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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : On the mountains of Ethiopia

Before to enter Ethiopia, I already knew that I was going to discover a country very different to the other countries of Africa.

Indeed, with Liberia, Ethiopia has never been colonized et the result is very interessant: there is still a very special culture in Ethiopia. You can observe this one daily and I didn't miss to try to know a little bit more about it.

A very special culture

The first thing I have seen when I enter Ethiopia was the time... Indeed the ethiopian's time is special enough: the days are starting from 6am en Ethiopia. This is strange in the beginning but we get used to it very quickly.

However, the differences in the time don't stop to the clock but includes also the calendar. You have to know that the Alexandrian calendar is used in Ethiopia. This does mean that there is a difference of 7 or 8 years in the date of the born of the Christ with the Gregorian calendar that we use in France for example. In this fact, when I arrived in the country, we just enter in the year 2000.

In Ethiopia, we just entered in the year 2000

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The clock, the date, I finish to get used to it. Anyway, it was much more difficult to get used to the different Ethiopian texts because those one were written in the national alphabet: the Ahmaric.
The Ahmaric, with more than 200 differents signs (on top of being an alphabet) is also the name of the langage spoken in Ethiopia.

Ahmaric alphabet was a little bit difficult to read for me (look at the 2 first lines) 

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The food culture is also very special. In Ethiopia, you have to know that in the majority of your meals, you will have a special bread called "Injera". You can put different meals on it and then you will be able to eat this by using the bread of the Injera.

Here is what can look like the Injera (served with meat this day) before I eat it 

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Food culture includes food... but also drinks, don't you think? Knowing that alcool is prohibited in muslim countries, I was just getting out of 4 months without having drunk any alcohol.That was indeed a big difference to see bars in the other side of the border. However, when I am traveling, I don't drink or very few alcohol because on top of the fact this is not good for health, this is also a useless expensive spending. Anyway I allow myself to test some local speciality times to times and in Ethiopia, I could test the "Honey Beer". This one had an interesting taste by the way.
This local alcohol is served most of the time in some special glasses.

Here is the tasting of the "Honey Beer"

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This is true that the consummation of alcohol lead to some problem. Indeed, we must take care to not abuse of this kind of drink. Sure, the majority of the Ethiopians knows the consequences and knows how to take care but something different of the alcohol with the same kind of effect is also used in Ethiopia: his name is Khat.

What is the Khat?
The Khat is a plant which you can find mainly in Ethiopia. Chewing and eating his leaves lead to an acceleration of the cardiac activity and a difference in the behaving of his consummator.
Khat is so popular in the area that it is even exported by plane (to conserve his freshness) to the Arabic peninsula, especially in Yemen.
By curiosity, I tasted anyway this local speciality. This is true that we can feel some hyperactivity but I didn't take enough to have totally this feeling. In Ethiopia, this is common for some people to take Khat for the whole day.

Here I am, tasting the Khat

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More safe, but leading sometimes to some hyperactivity, I want to talk of course about coffee.
Coffee has something very important in the Ethiopian culture. It happens very often to get a cup of coffee offered when we are invited while the "Coffee Ceremony"
For the ceremony, your host will cook the granulates of coffee, then crush them and them mix them in hot water to then serve to the guests the coffee just made in front of you.

The Coffee Ceremony, realized by an Ethiopian in Dilla, in the south of the country

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Extrem situation of the country

On top of the fact that Ethiopia has a very interessant culture, I have seen very quickly other facts which are also very important at my eyes.

So I had the opportunity to see that the beggars were very interested about me. Knowing that my way of traveling led me to walk along the roads, I could have a look and the extreme poverty of most of the people living in the countryside (85% of the workers are farmers).
Those ones are living in small huts in wood near their field which they try to cultivate.

Here is 3 little huts built near the big tree
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One day, I indeed wanted to get invited in one of those little houses to spend the night. That was much more difficult than it could have been in Sudan for example. Indeed, everything is about money in Ethiopia because of the extreme poverty and so that was not so easy to get invited at the inhabitant.
However, I went to a village and as I understood before, I just had to go to the middle of this one to get called from everywhere.
I have quickly been circled by hundred of people. From them, I found an English speaker and I share him my wish to spend the night in an Ethiopian house.
They led me to the police station where they made a list about the different object that I could have in my bag and they asked me to come back the next day to check if everything would still be inside. Then a family offered me a place to sleep and so, with many difficulties, I reached the Ethiopian hospitality.
As I told you, this kind of building is very small and overcrowded. We were 8 to sleep in a tiny room even if those people were marvelous.

In the Ethiopian countryside, the houses are very often overcrowded

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In the countryside but not only...
Indeed, I have been to the capital of the country Addis Abeba and I have been surprised to see such a big difference between richness and poverty. This is not astonishing to see a mix of businessmen and beggars.
Also you can see many favelas close to the center.


Contrast: A favela in Addis Abeba and the Sheraton further 

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This is also difficult to provide all your natural needs. For example, in the countryside, you need to walk very often dozen of kilometers to get water to the closest water spring. I have indeed met a woman with her children at more than 10 kilometers to his village who was doing his daily walk to get some water.

A woman with her children walking to get some water

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I also show you this picture because this does mean something for me, even if to be decent, I don't show you the worst. Here is a picture of where you will need to go if you have to make your special need.

Ethiopians toilets are very far from our European standards

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Hitch hiking in Ethiopia

As you can think, hitch-hiking was not really easy in Ethiopia.
Adding that from my entering in Africa, the concept of hitch-hiking is quite simply unknown, many difficulties gave me the life a little bit less easy.

First of all, in Ethiopia, everybody walks.
The majority of the people haven't of course any personal vehicule and most of the time this is difficult for them to pay for public transport. In this fact, I was really alone trying to stop the cars along the road.
Have a look on the situation: I had to avoid the fact that I was all the time circled by dozens of children (asking for money most of the time) and trying to find vehicules which wouldn't charge me for the lift.
Those children are very nice for the majority (Most of Ethiopians are very nice) but answering to more than 300 people daily was very difficult, even impossible sometimes.

The so present Ethiopian youth

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Here is the big problem in Ehtiopia: some children having seen white people giving money, pens and other things see in us a dependence. That lead very often those children to quit the school to go to beg and that's maybe why they is so many lost children in this country.

To come back to hitch-hiking, I forgot to mention the horrible state of the road (which are anyway under construction). This fact lead to a difficulty for the normal cars to use those road and so there is not a lot of traffic. No traffic equals big difficulties to find vehicule and to hitch-hike of course.

The horrible state of most of the Ethiopians roads

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My friends were to be patient and to love to walk. At the end, I can say that hitch-hiking is also possible in Ethiopia and I even start to think that this is simply possible everywhere in the world. All of this has depended of the kindness of the people and I have met good and nice people wherever I have been so far.
Hitch-hiking is possible in Ethiopia... if you got time

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General feeling

As I said, I have been lucky to meet good people everywhere I have been so far. I have not even surprised to have met kind people in Ethiopia when you see how they behave together.

Indeed, I could assist to some situation where they get to help each other. This is not rare that some people are in need and the Ethiopian doesn't hesitate to help somebody in a delicate situation.
That was the case one afternoon close to the village of Korem where a car had a crash. Every vehicule passing by the accident stopped and went to help the car to get back on the road. A wonderful moment of good human being!

In Ethiopia, people can help each other

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Anyway, as a visitor coming from a western country, I couldn't taste really to this Ethiopian way of living as I was seen as somebody who has a lot of money.
I can understand that but I can say it is frustrating to try to make friendship when you know that at one moment or another, it will be matter of money.


Visiting Ethiopia, an inheritance, a fauna and a flora

To finish, it is interessant to see that Ethiopia got many touristic places. Even if I don't focus my trip on the touristic places but on the populations, I could discover some very amazing places.
North of Ethiopia is known for the multiplicity of Orthodox Churches and his very old buildings. The main cities to discover for his churches are Axum and Lalibella.
For his palaces and his churches, Gonder is also very interessant to visit.

The castle of Gonder is like incredible in the middle of the Ethiopian mountains

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As a country in the mountains, Ethiopia got some very nice landscapes. The road led my in the Simian Mountains in the North of the country.

You can have wonderful panorama in the Simian Mountains

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Also, the Ethiopian fauna is very important, even if it doesn't equals the one of his Kenyan neighbour. I had the luck to find a family of monkeys on my road.

A family of baboons crossing quietly the road

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Around the lakes on the south of Ethiopia. I could observe some very curious birds... the marabouts. Those huge birds (high more than one meter) are eating the dead meat, like the hyena. I have been amazed about their huge size, especially when they start to fly with their wings.

The marabouts, birds of an amazing size

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I will indeed let you with those animal because my way is leading me to Kenya very soon, the country of the safaris.

Let's see, is it possible de make some Safari-Hitch-Hiking? Answer in the next episode.

See you soon everyone

Jeremy



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