Elayne pulls out our old Chinese camping chairs as we sit and take in the surroundings in peace around eighty kilometres from Addis. Victor nestles under some eucalypt trees at Ehto German Camp at 2513mtrs above sea level watching hooded vultures soaring across the open valley as several dust devils whirl below racing across the valley floor, the cool breeze soothing.
We had just set up camp enjoying our escape from the outside world when 20 minutes later 50-60 small trucks and cars began to arrive it was the noisiest hooting precession we have ever heard. Yes this beautiful valley view was a favourite place to bring newly weds. More and more cars arrived the noise was amazing the clapping and chanting resembling some International Soccer match. Dozens of well lubricated men start heading for bushes urinating and defecating around us, our peace had disappeared.
Elayne not sure which way to point her Chinese camping chair. We laugh at our demise what else could we do except look up above and watch the Hooded Vultures soar higher and higher. Eventually peace once again returned the clapping shouting hooting procession heads off, peace returns.
I am pretty stuffed after a pretty intense drive only a few hundred kilometres from our last camp…but these are not normal kilometres.
If you have driven in Ethiopia then you will understand what it can be like. Donkeys, Donkey Carts, (as wide as trucks and some stacked has high as hay stacks) Horses, Camels, sheep, goats, Trucks loaded to the gunwales flapping cases slap in your ears as you try and weave your way up the mountain roads passing convoys, Thousands of Tuk Tuk’s, weaving constantly from side to side their occupants waving franticly to gain our attention as Victor inches past. Similes burst in to delight as we return their hospitable wave…….waving their hands for us to stop their driver opens his throttle fully trying to board us like some pirate boat drawing alongside inches away, waving and smiling constantly……..shouting where are you from…….Australia I reply……they laugh and wave repeating ….Australia, as Victor finally breaks free and finds some open road.
Ethiopia is just endless people ….in fact it feels as if the whole population of eighty –five million Ethiopian’s are walking in either direction on the road we have chosen to head south to Addis.
Victor and crew enjoying the beautiful Ethiopian trees.
You are just drawn to their beauty.
We meet a wonderful traveller at Bahar Dar
The rich red brown soil and shade a good spot to take a break.
Etho German Camp.
Victor arrives at Etho German Camp eighty klm’s from Addis.
Another sign to my collection…..lol
Famous Dutch adventure Wims Holland House Addis a Oasis for Overlanders.
Victor crams in with other Overlanders Eric and Frank in their Toyota, and Chris in his BMW 325
Streams of women carrying every object, known to man on their heads colourfully line the edges of this mountain road. We are just amazed everybody is walking heading for their some destination a village market, a friend all walking, the masses finally making it they to grind to a halt.
Donkey, Camels, Tuk Tuk’s, Goats and all the above congregating with their owners at a cattle, Camel ,Donkey market in the centre of the villages scattered along this road, This mayhem finally closing the road until everything now, including the animals grind to a halt in either direction. The noise is indescribable, smells penetrate your nostrils, the dust engulfs you, its brown ground cattle dung Victor is changing colour.
Nobody is bothered, or not this is not an important issue as hundreds of Cows and goats mix and their owners unmoved by the chaos carry on as if the whole chaotic scene is normal….and it is…..nobody cares about wether vehicles can move …they have arrived after miles and miles of trudging along these mountainous roads herding their precious animals dodging trucks and cars…why should they worry about us.
We are not dodging people anymore they have taken up residence sitting on Victor’s convenient flat surfaces when a necessary rest is required.
Old and young people alike amble around us herding a few goats or a hundred cattle; we are down to a crawl inching our way through the chaos village after village this scene repeats itself. The beautiful countryside amazingly fertile the rich brown-red mountain soil and patch work fields harvested fill our vision, green trees still looking lush, it’s not the picture I imagined Ethiopia to be.
Isuzu Busses draw alongside either side of Victor goats tied to the roof grazing on some straw the busses are filled to the brim with people and yellow plastic water containers.
Victor cannot move forward or backwards the two Isuzu busses have rounded us up just to give their passengers some light entertainment looking down on us …….BEEEEEP their hooters blast simultaneously several different notes repeating again and again the monotonous chorus bursting our ear drums as they make their presents known……Yes we can see you Elayne shouts back the Smiling drives wave the passengers lean as close to the windows pushing their heads through open windows smiling and waving, the ground Cow dung dust bellows we are covered as more cattle push between us and the busses we loose sight of the smiling faces a few metres away as we entangle ourselves into a herd of skin and bone cattle they are placid, almost human in their calm moves in the honking chaos around us they look unmoved not complaining….Braham Bulls walk with small children as they beat their hides with sticks nothing looks in a hurry nothing looks as if anything is out of control everything just ambles along in the ground up Cow dung dust.
But we will be dropping down into Addis Ababa to-morrow trying to find Wims Holland House that famous Overlanders watering hole hoping to take a short break before we decided to make a move from this wonderful Continent. Heading off from Etho German camp the following morning we start our decent to Addis. The temp rises a few degrees the traffic increases 20 fold and we grind to a halt, Addis is in sight but we are not getting any closer.
Addis is a traffic nightmare with most of the roads dug up in either direction road works are being carried out in so many critical places you need to be a local taxi drive to navigate your way around town as the road you are on just ends with traffic turning back the same way you have just come from ….its a nightmare it is near impossible to find any traffic continuity, traffic lights do not work but again nobody is worried this is how it is.
Victor nails his credentials to the wall of fame…lol
Chris Lipson the fixed winged pilot looking for work in Africa…PLEASE help him if you can. Chris making it look even more simple….well done we hope all went well with your travels south…fingers crossed.
Chris hurry up my beers getting warm…thanks Wim for a great stay.
Ron sits on Victor’s fuel tank, Thanks so very much for all your great adventure stories it was a pleasure to meet an Original Overland …who did it all before…..THANKS RON…
Awash national park…its hot Elayne and my beer is getting warm…lol
Victor camps Hotel Tana Harer
It is one of my great achievements navigating all the way to Wims Holland house in traffic Chaos just by some deep mental navigation system lurking in my two operative brain cells…..Elayne is impressed ……so am I, but I am not giving any indication …Elayne laughs at my conceited attitude of this minor achievement.
We arrive and park up in a small garden with one other Overlander, another Chris commercial pilot looking for some work in dark Africa. I am slightly taken back buy his transport a BMW 325 estate…WOW you really did pick a bit of luxury to make this trip I exclaim to Chris….we both laugh at each others vehicles….but we had both made it to this Oasis, and the BMW 325 estate looked in remarkable good shape.
The rugged Dutchman Wim invites us back across the small dirt road to his Bar and restaurant for a cold beer. Wim is impressed with Victor and I am pleased with his observations as Wim as seen many an Overland vehicle in his little Oasis.
Ron Wims best friend arrives for lunch he is an intrepid adventurer from a time when Overlanders were few on the ground. I listen to his adventures my mind drawling over his experiences. Once strapping his motor bike under the fuselage of some light aircraft to cross a jungle in Burma…..riding the Pan American Hwy when there was no Hwy…….the stories are fascinating ……WOW an inspiring conversation which just pushes us on mentally. ….THANKS RON. Their is not much Ron doesn’t know about mechanics and Overland vehicles he tells us he has worked on most vehicles and he has fixed vehicles in the most isolated places to be found, a wealth of knowledge to all of us passing through.
I listen intently his knowledge of this area the work and innovations he has gained over the years of being in a tough part of the world. We can help Ron explains we have contacts all over Addis machine shops, welding, electrical, their is nothing much I can’t source, we can even arrange flying in parts having contacts in most of Europe, we can arrange transport for any broken down vehicle if the owners give up.
Most Overlands make it here with some sort of problems Ron explains and I have seen them all, but they are really at the critical point of their journey when they arrive in Addis, the next leg from Addis to Moyale is not too bad but the leg from Moyale to Mt Kenya is a bone shaking vehicle destroying trip. Chris with the BMW 325i does not have the vehicle to make it Ron exclaims to me …no ground clearance the road condition changes day by and then some. Chris with the BMW 325 must go with another Overland vehicle Ron asks our route south and I surprise him with our next Country.
I explain our route to Djibouti heading north easterly from Addis not south.
I would have loved the challenge of Lake Turkana but another day we needed to try and get to India before we have the monsoons beating down on us everyday.
Ron explains that Chris with the BMW 325 will need to wait for another Overland vehicle if you are not heading south there is no option for him it is dangerous on your own in a city car on the leg from Moyale to Mt Kenya.
Ron asks for a look at Victor Wim had told him to pop over before we head off. As soon as Ron saw Victor his eyes light up….This is GREAT he exclaims after a professional 20 minute investigation of Victors good looks. You have it to the bear bones I can’t find anything wrong with this car …light, big suspension, a bullet proof frame…..a tractor like diesel engine. It’s like 2 diesel motorbikes welded together…. I was amazed that Ron had exclaimed my initial design brief….2 motorbikes welded together is what I thought would make a great Overland vehicle for aging folks like us….we chuckle over our like mindedness madness and it makes me few pretty proud when Ron exclaims in front of a few more Overlanders round the bar (which arrived had just arrived)..his vehicle is the best vehicle which has ever arrived here in 6 years of me fixing various makes and models, Land Rover, Toyotas, Nissans, you name it their is nothing to add or take away from Victor, its pretty spot on, and I have seen most overloaded creations passing through here.
Ron and I amble back to the beer garden to enjoy another cold beer and chew the fat on adventure travel. I explain my thoughts to head to Djibouti and hopefully catch a boat to Oman. Ron explains the cost of Djibouti visas I think they are around Usd 125.00 each and you need to book a hotel ….mmmh
I am not to over the moon to shed out that type of money just for 2 Djibouti visas and have the added expense of the Djibouti economy which makes budget travellers like us shudder in our flip flops.
Ron tells us about Somaliland and the Port of Berbera….you know you may be able to catch a ride with a Dhow heading for Muscat Oman, we pull out a map of the area and Ron points out Berbera.
What is the situation in Somaliland I ask Ron? Ron orders a few more cold beers from the bar and goes on to tell me in his very thick Dutch accent ….well its pretty safe in the northern parts maybe below Bender Bayla it could be a little risky. So Berbera in the north is not as bad as one might think…nothing is cast in stone as you know Ron exclaims but it would be another adventure….I chuckle over his observations and you know what Ron exclaims the Somaliland visas are just Usd 40.00 each
All I need to do is convince Elayne that Somaliland is safe….mmmmh….that could be a little difficult.
Another Overlander arrives and guess what Eugene is an Aussie arriving from Lake Turkana with a Toyota Land cruiser and 2 girls and we gather around his table to listen to the latest news on road conditions and options for Chris in his BMW 325.
Ron has to leave and tells us we should catch up before we head off and a good hearty handshake takes place. Eugene is also interested in Somaliland but we listen to a local business man who has travelled many times of late to Somaliland and tells us it is not a safe place to drive through. This has upset Elayne and my alternative plans to head to Berbera.
I ponder the options and make a decision to head to Somaliland and tomorrow we will need to get our visas and any other documents required to make our way to the Ethiopian Somaliland border at Tog Wajaale.
Endless UN vehicles
And more and more UN vehicles Harer
Elayne finds where the best smell in the world is coming from.
Ethiopian Camels take a break
Crossing into Somaliland Ethiopian Customs/Police have a pic with Vic.
Somaliland fuel station…nobody home.
It’s a sad departure from Wims Holland House in Addis it really is an Oasis for Overlanders small and a few pet dogs to contend with but a warm soul.
Ron and Wim plus a few Overlanders gather to wave us off Somaliland visas in hand after a few hours plus another important document which allows us to drive our vehicle a must have document which cost us 600 Bir….no Carnet is recognized in Somaliland…..well they were not interested in ours.
We once again enter the madness and battle our way through the Addis traffic heading to Awash.
We spend a quite camp at the Awash National park having a great Doro Wat and Injera bread dipped into the very spicy national dish….. Your tongue getting the full spicy blast……..crickey another beer is defiantly needed.
It was a pretty dusty border crossing…in fact I have never seen so many plastic bags and rubbish at any border crossing before clouds of burning plastic smoke fills your nostrils a smell we both hate. Orange Dust devils whirl around creating even more mess our eyes are watering from the smouldering burning plastic and filled with sand. We finish our immigration and are impressed with the finger print scanning device with both Elayne and I having our finger prints checked and filled with Ethiopian Immigration. I am ushered to Customs needing to take Victor into a compound filled with impounded vehicles.
I sit with several Ethiopian customs officials in a small beaten container like office. Our Carnet is stamped and I feel a sense of relief as I head out of the beaten up container office once again looking at the impounded vehicles.
The Ethiopian officials gather around Victor parked amongst numerous confiscated vehicles dust and plastic bags everywhere to pose for their picture we head to the rope stretched across the road and wait until someone lowers it. Hoards of people gather round several Ethiopian police beat people off Victor while we wait. A young boy lowers the rope we are not sure even if he is part of the official sequence but we fire up Victor wave our good byes to Ethiopia and head into Somaliland.
It is a warm welcome by the Somaliland Officials, again I am impressed how quickly and electronically we are processed our 600 bir Vehicle document we received in Addis Somaliland embassy was a must have …just to think we nearly never had this document as we never quite had the correct payment and actually only payed 520bir or something like that fortunately the embassy head was in his office the day we visited and wavered the difference.
The first few kilometres we pretty rough until we joined a tar road heading to Hargeysa. We were stopped many times by stupid police/army barriers blocking the road each one trying to phone some authority on a mobile phone to let us pass they looked as if they were laws until themselves nobody could speak English it was difficult and frustrating finally relenting lifting the metal pole barriers to let us through, barrier after barrier maybe 7-9 stops from Tog Wajaale to Hargeysa.
Victor rolls into Hargeysa it hot dusty we are surrounded by hooting waving motorists it has a strange feel about the place and we are pretty convinced Victor maybe the first Buggy ever to visit Somaliland.
Can you sell me your car a driver shouts in a strange English accent from a new top of the range Black and Blacked out Toyota Land Cruiser? ….no It’s not for sale the owner of the Toyota laughing as he screeches away. It’s a pretty interesting place the people very polite and respectful parking Victor next to some old burnt out broken cars as I try and find a Somaliland number plate. Two hours later I am still trying Elayne is boiling in the car but we are the main attraction and have acquired our own security guard who speaks English and beats young people with a long stick if they get within a metre of Victor. Finally we have an old Somaliland number plate which is attached to Victor. Did you see that Elayne calls out as a young man pushes a wheel barrow of money past Victor. Yes you get Somaliland schillings and the largest bill they have is 500 Somaliland schillings which is equal to around Usd 0.15 yes that is why we saw the wheelbarrow of money worth around Usd 100.00 ….lol
Elayne and I eventually make it to the ambassador hotel in Hargeysa and ask if we could camp at the rear of the hotel. The car park is full of UN vehicles more Toyota Land Cruisers than you could poke a stick at new nearly everyone.
Khader Aden Hussein was the General Manager who kindly allowed us to camp free of charge providing a toilet for us and water.
Victor finds a spot at the rear of the hotel and we set up camp. No beer unfortunately but we drink an ice coffee in the cooling evening temperature. I briefly stop and talk to a woman with an American accent. That’s a great set of wheels…she exclaims ……thank you I reply…. and we talk for an hour back at our table. Dixie is working for the UN and is specializing in law and control system ( I think) she loves cats and tells us an amazing cat lovers story, while she was working in Afghanistan she brought back 3 stray scrawny cats to America!!!! A crazy cat lady indeed but great company.
Dixie was listening intently to some of our journey, trials and tribulations, when she asked which room are we in…..no we replied ….we don’t have a room we are camping at the rear of the hotel.
Well Dixie was not having any of that you guys are going to have room and a hot shower…..an angle had arrived Elayne’s eyes light up and a few minutes later we drained the whole hotel of every drop of warm water……lol
Thanks so very much Dixie for you spontaneous offer to help your kindness and your wonderful philanthropic nature, you will always be welcome were ever we are…thanks.
Ambassador Hotel Hargeysa Thank you Mr Khader Aden Hussein www.ambassadorhotelhargeisa.com
Thanks so much Dixie it was just what we needed…see you downunder we hope one day soon.