Day 119 Ethiopia : Dessie - Addis Ababa

Day 119 Ethiopia

Trip Distance 410 km (255 m) Total Distance 14095 km (8760 m)
Road Condition 80% tar 20% dirt, corrugation, mud  
Time to travel 6 hrs 3.5 hrs  
Addis Ababa
Wims Holland House N9 00.595 E38 45.309 EB80 (€5) - Showers available approx every 2nd day but not guaranteed but great food and beer at a good price

With Iain and Ryan staying in the same pension as us, we all arranged to get up at 7am to set off as soon as we could.  We had been told that the road to Addis was all asphalt but by this time we had learnt that the condition of the asphalt leaves much to be desired and probably wasn't as good as we had been told.  So we opened "Sully's Kitchen" and had fresh coffee and toast for breakfast - to the delight of the Ethiopian staff who stood around agog at the facilities we had in our car!!!!

Once we had fueled the bikes and Sully up (luckily there was both electricity and diesel - a rare combination outside of major cities), we set off for Addis.  Iain and Ryan soon passed us on the mountain pass dropping out of Dessie into the plains where we dropped from 2500m to 1100m in 2 hours.

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Turns out that the first 80kms or so the road is in a poor state through loads of villages so the going was really slow and we only managed to average about 35kph.  And we kept bumping into herds of camels being lead from village to village.  Yes, camels in Ethiopia - we were surprised as well!

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Once we had passed the plains below Dessie, we began to climb again.  This time 2 hours later we went from 1100m to 3245m and poor old Sully could really feel it as she struggled up and up and up and went progressively slower and slower to reach Debre Sina. 

We eventually reached the top of the pass and started to make our way down the other side of the mountain to Addis - what goes up has to come down!  As we picked our way down the badly maintained dirt road, the bus ahead of us passed another coming up.   The road was very narrow at this stage with a shear drop to our right.  The bus in front of us went over a rock with it's back tyre as the bus coming up went passed it and the back of the bus hit the other's front mirror.  There was no visible damage but according to Ethiopian law, all vehicles involved in an accident have to stop within 10m otherwise are deemed to be fleeing the scene and have to wait until the police arrive to release the scene!  In the meantime, we were stuck - as was all the other traffic coming down behind us and all the traffic coming up behind the other bus.  After having been on the road constantly for 4 hours now and with another 5 hours ahead of us at least, my temper was frayed.  I leaned over and hooted for the bus in front to move forward by 2m to open up a gap so that we could all pass between them.  But both bus drivers ignored us and proceeded to get all passengers off the buses for a cup of tea whilst they waited for the police.  Bearing in mind where we were at the top of a mountain 3245m up and about 30 minutes from the nearest town that might have had police.  We continued to hoot (well, at least I did) which helped to vent a little frustration but had absolutely no impact on the locals.  Eventually, the buses were empty of passengers and the bus drivers settling down for a cuppa when we manage to attract the attention of a young lad.  We motioned for him to close the doors of the buses (left open by the drivers) and with inches to spare on both sides managed to squeeze our way between the buses.  Free at last!  It wasn't until we got halfway down the mountain and at least an hour later, that we looked up to see traffic had started moving again. 

We finally reached the outskirts of Addis about 8kms from the city centre and with Wim's Holland House in striking distance.  But it took us another 90 minutes to reach the camp site as we battled mini-buses, buses, tuk-tuks, bicycles, donkey carts, goats, cows, sheep and people on the road. 

It was a bit of a battle to find Wim's place but if you go there, follow the co-ordinates and you will find Le Gare, an abandoned railway station at the end of Churchill Road.  As you face the station look to your left and follow that dirt road.  Take your second left at the sign for Wim's Holland House and it's on your right about 30m up the road.  The sight is split into 3 sections.  The main section is where the restaurant and bar is that sells great food and beer at a reasonable price and, for our part, comes highly recommended.  In running the campsite, Wim and Rahel are constantly battling with lack of water or electricity in Addis which is completely beyond their control and are doing a great job despite the odds.  Electricity and water mostly available every 2nd day.

The main section has western toilets but at the moment they can only be flushed (a) by water from a bucket and (b) when there is water available.  Probably half of the time, water is being delivered for drinking and can't be used for toilets or showers.  There is also a shower here with cold water only but the issues with water availability determines when this can be used but it's mostly every 2nd day as well.  When water availability coincides with electricity then Wim normally opens up the hot shower in one of the room for use by the campers - bliss!!  You can park your vehicle here but the best place is probably the section across the road where Wim and Rahel live as well.  Although this section can get muddy in the rain, it's away from the restaurant, bar and general gathering area so tends to be a bit quieter.  Try not to park too close to the neighbouring house as they wake up at 4am talking, making coffee and doing washing.  There is a long drop loo on this side for the campers and when the planets align and water and electricity are available, Wim and Rahel open up their place so that you can have a hot shower in their bathroom.  All in all though, it's a great place to stay in Addis as it's walking distance to shops and within mini-bus ride (yes, we used mini-buses again several times!) to town, supermarkets, money and cinemas.

Once we'd parked Sully up, we went across to the main section where we met up with Jorg and Anja who we'd last seen in Aqaba.  It was lovely to see someone we knew again as we exchanged hugs, kisses and hand shakes (the boys, of course!!).  As it happened, the planets aligned and there was water AND electricity so we took a well-deserved hot shower and settled into the bar for some great food and a couple of bevvies!  All was well in the world again.