Day 120 - 124 Ethiopia : Addis Ababa

We woke up that first morning pinching ourselves.  My god, we were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!  Sometimes it's like that on this journey - most of the time we take it in our stride that we are, and have been, travelling through the Middle East and Africa and sometimes it hits that we are actually driving through Africa!  When this happens, it all seems a bit surreal but the feeling eventually passes and we just get on with our lives as they are now.

We had heard it rumoured that one of the "western" style supermarkets in Addis had some bacon.  Now I have to explain here that we last had bacon in Greece 3 months ago - yup 3 MONTHS.  We had managed to buy some very expensive pork in Jordan that we stretched out until Egypt but bacon has become a bit of a fixation for us as we have spent hours in the car imagining the time when we could eat bacon again.  Cooked slightly crispy, between 2 slices of fresh white bread coated with thick, cold butter and a splash of Heinz tomato sauce............ As I said, a bit of a fixation!

So off we went to Shoa Supermarket.  To get there go out onto the main road that intersects with Churchill and turn right.  Walk a short distance to the mini buses (you see this easily as there are hundreds of them all shouting out their destinations and stopping to pick up and drop off passengers).  Find a mini-bus with a destination of BOLE (bolay) which is Bole Road where all the main supermarkets and shopping centres are.  Tell the "conductor" that you want to go to Shoa Supermarket and they'll drop you off there normally but look out for a yellow sign with red writing on the right hand side 2km down Bole Road.  This trip costs EB1.50 currently - that's the princely sum of 7.5 pence to those of you at home!!!!  We managed to find some great products at Shoa like fresh farm butter (3 months since we last had some), French Brie (3.5 months), Gouda cheese (3 months) and loads of fresh fruits and veggies.  Needless to say we went a bit mad.  But no bacon. 

We spent another 3 hours up and down the streets trying to find somewhere that we could draw some money but on Tuesday there's no electricity so none of the ATMs were working.  We take so much for granted at home that we will have a constant supply of electricity and water but here the locals battle with this as part of their lives.  Eventually we gave up and went back to Wim's.  Look out for a mini-bus now on the opposite side of the road shouting "Mexico" and give the "conductor" EB1.50 and tell him "Stadium".  As a farangi they will try to charge you EB2 for these trips but insist that you know the price and they will back down.  The difference for us on tourist money is negligible but there are overlanders that will be travelling behind you that will have to pay even more if you give them what they ask for.  Try to pay the local prices please.

So it was back to Wim's for a bit of a rest and supper and beers.  In the meantime, Mark, who we had met with Jason (the 2 bikers who we met on the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa) had sent an sms asking if we wanted to meet up for a pizza later that evening.  So with Iain, Ryan, Anja and Jorg we set off following his directions to Island Breeze.  1 hour later we still hadn't found it (we'd had a great 5km walk through Addis though!) so I used up some minutes to call Mark.  Oh, so we were lost!!  Great, at least that was confirmed!  But eventually we found our way to the top of the hill on Churchill Road, turned left and there it was.  The pizzas sold in Addis are really good - thin crust Italian pizzas the way Mama makes them (almost!).  After filling up on pizza, having a beer or 2 and a really good chat to Mark, we set off back to Wim's for a good night's sleep.

Wednesday was spent dropping off our laundry at Zenith Laundry (on Meskel Square diagonally opposite the Total garage) and shopping at the Friendship Supermarket (also on Bole Road passed Shoa Supermarket - EB2 by mini-bus) and HOORAY we found bacon.  At last!!  But what we also found was the BEST Indian restaurant in Ethiopia, probably the whole of Northern Africa, I'm sure.  Sagam is on Bole Road next to a Total Garage and opposite Elephant Walk Restaurant.  We had to wait 30 minutes for a table at lunch time but the mutton samoosas are sublime and the mutton curry to die for.  In fact all the food was absolutely superb so visit it if you can.  We made our way back to Wim's and Trevor went back out with a taxi driver arranged by Wim to find some oil so that Trevor could service Sully the next day.

Thursday morning dawned and a couple of hours later I made bacon and eggs for everyone and we sat digesting this amazing meal whilst sipping fresh Ethiopian coffee.  Life was good!  Trevor moved Sully over to the pit.  Ooops sorry forgot to mention that at Wim's there's a concrete pit for vehicle servicing in the 2nd section where we were parked up.  The service went perfectly and Sully fired up first time, purring gently for Trevor's benefit.  He was a very proud Dad :o)

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Friday morning was spent with the gang (Jorg, Anja, Iain and Ryan) at Ethiopia Insurance (on Churchill Square opposite DHL) buying 3rd party insurance.  It was a lengthy process to say the least - 3 hours to process all of us.  The wait made all the worse for Ryan because he was itching to leave for Nairobi.  Oh, at this stage, just to mention that Iain and Ryan (the bikers) are splitting up.  Ryan to go via the Moyale-Marsabit road directly to Nairobi to meet up with Laura, his girlfriend, who is joining him for the rest of their trip and Iain will be joining up with Anja, Jorg and us to go via Omo Valley and Sibiloi National Park (Kenya) to Nairobi.  We are all planning to meet up again at Jungle Junction in Nairobi and for Iain to continue his trip with Ryan and Laura.

So, where was I?  Oh yes.  We all bought 3rd Party Insurance.  It isn't compulsory in Ethiopia but in order to buy a Comesa (Yellow Card) insurance for most of the rest of Africa we had to buy for Ethiopia as well.  uuummm.  Anyway for 1 year validity of a Comesa we are covered for 3rd party insurance for about 8 countries and all for about £60.  It doesn't cover Mozambique, Namibia or SA and we have heard that if you buy the Comesa in Malawi you are covered - we aren't convinced but we will keep this link up to date and let you know if we can.  We decided to go ahead and buy as we wanted the cover immediately - we have been travelling since Wadi Halfa without 3rd Party insurance.  Some people continue to do this and only buy when forced to.  We are using this as a safety net on the off chance that we are asked for it.  Not a huge sum to pay in reality for a "Just In Case"......  But do insist on a Third Party sticker for the window as this is needed for entry into Uganda.  We got away with using a cash receipt that proved we bought it but we have heard of others who have had to pay for Ugandan 3rd party again even though they have the Comesa.

Friday afternoon was spent in a cab with Wim who took Iain, Jorg and myself over to the Customs and Revenue office.  As we had all had our carnet's stamped in (did you know that Ethiopia is NOT part of the Carnet Agreement and you don't need to get it stamped in???).  We had heard that there was no Customs Office in Omorate where we were going to have our passports stamped out at Immigration on leaving Ethiopia, so we needed to get the carnet's stamped out prior to leaving.  At the Customs office we were told that as Ethiopia is outside the carnet agreement, there was no need to stamp our carnet out, they confirmed that there was no Customs Office in Omorate (even they were wrong!!!!! there is!!!) and that the carnet would be ok without an Ethiopian exit stamp and with just the next entry stamp into Kenya.......  Jorg and I remained unconvinced that this would be ok and were pretty adamant that somehow we would find a way to get a Customs exit stamp from Ethiopia - in the end we did.  Friday night was spent in Wim's pub with all the travellers at Wim's and Jason and Mark joining us for a drink.  It wasn't an early night!

After a couple of days of lovely sunshine, the rain started in earnest overnight so we woke up on Saturday morning to a cold, damp, rainy, wet & muddy day.  Not great.  We had a brief & wonderful respite from this as Jason had invited us round for a spot of lunch.  He picked us up from Wim's and drove us over to his place - a piece of heaven in the madness of Addis. Ziggy, his amazing housekeeper, had knocked up a divine spaghetti bolognaise with Italian salad and garlic bread and, along with a couple of glasses of red wine, we put the world to rights!  Back at Wim's it was as cold and muddy and wet as ever with the rain still pattering down onto the tents but it put us in the mood to get going and we started to count down the hours to departure the next day.

Sunday started a little drier but still overcast and miserable - but a perfect day for driving.  We said our goodbyes and set off down the road to Kenya.