I am not known to be swayed in my ways, but I am now on my second cup of coffee this evening. Previously, you would only catch me sipping on a latte while meeting clients in the cosy coffee houses of Nairobi. Needless to say, the Ethiopian age-old coffee culture has had me well entrapped in its sweet aromatic web and I am certainly not complaining.
As we set out from Nairobi on the early morning of 18th November 2015, the weather that had been gloomy and rainy somehow cleared up and gave us a treat to a beautiful sunrise as if an indication of the beauty we were to be treated to on our road trip to Ethiopia.
http://www.jamboafricanadventures.com/ had put together a 23 strong group of adventurers and crew for this overland safari. We were set to cover a distance of approximately 3,000km to and fro Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Some came with books to read, others with music to listen to while the rest were just looking forward to a jolly good old time. As the bags were loaded up into the truck, I noticed a couple of cameras slung across the shoulders of most of the adventurers a common feature amongst young Kenyan travellers today. They are keen on capturing moments and scenery whenever they travel, and this is encouraging as the world will fast get to know of hidden good in Africa particularly in the wake of fast internet speeds and numerous social media networks.
“This looks like a farm in Scotland!” I heard one of the adventurers exclaim as we made our way through Nanyuki and the Timau area. Like a lady in a relationship that gets better with time, Kenya treated us to her layers of beauty in different landscapes as we travelled further north.
We were soon at the Moyale border, and thanks to the good relations between Kenya and Ethiopia we did not need visas to cross over. However, the staff on the Ethiopian side are a little too keen on their lunch break and would rather leave your entry process halfway done than miss a spoonful of it! At 1230hrs they all left the offices and kept us waiting to have the overland truck cleared at 1400hrs. Needless to say this threw a huge spanner into how we had planned our travel time, but nothing was going to dampen our spirits. We kept going, and made it to the small town of Hagre Maryam on a rainy muddy night.
We set out early the following morning on a travel towards, the town of Yigra Chefe porpular for it’s coffee. Then proceed on to Shashamane, the land that hosts many repatriating persons from the Caribbean Islands, the Americas and Europe, after 500 acres was given for this purpose by His Highness Emperor Haile Selassie back in 1948.
Shashamane received us with a lot of love. The Rastafarian culture which is synonymous with the town preaches love, peace and unity amongst people of all races and every walk of life. This was evident in How Ras Kamba (the vice president of Ethiopia World Federation) received us and how the world acclaimed reggea artist Teddy Dan hosted us in his art gallery.
We were also privileged enough to meet the President of the Ethiopian World Federation, Ras Reuben Kush who was to later host us at The Circle of Life hotel in the lake town of Awassa. There are various other attractions in the town of Shashamane, amongst them being the church of The Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Nayabhingi whose followers are known to keep the principle of freedom of conscience and teachings of Emperor Haile Selassie that faith is private and requires no intermediary.
The night life in Shashamane is very interesting, with many bars, pubs and discos scattered all over the town. It was however of note that none of these clubs were predominantly playing reggea music contrary to my expectation. We were also advised that adventurers need to be cautious in this town due to the local youth who have blindly taken to crime in a bid to ape the Jamaican gangs they read or precariously hear about.
The beauty, kindness and generosity of the Ethiopian people cannot go unnoticed. Despite the language barrier (as most Ethiopians speak in Amharic), people were curious (in a friendly way) about who we were, where we were from and if we needed any assistance in getting to the various places on our itinerary. Our guide in Ethiopia (Biruk) was very helpful and kind to a point where he surprised us with an invite to his parent’s home for dinner and a coffee ceremony!
Located in the heart of Wondo Genet about 20km south east of Shashamane and surrounded by forests, are some hot springs that are believed to have healing effects to those who bath in them. We spared a few hours to bath in the springs before we set out on the final leg of the journey to the city of Addis Ababa.
Addis Ababa is a unique blend of the past and the present. A combination of African culture laced with some ‘western’ modernity to give rise to a well functioning city with little of the problems associated with other third world cities, like chaotic traffic jams. The express way, leads one straight into the city with no hustles after settling a minimal toll fee. The progressive fast electric train ferrying passengers around the city and its outskirts has also contributed to the reduction of city vehicular traffic.
Addis Ababa is often referred to as the capital of Africa for being host to the African Union Headquarters, a large number of foreign embassies and several arms of the United Nations. Addis Ababa boasts many monuments, museums and churches showcasing the Ethiopian ancient history, religious beliefs and struggles against colonization (Ethiopia was never officially colonized as was the case in many countries across the world). Amongst the key monuments and museums to visit are The Derg monument, The Statue of The Lion of Judah, The Holy Trinity Cathedral and museum, The St. George’s Cathedral and museum, The Meskel Square and the Entoto Hill St. Mary’s Church.
We had the opportunity to visit the Entoto Hill, St. Mary’s Orthodox church which was formerly the headquarters to Menelik II during the founding of Addis Ababa. The compound also has the Menelik and Taitu’s memorial museum. Like in many other churches and museums in Ethiopia, a minimal fee is charged at the entrance and no photography is allowed within the museum.
We drove up the Entoto hill elevated at 3,200 meters above sea level and got birds eye view of the entire city of Addis Ababa! On this day, the church had a service going on and we were therefore not in a position to get in. I however, managed to capture a few shots of the simple church which was once home to the Emperor Menelik II.
As we descended from the Entoto hill, we stopped at the Shiro Meda Market where adventurers purchased locally hand made Ethiopian garments and handicrafts at prices that kept getting lower depending on how good at haggling one is 🙂
The Ethiopian food did not disappoint. The staple which is injera (fermented teff grain flour pancake) was served in gigantic platters and topped with spice filled curries, vegetables and lots of meat. The adventurers dug into the platters with their hands adding to the richness of African culture which strongly advocates for sharing the little that maybe available.
Coffee is a common beverage and we often found it prepared at all restaurants and along most of the streets in Addis Ababa. I formed a habit of sneaking away from the rest of the pack to down several shots of coffee before we embarked on our explorations of the city. I fell in love with the Ethiopian traditional coffee which is made in a process that seemed to be filled with love. The coffee is roasted by hand, ground with a mortar and pestle, and brewed in a traditional coffee pot made of clay (jabena). The dark brown colour so enticing and the aroma so inviting, I was sold to the classy African coffee culture of Ethiopia! I will walk back to my kitchen and brew me a fresh cup of the coffee, as I leave you to let the fun that Ethiopia is sink in and you make that decision to book your own slot for another Ethiopian adventure with Jambo African Adventures starting from 23rd December 2015 🙂
Our return journey was easy and laid back, having gone through most of the towns along the way. We however made a stop in the lavish lake town of Awassa. We put up at the Circle of Life Hotel which is a stone throw away from the shore of Lake Awassa, owned and managed by a group of Rastafarians, amongst them Ras Rueben Kush who is the president of the Ethiopia World Federation.
As you know by now, I did get you some shots telling the story of our journey back. Enjoy 😉
On our way back, we had a bush dinner along the dry banks of River Merile in Kenya, and the curtain was drawn on our epic road trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa.
We loved Ethiopia and I can bet that Ethiopia loved us back!
Book your slot for when Kenya meets Ethiopia again, with http://www.jamboafricanadventures.com/ between the 23rd December 2015 and 3rd January 2016!
Currency: Ethiopian Birr
Language: Amharic and English (minimal)
Event: Kenya meets Ethiopia (Nairobi to Addis Ababa)
Period: 8 days
Distance: Nairobi (Kenya) to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) – 1,550km
Facebok page: https://www.facebook.com/jambo.africanadventures/
Next Ethiopia overland trip: https://www.facebook.com/events/1640356792895566/
Documentary (photos & writing) by: Macharia Njuguna (https://adventurewithmash.wordpress.com/)