33 – Welcome to Ethiopia
Wed 30th Dec, Unknown Hotel, Shihedi, Ethiopia
Yes i have reached Ethiopia, and boy is it a culture shock from Sudan. I’m typing this from my unnamed hotel. I haven’t seen female clevage for the last month, the music is different, and i am started to get hassled.
I started the day at Kassala, took the bus from Souq As-shabi station to Gedaref (10 SDP, 3 hrs, regular buses leave when full from 7am to maybe 10am). This was a “normal” bus without the bells and whistles like lunch etc. I slept through it. Oh sat beside a Rashaida man with his wooden flat stake-like stick (or very big boomerang!). At Gederef, took a cab down to the station that goes to Gallabat. This was around 11am. Took the bus down to the border town of Gallabat (10 SDP, 2 hours). The roads must have been improved, since it was supposed to take 5 hrs.
Got off the bus and immediately got overwhelmed by “official people/border guides who work here” who directed me to somewhere. I met a japanese couple in the bus to Gallabat (first other tourists for a week, yay) and we stopped for lunch to fend off the unwanted touts. After which I did my random walk around the border town to bamboozle the touts before asking shopkeepers for directions. Found the immigration customs in the complete opposite direction from where those guys were pointing to me. Border procedures were pretty painless, cross over and did the same on the Ethiopian side.
Both towns set up along a linear road, i just walked to the end of the border town on the Ethiopia side, Metema. It is too late to get to Gonder, so I am going to try to get tho Shiendi, a larger town 1 hour down the road. Trailed by a bunch of kids, I was pointed to a long petrol truck. I hitched and had my first conversation with an Ethiopian. Also tried some of his qat. He dropped me in Shiendi, in the middle of some truckers parking area around the highway. Shihedi is just a small roadside town and the only tourists that end up here are the ones doing the Sudan-Ethiopia border crossing. Again i was beset by a ‘cultural guide’ until a fellow trucker, a Sudanese man, whisked me away. Coming from Sudan, i trust the guy completely and he brought me to this nearby nameless place, where no one speaks English (50 Birr). He tells me that Ethiopia isn’t the same as Sudan and i need to be careful.
Updated: I took a walk around Shihedi. In terms of languange, i am completely at square one. All the arabic i picked up isn’t useful here. Amharic sounds difficult, even thank you is a longish word. The other thing is that time expressed in Ethiopian terms is really weird. 6am our time is 0 o’clock in morning. So 7am is 1 o’clock all the way till 6pm, which is 0 o’clock in the night. I had to ask what time the bus departs for Gonder tomorrow, and you can imagine the confusion. The guy tells me to be at the bus station at quarter past 11 in the night….go figure. Lastly, i got the reason for the cleavage mentioned earlier. My hotel doubled as a love shack (ahhh, so that’s why there were xmas lights hanging off the balcony) and at 11pm (our time), i got a knock on my door asking me if i wanted some. Er, no but thank you. =) Tomorrow i head towards Gonder, and do the northern historical circuit in Ethiopia.