35 – Oh Injeera, Why Art Thou So Sour?

Thu 31st Dec, Queen Tayum Hotel, Gondar
(ok. this is a test post. apparently Blogger.com is filtered here. so i can’t access anything. Trying to post from email now).
Early 6am, went to the bus station, taking the minibus from Shihedi to Gondar (50 birr). The terrain starts to elevate from here. The road, contracted to the Chinese, are on the way to becoming fully paved and should be all done within a year. Travel should be much easier then. Reached around 10 am, and did the usual routine of looking for a place to stay. Gondar is cool compared to the last 2 weeks in Sudan. Immediately the walled royal compounds loom into view and I can see why they call this town Africa’s Camelot.
I have no money on me, since all I did was convert around 25 SDP to birr (about 12.50 SGD) and had already spent all of that on last night’s lodging and today’s bus ride. So i went to the tourist information building, where the helpful guy helped changed by USD to birr and showed me a hotel. The Queen Tayum Pension (80 birr) was a nice place with hot water, a welcomed change. Next was to find some food and some Internet time. Internet was expensive, and painfully slow. To make it worse, i left my flash drive at the shop…=( Managed to upload the last few entries; there will be no pic uploads till I get to Addis probably.
Ethiopian dining at this point is a bit of an enigma. Unlike Egypt or Sudan, where you have food around every corner, plus bright signs or the displays where you can just point at what you want, in Ethiopia, food is not shown up front. Maybe the signboards are in Amharic, so i can’t read them. But then, even those typed out in English are all “bar and restaurant”s. When i enter, it’s all bars, with local drinking and no one eating. Finally settled on one and ordered my first plate of the much maligned injeera, the Ethiopian flat bread made out of some sort of sour dough. And boy is it sour…each mouthful is a chore. Where normally i would eat injeera with meat, now it is me eating meat with injeera. It is not that bad actually, especially when you mask the sour taste by dunking it in the various types of sauces/curries. Over the next few days though, my liking for the bread grew less and less. Maybe over time i would grow to like it, but for now i will
avoid eating it unless there is no choice.
Next i went for a stroll to the top of the hill to see the Debre Berhan Selassie Church, with it’s colourful cherubs smiling from the ceiling. Nothing really spectacular, but as i was intending to take it slow, I planned to see the inside of the Royal Enclosure tomorrow. However, as i was walking along the main piazza area, guess who walked past. Kang from back in Sudan! He flew into Ethiopia and had spent a week here before reaching Gondar. We caught up on stuff over dinner and i found out he made plans to trek the Simien Mountains. Of course it was a brilliant opportunity to travel together again, as well as cut the cost of hiring guides, scouts etc in the park. Doing it alone would be too costly, plus Kang’s take no prisoners approach of getting the cheapest deal around would certainly help a budget traveler like me.
So it is set, tomorrow we will take a bus from Gondar to Debark, the set-off point to the Simien Mountains. Instead of going through a company to plan out the itinerary, we intend to go direct to the park office in Debark and pay for trekking fees etc there.

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