Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The railway

Less than two days to departure, I can’t wait – partly to do with the fact that it has started freezing and snowing in The Netherlands.

As I wrote earlier, we had to adjust our program, which means that Djibouti – for which I have always had this inexplicable desire to visit - will now not be our first stop anymore, in fact it will not be a stop at all. Which also means that we will not take the only railway in the Horn of Africa anymore, the train from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The adjustments

Even before we have left, we had to adjust the plan already. News about the attack on tourists in the Danakil Depression remains elusive – the only thing everybody agrees on is that five tourists were killed. Now the ARDUF, a rebel group inside Ethiopia that fights for greater autonomy of the Afar region, claims that the tourists died during a shoot-out between the rebels and the Ethiopian army, after the kidnapping. We have decided to defer the decision to go there, and if we go, we will do it at the very end of our trip – if we do get kidnapped, at least we have enjoyed a fabulous trip beforehand. Just kidding.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The scare

Just after I posted our program, last Sunday, the internet media brought the news of five foreign tourists that had been killed in Ethiopia. They had been part of a group of eight, or 22, or 27 – the news is not very clear here – that had been traveling in the Danakil Depression (also called Afar Desert). Apparently, according to the Ethiopian government-controlled television, they were attacked by a group of Eritrean rebels at dawn, last Tuesday morning, near the Erta Ale volcano. Five were shot dead, two got injured and one got away unhurt. Later, it transpired that two more tourists and two of their Ethiopian guides had been kidnapped, and were being held across the Eritrean border.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The plan

Right! As always, we have a plan. This time we will be traveling in circles – there is really no other logistically convenient way to do it.
We’ll fly to Addis Abeba, only to pick up our Somaliland visa, and then we take a plane to Djibouti, where we will start our trip. After a few days we’ll get to Hargeisha in Somaliland, either by plane  or mini-bus. From there we get back into Ethiopia via Jijiga, then the old walled city of Harar, Dire Dawa, and back to Addis Abeba. First cycle completed.
In Addis Abeba we pick up a car and a guide, for almost two weeks, and travel via a few African markets to Assaita and the Danakil Depression – the bottom of the rift valley – to Mekele, Adrigat and Aksum, in the north of Ethiopia. From here we take  public transport again, and fly to Lalibele, and then on to the old imperial city of Gonder. If we have time we spend a few days hiking in the Simien Mountains near Denbark, and then we backtrack to Gonder and Lake Tana, to take a ferry from a place called Gorgora to Bahir Dar, and the falls in the Blue Nile. From Bahir Dar we take the bus to Addis Abeba. Second cycle completed.
We pick up another car and guide, and head south, via Awasa and via a string of rift lakes to the South Omo Valley, the area where all those colourful tribes live. Jinka is the biggest town there. Back via Arba Minch and Hosaina, once again to Addis Abeba – third cycle completed -, before we catch our flight back home.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The idea

As if there hasn’t been written more than enough about everything that can possibly be written about, I will once more add to the vast amount of text on the internet. I enjoy blogging, it forces me to be even more observant than I normally am, as to ensure that there is always something to talk about. After Haiti, Indochina and Lebanon, the subject of this blog is going to be a trip through the Horn of Africa, or at least those parts that are relatively accessible (and that excludes, fortunately, most of Somalia, and unfortunately, Eritrea, which has closed all its boundaries with its neighbours).