(49) Adding friends in Addis
Saturday 2nd March – Sunday 10th March
It was great to finally arrive in Addis Ababa. We spent a great 10 days at the German Embassy – we had got in touch with Gina and her husband Tony via ‘Warm showers’, an organisation for cycle tourists where you can stay with a host and they provide a bed for a few nights. Gina went far beyond this – feeding us like kings and she wouldn’t let us pay for anything. They had a lovely house where we just couldn’t help relaxing and we spent much time on their veranda. We enjoyed watching the vervet monkeys run around the garden and at one point spotted one on the roof with a loaf of bread he’d stolen from the kitchen! Gina and Tony’s 4 year old son Connar was great fun and we enjoyed reading our way through his amazing book collection. We had many strolls around the Embassy grounds with their dog Stamp and on one walk we spotted a large Tortoise which Tim named ‘Michelle’. We were even treated to a swim at the Sheraton Hotel!
Monkey at Gina’s
‘Michelle’ didn’t mind Cowburt hitching a lift
The City of Addis Ababa
We are proud to mention that Cath and Chaz, Sharon’s sister and brother-in-law have both been to Ethiopia and have run the Great Ethiopian run which is an organised annual event of 10km around the city. Apparantly they spray water over the competitors to keep them cool!
We had a long list of jobs to do while we were in Addis and worked our way slowly through them. First on the list was to extend our Ethiopian visas. Due to staying longer than planned in Khartoum, our visas ran out within 2 days of arriving in the city. We had been told that it would be a fairly painless process so we arrived at the immigration department hoping to be done within a few hours. We knew we would need to return the next day to collect them but hadn’t banked on the queue that greeted us when we arrived – we mean an African queue where there is a crowd of pushing and shoving. There were literally hundreds of people waiting to get in and many were being turned around at the gates as they didn’t have the correct paperwork. We soon noticed that there was a male and female entrance and the queue was signifantly shorter on the male side. Sharon tried to get in this way but was told to join the women. She stood politely at the side until realising this would get her no-where. 10 minutes later after some uncharacteristic shoving she made it near the front of the queue. Just then she felt a hand touch her leg near to her mobile phone which was in a zipped pocket. Quickly she felt the other side where her wallet was and it was part way out of the pocket with the zip undone. She turned around and spotted a man very close – he disappeared immediately and Sharon continued to push her way to the front of the queue relieved that the pick-pocket didn’t succeed in his mission.
We had mistakenly taken the bikes, as we feared an expensive taxi fare, and Tim dutifully stood where he could see them regretting not leaving them at the Embassy. Meanwhile Sharon queued to have the paperwork checked. This involved playing musical chairs with no music or fun, and visiting different departments to get different pieces of paper stamped. Three hours later we were told to come back after lunch. We kept our spirits up by treating ourselves to a burger, chips and coffee which we found in a local café. By 3.30pm we walked out with a receipt for our passports and instructions to come back in 48 hours.
While we were in Addis we also met up with Neil Munro (from Khartoum) and Richard (who is from South Africa and a former colleague of Neil’s who we met at Gorgora by Lake Tana) and their friend Eric. We joined them for a few beers with Gina and Tony in a noisy local bar before going to an Italian restaurant and enjoying great company, wine and pizza. It was a really fun night and we were sad to say goodbye to Neil who was working in the north for a few weeks before heading back to Khartoum. We arranged to meet Richard for lunch at Gina’s to look at a South Africa map and discuss routes and places to visit.
Richard, Sharon, Neil, Eric, Gina, Tim, Tony
We also met up with Wossen and Wubshet who we had met when we were climbing out of the Gorge. Wossen picked us up from the Embassy and took us out for dinner. We looked in disbelief as we arrived at the Raddison Hotel. Wubshet and his girlfriend Mieraf joined us and we had the most delicious buffet of local and Western food – needless to say we ‘filled our boots.’ During conversation is transpired that when they spotted us in the Gorge, they at first thought we were donkeys and wondered why they were reflecting in their headlights! Afterwards they took us to a Jazz club and we enjoyed great music and relaxed with a beer.
Tim, Sharon, Wossen, Mieraf and Wubshet.
We met up again the day before we left as Wossen had kindly got some inner tubes for us. We enjoyed spending time with his family and were cooked a delicious meal with traditionally made coffee. Wossen also gave us 2 new tyres as we were concerned about the forthcoming road in northern Kenya which is ‘under construction’ and we have heard it’s very rocky. We always carry one spare tyre but felt much happier to have these new tyres with us too. It was an incredibly generous gift.
Tony worked at the German Embassy School and we were invited to do a talk there. We really enjoyed it and showed the pupils some of our favourite photos and a few bits of our kit. They particularly liked Rudolf our reindeer hide from Norway who is rapidly losing his hair in the heat.
At the German School
Tim had not been feeling well for days and bravely soldiered on through the talk and we enjoyed a coffee with Tony and the Deputy Headmaster afterwards. Tim headed straight to bed when we got back and stayed there for a couple of days.
Gina and Sharon organised a girls night which turned into a party at Gina’s with over 20 guests who were all lovely. It was a great evening and the wine and conversation flowed. We were due to leave on the Thursday but with Tim still getting his strength back and Gina, Tony and Connar going away for the weekend they said we could stay and look after Stamp and it would give us a bit more time to recharge. This was just what we needed and we spent the weekend checking the bikes, making a ‘make shift’ Hebie for Dolly (which stops the handle bars from swinging round) and gave the stove a well needed overhaul.
While we were there the gardener knocked on the door and said to Tim “food stamp?” Looking confused and thinking it was strange to have food tokens for the staff, he asked Sharon “do you know anything about food stamps?” Sharon replied “It’s ok I’ll feed him.” Still confused Tim told the gardener “Sharon will do it.” He seemed happy and walked off. Then it clicked. The gardener was asking if he needed to feed the dog who’s called Stamp and not for food tokens for himself. We had a laugh about it and enjoyed the rest of the evening watching a movie.
With Tim feeling better we were ready to head off but were really sad to say goodbye to Gina and Connar. We had had such a great time with them and they had even given us loads of food to take with us. The food bulged with Branston pickle, HP sauce, 3 Tins of Heinz baked beans, Marmite, a chocholate Santa and many more goodies. We were now carrying very valuable cargo 🙂
We had enjoyed our time in Addis and were so grateful for our time off and gaining new friends.
The last supper at Gina’s
(Tim had just told his wide mouth frog joke to Connar!)
Thanks for reading!