some colour is returning to the countryside, on the way to Kombolcha

Just when you have, for the umpteenth time, established firmly that although there are plenty interesting things to see in this country, the actual traveling is somewhat of a hardship experience – all the begging, all the opportunism, all the lying and cheating -, you have a day as today.

(1) country side between Mekele and Dessie

(2) more country side

It didn’t start well. The shuttle we had booked from the hotel didn’t turn up, and the receptionist couldn’t care less. At five am. When there are no taxis or tuktuks, and the bus station is a good 20 minutes walk, especially hauling heavy suitcases. But after a few minutes walk we found a tuktuk, and then we relatively easily found our bus, and after a bit of arguing, we got our bags on top without having to pay totally extortionate fees. We even got a seat. Standing passengers are against the law, in Ethiopia; the law is frequently broken. We sat all the way in the back, with plenty of legroom and close to the only window in the bus that actually opens – Ethiopians are paranoid about fresh air, it seems, and do everything to keep the windows of busses hermetically closed. The countryside, steep mountains and deep valleys, after a while increasingly lit by the early sun light, was brilliant. Villages and farms slowly came to life, cattle was taken out for a walk, small shops opened up, and more and more men gathered to sit around doing nothing. The further south we came, the greener it got, outside, rivers contained actually some water, field were being irrigated, the whole look became slightly less desolate than what we had seen the previous days. Definitely entertaining, although after 8 hours bus ride the novelty wears off, we had had enough.

(3) our little hotel, with veranda, a real cool place to hang out with a mango juice or two

This is when we arrived in Dessie, a non-descript town, where we changed into a minibus for the last half hour ride to Kombolcha. In the bus station there was the usual hassling, but as much as we expected from previous experience. The minivan driver asked us the right fare, without trying to make an extra buck. He then drove not only to Kombolcha bus station, but after having thrown out all his other passengers, brought us to the hotel we wanted to stay, personally offloaded our suitcases, gave us a big smile and a hand, wished us a good stay…. and didn’t want to have anything extra for the service. After three weeks, the first Ethiopian who did something for us without a profit motif, but just to be nice. The exception that confirms the rule?

(4) some of the birds that populate the foliage of the veranda and surrounding poles

(5) and more of those

But it got even better. We checked into the Hikma Pension, recommended by one of the guide books, and entered, totally unexpectedly, a gem of a hotel, with a brand new and clean double room, hot water, huge satellite dish, restaurant and broad veranda, shaded by trees and Bougainvillea. Super-friendly owner, super-friendly staff. Another exception? Or could it be that this is a more Muslim-oriented area?

next: Kombolcha itself

(6) some haphazard ferenjis on the hotel veranda

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