Dila to Desse
Dila is primarily a transport stop for Ethiopians traveling from the south. Not many faranji pass through the town, given the difficulty of getting into the country overland.
As the man ran with my bag towards the Hotel Zeleke I pretty much followed, laughing to myself as he started having difficulty lugging my bag. We finally arrive (it was just across the field that doubles as the bus station), and I check out the rooms. Excellent accommodation and only 15 Birr – definitely not a brothel, nice little courtyard with rooms, café and restaurant in front. Of course they guy carrying my bag wanted 10Birr. I gave him 1 and the hotel manager shooed him away for me.
One interesting feature of Ethiopian lodgings is that no matter how cheap, the entire staff is always decked out in some sort of uniform. The Hotel Zeleke was no exception. The wait staff wore red and purple jackets with epaulets and trousers. Many had been sewn together several times – but the overall effect was very pleasing. My favorite character was the guard. Every hotel also always has a guard – usually an ancient man with a really big stick. At the Hotel Zeleke, the guard was decked out in a gloriously purple uniform, complete with hat — well-ironed and very clean. Whenever I left or entered he would salute, and vigorously shake my hand.
Went for my first walk around town, to the shouts of “you” “you”, followed by around 10 children wanting to hold my hand. Women from shops shouted “welcome faranji.” I felt a little bit like a celebrity. The “you” “you” gets annoying very quickly. In some towns, the peopleactually shout “hello” “hello” which is a little bit better.
So I wandered around Dila for 2 days – attempted to see the stellaes outside of town but no one seemed to know how to get there. Discovered one of the best parts of Ethiopia – the Pastry. A pastry is a café that sells pastry (!), and the most incredible drink called Spris. Spris is layers of fruit, not really juice, but rather pureed fruit you eat with a spoon, usually composed of mango, papaya, pineapple, orange, and avocado. Very delicious.
Headed out towards Shashemene a few days later to continue on to Addis. I was happy to discover (after the pre-dawn walk to the bus) that not every bus is covered with clothing. Each bus has its own character, decorations, choice of music, rate of speed and driver insanity level. Unfortunately the smell of vomit and ban on fresh air is pretty universal, as are the chickens and cramped space.
From the beginning, I’ve really loved Ethiopia. The people are extremely friendly, and hospitable – few speak English. This poor country has been so battered by famine, war, and oppressive regimes, yet the spirit of the people is still very lovely. Infrastructure is sometimes non-existent. Upon arrival in any town there is about a 95% chance that either electricity, water, or telecommunications (sometimes all three) will be not working.
Construction sites are amazing – you see buildings growing with no heavy equipment, not even small power tools, and scaffolding that looks like it’s built from the same branches that are used for huts. From Shashemene – after a really lovely day in a small village called Wando Genet complete with natural hot springs, and group of physicians from the UK who gave me a lift in their land cruiser (yahoo!) – I headed up to Addis.
Addis was pretty mind-blowing. Met up with a few travelers, got a lot of excellent suggestions, and hopped a plane North to Desse. From Desse I joined the historical (a.k.a. tourist route) to visit the rock-hewn churches for which Ethiopia is most famous. Took a bus from Desse to Lalibela which has the most spectacular cluster of Post-Axumite stone-hewn churches.