Ethiopia 2013

Highlight of  recent backpacking

As the only African country not to be colonised, and a country rapidly developing, Ethiopia offers unrivalled opportunities for the backpacker. I may have been lucky, arriving in Dorze for the annual celebration of Meskel, visiting an Omo Valley on market day and a wedding. But even the ordinary is extraordinary, from the the historic city of Harar with its Muslim traditions, to the soaring  Lämmergeie in the Simien Mountains.

A footnote on arrival in Addis Ababa

A sense of fear can be overwhelming when stepping outside the airport in an alien culture; a fear coupled with an excitement.  But the internet has softened both the fear and the excitement.  Thirty years earlier I had stepped out of Karachi airport with no idea of where I might be at the end of the day.  With the internet I was able to book a hotel for the first night and arrange a taxi to collect me from the airport. 


In 2013 Addis Ababa was in a state of chaos.  New buildings and new roads were flying up everywhere and to add to the chaos a metro was being constructed. Given the speed of construction seen during my stay, I would imagine little has changed.  Despite this and the fact my zero star hotel was unknown to the driver, I arrived.  My heart sank.  While I was expecting no palace, the description on the website was a powerful exercise on the use of the English language.  In fairness, there was no claim to modern facilities such as electricity or water, both of which were lacking on my arrival.  electricityon the booking websites made this cheap joint more appetising than it really was.  I was shown to my room, dark and gloomy, switched on the light, no electricity.  Flushed the toilet, no water.  The mood wasn’t helped by overcast sky and a constant drizzle.


I sat outside and consulted my guide book.  Perhaps I should have booked in to the hotel where ‘all the NGOs stay’.  But it’s twice the price. Sitting, feeling sorry for myself, feeling that this was not perhaps what retirement should be all about, my thoughts were brutally interrupted.
“Where are those f***ing marbles?”


 I turned, and to my astonishment was confronted by a familiar face; a Greek photographer I had run into in Myanmar. The marbles are of course, what are referred to by the British as the Elgin Marbles, purloined from the Parthenon and housed in the British Museum.
My plan was to head to the south of Ethiopia.  I have developed a strategy for these somewhat unplanned trips.  By immediately leaving my point of arrival and departure and heading for the most inaccessible place, I reduce the risk of missing my flight home.  I reserved the sightseeing of Addis Ababa for the end of the trip.