rainstorms.

We had been warned by other travellers that the children thrown stones at passing cars and try to poke sticks through the wheels of cyclists. We only had one incident when a young man raised his arm to throw a small rock at our windscreen. Paul’s instinct was to brake and go to leap out of the car, at which point the young man dropped his stone and legged it.

Once again, children, boys in particular but also a few girls, call out OiOiOi or YooYooYoo or MoneyMoneyMoneyMoneyMoneyMoneyMoney at us as we pass, waving their hands to wave us down or holding out their hands as if to receive whatever is coming their way. Even a young child of around two being carried on his mother’s back had learned to hold out is hand for something.

A part of our journey on Monday took us across the absolutely beautiful Blue Nile Gorge as we dropped down through the tight winding curves of the road, from around three thousand metres to river level, before crossing the new bridge at the bottom and making our way slowly back up the other side. Words such as lush and verdant come to mind as I think of how to describe the vegetation covering the sides of the gorge.

2014 08 18 - 2 - Blue Nile Gorge crossing in Ethiopia (17)

Despite the late start we managed to cover around 450km on Monday and reached the small town of Bure along the way to our next border crossing at Metema. It was a couple of kilometres off the main road, which didn’t bode well for luxury accommodation, but at 9.30 pm we really needed to stop for the night so we gave it a go. We found a couple of decent looking places opposite each other – only one had rooms available. At 70 Birr for the two of us for the night we found we got what we paid for. £2.10 had bought us a double bed, rickety wooden bedside table, tiny dining table and two old metal legged, melamine covered seated chairs that would have looked more at home in my old school’s art room, and an en-suite bathroom that defies description: as Paul says, a picture cannot quite accurately convey the smell!

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