Day 44 to Day 48 - July 10th-14th

We spent four days in Addis Ababa trying to get visas into Sudan.  I went to the embassy six times, and at every visit everyone was very polite.  We felt they were doing their best, but the system is biased against Americans.  Vince, a Canadian, and Helge, a Norwegian, had no trouble getting visas.  It took Roger and I four days and an extra $500 each in fees to get ours.  We worked the process through someone at the Egyptian Embassy and through the owner of the hotel in Khartoum where we planned to stay.

Getting clearance to go to Sudan has definitely proved to be a hassle, but I am confident it will be worth it.  We will be arriving in this important Islamic country during Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims.  For them it means no drinking or eating until sundown—a difficult feat in a country where temperatures hover around 112°F.

Our time in Addis Ababa, though frustrating, was interesting and productive.  I repaired the kickstand on my HP2 motorcycle.  BMW has redesigned this part twice during the time I have had the bike, and this is the third kickstand that has been bent.  With the capable help of a machine shop owner, we bent the kickstand back, reinforced it, and now it is working perfectly.

So much for our old friends from Bavaria!

At the machine shop I noticed all sorts of spare parts being made from scratch with old equipment but a lot of ingenuity.

 

We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel along with many of the bigwigs of the African Union, who were there for the 19th African Union Summit.  There were 20 BMW police motorcycles parked alongside ours, and we got to know the policemen well.

 

The police would shuttle the dignitaries through Nairobi gridlock traffic with screaming sirens and with a great sense of importance and urgency.  There is a lot in Africa to be concerned about – DIFOR, south Sudan, Mali, Somalia, problems in Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and so on.  The delegates with whom I spoke were not optimistic about progress, and there was nothing significant in the newspapers to indicate that big changes happened at the meeting.

We toured the spice market:

 

It is nothing like the spice bar in Istanbul, but its size was overwhelming.  There were a number of salesmen and customers milling around, but there didn’t seem to be many transactions.  We saw several people delivering mattresses that should be in Cirque du Soleil.

 

There were many other goings-on at the market:

 

It’s a good idea to wash what you purchase:

 

Cleanliness is not their strongest virtue.  Here you can buy a live chicken, have it killed on the spot, and BBQ it in the afternoon.

 

In Sudan, you can only buy a much smaller chicken, already processed and more than twice the price.

I have been running around town in taxi cabs.  They do not have meters, so you negotiate at both ends – first for what the price is going to be, and second for what price you actually have to pay once you arrive.  Just as in New York City, the process is made more difficult by the language barrier.

We went to a snazzy Ethiopian restaurant that outdid Starbucks and then some.  They roasted their own beans right in front of you and made you a delicious cup of coffee.

 

The meal they served us sidelined poor Roger for several days.

 

Here you get no utensils.  The food was served on a large platter with sheets of bread to pick up the food.  I wonder if the people who prepared the food had utensils!

My motorcycle has reached the baling wire phase, meaning that so many things are broken that I need a lot of baling wire to hold it together.  The rear luggage rack is being held in place by baling wire; one of the windshield supports has broken, so it is being held on with baling wire; the skid plate under the engine is also rigged up with baling wire.  I’m sure there will be many more problems in Egypt, particularly if we have to ride in the dreaded sand.  Photo baling wire

With our visas in hand, we left Addis Ababa on Saturday, July 14th, early in the morning.  We encountered very little traffic.  But Saturday is market day in the country, so the roads were crowded.

 

We drove up into the mountains in rain and fog:

 

Our plan is to go to Bahir Dar and spend the night there.  Then we will travel to Gonder, crossing the border into Sudan to Khartoum, then on to Gedaref.

There were fantastic views as we got up into the mountains:

 

The road had a lot of curves and switchbacks:

 

We saw a series of gorgeous waterfalls where the water drains off a 5,000 foot promontory.  We got our first view of the Nile.  After raining for a whole day, the Blue Nile is not blue – it’s brown.

 

We ran into numerous young men and women along the road, some selling corn:

 

and others who just wanted to be photographed.

 

This changed soon after, when suddenly no one wanted to be photographed.

We could look down at villages with tiny subsistence scale farming plots.

 

We spent the night at Bahir Dar on Lake Tana.  We met some aid workers, and this man, who runs a shoe factory in Addis Ababa, and his family.

 

As we were checking out of our so-called “four star hotel,” the receptionist was not sure if they had charged our account once or twice on the Visa card that we were using, but it seemed clear they charged us twice.  They said that they thought that they had not charged us at all and wanted us to pay them in cash and then drive to the bank and work it out with the bank.  After a lot of complaining, they agreed to give us the money back and solve the problem with Visa on their own.  It took approximately one hour.  This proved to be an introduction of what was to come.

 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
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