Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa
The 10-hour flight didn’t seem as long as it was, though everyone needed a good nights rest when we arrived at the Yonas Hotel at 5am . The airport was white marble inside and it didn’t fit with visions of Africa , but once outside it was another story. The very early morning taxi ride was our first real taste of Ethiopian transport- bags on the roof, guys standing up there throwing bags up and down.
After a good breakfast at the Yonas, which was more familiar and British than was to be expected, we split off into groups and had our first look around Addis Ababa . It was here that the differences really became apparent. Cattle and sheep in the streets and many market stalls lining the road made the city seem more like a market in the country, though this was interspersed with unexpected tower blocks. We made our way, some more successful than others, to the British Embassy where we met Deborah Fischer and where we had a question-and-answer discussion about Ethiopia, mainly about the political situation there at the moment and the G8 summit held in Gleneagles. We then walked back through the city and had drinks at a local cafe, which was amazingly cheap- 30p for a beer!
Now everyone is getting ready to go out for an evening meal which will round off our first day in Ethiopia 🙂
Written by Laura and Rachel 😀
Day 2 – In Bahir Dar
Last night we went for a meal at the Zebra Grill, tasting some great Ethiopian food! It was a really nice place and we all really enjoyed ourselves. This morning was an early one as we had a flight to catch which proved to be quite interesting with lighting paste being flammable and not being allowed on the plane but after a while we sorted the problem and got the flight after nearly missing it due to confusion with the flight number. We’re now in Bahar Dar, and it is a really nice place. We visited the market earlier to buy some food for our tea tonight and it was different experience for all of us. The people are so friendly and just want to help you all of the time which gets a bit much at times. We had a very heavy rainfall just before and thankfully we were all back from the market just in time! Now we’re off to make our tea, speak to you all later!
Ashleigh W and Lauren
Day 3 On the Lake
An early start with everybody having to be up washed fed and watered by half nine(ish) took a boat to the other side of the lake to an Ethiopian church. We were greeted by the friendly locals and eventually everybody had their own Ethiopian guide and after climbing from the shore we arrived at the church and other places such as a museum.
A few people didn’t want to enter the church so they stayed outside and sat around, and much to our amusement Mr Griffiths found a few new friends in the form of ants in his pants (literally)!! Once we looked around at the massive paintings telling us all sorts of stories from the bible and some not from the bible we made our way back down to the boat.
We said our goodbyes with presents such as sweets and pens to our guides and local kids and made our way to a monastery on neighbouring island. This was male only and after much arm twisting the females did a spot of chatting and sunbathing (it’s a hard life). The males went up the hill to find a real oasis in the form of a working monastery which wasn’t hit as hard by tourism so the paintings were all original and our guide knew his stuff.
The rain came all too early and we heading back to the hotel for lunch and a meal tonight, the Blue Nile falls planned for tomorrow and the arrival of Patrick to the delight of a few among us!!!!
Should be fun for the others too.
Bob and Kev
Day 4 The Blue Nile Falls
Today we visited the Blue Nile Falls . We (Kate, Ruth and Richard) chose to get up very early and take the local bus. This was a very interesting journey. There were 21 people packed into a tiny white mini van. We drove through a lot of country side. It was very flat with farm animals wandering along the road, and bright blue starlings in the trees. It then broke down during the journey through the country side. We were stuck for some time, we gave pens to some children which resulted in a pen riot but we had no more left. Luckily the bus was mended so we could escape.
We reached the village near the falls and stopped at the “shi bait” (tea house) for a glass of tea and a chat with some men that were very intrigued by us. We then walked to falls with a guide and loads of children following us. The country is very green and pretty around the falls with lots of animals and women carrying big loads (the attitude to women in Ethiopia is “if you don’t have a donkey, use a woman”). We met the rest of the group at a place over looking the falls. It was very beautiful and amazingly powerful, the spray of the water could be felt a long distance. We walked, with a few others to the bottom of the waterfalls, we were immediately drenched with the muddy water, but it was good fun. The air at the bottom is very humid therefore there is a unique ecosystem with vines and squishy algae, that don’t grow anywhere else. We then walked to river and got a boat back to the village, we saw a big alligator on the side of the river.
In the bus on the way back to the hotel we all tried chewing some chat, (a mild amphetamine, which is chewed by increasing numbers and is becoming one of the main crops in Ethiopia ). It tasted minging and had no effect. It needs to be chewed for around four hours.
Once back at the hotel Kate, Richard, Joe, Bob, Kevin and Patrick walked along to see a football match. It was the cup final and we saw the second half. The match was againstAddis Ababa and the police force of Bahir Dar. The pitch was full of muddy puddles, and there were big tufts of grass which stopped the ball. Addis won and there was a big celebration.
We ate at the hotel tonight as some people didn’t feel like going out. There was a big rain storm, with thunder and lightning – pretty. Overall, everyone is well and happy. 🙂
Kate and Ruth. lol.
Day 5 To The Palace on Bikes
Day started with an early start for those who were not too tired. This was trip to see the hippos, which involved getting very wet from the waterfall. Most came back drenched and very muddy.
Some people then went out to the market and others experienced the local bike hire service. There was a group of 6 of us, to take the challenge. Ethiopians do not use the front brakes so they did not work, to add to the fun, most of the back brakes did not work either. Most people only had the use of 2 gears and the saddles were so hard it still hurts now. The road started quite flat but the pot holes soon appeared, to everyone’s delight. It soon became a bumpy ride. The small children began to run along side us, even when climbing the steep hills and stayed with us right to the top of the hill, at some points even began to push. We saw the palace and had a photo break. On the way down, Bob managed to get himself a puncture so sat side saddle on the back of Mr Edgoose’s bike, whilst Mr Griffith’s took his and Bob’s bike, amusing site. We eventually got the puncture fixed, which apparently involved 6 large holes. The journey back was much quicker and all were pleased to be back in the comfort of the hotel.
Some of the braver folk ventured to a coffee ceremony where they were literally fed constant amounts of injura and given endless amounts of coffee. The stories are interesting, with amusing photos.
The day ended in a surprise birthday party for myself. We all went down to the hut where there was a lovely dinner laid out (even though most were full from the coffee ceremony). We were soon joined by the Ethiopian head dancers which are amazing. Everyone was very happy at this point. The group had bought me a traditional Ethiopian Costume which I put on and did an awful lot of dancing. We went out side and took the dancing round the fire, very memorable. It is a birthday I will never forget.
Ashleigh and Jayne
Day 6 Off to Gondar
Today was the first day in Gondar. We were up at 7.00 to get the bus to the airport, that was fine and it was good to see the sights on the way to the airport again. The security at the airport wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be because they’ve just gotten a new x ray machine, so boarding etc didn’t take too long. The plane ride was really short and uneventful too, and then we were in Gondar .
After another bus ride, which served, to some extent, to familiarise us with the place, we arrived at the hotel that seems to be very nice. Some then stayed at the hotel, while others went up for their first look at the hospital and the sight we’re to begin working. The hospital was as much of a culture shock as expected (if shock can be expected…hmm?), although not as bad as it could have been.
Once we had gauged which tools were needed for the play area we went to the market to but them. This was similar to the market in Bahir Dar (sp?), especially in that there were lots of people following us around, this, to be honest, is still slightly unnerving. It may become less so as the weeks go on.
We walked home from the market, then back to the internet shop, where everyone is waiting now for us to finish this.
Rachel and Laura
Day 8 Project Day 2
Woke to a rainy day – not good. We fly all the way here to get British weather when you lot have African weather, not fair!!!
Half the group went to the market to buy more materials and tools needed while the other half went to the hospital to do some hard coffee drinking while the rain eased off. When we all met again we did lunch and waited another two hours for food but once that was over the rain stopped so some work could be done.
The main work was digging holes for the balance beams and climbing frame and also the first construction of the frame for the swings in the form of two a frames
After a hard day of sitting round and work we left about 5 and due to cleared skies made our way straight to a rooftop bar and restaurant where we drank ate and were merry. Then a fruit cocktail from a bar next door finished the evening off before a meeting to discuss group matters such as variations in ideas but this was all sorted democratically then some sleeping was done by all.
Quote of the day from Ashley W: ‘If I was a vegetable, I’d well be a cabbage, they look so happy’
Bob and Kev
Day 9 Project Day 3
Today was the third day of the project. Kate, Ruth and Siobhan had the chance to join Dr. Alemayehu on his ward round, in ward A, a long stay children’s ward. There were several patients with temporary paralysis due to infectious diseases. This means that they cannot use the playground as they don’t leave the ward. We are hoping to spend any left over money on making a small reading/TV corner in the ward. A lot of the children seem really bored as there is no stimulation at all for them. There was one girl that had came in over one year ago to be treated for TB, she is healthy now but still lives on the ward as her parents have never wanted to have her back. It would be nice to give her something to do.
The playground is going really well, and we are overwhelmed with people who come in to help as they pass (they are much better than us, so it’s going really quickly). The contractors are coming tomorrow to cement in posts and the floor of the shelter. So we have been digging lots of holes and cutting loads of wood. It feels really rewarding to see the children come out of their ward to play on the tyres that are in the ground, they also like to help us pick out stones etc.
Everyone is enjoying it and we should be finished for Thursday, for the opening on Friday.
Love Kate and Ruth 🙂 xx
Day 9 Project Day 4
Day four of the project. We started the day by going to the market to buy supplies that were needed for the project. We eventually have some glorious sunshine to work in, which definitely made us smile, some people now boast a lovely red nose and some have a farmer tan, which is rather amusing. We were in separate groups in the playground to work on the different parts. Some worked on painting the wobble board which I can honesty say is the brightest, coolest board I have ever seen, think the locals liked using the paints as well. We nailed the wood we had previously cut together and formed the roof to the shelter. The swing set was completed which the kids loved, the smiles on their faces while they were playing were beautiful, a lovely sight. One of the parts to the playground had changed in design so many times today, nobody is quite sure what it will actually look like in the end, but I am sure it will be great. The balance beams are now completed, so it is really starting to look like a playground which is cool. There’s not that much construction work left to do, but lots of clearing left to do and generally making it look nice, so we still have a good days work left.
We stayed late and went to our favourite 2 hour restaurant (such speedy service – not), only to find they didn’t have any chips, which we weren’t impressed with, but it was raining heavy by that time so we couldn’t be bothered to move. The day ended well when we caught a random line taxi, as they were supposed to stop at 8:00 and it was 8:30 . All in all, it was a rather good day, just can’t wait to see the finished playground!
Ashleigh and Jayne
Day 10 Project Day 5
This was the day we just about finished the play ground, Bob finished his tunnel and the swing set was completed. The whole thing looks much better than I ever imagined it would, and I think I can safely say that we’re all very proud.
After tea at the hospital cafe, which, although very nice, took an age to be served, we got a line taxi back to the hotel. Ruth had been requesting a hair cut by Kate for a while, this was done, and looks great, great enough to convince Ashleigh M to allow Kate to cut her hair too.
Day 11 The End of the Project
Well today was the opening of the project and hence we had a bit of a laid back morning! Anna, Siobhan, Ashleigh W, Ruth and Kate went into the market to pick up some last minute decorations; Joe, Richard, Kev and Rachel went up to the site to paint the shelter roof; and Patrick took Bob, Jayne, Ashleigh M, Laura and Lauren to Gondar Castle which was beautiful and so peaceful! We were all up at the site by 11am and Anna’s group had brought us pizza!! We were set to open the playground for 12pm so we all set to work and added the finishing touches to it. We then cleared the area and in true Ethiopian style we covered the gate with a ribbon of toilet roll! The director of the hospital made a speech in front of some locals, doctors, and us creators! I think we speak for everyone when I say that it was a truly emotional day. Once we opened the area it was flooded with children and doctors and other curious people, it was smiles all round and it was truly amazing! We then wandered down to the Tukul restaurant and had a snack for a dinner.
This afternoon we all went shopping for our supplies for the mountains, then went back to the hotel and got ourselves all dressed up for a surprise meal at the Gohar Hotel. The meal was superb and we all deserved it after all the work we put into the playground. Early night tonight as we are being picked up at about 5.30 in the morning!
Ashleigh W and Lauren.
Day 12 Trekking in the Simiens
First day in the mountains, so we do actually have a reason for this entry being late.
We were up at 5 in the morning (on a Saturday argggh). Woke up to lovely rain and wind and general coldness so we woke pretty quickly. Once all the gear was loaded onto the bus after it turned up half an hour late we all settled down for a bumpy 3 hour ride to the entrance of the park. Once we arrived at the entrance to the national park we handed in passports and headed off for some well needed breakfast having only had a bread bun beforehand. We ate and drank ourselves silly knowing it may be our last hot meal in a while and after a few toilet trips we loaded back on the bus for the twisty trip to the first campsite. Heavy rain meant the roads were far from perfect and after an hour and a half of climbing, the muddy roads got the best of our bus and on one rather boggy section we stopped dead n slid back, stuck. After much humming n haaaing we decided to walk the rest of the way. Some lucky (lazy) people ended up the back of the land cruiser which took our luggage up while most of us walked for an hour to get there. Wasn’t all bad as we stumbled upon a group of baboons and watched them for a while.
This also meant that we lost a day of walking so we had stay in where we arrived. This meant a change to our plans and no mountain climbing was happening.
Once the walkers arrived the camp was mostly set up and some hot drinks on the go so the walkers were treated to a rest. Once tents and everything were ready the serious business of food was started and after an hour’s wait for the food team to finish we all sat down to vegetable curry and rice. Once that was finished and washed up we joined the French group using the site for a fire and then beds were used in anger for sleep and to get away from the cold.
Bob and Kev
Day 13 Sankobar to Geech
Today was the first day of walking. We got up early for some delicious porridge (Atto Joe Speciality) then we set off full of porridgy goodness.
Walking at altitude was very tough but we saw some amazing views. In the morning it was quite foggy but it soon cleared up, until it started to pour down with rain. We had to dash down a really steep hill to cross a river before it flooded – was fun. The climb up to the campsite at Geech was very very steep, most people struggled up, although Rachel decided to take a horse. At the top it is very exposed with amazing views of the surrounding valleys. There is a really pretty stream where you can get water, surrounded by cactus-like plants. The cooking team made a pasta meal, using our trusty stoves, which were very hard to light at altitude. We sat around the fire for a bit (its freezing at night and gets dark at six) then went to bed, knackered after a hard days walk.
Ruth and Kate xx
Day 14 Day in Geech
Had a little lay in this morning. The walk was shorter and easier than the previous and we did not have to pack the tents up. It was about 2hours to the look out point that we were heading to. We picked out the sheep for the evening dinner, this was a group decision as the boys defiantly wanted to be involved. The day started out quite misty but we were extremely lucky that we were able to stop and look out as the mist cleared so saw some beautiful sights. The whole group did not partake in the walk, but stayed at camp, resting for the long walk back to the original camp site. We were heading for one of the highest viewpoints in the mountains, from which, on a clear day you can see the highest peak in North Africa . The wildlife we saw was incredible. There were deer on the mountain side, strange place for them if you ask me. We saw the largest bird of prey in Africa , the lamagier (sp), which was absolutely incredible to see, fly amongst the peaks. They are such graceful flyers despite their size. We stopped at the point for over an hour, having lunch and admiring the view, well it was mostly mist but there was occasionally some view. They way back proved slightly more difficult as it involved scrambling down small rock faces, but thanks to the determination of the group, everyone managed it no problem, safely and enjoyed it. We saw lots of baboons on the way back. The second time we saw them we stopped and watched them. We managed to see two males fighting over a female, fascinating to watch, especially since they all seemed so calm after the fight was over, as if they had just made up. I never thought I could get so close to a sitting baboon, it was amazing to watch them as a group. We stopped many times when the3 mist cleared to see the sights of the mountains, the cliff faces, intricate edges and vast green areas. The mist would rise from the bottom of the gorge and glide over the cliffs, revealing different portions as it moved.
Headed back to camp and the tea was prepared. We had the lovely sheep chosen earlier, so tasty. I don’t know if they taste better after we chose them ourselves. It was nice to have some meat in the mountains, a change from tomato sauce and pasta/rice.
Ashleigh and Jayne
Day 15 Walk to Sankobar
We left Geech campsite early in the morning for Sankabar campsite which was the first campsite we went to. The trek took six hours, beginning with a downhill walk in the full sun past lots of sheep to the river, which we crossed without our shoes on- a shock to the system because it was so cold, but Ruth and Anna washed their hair too and everyone had a smile on their face when we set off again up the hill on the other side.
Going uphill on the other side, we chose a different route around the three peaks that had caused so many problems on the way to Geech. It was a much nicer, and less rainy, walk although steadily by lunchtime it was misty and we had lunch when we met the road still in the ‘goom’.
After a few hours, the group split and one went to the waterfall, but unfortunately didn’t see it because it was so misty. The other group trekked along the road and arrived back at Sankabar. The evening was lovely, we had pasta and soup, a true student food and a great mountain recipe because it was so tasty yet easy, with the famed mash with veggies which tastes delicious. An evening round the camp fire commenced, and it lasted until a (shocking!) 9.30ish pm and then we went to bed knowing we had a lay in the morning- a truly good day 🙂
Day 16 Return to Gondor
This morning we all got a bit of a lie-in, we had expected the arrival of two vans at around twelve after the struggle we had with the bus on the first day in the mountains but at about 10 am the bus came into sight. It was a bit of a mad rush to pack the tents away and pack our bits away, and there is always one… All tents were down except one: Patrick’s. Patrick was nowhere to be seen, just as the bus reached us he came strolling up the hill from his mountain shower. Within about 15 minutes, everyone was in the bus and we made our way back down the twisty road towards Gondar. On our descent we saw so many baboons and at one point we were able to stop and get out of the bus to watch them, they were amazing. After a little while we got back on the bus and carried on our journey through lots of spectacular scenery.
We arrived back in Gondar at about 3pm, there was a mad rush for the showers, but some people had to wait for their bags to arrive as they didn’t take them to the mountains. By about 5pm we were all showered and dressed and we went for an Ethiopian type meal at a restaurant opposite the Circle Hotel. It was a lovely meal, with great decoration and even if the toilets were on pedestals!
Lauren and Ashleigh
Day 17 Trying to get to Lalibela
An interesting day to say the least, another early start ready to fly to Lalibela. On the way to the airport a quick stop at the hospital to check on the playground and Fasil, the lad who took charge has painted all the fence and wood so we said thanks and gave him our spare paint and made our way to the airport. When we got there were we told of the 2 hour delay, bad but we could live with it, there was coffee and food. The two hours past then three then we worried. A plane flew right past apparently attempting to land but couldn’t due to ‘bad weather’ but a baby could have landed that plane, the conditions were perfect so who knows what happened. We were told it was to fly to Addis then return but it didn’t so the whole group was put up in the Goha hotel in Gondar. Swanky to the maximum!!! This was the bling of all bling and we took full advantage of the hot showers and comfy beds. We had a full 4 course meal and drinks all paid for by the airline, so we were so disappointed that we weren’t camping as originally planned. Richard went on a late night mission to secure flights for the next day to Lalibela and the day after back to Addis. We were all strangely exhausted after sitting around all day listening to CNN so people began peeling off to bed and who can blame them, the mattresses were sooooo soft!
Not the most entertaining day but one we will remember.
Quote of the day: Richard : “We’re going to be short of time today so sprint through the hospital” If only he knew!
Bob and Kev
Day 18 Finally in Lalibela
This morning we finally set off to Lalibela. After a quick plane journey we dumped our stuff at the hotel and wandered down to a pastry shop. Lalibela is very beautiful and green, with one winding paved road and lots of little dirt streets. It is surrounded by mountains and it is famous for it’s churches, which are carved downwards into the rock. There are eleven rock-hewn churches altogether, we set off to see them this afternoon with a guide. They were amazing, most are completely carved from one bit of rock, they are about 900 years old and still used as any other church today. There are lots of legends surrounding the churches, and every component of the building is symbolic.
We went out for a traditional meal, it was lush, and then we went to a tej beyt for some tej (interesting honey beer from Lalibela). Some people went out clubbing Ethiopian style – fun!
Ruth and Kate xx
Day 19 Lalibela and Addis
Early start to the day for some of us. We headed off to the St George’s service starting at 6:00. It was pretty amazing to stand on the hill and watch all the locals dressed in white, head towards the stone church and pray while the chanting from the priest blasted from the speakers. It was only a half hour visit as mass was about to start and we had to get back for the mountain church visit.
A group of us chose to use mules which believe me was not the lazy option, more the sore option at times. It can become quite unnerving going up a steep slippery hill when the donkeys feet are slipping beneath you. It was a steady ride up, with Laura providing the entertainment as her mule ran away from the group towards the village, she didn’t trust it much after that and chose to walk the rest of the way. Anna provided the first fall on the way down when the saddle slipped and she ended up one foot on ground and one foot stuck over donkey. The church was amazing, the views (when there was no mist) was fantastic. The church was much simpler and we heard stories about the monks living in solitude, only leaving caves at night.
The ride back was quicker, but we found the flight was delayed when we arrived at hotel. We finally made it to Addis at 6:00, but due to police checks there were massive traffic jams, making us over an hour late for dinner, so we changed plan and went to this expensive random place. Food lovely, but music slightly continuous. Pretty much all went to bed soon after we got back as all tired and long day ahead tomorrow!
Ashleigh and Jayne
Day 20 Addis and the Fistula Hospital
After a lovely sleep in ( 9am wakeup) we had a fantastic breakfast at the Yonas Hotel- the same hotel of the first night, only our impressions of this hotel had changed dramatically. Instead of thinking the linoleum tiles and ‘dirty’ bathroom were tacky and horrible we actually relished having a Western toilet instead of a squat toilet and found the beds to be very comfortable.
First off, a trip to Addis Ababa ’s outdoor market, which is the largest market in East Africa allegedly, however we were disappointed to find it pretty much closed! We had a little wander but it was nothing compared to the really ‘ethnic’ feel of the markets in Bahir Dar and Gondar and I (Rachel) was a bit disappointed in it.
After a quick run back to the Yonas we travelled to the Fistula Clinic, which was mind-boggling. After the hospital in Gondar which was apparently a very good hospital, this was astoundingly clean and well kept- the gardens were beautiful and the girls there were smiling. We got shown around the hospital by an administrator who answered all our queries. We were very moved by the trauma we were told about because the girls were so young in most cases and it was such a horrible experience for them.
The rest of the day has been a fairly ‘lazy day’, though Laura and I went to collect 15 kilos of coffee for the rest of the group! We then went out for an evening meal at a traditional yet touristy place with lots of music and dancing- spicy food and St Georges and laughing by everyone (however Jayne still had her Mirinda).
We’ve packed and at the moment we’re sitting in the airport (it’s 3:12am ) waiting for the flight to London . It’s sad that three weeks ago we were writing the first diary entry and now it’s the last diary entry, but c’est la vie. We’ve had a fantastic trip and I’m sure everyone has their own special stories to tell.
Lots of love, can’t wait to see England again (though lots of people don’t want to leave!)
xox Rachel and Laura
Day 21 Back Home
So we are back. After 9 months of planning, fund raising, car boot sales and discos, some Amharic lessons, practice cooking and camping, we left England prepared for our three weeks in Ethiopia . Now that we are back home we have time to reflect on what truly was a memorable experience for all of us. For many of us it seems longer than three weeks since we left. In that time we have done so much, visited so many places, met so many different people and seen so many sights that it is hard to believe it all fitted into just 21 days.
When most people mention Ethiopia images of poverty and hunger come mind. We visited the Amhara region of Ethiopia during its rainy season and consequently the land was green and the weather often cloudy and cool – in fact it would have been warmer back at home in England . Food was always available, if a little limited sometimes. There were computer shops with the Internet, albeit slow to send an e-mail. There were cars and buses to travel around in, even if the windscreens were usually cracked and the wipers did not work. The treks in theSimien Mountains were spectacular and we found that Ethiopia is a country that is rich in history and culture, whose proud people, though often financially poor, are friendly and generous to a fault, which is humbling to experience. None of us will forget churches in Lalibela, the Gelada baboons and the views from Imet Gogo, the coffee ceremony that we were invited to in Bahir Dar or the playground in Gondar . The Blue Nile Falls, the Monasteries on Lake Tana , the Ghion, shiro wat and injera, the women at the Fistula hospital. The smiling faces. This was not the Africa that many of the students were expecting. It was not the Africa they had seen on the television or ever read about in the newspapers. But this was Ethiopia , and if you now mention Ethiopia to any of the group very different images will come into their minds. Their eyes have been opened and they have seen a completely different world, and in so many ways it was a much richer world than they had ever expected to see.
It has been a wonderful trip and one which I hope has been enjoyed by all the staff and students who went. I would like to thank all those who helped make it happen, with a very special thanks to the 10 students who last year put themselves forward to come. Their hard work and determination made it all possible.