On 7 April 2020 we enter Ethiopia. As the customs officer is very strict – he also wants to see the roof storage boxes – the clearance takes until about 1 pm. We drive through the border town of Metemma with its many wooden huts and pile-dwelling huts. We immediately feel transported into a completely different time epoch. On a somewhat larger place outside of the village we park and eat something first. At 14 o’clock we start in the direction of Gondar. We want to go there today, because we need an Ethiopian SIM card. We still have about 3 hours with the truck for the 200 km from the border to Gondar. We must hurry, because the road is curvy and leads uphill and downhill.
Just before sunset we arrive in Gondar. We speculate on a place on the parking lot of the Hotel Taye Belay, which is located in the center. But the small parking lot seems to be overcrowded. The parking attendant tells us that we could just stand at the side of the road, but that would be very uncomfortable. Then an Ethiopian comes up to us and organizes – like a small miracle – a place at the edge of the parking lot where we just fit in. Here we stay four nights for Birr 200 per night (about 6 US$) in a very central location.
Gondar is located at a height between approximately 2200 and 2600 m.a.s.l. As we ascended approximately 1700 height metres in one day, we feel the height up here and start slowly.
The atmosphere is very different from Sudan. On the one hand we are now in a (still) Christian country, on the other hand we soon get the impression that “they” are sucking us as tourists, wherever possible. Totally outdone price expectations and the constant impression that someone is trying to rip us off, accompany us the first days. We need some experience here again until we get the feeling how Ethiopia ticks and that means again and again that you fall in and only then you realize how much the goods would have been worth. For example the beer that was sold to us for double the price with the argument that we would get half of it back when we returned the bottles. But nobody took the bottles back, let alone against return of the deposit.
The Gemp is a large site in the middle of Gondar, where the Ethiopian emperors resided in the 17th and 18th century. The first emperor was Fasilidades, who in 1636 set up camp on the still densely forested hill and commissioned the construction of the first stone palace.
We visit the Gemp on Sunday morning under the prayers litanies of various Orthodox churches which have been echoing all over the city since 4 o’clock in the morning. At the entrance to the Gemp there are many believers Orthodox Christians gathered for a service before the service.
We are very surprised that the loudspeaker nuisance by the Orthodox Churches is much more pronounced and time-consuming than in the Muslim countries we have visited so far. Had we hoped that from Ethiopia onwards we would finally be able to put this mass influence via loudspeakers behind us, we now feel we have gone from the frying pan into the fire.
Still impressive is the palace of Fasilida, which we visit first. It is still completely intact and reminds of a medieval castle in Europe. Also the smaller palace of Iyasu I. seems enormous, although it is much smaller. The stroll through the complex is pleasantly quiet compared to the crowded city around it.
The library and the ruins of the officials’ palace behind it have a romantic effect. Finally, we visit the imperial horse stables and the festival hall of Emperor Bekaffa that is attached to them.
In a small valley there is the Fasilida’s moated castle, a little pleasure palace, standing in a water basin. Unfortunately, the water is only filled up for the Tinkat festival, the baptism festival on January 19th, and thus we have to imagine the water, as the basin is dry.
Debre Berhan Selassie
The most famous church of Gondar is the Debre Berhan Selassie, which is located on a hill on the outskirts of the city. It is surrounded by a protective wall with watchtowers. On the roof there are three round crosses with 7 spokes, which symbolize the 7 crucifixion nails and also stand for the sins of the world.
Unimpressive from the outside, it contains inside a never before seen abundance of paintings of religious motifs. Old legends and an unknown number of “saints” are depicted on the walls. Accordingly, we share the church with many tourists.
On the front wall a picture of three uniform gentlemen stands out. This symbolises the triune nature of God, namely Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Impressive is the famous angel ceiling with faces of countless angels.
Lake Tana lies at just under 1800 m above sea level, south of the Gondar Mountains. It is 84 km long and 66 km wide with an area of over 3000 km2. This makes it about six times as large as Lake Constance. Lake Tana is considered the “source lake” of the Blue Nile. 40 smaller rivers flow into the lake and feed it, of which 6 permanently flowing rivers provide 95% of the water supply.
Kim & Tim’s Village
The Kim & Tim’s Village on the outskirts of Gorgora on Lake Tana is very well known among overlanders. Practically everyone who passes by stands here for a few nights. So it is not surprising that the resort is highly praised. We are very much looking forward to this place at Lake Tana.
The “Village” includes some round huts with mostly beautiful views of Lake Tana. However, the small restaurant has hardly any view of the lake, as the lake view part is reserved for the staff – incomprehensible. The part reserved for the overlanders has three small and inclined sites under a huge fig tree. Larger vehicles have to drive all the way down to sea level, but without a view of the lake and are still standing quite crooked even after jacking up at the front. One could make more out of this terrain for little money. E.g. create one or two terraces at the top of the slope with lake view without much effort. We find the prevailing atmosphere as strange to repellent. We can be glad to get an answer to a question we have been asked.
The help to the village Gorgora with the “Training of specialists for the tourism industry” presented on the website is a joke and we cannot take it seriously. Nevertheless, we enjoy the peace, the privacy and the many lively birds. Upstairs, at the guard’s house, the internet reception is quite decent, down in the hole, rather less.
Bahir Dar is the capital of the Amhara region and is located at the outlet of the Blue Nile from Lake Tana. The 200 km to Bahir Dar are exhausting, because one village after the other is lined up along the main road.
At a young vegetable farmer – called United Gardens – we are allowed to stand in the garden. Under a high voltage power line we have to lift the lines – hopefully nothing happens. The garden is divided into 6 pick-nick places. Coffee and drinks can be bought at the small bistro. Next to the garden there is an exemplary vegetable garden, which surprises and delights us. The owner and the staff are very friendly. It is pleasant to stand here, even if everything is very narrow. In the night there is a great silence.
Origin of the Blue Nile
As already mentioned, the Blue Nile originates from Lake Tana. Its mouth is hidden behind an island. A small herd of Nile horses romps around in the outlet area. During the winter dry season little water flows from Lake Tana into the Blue Nile. How powerful this mighty river must be during the approximately four-month dry season!
There are many monasteries and churches around Lake Tana, but mainly on the many islands in the lake. As we feel like a boat trip, we book a boat with a strong engine for the crossing to the Zeghie Peninsula. Since we are alone, we have to pay the whole price and cannot not split the 2000 Birr. Since there is obviously still space in the boat, our Bajaj driver (tuk-tuk) and his sister just sit in the boat. His sister has never been on the peninsula before. We let the two of them go ahead. The crossing takes about 40 minutes.
Monastery Ura Kidane Meheret
On the peninsula it is about 20 minutes walk to the monastery Ura Kidane Meheret with its round church typical for Ethiopia. It was founded in 1314.
Outside there is a covered walkway with painted shops. Inside you can also walk around the square “sanctuary”. This is painted over and over with pictures of saints and legends.
The foundation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church dates back to the 4th century AD, when the ruling family was converted to Christianity by the Greek Frumentius. The then ruler, King Ezana, subsequently introduced the Christian faith as the state religion in the kingdom of Axum in 345 AD. Later rulers attributed their descent to the Queen of Sheba, who is said to have had a child with the Israelite King Solomon. For this reason, many bonds from Judaism can be found in the Christian faith of the Orthodox Ethiopians.
Via the Mota Road to Addis Ababa
There are two roads leading from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa. We choose the secondary route, the Mota Road. Not too long ago tarred by the Chinese this road is good to drive with only a few potholes. It leads over a charming high plateau with relatively dense rural population. The people wave and are mostly friendly. If you stop somewhere, soon many people and especially children stand around our vehicle. To find peace and quiet here is not possible. As we cannot find a suitable place to stay overnight, we drive through to the intersection with the A3, but not without stopping for lunch in a harvested field.
At the intersection between Mota Road and the A3 we find an empty gas station with fuel storage. It is guarded. The men are carrying rifles. We are allowed to spend the night here, but not without paying, which we realize the next morning. Who denies a man armed with a rifle an obulus? 300 Birr are due, after all they guarded us in pairs.
On the way to Addis Ababa we have to cross the Nile Canyon. It goes from the high plateau 1600m into the depth and on the other side again 1600m high. The gradients are (far) more than 10% in some places. Basically the road in our direction on the other side of the canyon even rises 2300m, because we have to cross a range of hills with a height of 3100m. Since we don’t know how our MAN can stand such long and steep climbs, we start in the coolness of the morning, shortly after sunrise.
Already the 1600m descent is a challenge. Often we can only drive very slowly, because deep ruts have formed and the tar has become very wavy due to the downward pushing weights of fully loaded trucks. In between tarless tracks or deep potholes.
The driveway on the opposite side is in better condition and – what joy and reassurance – the needle of the coolant gauge always stays in the lower green area. Because of the steep incline, the driveway goes up slowly but continuously mostly in 3rd sometimes in 4th gear. Unfortunately the strong haze often obscures the view into the huge, deep canyon. On a harvested field we take a break again. But as soon as we stop there, the first Ethiopians are already heading for our vehicle and surround it. Since they discuss loudly outside, there is no time for a nap. So soon we drive on to our destination, the German Eco Lodge near Debre Lebanos. A strenuous, but also beautiful driving day!
German Eco Lodge
Shortly before Debre Lebanos we turn off to the German Eco Lodge, which is located on the edge of a canyon. Here it is quiet and we can stand on the parking lot of the lodge. But there is not much to see of “German”. The lodge is small and seems a bit run-down to us. A pity. We decide to stay two nights and get air-conditioned for Addis Ababa. At least you can buy good beer here, although not cheap, and the view is fantastic.
Before Addis Ababa the road climbs again to over 3000m. After that it’s only downhill – hopefully not symbolically. In Addis Abeba we are allowed to stand at Privat – therefore unfortunately only few pictures.
Beautiful days in Addis Ababa – and shopping here is a little more fun again, because butter and imported cheese (Gauda from Holland) are available. Even UHT milk and yoghurt from France and of course sweets for our coffee break. We prefer the Shoah supermarkets. In Addis Ababa there is now also 4G Internet – but watch out. The 4G SIM card does not work in the countryside, only in Addis Ababa.
Here I set up my PC and start editing the film about the clinic in Khartoum. Vreni is busy baking bread, washing clothes and weeding in the garden. – And last but not least, one of our favourite activities is playing and talking to the five children and teenagers of a German family that lives here. We really enjoy having these young people around us. There is a lot of music and singing here – everyone plays an instrument and has his or her own practice times, which we listen to. But not only that: when something delicious is baked or prepared, the children suddenly stand at our door, knock on our door and surprise us with it. These contacts are really good for us.
Nonno Farm Project
On the recommendation of those responsible, we prefer to visit the Nonno Farm project. So we drive about 250 km westwards out into the countryside, about 70 km of which are gravel roads. Until recently, this region was not accessible during the rainy season, as several bodies of water have to be crossed. But since the earth road has given way to gravel and now the last bridge is being built, access has become easier and safer.
The Nonno Farm project is under the direction and supervision of the Mission on the Nile, based in Switzerland. Manager, coordinator and staff are Ethiopians. Among other things, the following goals are associated with the farm project:
- Creation of jobs – up to 300 day labourers can make a living here
- Instruction of new cultivation methods for the small farmers in the area to eliminate the “traditional” hunger period during the dry season
- Further training for farmers in the surrounding area in organic farming
- Raising the income of the population in the catchment area
Unfortunately we missed the harvest time, we can only watch how the 100 kg bags filled with the cereals TEFF and SORGHUM are loaded onto a truck and driven away for sale. In addition, corn is cultivated, a mango plantation with 1600 trees is under construction and the keeping of wild bees for the production of currently 700 kg of organic honey per year is also under development.
A large show garden is used to instruct the farmers in the area. Here many different vegetables are grown organically. They are also taught how to make compost from the traditional organic waste. For us it is a beautiful sight to watch the day labourers in the early morning, how they cheerfully and diligently water the show garden. A calm, contemplative atmosphere lies over the beautiful garden. This garden does us good and we enjoy it to the fullest!
The Nonno project is networked with other players in this field. For example with “Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania”. Their employee Meddy spends two weeks on the Nonno farm and teaches the employees in organic farming and especially how to train farmers in this subject. During several days he and the Nonno employees build up a compost about 10m long, 2m wide and 1.5m high, which can be used as an addition to the vegetable plantation in a few weeks.
We are impressed by what Meddy can tell us about the connections in organic farming. His conviction is contagious and the subject matter is beginning to fascinate.
In order to increase the effectiveness of the training and instruction and as an additional incentive for the other farmers in the area, the Nonno project works with a number of model farmers in the wider area who have adopted the ideas and methods. Today we visit one such model farmer.
He has built a small irrigation system on his own initiative, which allows him to irrigate his beautiful vegetable garden even during the dry season. The result is visible: His daughter prepares harvested onions for sale at the market. This already proves that it is possible to harvest during the dry season.
Coffee beans thrive under shady trees, tomatoes are irrigated and onions are harvested.
After visiting the plantations, the model farmer leads us to his farm. He invests the better income he earns in a bigger and more airy house. Up to now the family of four has lived in a small and gloomy round hut with barely 4 mattresses. In the future he and his family will be able to live in a larger house with several rooms.
We are very happy and impressed to see a development project that is already bearing fruit.
Down: The manager of the Nonno project
Clean Drinking Water
The Nonno farm was formerly a coffee plantation. But the locals living around the farm set the plantations on fire, which is why the farmer of that time gave up. When the government handed over the land to the Nile Mission to run a profitable farm, it was clear that the farm had to be a benefit to the local people living nearby.
The first action was therefore the drilling and installation of wells for clean drinking water in the near and far surroundings. A total of 19 such wells were built by Nonno Farm. We visit one of them. At these water points the population meets to fill up with water. Therefore the nurse of Nonno Farm gives regular inputs about topics like hygiene, disease prevention etc.
At the crossroads from the gravel road to the farm, more and more a village is formed, as more and more day labourers are settling here due to the income possibilities on the Nonno farm. For example, the regular income enables a capable employee of Nonno Farm to build a “big house” for the local conditions.
A little further in the village is the simple school of the village. The buildings are built in the traditional style. But dedicated teachers teach here. Since the existing school buildings can no longer accommodate the number of students, Nonno Farm is financing an additional wing with 4 additional classrooms.
Education is also needed in this area. Since the adults often remain in their traditions and old opinions and cannot break out of them, all change begins with the children. Based on this insight Nonno Farm built and runs a kindergarten. Perhaps this institution should be called a “preschool”.
Through the first class, children learn mainly by playing with toys. For example also the handling of scissors and much more. They also learn discipline and organisation, also being quiet etc. All things they need for a successful future life, but which they cannot learn at home.
In the second class the children learn how to deal with each other, they learn the alphabet, the days of the week, etc. – they sing and listen to stories. They are eager, energetic and when there is a task to be solved, most of their hands go up immediately. The local kindergarten teachers are encouraged and supported by regular further education by a kindergarten teacher from Germany.
Walga Health Care Center
As we have planned our flight to Switzerland on 29 March, we drive the 60 km to the Walga Health Care Center on Friday 13 March. Once there, we learn that the Ethiopian government has just reported the first official case of corona virus – a Japanese man is said to have brought the disease to Ethiopia. From now on the schools will be closed. We also hear that there are riots against whites, because the simple population blames the whites for the import of the Corona Virus.
The question of what to do now is driving us crazy. Go to Addis Ababa now and fly back as long as we can? In the meantime Lufthansa cancels all flights from Addis Ababa. We are still trying to get a visa for Kenya. We would have crossed the green border to Kenya …but our visa application is simply not processed.
Sitting out the Corona crisis here
The management of Walga Klinik cordially invites us to stay here. They advise us against flying home, because the risk of infection is greater during the flight. Finally, we become calm inwardly at the thought of simply staying here and sitting out the time. Finally we have enough work in and around our vehicle.
Here in Ethiopia there is no ban on going out. That would not be possible either, because then the population, who mostly work on a daily wage basis, would starve. But we white people should rather not be seen in public without locals. That’s why Ethiopians buy for us and supply us. Since the area of the Walga Clinic is very large, we do not feel locked up. We also have no patient contact, so the risk of infection is not very high for us. Since we are standing next to a clinic, we would be taken care of in case of illness – malaria is also a risk here.
Our visa expires on April 27. However, we still have no concerns about not having it extended, as you can still enter Ethiopia (with subsequent quarantine). And the Ethiopian president is well-disposed towards the whites “because they would help the Ethiopians”.
Our life here
So we stand behind the Walga Klinik in a park like area. Meanwhile we drink milk from powdered milk, Vreni produces our own yoghurt also from powdered milk and regularly bakes fine rolls. We indulge our passion for cheese with imported Gauda cheese from Holland, which we were able to purchase, enjoy the fruits of the land (bananas and mango), know by now how to treat tomatoes here so that they do not harm our digestive system and have prepared ourselves for a longer stay.
Have we regretted this so far? No – we are happy to have made this decision. We also make ourselves useful here if we can. For example, Vreni has been mending professional aprons while I work on the website and edit films. We don’t know what will happen here. It’s estimated that there are 28 million contagions in this country.
Ethiopia differs from the German speaking countries in one thing: The government has declared a day of prayer and repentance.
In the meantime the small rainy season has passed. But even now there is still a rain shower every few days. Everything is green and blooming and the fruits ripen on the trees. Many birds flutter and sing and every now and then marmosets shimmy from tree to tree. The daytime temperatures are around 34° – but in the early morning it cools down to about 19°. Every day sun and warmth and blue skies. We love it!
You can’t really plan at the moment. But, if possible, we would like to travel on to Kenya in June and continue our journey in East Africa – and finally be able to immerse ourselves in the nature of these countries.
On 8 April 2020 the situation is as follows:
- Public transport was closed down. As a result, ordinary people are less able to transport their goods
- Prices are rising as traders take advantage of the situation
- Bananas and other fruits we cannot get at the moment so easy as it was
- We have stocked up on supplies
- The farmers’ markets have been cancelled (large crowds of people), which is why the simple farmers can no longer sell or buy
- The schools are still closed, but the universities are open (university quarantine)
- The country does not have enough masks
- The government does not want to introduce a ban on going out
- Private transport with private vehicles is still allowed
- On 9 April a state of emergency was declared for the whole of Ethiopia
- The elections are therefore postponed once again
As you can see, we are still standing on the property of the Walga Clinic. During this time we learn some stories about the daily life of the local people in the near and far surroundings. We write these stories down here to the best of our knowledge, so that they help to get a better understanding of the country and its inhabitants.
The throat suppository must go!
Sonja has given birth to a beautiful baby. One day it happens that her baby vomits and as it is with this process with young and old, this happens through a strangulation effect. Sonja’s colleague, heavily pregnant, overhears this and says to Sonja, quite frightened and full of seriousness: “Your baby’s throat suppository must be cut away as quickly as possible, otherwise it could fall down and the baby could choke on it!” An old superstition that persists and has cost the life of many a sweet baby. The throat suppository is cut away with a thread formed into a loop. This is what happened, for example, to a family with twins. The cervical uvula was cut out with a thread. The child bled profusely and suffocated and died.
A mother gave birth to twins. After giving birth, she experienced severe cramps (eclampsia) and a sharp rise in blood pressure (gestosis). The entire body cramped up. The cramping now also caused convulsions. The husband wanted to have his wife treated in the clinic, but all the relatives resisted him, because the symptoms were clear: the convulsions pointed to a demonic possession. So the wife was taken to the priests of the Orthodox Church, and they in turn took the wife to the “holy water”. These measures, however, had just the opposite effect, they led the woman to death by the most agonizing convulsions, because in this disease no stimuli should fall on the sick person. She needs darkness and absolute rest. The twins now grow up without their mother. Nevertheless, they thrive splendidly because their father takes good care of them.
The woman who should die
In this environment there are still many natural healers and charlatans who rob the people and yet can not help. In a remote area with hardly any medical care, a family lived in a remote hut. The mother of two young children fell ill. Her sister worked for a natural healer and of course he was consulted. The natural healer speculated that the woman might have AIDS. His absolute verdict was: “This woman is dying”. He gave the advice not to give the sick woman any more food or drink and to bed her down in the dark. This is how it was done! Of course, the woman was getting weaker and weaker and the mourners were already gathered in the house and everything had already been made ready for the death ritual.
Coincidentally, a nurse was nearby and she got to know about it because she knew the family from previous visits. She startled the resident nurse and urged him to go with her to this family. At first they would not let her into the house or see her dying mother. Finally, she got her way and sat down next to the woman lying in the dark. She ordered that the door be opened and light let in, demanded a banana and a cup of water, and dripped the water into the mouth of the completely dehydrated woman, who gladly accepted it.
Finally, against the will of the nurse working at the natural healer, she managed to get the mother carried on a stretcher to the ambulance and on to the clinic.
The mother of two small children was treated in the clinic. She was not suffering from AIDS, but from another disease.
Completely healthy and strengthened, she was able to return home to her husband and young children and is now a grateful mother.
About pregnancy and birth
Life in Ethiopia is hard for 90% of the population. In the countryside it is even harder and for the women the hardest. A lot is imposed on them. But among the men there are not only the bad ones and the drunkards etc., but also in Ethiopia there are men who carry their wives on their hands and care for them as best they can. But of course there are also the others – like everywhere.
Girls at the tender age of 13 and more can easily get pregnant. They themselves are so uneducated and ignorant that they don’t really understand what is happening to them.
One of the girls who got pregnant was sure she had a snake in her belly that had to come out – but out came a cute little baby.
Another girl “lost” something in the field and rushed home in fright – a day laborer found that she had given birth to a baby and then brought it home as well and all together to the clinic.
Another young woman felt unwell and arrived at the clinic accompanied by her uncle. At the clinic, she went to the bathroom because she felt pressure – and plop, something landed in the toilet. Fortunately, this was noticed by a staff member and the baby was saved.
Since people in Ethiopia are usually very slim and the women wear loose clothes, they can be pregnant without noticing.
These girls get pregnant from stepfathers, from uncles, from “bad boys”, and, and … As a rule, they run away when it becomes known that they have impregnated a girl.
But the trouble is that these girls / young women are ostracized from now on. They are expelled from the families (it is a shame) when the pregnancy becomes known and – they are expelled from the church. No church, no grave, as the churches, not the state, have power over graves and burials. So quite a lot of pressure comes together, which leads the girls into greatest hardships. They are left alone and all the responsibility is on them. A problem in this that should not be underestimated is the prevailing superstition and the low level of education. They know nothing about their bodies.
Abortion now seems to be the only way out here, which is why there are state abortion facilities.
However, abortions are often attempted with teas, with herbs and other means, and state abortions occur even when the embryo is already formed.
One such young mother came to the clinic to give birth. She had tried to abort the child the day before the birth. But now it was inevitable. The child was born and was placed in the young mother’s arms and at her breast. When the young mother saw this baby, when she realized what she was about to abort, tears ran down her face and she bitterly regretted that she had wanted to abort such a sweet little creature.
In early July 2020, the Oromo tribe rises up in revolt. Streets are barricaded, houses are set on fire, members of other tribes are tortured and hung upside down from trees, etc. The Oromo make up over 50% of the total population of Ethiopia and are trying to gain more power in the state or, at best, secede.
After about two weeks normality returns to some extent. Since we are in the tribal area of the Ghurage, we are in little danger. In connection with the riots, the internet is shut down and we can only communicate via our Swiss phone number by SMS.
Since a stay in Switzerland is unavoidable anyway – we have to renew our truck driving permits and take the regular medical test – we decide to fly home. And yes, there is also the fact that Verena can only partially lift her left arm after a fall. But that will work itself out, we think! On July 20, 2020, we fly back to Switzerland with Ethiopian Airlines via Vienna.
And secondly, it comes differently than you think
Back in Switzerland, we only went to the family doctor as a precaution to confirm that there was nothing wrong with Verena’s left arm. But he sends us straight to the hospital for clarification. The MRI shows it clearly and the shoulder specialist tells us that a muscle tendon in the shoulder has detached from the bone and should be operated on. It could also be left alone, but Verena is still too young… we object that we are already 65 and 70. The doctor says: Who travels through Africa is still young!
The operation goes very well. However, the arm has to be worn on an abduction splint for the next 6 weeks – day and night. Ernie mutates into a nurse and the next 6 weeks are characterized by a certain rhythm. However, the layman is amazed at how much Verena can do with only one available arm. Thanks to the good course of the operation, however, it is possible to start physiotherapy after only 10 days. And the good progress continues …. Thank God!
The planned 6 weeks stay in Switzerland become 12 – at least for Ernie – for Verena it will be more.
Trapped in Ethiopia
Our MAN absolutely has to leave Ethiopia. We try in vain to obtain an extension of the residence permit for the vehicle from Switzerland. Emails are not answered, also the Ethiopian Embassy in Geneva is not willing to help.
Instead with my wife Verena, I fly together with a friend to Addis Ababa on October 7. The rebooking with Ethiopian Airlines turns out to be very complicated. Finally I get a confirmation for my return flight. But the airport in Zurich to Vienna cannot “check me in” – the Ethiopian flight is not open. I only have to buy a new ticket to Vienna, where the check-in to Addis Ababa succeeds after some excitement.
Our visit to the Ethiopian Customs Commission is crowned with success. Uncomplicated we get the exit permit for the truck. Now we have 12 days to leave the country legally.
Our first stop is the Walga Clinic, 200 km west of Addis Ababa. Here we want to say goodbye and then continue our journey.
Due to the rainy season the landscape has changed. Everywhere wonderful green fields. We try to enjoy the last 12 days in Ethiopia.
For the trip (800 km) via Sodo – Arba Minch – Yabelo – Moyale we take four days. The road from Hoseanna to Sodo is littered with potholes. From Sodo to Arba Minch the road is excellent, but there are so many people with animals on the road that even there only slow progress is possible.
The view of the jungle and the two lakes in the African Rift Valley from Emerald Lodge is magnificent. On the third day rain and gravel road along with many potholes on the way to Konso. Best road condition again from Konso to Yabelo and further to Moyale, the longed for border town.
On Thursday, October 21, 2020, we arrive at the Ethiopian customs in Moyale in the early afternoon. Full of expectations we take our documents and go to immigration to get the exit stamp, then stamp the Carnet de Passage and enter Kenya.
Far from it: the immigration officer tells us that the Ethiopian border is closed and that we need a stamp from Addis Ababa. We remain persistent, try to get the official to give us the exit stamp with all kinds of explanations. Everything is useless. We stand only about 50m in front of the gate of the Kenyan customs and are not allowed to go there. We have to leave the country with the vehicle – and still they prevent us from leaving.
At the customs office responsible for the vehicle exit we apply for an extension for the vehicle to be able to drive back to Addis Ababa in peace. The extension is promised to us on Friday, October 22. No, the extension has not come yet and they cannot issue anything themselves. We are supposed to come back on Saturday morning. But also on Saturday morning there is no extension. We should come back on Monday morning…. But our driving permit only lasts until Sunday, 25.10.2020.
Slowly it dawns on us – they are out to stop us from driving – and what they would do with us or our vehicle on Monday is written in the stars, because from Monday on our MAN is illegal in Ethiopia.
The decision is made quickly: We drive back to Addis Ababa (800 km) within two days and first get a new permit for the departure of the vehicle. On the way back to Addis Ababa we are stopped in Yabelo. The policeman wants to see the vehicle documents and claims that they have expired. Finally he lets us drive.
Afterwards we start looking for a stamp to leave Ethiopia. This is not easy, because some officials say that we have a valid visa and therefore don’t need anything, while others laconically say that the border to Kenya is closed.
Miraculously, the next day we find step by step to a person who issues us the special permit for the exit to Kenya without any ifs and buts.
Everything in butter? No, to our shock we find out that a spring leaf on the rear axle is broken. But we definitely want to leave here now and drive off in the direction of Moyale. In Bishoftu at MAN they don’t want to help us with the spring leaf. In Hawassa we try again, but a suitable spring leaf is not to be found there either and also here we are refused help. So we drive carefully – like on ones – in four days back to Moyale.
At the customs in Moyale we are greeted friendly on all sides and employees of the customs mean to us that we could leave today. It is Saturday, October 31, 2020, and the exuberant friendliness of the immigration officer and his clearance is suspicious. After all, we soon have the exit stamp in our passports and the exit papers for the vehicle are also issued quickly – despite the power failure.
Completely unspectacular we are finally allowed to pass the iron gate leading to Kenya. How happy we are to finally be in Kenya.
It is not possible to reproduce in a few words what was felt and experienced. Ethiopia is undoubtedly a beautiful country that promises an exciting visit. Which country can look back on 3000 years of uninterrupted history? There are only a few countries on earth.
Visible by the license plates with red lettering, hundreds of Toyota Land Cruisers drive through the area with usually only one person inside: the NGO’s (Non Governmental Organization). However, the name is deceptive, because all infrastructure built by NGOs belongs to the Ethiopian state from the beginning and can only be used and operated in close cooperation with the state authorities. Thus, NGO’s are actually extended arms of the state, bringing millions of US$ and other currencies into the country each year. Cows that Ethiopians know how to milk skillfully.
Many Ethiopians are ignorant and have little or no education. If they reach the school graduation after 12 years of instruction, they immediately imagine something about it and want to work only in white shirts and without getting their hands dirty. Unfortunately, the school system is still not an institution in which one is educated in the sense of the word. Here in Switzerland there is a saying: “He who becomes nothing, becomes a host” In Ethiopia it should be: “He who becomes nothing, becomes a teacher”. How can a country progress in this way?
Of course, the ritual and absolute faith of the Orthodox Church are also obstacles on a way forward. This faith only looks back to the long traditions and binds the faithful to countless saints’ and other church feasts, during which one sits at home and does not work, unless one spends the day in church. The countless church festivals and rituals also require voluntary gifts from the faithful in the form of food, which can even lead to one’s own family going hungry, even though the harvest would actually have been sufficient.
Back to the NGOs: they have actually spoiled Ethiopia. They give without expecting anything in return. If you meet Ethiopians as a white person, you are quickly surrounded by many people and they all want something from you, namely money. “You, you” – shouts everywhere, Give me my Money, etc.. Also during the journey constant begging gestures at the roadside. If it were up to us, we would expel all NGOs from the country and leave the country to itself. This is especially true of government NGOs, whose activities are always linked to political interests.
In Moyale we met an employee of HEKS, Aid Agency of the Protestant Churches in Switzerland. He came up to us beaming with joy, because he thought we were also NGOs. But he could not answer the question what he was doing for HEKS in this landscape.
What is funny about the whole thing is that “the West” is carrying out countless projects for millions in Ethiopia, while the Chinese and other states are exploiting the country and depriving the locals of their livelihood. What a contradiction.
But what have NGOs achieved in Ethiopia in the last 30 years? The Ethiopians are still very proud people who don’t really want to learn anything “from the West”, which is why they gladly accept the money and aid, but on the whole want to stay the way they have always been or the way things have always been.
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