Well, here I am, standing at the border between Ethiopia and Sudan after a dodgy money change deal, waiting for Dean and Matias to complete customs for Ethiopia.
It’s been an interesting few days, more of which Dean is in the middle of writing a post about but we’ve had to leave Ethiopia earlier than planned.
It started in Addis where both Dean and I got sick from something we ate (it could have been the plate of raw meat we ate the day before but Matias was fine) which resulted in me spending the day in bed. Thankfully the room was clean and the toilet was nearby – it could have been so much worse!
The next day we headed north out of Addis towards Bahir Dar. The road was beautiful. Stunning scenery, so green and lush. As always, lots of animals walking along the road but unlike the south, the people seemed less friendly. We experienced the stone throwing we’d heard about but also some whipping!
Animals get treated pretty rough here and it seems kids are given whips at a very young age to pretty much do what they want with. Usually they whip animals for no real reason other than they can, however some children (and adults) seem to also like whipping motorcyclists! Thankfully nothing got us but the bike got a few whips. It makes it really hard to enjoy being in a place when you feel so much aggression coming from the people, especially when you dont even know why.
We stopped off for some lunch and as we pulled up we got the usual crowd of locals staring.
We usually sit where we can keep an eye on the bikes however the owner of the restaurant who was sitting outside told us to go inside and he would watch them.
Whilst sitting inside eating, one of the waiters gave Martias a nudge as he passed him. None of us understood why but Dean decided to go outside and stand by the bikes just in case. Two kids on a small motorcycle had pulled up close to our bike and were parked there for a while, staring with everyone else.
Suddenly they screeched away really fast.
‘Sal, where’s your helmet?’ Dean asked
‘On the bike where it always is’
‘No it’s not’
By now there are about 100 people crowding around the bike.
I start to lose it.
‘Where did my helmet go?’
‘The guys on the bike, who knows them?’
‘Take us to them’
I just received blank stares. Maybe nobody understood anything I’d said but I’m sure they picked up that I was mad. It was clear they all saw it happen and knew the guys who took it.
Matias started to have a go at the owner
‘You said you’d look after our bikes! You told us to go inside! Why did this happen?’
By now we had about 200 people staring.
‘Dont worry, we’ll get your helmet back, I’ll go to the police’
We all know how effective the police are, especially in these countries…it didnt fill me with encouragement.
Nobody really spoke English except for the waiter I’d been dealing with in the restaurant so I went back to look for him, sure that someone in the crowd knew where these kids lived.
I finally found him.
‘Please, that kid took my helmet, someone must know where he lives, please get my helmet back, I’ll pay money’
‘I know, I’m trying, I’m trying’ he said, looking obviously distressed and ashamed.
He disappeared. The police stood around talking for a while, not really appearing to do anything and then they all got in a ute together and drove off up the road, no doubt for some lunch.
‘So, I guess we wait’ said Dean ‘We give it a few hours and if nothing happens we’ll have to go back to Addis and buy another helmet’
‘No way, I’m not going back, I’ll ride without a helmet if I have to’
‘No you won’t Sally. You’re not leaving here without a helmet. Start looking in Addis for a place that sells helmets’
He can be such a dad at times.
Addis was 200 KMs back. I hate going back, and I knew there was no way I was going to find a good helmet in Addis. NOBODY wears helmets in Ethiopia and this was MY helmet, it had been everywhere with me, I couldn’t bear travelling any further without it.
I started reluctantly looking for helmets in Addis for about 5 minutes….
‘Sally!!! Hijo de puta!!!’ yells Matias
The waiter had ran back with my helmet – camera and intercom still attached.
‘I paid 500 birr for it’ he said ($20)
‘No problem, thank you so much, you have no idea how important this is, thank you.
Dean started to count out the money to give to him when the owner of the restaurant appeared
‘Whats happening here?’ he said
‘I paid 500 for the helmet’
‘What?!!!’ the owner was furious and pointed to Dean
‘You, no money’
He then pulled out his own wallet and counted out 500 birr and threw it at the kid.
‘There’s your money, now you come with me and we are going to get that money back’
He was so mad and stormed to a car with the kid following.
‘I’m so sorry, I just want to say sorry’ he said to me as he passed and then got in the car and drove away.
There were now about 300 people crowding around, we couldn’t even see the bikes anymore.
‘Lets get the fuck out of here’ we all said to each other
The people seemed happy that we got the helmet back. I even had one lady shake my hand.
‘You need it more than him’ she said with a smile
We were all shocked and weren’t quite sure what to feel. We’d experienced negativity and theft and then kindness and support.
I was so lucky.
I’ll let Dean write about our remaining few days in Ethiopia in another post.
We’re now about to embark on possibly a week of no alcohol (unless Martias manages to smuggle a bottle of gin across without getting 40 lashes), lots of heat, sand and Islam.
Believe it or not I’m looking forward to new food – it didn’t take long to get sick of bread and dips – a good dose of food poisoning helped that!
Ethiopia started out being my favourite country in Africa so far however now it has to go down as the most interesting!
Wish us luck!