So… a bit of a guest blog from me in the Roaming category – I feel that Eleanor can’t really do justice to just what an appalling place Ethiopia truly is. As Margaret tells the kids, I need to make a positive sandwich – so here goes!
Positive: Ethiopia is stunningly beautiful. We met a handful of lovely people. Diesel is cheap (albeit 500ppm sulphur, so a tad smokey). 500ppm diesel gets about 15% more MPG.
Negative: Where do I start…
Ethiopia has been utterly ruined by NGO’s. Bob Geldorf needs to be punched in the face. Never have we been in a place that so utterly embodies the NGO disease of self perpetuating, money squandering, hand-out not hand-up madness as Ethiopia. Every foreigner is viewed as an ATM, it’s merciless. And deeply unpleasant. We even got spat on when no handouts were forthcoming (surprisingly we didn’t get stoned by kids – it’s a real issue here). It is distressing to see fleets of white, NGO branded Landcruisers parked up outside flash hotels, spotlessly clean, whilst their drivers enjoy a few cold ones at the bar. I will never again pledge any money whatsoever to large charities – small is beautiful. We have seen this all over Africa, just never on the scale of Ethiopia.
Driving. NGO’s, take note. If you must flash the cash, spend it on driving lessons for the general population. Take the madness of India, the aggression of Egypt and Morrocco, and spice things up a bit with a few hundred thousand khat-addled truck/bus/taxi/rickshaw drivers and you might get an inkling of just how bad they are. For the uninitiated, Khat is a “mildly” narcotic leaf commonly chewed in this part of Africa. It reputedly allows truck drivers to stay awake for many days on end.
People and Animals. On the road. I’m not sure which shows more intelligence. It’s a miracle we only flattened a goat (and a vulture!). There are dead horses, donkeys, goats, dogs, chickens plus other assorted beasties every few metres. We didn’t see any dead people, but I’m sure there would have been a few in the ditches. Quite seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it.
Customs people at the border. Anally retentive bastards. Stupid. You can’t find the engine number in the cab. Haven’t been so invasively probed since my alien abduction.
Local police. If a farmer is stupid enough to let his livestock roam on the road (they all do) then it is his fault if they get flattened. Farmers – don’t call the cops, get people detained then demand compensation. IT IS YOUR FAULT.
Positive: Ethiopia has fantastic beer. Really, really good.
In short, don’t visit. Don’t support NGO’s who continue to damage the place. If you must visit, fly in to Addis (don’t drive) then head to Lalibela (avoid Gondar, it’s overrated) for the cool churches. Drink beer (St George is superb). Leave.