A Travellerspoint blog

Selous Game Reserve

Pray the hippos aren't hungry hungry.

sunny 34 °C

In typical fashion the 4WD met us half an hour after the agreed time. When it did show up an unknown passenger needed to do some shopping before we left. As it turned out we needed to change our US for some newer bills so it wasn't really a problem.

The drive south started on a road under construction but once we passed the workmen we cruised along. Around an hour later we stopped for lunch. According to the map in the L.P. we were almost halfway. I was starting to get false hopes but I was brought crashing back down to earth when we hit the dirt and saw the signs.

Overall the trip was still pretty quick thanks to the 4WD. Our destination was Hippo Camp and we arrived mid afternoon. We dropped our bags off and were almost immediately directed into a boat. Without wasting time we cast off. The driver traced the edges of the river pointing out all sorts of birds along the way. Whilst birds are not really my thing I was particularly taken by the bee eaters. They're a brightly coloured bird with long slender tails which wave along behind them as they fly. We were also shown several species of monkeys, many of which had captivatingly playful babies amongst them. Above all though the hippos stole the show. We got so close to some large pods of them that I was waiting for the boat to be torn apart from below. Thankfully the captain kept a careful eye on any would be aggressors. I had hoped that we might see some large mammals drinking from the river but I was told that I would need to wait for tomorrow.

That night the hippos grunted and carried on until the wee hours. It was so loud and close that Laura, the other tourist on the trip, said that she couldn't sleep. With or without sleep I was wide awake with excitement in the morning. I was going on a real safari. As Tanzanians are very opposed to the idea of getting up early we didn't really get away until the sun had fully surfaced.

We had a long wait at the park gates but I was kept occupied by the antelopes in the distance. When bureaucracy time was over we were underway. Within 100m we had stopped to observe some large groups of impala. I was still not ready to go when we pulled away but I was soon to find out they were a dime a dozen. I am not sure how I didn't see it but the next time we stopped we were less than 10m from a giraffe. When I eventually let my eyes wander from the beautiful yet gangley looking individual I realised there were even more of them. Each watching us as intently as we were watching them. They are such a unique animal that it's impossible not to marvel. Their camouflage is mesmerising and their figure is like nothing else. With the promise of more giraffes we were torn away. Thankfully our driver knew where to go because there were so many roads I would have got lost. As we navigated the well worn tracks we saw many birds which our driver identified and gave us a background on. I spotted a bovine animal in the distance and pointed it out, apparently it was a wildebeest. I was wondering why we weren't going to check it out when we pulled over, our guide had found something even better; a lioness. She was sitting under the shade of a tree to escape the already beating sun. Clearly unphased by our presence she just sat and panted. As we were about to leave she put on a show, eating the grass near her head. Not exactly the action-packed take down I had hoped for but we did see a lion catch its food. After watching the lion feed it was our turn, we drove about a k from the lion and to my surprise the driver got out. Nervously we followed his lead. We ate outside the vehicle but I was ever vigilant and never too far from the car. After all I could almost see where the lion was. After lunch we came to a sparsely treed area where a huge pack of up to 30 wild dogs were congregated. Whilst not exactly leaping around they were more active than the lion. Several of the dogs made tracks from one tree to another, greeted the dogs there and continued on to another group. It was almost emotional for me to see such a large group of this seriously endangered animal. They had been the top of my list of things to see in Tanzania and Di's faced beamed back at me to show she knew just how I felt.

Things were going well. The only other things we really wanted to see for the day were elephants and leopards. The driver took us to a forest where the leopards are almost guaranteed to be and on the way we spotted some fighting giraffes and a herd of elephants in the distance, although binoculars were required to make out their features. We were slightly disappointed when we couldn't see any leopards but you can't have it all. We were around 100km from camp and we had to start heading back. The tempo was increased and I figured that the safari was all but over. We watched the ever present antelopes and giraffes whizz by on our way back to the gate. When we were only a few kilometers from the park entrance we stopped to take some photos of a large vulture perched atop a dead tree. When we drove around to get a better angle (you don't have to stay on the roads in Selous) the driver spotted a mammal behind some bushes; another lion. Forgetting about the vulture we drove around to get a better glimpse of it, just as we had a clear view we saw some lion cubs scamper off through the grass in the distance. One lion had turned into four, it was a whole pride. There was even a dead wildebeest to prove that they were real. The lions were all within 10m of the car. One of them was a little distressed at our presence and approached the vehicle. The driver backed off and I thought he was concerned about our safety but he explained that if we gave them a little distance the cubs would return. Sure enough after spending 15 minutes in the company of wild lions the cubs sheepishly returned. Clearly in a playful mood the cubs clambered all over the grown adults and greeted each one in turn. In all we watched 4 lionesses and 6 cubs playing around under the shade of the tree. It was more than you could dream of, especially because there was not another car in sight. We were running out of time as the park was nearing closure and the sky was darkening. Just 500m from the park gate a lone elephant stood as if placed there just to top everything off.

We returned to Hippo Camp and watched the sun go down from the manicured lawns which fronted straight onto the mighty Rufiji river. We cooked student food for dinner and had a cooling shower. Bedtime was nice and early because the next morning was too.

We arose before the sun because we needed to be at the gate as the sun came up. We were going on a walking safari and we knew it was going to be hot. We parked the car at the park gates and our driver went to find the armed ranger; he was in the shower, even after we had stopped by yesterday to remind him what time he would be there.

There are no specific walking paths so it was up to the rangers discretion where we walked. For the first part he led us along the grass airstrip that ran alongside the road. There were many giraffes and Impala grazing its pastures. It was particularly interesting to see how differently they perceived our presence compared to when we were inside the vehicle. They keep a constant eye on our group and kept no less than a 50m gap between us. I had been skeptical about the walking safari but the start was good. However afterwards things got a little boring, the animals were very few and far away. I was kept interested by the footprints on the ground, stopping every now and then to ask "what made this". At least I didn't need to ask about the elephant's. The girls were starting to complain about the heat so we returned having spent at most 2 hours in the park.

We were driven back to camp to have breakfast and pack up. Everything was packed into the car and we drove back to Dar. We stayed in the same hotel yet again. Before bed we booked our tickets to Arusha for the following day.

Posted by jaredlking 08:36 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Dar Es Salaam (2)

Reassessing the budget

semi-overcast 30 °C

When I first woke we had already docked in Dar. The people were funneling out the door but I was tired and decided to go back to sleep anyway. I am not sure how long passed but some staff came and woke us again. This time we did get up and we found the ferry deserted. The sun had just breached the sky, so by the security of daylight we returned to our old roost.

There were a few museums in Dar I felt obliged to scope out but we were too lethargic. So all that was left to do was organise our Selous trip. At first this meant getting a bus ticket and organising a transfer at the other side. Someone overheard us planning and suggested that we could get on a cheap organised tour. Skeptical, I agreed to meet with a tour guide at our hotel. Originally he wanted $170 each per day but by midday we had him down to $90 on the condition that we supplied our own tent and food. With this price negotiated we confirmed a three day itinerary.

The afternoon was an afternoon that will fade into history. Primarily we armed ourselves with USD and checked our budget. Happy that we were on track despite the unexpected airfares we shouted ourselves a nice lunch and I updated the blog. All in all a forgettable day.

Posted by jaredlking 08:22 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)


What's your favourite dish?

sunny 30 °C

We were still not ready to start setting the alarm again so we woke a little late. We enjoyed another benefit of Tanzania, a free, simple breakfast and checked out. We wanted a cheap ticket to Zanzibar so we chose to take the slow ferry. At $20 US per person it was half the rate of the fast ferry but still ten times what locals paid. The ferry was not leaving for a couple of hours so we delusionally tried to organise our tickets south before we boarded. We didn't even make it to the bus station before turning back.

The ushers directed us to the VIP room when we embarked onto the ship but we had no intentions of spending the next four hours inside so we made our way to the top deck. The rocking motion of the boat became nauseating towards the halfway point so Di and I fell asleep on the floor. Probably not a hygienic option but it did pass the time.

We were prepared for the tout onslaught we encountered when we passed through the gates and they were actually quite easy to shrug off. Although Di started talking to a guy as we turned our backs on the terminal. I am not convinced he wasn't a tout but Di thought he was just a helpful local. Either way he was getting off the ferry himself and said he could show us a cheap room. The guest house he took us to was nice and reasonably cheap. it included a fridge which was very tempting as I had a strong desire to make jelly but we passed it up. He led us to a second place which was a bit dingy but at 20000 it was a good option. The manager was a fat man who could rarely be bothered taking his ass from the seat but he was uber friendly and treated us well.

The hotel was in stone town; the old part of Zanzibar town, a completely entrancing place and UNESCO protected. It is a mess of narrow alleyways and three or more storied buildings, each with a story to tell I'm sure. Di and I had no idea where we were and our map was useless. We found our way to the main road and walked around for a bit looking for food. The street vendors weren't out yet so we reimmersed ourselves into the Stone Town maze. We wandered for a bit and found the more touristy street food area. They were just setting up and we grabbed a snack, vouching to return later for a full meal.

When we returned the alley had completely changed, it was bustling with stalls; mostly selling seafood but a few sold brochettes and a local take on the pizza. The Indian influence of old was seen in the tandoori seasonings and naan, the Arabic was also visible in the falafel and grills and the western in the chips, this was a true melting pot of cultures. Swahili through food.

Again the warnings had been to stay from the streets at night but as Di said: "we are not going to lock ourselves in the room all night" and everything seemed quite safe. Despite having walked the same roads previously we still managed to get a little lost.

The next day was spent just wandering around stone town. Exploring every nook and cranny and at Di's request going into every arts and crafts store. We had expensive drinks from hotel balconies and browsed the paperbacks on the second hand book stands. We returned to the street vendors for dinner to make up for the horrible breakfast of the morning. Most breakfast and snack food in Tanzania is preprepared and sits in open cabinets we tried it for breakfast, never again.

As our third day in Zanzibar dawned the sun beat us up. By the time we were moving the streets were alive with energetic kids running a muck. We made our way to the dala dala station and found the bus to Bweju. Our bags were thrown on the roof and we took a seat on one of the benches which lined three sides of the tray. The driver did laps of the market despite the fact that conditions were already reaching cramped status. The outer part of Zanzibar Town was clearly a lot poorer than stone town. The streets were filthy and many houses in disarray, how easy it is for tourists to avoid the reality of the real world, even in Africa.

The road to Paje was sealed the whole way so despite the numerous stops en route we made good time. We even managed to spot a few red colobus monkeys when we passed through the national park. We jumped out at the Paje intersection and without trying to orientate ourselves we pointed our feet to the beach. We passed through the final row of palm trees and were near blinded by the sun. Well rather the reflection of the sun from the bleached white sand. We had both broken our glasses in our day packs over the past week and I would have accepted a cane if it had been passed to me. As our eyes adjusted we looked around through squinted eyes. The place looked dead. There were many mansion type establishments around and even a few restaurants but not a soul to be seen and we could have spotted a local from a mile away against this backdrop. We strayed from the beach until we found a guy maintaining the grounds of what we hoped was accommodation. He explained that all of the buildings in the area were privately owned. He dropped what he was doing and pointed us towards some cheap accommodation. With nearly 20kg each we trudged along the soft sand praying for a sign that read seven seas. A man met us on the beach he had been forewarned of our presence and had come to greet us. When we arrived we realised that we were the only ones there.

The climate was hot & humid so a swim topped the list of things to do. The man who greeted us earlier warned that enenimies were a problem at the moment and we had to wear shoes. The tide was a way out and we passed up on a swim until it came in. I was lost, we were likely to be here for a few days and I had nothing to do. I've never been a beach sitter, maybe because the sun burns my pastey white skin too easily or just because I find it boring. If I couldn't swim or surf then I didn't know what to do. We made contact with a guy who organised dolphin trips and commenced plans for an expedition the following day, we had a swim but the beach was so shallow that had to wade out 100m before our feet left the seabed, the water was too hot and the seaweed bountiful, I think I am just so picky after being indulged with Australian beaches my whole life. We returned to dry sand and I surprised myself at how easily I slipped into the reading, drinking, eating and nothing else mode. This is just what we did for the rest of the day.

The next morning we were fed by the manager before being picked up for the dolphin trip. The launching point was an hour away so we used the time to acquaint ourselves with the German couple we were paired up with. There names were Linda and Florian. They were working as interns in Arusha and had taken a week off. Di and I laughed at their constant playful bickering the whole way to the boat. As the boat took off I adjusted the snorkel gear we had been given earlier and noticed my rapid heartbeat. I thought it was excitement but I think I was also a little nervous, who knew a fully grown man could be concerned about dolphins. We got bad news on the journey out. A returning boat had seen only one dolphin the whole time. In advance we consoled each other with typical comments like "well they are wild animals" etc. We got to what was not so obviously the spot for dolphins and the motor reduced to an idle. After a short period the driver spotted a couple and we moved to intercept their path. The driver told us to jump but as soon as we hit the water the dolphins dived. Other budding dolphin swimmers started to appear from no where and by the time we were back in the boat we were surrounded. The dolphins resurfaced not much later and I jumped out way too early. The same sequence of events occurred another 1 or 2 times and we were belatedly starting to feel bad for the dolphins. It appeared that they didn't want to swim with us. So we used a less aggressive tact. Instead of using the boat to track them we followed their shadowy outlines from in the water until they resurfaced. It was tiring but rewarding. This times when the they came up for air they swam circles around us and called audibly. Of course the pack of boats soon arrived and they dove again. For the next hour we were always the first group to greet these amazing creatures and they started hanging around for longer and longer. Despite the dolphins becoming relaxed around us there were just too many groups in the water and we chose to go for a snorkel. The coral was mostly dead and the fish were not super impressive so before 30 minutes had passed we were back in the boat and nearing shore.

Lunch was provided with the package so we chowed down on a decent lunch and sat around chatting for a while. After our tummies had settled we spread ourselves across the abundance of seas in the mini-van and were driven back to Bwejuu. We dropped the Germans off first and they had been raving about their hotel so we took the opportunity to check it out while we were there. The place was fittingly called Robinson's. Linda and Florian's room was a charming open fronted, luxury style tree house. We vowed to catch up later and the mini van dropped us back to the 7 seas. We tried a swim again but the water was far too hot as previously discovered so we had to settle for beers and books, doing it tough. That night we took pity on our hotel owner who had obviously been a little desperate for some turn over and ordered our dinner through him, the portions were a bit meager but it was worth it to see his business stay afloat for another day.

The next morning Linda and Florian messaged us to see if we wanted lunch. We were unsure of the ferry times so we made it an early appointment. We gave the water one last try and it was beautiful. The morning tide brought with it the cool waters of the night and we enjoyed a long swim.

We had checked out earlier so all we had to do was saddle up and ship out. In similar fashion to our arrival we struggled along the beach, overburdened with our bulging packs. We met the Germans half way and had lunch. The meal, unsurprisingly, took nearly 2 hours to be served. Fortunately we had discovered the existence of a night ferry back to Dar. It was the perfect option for us as it saved on a nights accommodation and gave us the rest of the day in Zanzibar.

With nothing more holding us in Bwejuu or Paje we walked to the main road. Within minutes we had flagged down a dulla dulla. The air rushing through the tray of the vehicle brought a refreshing change from the humid conditions. In fact by the end of the drive the humidity had reached 100%, it was raining cats and dogs. Di and I wondered if the wet season had started.

The rain stopped almost as quickly as it had started but the streets were still left channeling the water for hours. Unhappy with the idea of lugging our bags for the remainder of the afternoon we went straight to our old hotel. The friendly manager was still there and after we had told him we didn't want a room, without even asking he offered that we could leave our bags in his office.

We parted the sea of touts between us and the ferry ticket offices and made our way inside the Flying Horse Establishment. We picked up two overnight tickets and got away from the dock as soon as possible. We wasted the remaining sunlight hours through aimless wandering. When night struck we were already waiting for the vendors to arrive. We had some farewell Zanzibar pizzas and I tried lobster for the first time, very overrated. The town was under a blanket of darkness thanks to the thick clouds overhead and the plaguing blackouts. Yet with the confidence of a local we wound through the streets directly to the Pearl Guest House. We thanked the owner and collected our bags. On our way to the pier we passed through the more authentic local street food haven and I suddenly wished I had come here at least once.

We boarded the ship with plenty of time to spare. We were shown to our mattresses and the the t.v. was turned on. The show was a dodgey Swahili soapy so we ignored its muted presence. Some Masai businessmen started up a conversation which lasted until we bid them goodnight.

Posted by jaredlking 07:08 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Dar Es Salaam

A new beginning

semi-overcast 27 °C

We woke for the last time in Ethiopia. It was around 7am and we had nothing to do but pick up a bread roll and head to the airport. The first part was easy and the second not so much. All the Bole shared-taxis were full and after watching the clock tick for too long we just jumped on any going in the right direction. It got us reasonably close and with some directions from locals we walked the rest of the way.

It seemed so long ago that we had been in the airport. It all looked familiar yet somehow like it was from a dream. We had grown so much in confidence since our arrival in Ethiopia. Not that we lacked confidence to begin with but it was a huge task to adapt to the Ethiopian way of life. We entered the air conditioned terminal happy that we had developed new life skills.

As expected we had no problems passing customs or immigration. On the other side the bank had been closed down. I did a shifty street change at a reasonable rate and we waited to board the plane. Our appreciation for leg space had increased dramatically in the last few weeks and Di and I indulgently slouched in our chairs. The trip was a blur compared with past bus rides, we were even treated to a movie.

We were greeted to Tanzania by a gust of ultra-humid hot air as we disembarked the plane. On arrival we picked up a visa which took only a few minutes to issue and once again passed straight through immigration and customs. There was a mass of people crowding the exit and we almost closed our eyes in anticipation of the tout onslaught. To our surprise they weren't touts at all, just people waiting for loved ones. The next thing we saw after we recovered from shock was an ATM. It had VISA printed all over it so we gave it a go. It worked, everything seemed so easy after Ethiopia. Then it started, we were accosted by taxi drivers. They wanted 20000 Tsh to take us to the city, as we walked they eventually dropped to 10000. It was still too much. The friendly drivers pointed us in the direction of the local buses with a smile and a wave.

When we passed through the gates of the airport we had only big notes, usually useless on a local bus. We saw a service station resembling one back home. We passed through the automatic doors into what seemed an air conditioned haven. We were surrounded by Cadbury chocolates, trash magazines and all the usual trinkets. We resisted all the surrounding temptations and bought just one bottle of water. It was expensive and I had to remind myself that I couldn't convert back to Birr.

Despite the warnings about the local buses in the Lonely Planet and from the taxi drivers the trip to the city was cheap (250 shillings), easy and fast. It dropped us off within 100 metres of our destination. We found a hotel for 20 grand which was the best we could do in the town centre.

Eagre to explore the new city we dropped off our bags and set off. The first stop we made was just metres from the hotel, a street food stand where we both sampled a brochette (meat skewer), it was hot and the sauce was good but the meat was tough. We kept walking, with nothing really to do we decided to meander our way to a book store on the other side of town. Our map was outdated so we got lost en route. When we finally got to the store we found that they only sold new books and we didn't really need anything anyway. Everything we had experienced on the walk was so different to our past two months. We weren't constantly harrassed, except by taxi drivers and even they were easy to bear, the streets weren't excessively dusty and people stopped to chat as we pased by, maybe even teaching us a few kiswahili phrases. The change was tipified by the shop next to the bookstore, Steers. A well known South African fast food chain serving burgers, chips and all the usual blood clotting foods. The differences between Ethiopia and Tanzania could nearly all be traced to a richer society and maybe in turn to colonisation.

Before we went any further we needed to get some more money. We hadn't known what to expect when we got to the airport and we had left ourselves short. After ATM hopping from one broken machine to another we found that Barclay's accepted Maestro and Visa. Per chance Barclay's was next to a supermarket so we went and stocked up on some self catering foods which we hoped to use in Selous Game Reserve. It was getting dark and we decided we should get home in case the city was as dangerous as some people would make out.

We had a short stint in the room before venturing out for dinner. We had opted for a place which was nice and close to our hotel. As we entered the streets the darkness had ushered in a different ambience. The friendly comments from earlier had turned a little crude and there was an obvious lack of women and children. Still nothing was too untoward and we walked saftely to our dinner spot.

We were seated with a local guy who quickly said hello and returned to whatever he was doing. When we were handed the menu we couldn't believe what we were reading. There was such a variety of foods that it had to be broken down into ethnicities. After ordering we started to engage the other guy at our table in conversation. He gave us some helpful advice and answered all our questions with consideration. His friend arrived and we didn't intrude any more but just as he was leaving he wrote down his name, number and address and said that if we ever needed help in Dar then we could give him a call. We ate our first salad since leaving Thailand that night and I felt rejuvinated.

Back in the hotel there was a small internet cafe which along with CNN consumed the rest of our night.

February the 21st was my birthday and we decided to do something completely different, completely uncultural; we went to a local water park. We took a dala dala (shared mini-van) to Mwenge and transferred to the Kunduchi route which dropped us right at the door. It was still early morning when we arrived and after paying for the "hefty" 9500 shilling ($9) lunch and entry package we passed through the gates. None of the slides were running yet and we were the only ones there.

Whilst we waited for our sunscreen to dry we watched staff run around and set things up for the day. There was two semi-detached towers. One had four exciting but family friendly looking slides and the other had the usual wavey and steep drop speed slides. There was also a tower of slides for races and an array of kiddie options. It took the staff about an hour to get the main tower running. Di and I grabbed a tube each and enjoyed the freedom of having an entire water park slide to ourselves. There was only four slides operating so we did them all forwards, backwards, belly and back several times. Di's screams were almost as entertaining as the slides themselves.

We stopped for an early lunch and we were served by the manager of the park. I enquired about the speed slides and he said he'd get them fired up. By the time we had finished lunch they were in full swing. They were both great fun but left my back red raw as the transitions between panels weren't very smooth. Following my lead the two small groups of locals that had arrived around lunch reluctantly gave them a go. We watched them from the bottom as they squealed and swore the entire way down. We revisited the morning slides and left. It was a great birthday.

With the half an afternoon we had left we needed to organise tickets to get south to Selous and also someone to pick us up at the other side as the infrastructure down there was meant to be very poor. It got too complicated and we were too lazy so we decided Selous could wait until after Zanzibar.

Posted by jaredlking 06:21 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Addis Ababa (3)

Ethiopia in Summary

sunny 27 °C

The first part of this entry will be the usual diary stuff but the second section will be a summary of Ethiopia through my eyes. Hopefully it will be useful for those who plan to visit in the future.

We had one free day in Addis and just a few things to take care of. Most importantly we needed to have our plane tickets reissued. So first thing in the morning Di and I went to the Ethiopian Airlines office. The man asked us about our itinerary and said that without a ticket out of Tanzania we wouldn't be let in. After coaxing him around he printed our tickets regardless but said that we probably wouldn't even be let out of Ethiopia.

Nearby the office was a foreigners cafe called the Lime Tree. I had been haunted ever since our last visit to Addis because I didn't get the unlimited lime juice. So I did the only thing any sane man would. I went back to make a mends. Over the space of lunch I had 7 large glasses of juice and could barely touch my food. My bloated stomach complained with every step I took so when I found an internet cafe I went no further. I spent a good slab of time on the blog, then due to a combination of problems I lost it all. Reluctantly I rewrote it whilst Di went and picked up some non-indigenous foods from the Novis supermarket.

For our final night in Ethiopia we felt compelled to eat local food. We chose a reasonably upmarket place where songs and traditional dances are performed while you eat. I ordered Gored Gored for dinner. I had wanted to try it since I had arrived in Ethiopia but I had always been a little reluctant due to the risk of tapeworm. Basically it is cubes of raw meat which are marinated in crushed chillies and served with injera. I like my steaks rare anyway so the thought did not turn me off. The meat was tender and fresh. If it wasn't for the overpowering berbere sauce I think I would have really enjoyed it. I had also been trying to order a local drink for a few weeks now but it wasn't readily available. It's called tej; it's a honey wine that comes in a range of potencies. It smelt and tasted like flowers, like they used pollen instead of honey. An acquired taste I would think but I still managed to polish off a small jug.


Ethiopia is possibly the safest country I have visited. Both Di and I walked around happily at night. At worst a few men may have made some inappropriate comments towards Di but nothing serious. I was pick pocketed but that could happen in any country if you're walking around a bus station at 5am with open pockets. We never saw or were subject to any bribery.

I am not a doctor so I won't talk about Malaria or anything like that. Consult a travel doctor for the serious illnesses. In terms of travelers diarrhea it is not a terrible threat. I had two bouts and Di had 1. My first lasted only 24 hours and the second not much more. Di's went on for a while but was not severe. In my case Gastro-Stop was perfect.

The currency used in Ethiopia is Birr. It is favored greatly over US and should be all you ever need. At most banks you can exchange US dollars and many change Euro and Pounds. There are no ATMs that take foreign cards (that we saw) but you can get cash advances in the big cities. This is an expensive option.

In general costs are very low. We got by on about $20 US a day but on a real budget you could do it for just over $10.

We really only stayed in budget places. They ranged from bearable to good. We never encountered fleas or bed bugs. Many options come with personal bathrooms. Twin rooms (called doubles) are more expensive than a double room (called singles) and single rooms are generally not available. Therefore traveling as a couple is cheaper than solo.

We only had experience with local buses and shared taxis. There are buses joining all major and even minor places. The conditions on board are cramped and hot. The seats are placed poorly and closely. On some buses the gap between seats varies so pay attention when selecting. There is always a rush to board the 6am buses but if you have a ticket you are guaranteed a seat, the rush is only to get 1st pick. There is no air conditioning and the locals detest the windows being open. Bags go on the roof. On major routes they will be covered by a tarp but generally they are exposed. If you don't put your bag on the roof yourself a tip will be expected (1 birr per bag is fine), they will tell you that you are not allowed to put them up yourself but it's a lie. You may also be expected to tie your own bags, they will provide the rope. They will also say that you have to pay for the bag but unless it is over 25kg its also untrue.

Shared taxis are the easiest way to get around. They are just mini-vans which go along a fixed route. They join all major sections of towns and even near by villages. For a short trip they are less than 1 birr and never really get beyond 3. People may be reluctant to pick you up with a big bag but only if they are really busy. If this is the case just wait and one will come. They all have a guy hanging his head out the door screaming the destination. He also takes payments.

Taxis rip foreigners off and won't really budge on an unfair price. I couldn't recommend them. If you do, make sure younegotiate a price first. Taxis are generally unmarked (except a recognisable paint job and the fact that nearly all cars are taxis.)

It is illegal for foreigners to hitch in trucks but it is possible. As with taxis negotiate the price before getting in. For locals the prices are slightly less than buses and unless you are lucky as a foreigner they are slightly more. They are far slower that buses so they should be treated as a last resort.
At times you love them and at times you hate them. It is important to remember they are just trying to eat. They will constantly try to rip you off. If you manage to pay the right price then they will respect you. Never be afraid to haggle despite what L.P. might say.

Food & Drink
Love it or hate it at least Ethiopian food is unique. Except for fasting days (twice a week) the food is nothing but meat with chili and maybe some onion. Everything is served with injera, a bitter tasting, spongy bread type thing which also doubles as the cutlery and crockery. Most common is tibs (fried meat) and wat (stew). The quality varies greatly.

Nearly every restaurant serves spaghetti, a fall back to the days of Italian occupation. Bread (dabu) and eggs (enkulal) are also common. Enkulal FirFir (scrambled eggs) and Omelet are the most obvious choices, fried and are off the menu.

Ethiopians listen to their own music. Western music is very rarely heard. They are more than happy to listen to the same tape on repeat for 10 hours straight and then back it up with the same the next day. Personally I thought the singing sounded like a cross between a grieving mother and a drowning cat. Some of the music was ok although a little synthesizer heavy.

Check out Teddy Afro if you want to know what we endured for almost 7 weeks. Although we hate to admit it we did become a little attached to it by the end.

Contact Me
If you have any questions about Ethiopia, your itinerary or the rest of our trip send me a message on Travellers point and I will be happy to help even if it is just a link to a discussion board/forum topic.

Posted by jaredlking 07:38 Archived in Ethiopia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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