Saturday, June 16, 2007

Amesegenallo Ethiopia

A big thanks to Ethiopia for their friendly welcomes (see post below), generous hospitality, beautiful country and yes, their food as well (regardless of how not appetizing this looks)

What I'll miss about Ethiopia: not being there to celebrate their millennium which oddly enough is 9/11/07. The fresh mango/avocado/papaya/pineapple juices that were only .50 cents a glass, and as much as it looks like a dirty sponge - I'll will probably miss the injerra (pictured above) as well. The friendly people, especially the lab coat wearing bar tenders. The shoulder dance. And lastly, talking religion and politics with (get this) a sheik from the Sudan and a 50 year old hippie from Hawaii on the porch of our hotel.

I won’t miss: my ipod crashing in the Simien mountains due to the high about a meltdown moment - yikes. Fortunately the little guy was spared as was the 9K + songs. I certainly won't miss dealing with those little shits in Lailibela who make a habit out of feeding tourist long, made up saga's about their parents dying in order to pick up some extra spending $. Meanwhile in reality they are enjoying a pretty good Ethiopian middle class lifestyle w/all immediate family members fully operational. And lastly the daily pickpocket attempts at the market in Addis.

What I wished I would have packed: rat poison as well as some more warm clothes. Hell I would have even taken something w/ long sleeves as I froze my ass off for the 2 weeks I was here.
Wished I would not have packed: that's 2 for 2 on places that I didn't need a mosquito net, but this time it was due to the chilly temps. Really didn't need my board shorts either.

What I wished I would have had more time for: feeding the hyenas in Harar would have been pretty cool and what I really will regret missing was Southern Ethiopia - visiting the tribes of the Omo Valley (and that's not just b/c many of the ladies opt for the topless look:)

Friday, June 15, 2007

"The foot that is restless will tread on a turd"

Not kidding ya, this is a real live, legitimate Ethiopian proverb. And being that I have been known to be a bit restless (i.e. abandoning my career to travel the world), I decided to give this ol' proverb a run for its $ (sans the stepping in shit part) in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains.

All I could think to myself as we walked along in the pouring ran was,"13 months of sunshine" (The Ethiopian Tourism Slogan) my ass".
It ended up pissing down rain most of time during our 2 day trek, but the brief moments of clear weather opened our eyes to a land full of craggy peaks and some of the most stunning scenery I've ever seen. Not to mention the hundreds of Gelada Baboons that were running (and as most baboons do, humping) about (you can see a few of them playing in the picture above).

In the end the scenery was well worth the "damp" (the term used to describe the conditions by our guide) conditions.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tribal Boobs

OK, I know your thinking I've hit a new level of immaturity (which is partially true) considering most of you had to immediately close this blog upon initially seeing the boobs. In my defense I would like it dually noted that wonderful publications such as National Geographic have printed countless pictures of breasts and all for a good cause mind you. Even though my blog may not be able to quite reach the status of a National Geographic, my tribal boob photo does serve the same cause (well kind of). And let's face it, it wouldn't be a trip to Africa if I didn't include a tribal boobs pic. Not the mention the fact that this shot pails in comparison to some other porn you guys are sending around the internet, sicko's :)

This poster was actually up on the wall in one of my hotel room in Addis Ababa which lends the mind to wonder what type of place I was staying in...let's just say that there were hourly rates available. Fortunately or unfortunately I wasn't the one making the walls rattle in the middle of the night :)

Down to my last days in Ethiopia as plans are set to head to Kenya for a short stint and then off to Uganda. I have definitely been pleasantly surprised by the diverse and adventurous travel that Ethiopia has to offer (both inside and outside of their hotels). I know it's early in my trip, but I think it will definitely be tough to knock Ethiopia from the top contender for the highly sought after travel award - Cairo-to-Capetown's Diamond in the Rough Award.

Next up: my full Ethiopia review and arrival into the not so hospitable capital of Kenya, Nai-robbery.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Operation: Summer Cut

When asking for a "trim" at the barber shop in Ethiopia be prepared for something similar to this...probably a good thing b/c the fro was getting a bit out of control.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The True Source of the Nile

Ethiopia's Lake Tana is home to one of the sources of the Nile. Even though it seems like almost every country in Africa lays claim to some sort of Nile source, I am told this one is pretty legit. This portion of the Nile that heads northwest through Sudan into Egypt is known as the Blue Nile although it looked awfully brown to me...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Splinter, Is that You?

It doesn’t matter how luxurious the hotel, there will imminently be a gamete of noises that start squealing, clucking, barking and wrestling starting and continuing at all hours of the night. This is not uncommon to find in 3rd world countries so I had come prepared. I have found that the (orange, of course) ear plugs that I brought with me to be the savoir of my attempt to get somewhere close to 6 hours of sleep (and for those of you that know me well, you are well aware of my passion for getting a full nights rest.)

Inevitably through the night, I have fallen into the habit of not only removing but throwing these helpful, but somewhat uncomfortable ear plugs all over the room. Sometimes within the bed’s frame, other times they will be completely on the other side of the room. This spastic (but involuntary) action that takes place at some point throughout the night creates a morning or mid night ritual of scouring my hotel room in attempt to locate the plugs.

It is in these site excavations that, depending on the quality of establishment, I find some of my more adventurous stories (as sad as that is to say).

I have had the honor to have come across items ranging from pregnancy test (no worries, it was negative), underwear and fortunately ball point pens - which & I know this sounds a bit extreme, are equivalent to gold in this country. It seems as though every encounter I have involving the action of writing something down (i.e. receipts, phone #’s, e-mail address etc :) becomes an out right battle to either protect or attempt to “borrow” the sacred pen.

It was in the early morning hours of this past Sunday I was awoken to yet another one of these inescapable noises. Not surprisely I couldn’t quite place what the hell it was that was the source of this commotion, but I really didn’t care considering the current time and the looming 6AM wake up call I had. After a few feeble attempts of slapping around my bed in the pitch dark, I angrily crawled out of the bed to locate my flashlight. For those logical thinking folks that are still following along at home, you might be wondering why a simply flick of the light switch might do the job. Well this unfortunately wouldn’t do much good as power outages mysteriously strike the guest portion of the hotel but not the main office where the staff is chillen’..ummm.

As the beam of my flashlight swung across the room I took faint notice that what I had come to realize was some sort of chewing noise had now fallen silent. After following my standard operating procedures for attempting to discover the plugs I had come up empty handed. So I lazily flashed my torch under the bed and to my wondering eyes appeared not jolly St. Nic, but 2 giant African rats swapping spots on a buffet table which included a used condom, ½ eaten piece of ingella (the dirty sponge looking material that was served with most Ethiopian dishes).

A word to the wise, when first surveying a prospective hostel/guest house to determine whether the potential spot was suitable do a quick check under the bed.
Not surprisingly, The Bahir Dar Hotel in Ethiopia does not win my recommendation. Especially room 18.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Obsessive Compulsive Carving Disorder.

Here in Lailibela, Ethiopia the past time not only includes the infamous Ethiopian shoulder dancing, but a shit load of stone carving as well.

Similar to the massive amounts of man (and women) power utilized (or exploited depending on how you look at it) to build a lot of the famous sites around the world, the rock hewn churches of Lailibela were built with the dedication of many. A bit insane when you think they carved these churches out of a single piece of stone, but impressive none the less.

A classic sight I witnessed while walking the streets of this religious powerhouse was when I noticed local lady stopping one of the priests and asking for a blessing. Apparetly this a rather common request and something the priest seemed to managed with ease. Upon finishing his work the priest took no more than 4 steps, unzipped and took a piss in the ditch. I am not a very religious guy, but I'm assuming that is not customary in the states???

Similar to the Pyramids of Giza, you are definetly left in a stupior as you look out over the 11 churches of Lailibela and wonder not only the obvious, how did they manage to construct these suckers? But also what sort of disorder were these people suffering from that made them do all this carving?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Welcome to our Country

"Welcome to our country" is a relatively common (and a bit over used to be honest w/you) opening line for the touts and streets vendors to utilize as they attempt to pull one into their world of trinkets and tourist shops. But when I heard a new and improved version of this intro from a random local walking the streets to Addis Ababa,

"Hey, Mr. America - welcome to our mother fucking country" I, oddly enough, actually felt more welcome then I had before :) At least he wasn't trying to con me into some scam, which is unfortunately quite common.

The less touristy Ethiopia has been a welcomed change from Egypt. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of street vendors, hawkers, and beggars hassling you on most roads, but that is somewhat understandable considering the overall wealth (or lack there of) of this country. Like in most 3rd world countries, a tourist is a walking dollar sign to these people and they are just looking to feed themselves and their families. This is the line of reasoning I attempt to remind myself as the daily badgering continues. At the end of the day, it's a bit ridiculous to overlook the unbelievably fortunate position we, as westerners are in compared to the average life (and living conditions) the people in 3rd world countries are forced to live...OK then, off the soap box and onto the travel stories...

Outside of that interesting welcome I received, I have really enjoyed the hospitable and friendly people ...not to mention the scenery (in all senses of the word) as the ladies of Ethiopia are easy on the eyes. After meeting a great group of backpackers at my hotel in Addis Ababa, I was lucky enough to catch an Africa Cup (soccer) qualifying match between Ethiopia v. Congo. It was my favorite memory thus far on the trip. For the first time I felt like I was doing something with the locals as we cheered on the Ethiopian team (logically we chose to cheer for the team who's fans encompassed 99% of the crowd). And when I say cheer, I mean everything from chanting, & singing in coordinated fashion to lighting random shit on fire (anything from pieces of paper to blankets and shirts as well as opposing fans - j/k) . Obviously the level passion these people had for their team was, to say the least, rather intense and a lot of fun to be around.

Next up will be traveling to the northern Ethiopian cities of
Lalibela - home of a shit load of churches
Gonder - which is at the base of the Simien Mountains and
Bahir Dar which lies on Lake Tana - one of the sources of the Nile.
For those of you wondering about the picture, yes that is the most ridiculous visor you've ever seen. The all leather piece has Ethiopia's tourism slogan written across it "Ethiopia : 13 months of sunshine". When you buy cheesy touristy things you might as well go all out :)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Blog Neglect and Thoughts on Egypt

Although there might have been some worries that I had given up and/or shit the bed on this blog thing, but not worry folks - I'm still alive and kicking in Africa! Sorry for the massive delay in posting. Some of this can be blamed on blog neglect from yours truly, but a larger portion of the lag time was due to the fact that Ethiopia doesn't allow access to blogspot. Don't know exactly why, but I think it might have a little to do with them still working out this whole internet concept:)

Here are a some quick (thoughts might be an exaggeration) "notes" on Egypt.

What I’ll miss about Egypt: Paved roads, shisha shops on every corner, fast internet connections, shawarma's and overall a relatively easy style of traveling...oh yeah and all the ancient Egyptian stuff too :)

What I won’t miss about Egypt: Being dry humped (i.e. assaulted) by every vendor, taxi driver, shop owner while attempting to walk down the street, swamp ass from the extreme heat…

What I wished I would have packed: more baby powder & anti bed-bug spray (there was a ramped outbreak in my guesthouse in Cairo - fortunately I was spared)

What I wished I would not have packed: Didn't really need the mosquito net, warm clothes or shoes for that matter.

What I wished I would have had more time for: The Sinai and scuba diving in the Red sea are obvious misses, but I would really have loved to make it out to the Oasis’s, which lie west of the Nile. I think this is the hidden gem of traveling in Egypt.

For a variety of reasons (namely genocide in Darfur & supporting a bullshit government that is allowing this to go on) I opted not to travel overland through Sudan so my next stop is Ethiopia. (OK, I was a little bit scared too:) I did, however, meet several backpackers who have braved both the biblical temperatures (120+ in the desert) as well as the massive lines for visa's. Surprisingly all of them had fantastic things to say about the people there and their experienes. Anyway it's on to Ethiopia for me!