14. Getting to Addis

December 13, 2009 - Moshi, Tanzania

 

 

This one is an epic saga…we didn't have seatbelts but you might want to fasten yours!

 

We woke up on Wednesday the 9th of December with renewed excitement to pack our bags and begin adventuring again. We took a small detour to watch Summer in her end-of-year Christmas play. It was the right way to be reminded of the month we are in, season's cheer and goodwill.

It was with sadness that we said our goodbyes to the Barratt family who had treated us so generously and lavishly. What a booster our time with them has been! They enveloped us into their home and happenings and we feel like we had touched a bit of home.

Thank you Wayne, Lisa, Brayden, Summer and Gogo for your hospitality. All the best 'til we see you in Cape Town.

We took a traffic-jammed hour and a half cab ride to Nairobi centre where we managed to bypass the taxi strike and hail a matatu (minibus) Nanyuki bound(this is where Mount Kenya is and also where we visited Wayne's farm a few weeks ago). The euphoria of adventure descended on us as we enjoyed the bumpy and cramped 3 hour trip, dozing and chatting as the need arose. We got off at the equator just before 5. We snapped away unashamedly and paid for the typically touristy 'water swirling demonstration'. People, it really is genuine! A guy takes a bowl with a hole in the bottom of it and fills it with water. He then puts a stick on the surface of the water and allows the water to run out. 20 paces North from the equator line, it swirls clockwise. 20 paces South from the equator line, it swirls anticlockwise. At the equator line, it doesn't swirl. It's crazily legit, I even stuck my finger in a tried to swirl it the other way to trick them out. Ser-i-aas!!

Anyway, that was my own little bit of wonder.

We then caught a matatu back to Wayne's farm (10 minutes away) and decided to set up camp next to his tea tree plants (where were you Maquinna?). We had a disappointingly clouded view of Mt. Kenya. We cooked pasta and beans (in retrospect, not ideal travel food) and watched in amazement as God blew away the cloud and we had an uninhibited view of the mountain in silhouette. It was quite unlike what I had expected. Sharp and craggy with white frosting when I had been anticipating a crater. It took my breath away (mixing metaphors there, sorry). We ate a Mars bar and there has not been an evening more romantic yet (I'm a cheap date).

The next morning we packed up in 20 minutes under the still exposed Mount Kenya in all it's glory, then hit the road.

In Nanyuki by 6:30 we boarded another matatu heading to Isiolo. We drove along the foothills of the now familiar mountain and dodged between potholes - ahhh the feel of the open road.

By 9:20 we were in Isiolo optimistically looking for a bus to Marsarbit by nightfall. After investigating options (or the lack thereof), haggling and confirming details we got to the bottom of the story. Being rainy season, only occasional trucks went through this treacherous route. Also, trucks needed to go in convoy escorted by police as it is unsafe (no duh!). The next truck was leaving right now, arriving at the border (Moyale) in 12 hours and there was only space for 2 more people. We made our rushed decision and climbed on top of the heavily laden truck with a 2m squared space for 'seating'. The truck was running and we paid in trepidation asking 'how many people would be in this space with us?' '4 others' our avid salesman confirmed and we shrugged, figuring we could do it at push.

Once we were up there perusing our quarters the engine was switched off and the sales crowd dispersed. I started feeling a bit hot under the collar and clambered down the side of the truck (trying unsuccessfully not to flash) to confront our confident salesman. I asked him when we would be leaving. He replied very smugly "you foreigners are always in a rush...in Africa it is pole, pole (slowly, slowly). We will leave a bit later when the police arrive". OOOHHH my blood began to simmer. I gave him quite an earful, reminding him that he had been the one to hurry our decision and that WE were in no rush. I said that I just get upset when we are being lied to. My case was aided by the sympathetic crowd that had gathered. He quickly apologized and said he could see how he had done wrong and would not do it to others in future. I don't think I had changed either his actions or his sales tactics but I had been heard and my argument found valid. That was enough for me. We parted satisfied and with humor (though I was to find out later that he definitely had the last laugh!)

We then began the 4 hour wait (Lie #1) in the sweltering heat and occasional short showers of rain before getting into position atop the truck. The promised 4 others swelled to 10 others (Lie #2) and I found myself clinging to my allocated cm's of metal with little more than my butt cheeks. Soon we had to rearrange and I sat on a bag of potatoes for some agonizing minutes then tried to get back to my previous precarious perch at top-right-sway. The wind was ferocious and I clung to my kikoi and sunglasses, taking refuge behind Blake's back. After an exhausting hour I signaled retreat and slid under the luggage to a little space half a meter high. My entrance dispersed the 4 boys already inhabiting the space and they went to brave the great outdoors. I alternated my few hours rest in the hovel between 'hip on sack of potatoes' or 'head on sack of potatoes'. Quite a pervasive earthy smell with a damp after effect. YUCK!

At 5ish I decided to broach the wild wind again. I gazed with awe at the splendor around. By now the road was gravel which forced our driver to keep a slow and cautious pace which kept the barrage of wind to a mild breeze. The mountains were similar to 'Gorillas in the Mist' and the softening light painted places undiscovered, stories waiting to be told and adventures to be embarked on. It was eerily thrilling. We were hushed in the beauty of the sunset and the coming out of the stars. There was not another soul in sight (if you could ignore the fact that you were sitting very close to 10 other unwashed people angling for balance on the same strip of metal) and it breathed of Africa.

The other guys had started to make their bed in the den beneath the luggage before we realized we had been relegated to the 'outside rooms'. Brrr. We chatted and dreamt and watched an occasional hare dart under the glare of the headlights and field mice scamper in the grass. It was beautiful. I kept my sunglasses on to prevent 'bug in eye' syndrome. Something big and juicy hit my clavicle and I am glad I still don't know what it was.

We reached Marsarbit by 10:30 pm - about half way - stopping for a stretch and refreshments. We used this as a strategic moment to get back on the truck first and reserve a spot in the den (spot seems very apt). We moved about circling and turning looking for a vaguely comfortable position (a bit like a Jack Russel would) to no avail. The load we slept on was hard and uncompromising with jutting parts. I think my hip died there on that road to Moyale. Within an hour we were both claustrophobic (unexpected in a small, painful and confined space shared with 4 other people!!??) and we begged release. Our spot was quickly usurped by others much more deserving and grateful than us. We heard at this exchange that we had lost a little boy at Marsarbit. Apparently one of the guys was escorting the boy home to his mom and he had forgotten to check for him. He seemed a bit concerned about the trouble he would be in arriving home empty armed but not about the poor lost boy. I was filled with the heeby jeebies but the unfeeling men behind me were snoring within seconds. Men!

At midnight the truck stopped in the middle of nowhere for the driver to sleep for 3 hours. Blake and I climbed above the trucks load and found a comfy, if somewhat breezy, resting spot on the tarpaulin. I shivered to sleep and was surprised to wake up 3 hours later to the hum of the now familiar engine being started up. Time to get going! Our travel companions slept on and the once-envied alcove now held no appeal. We willingly took the rim.

The slow rise of the sun signaled the new day across a barren horizon. It was almost desert-like with a perfusion of camels. I wasn't sure if I liked it and it was sweltering in an instant. Forgetting appearances I donned tourist attire - sunglasses, sunscreen, cap and Kikoi to keep it all in place. I kept my leggings on too, realizing that, though hot, they kept me modest while the wind whipped and tugged at my skirt. I glowed (Only Horses sweat).

We stopped at a one-camel town where a missing leaf spring spacer (don't know quite what the original part looks like) on the truck was replaced by a chunk of wood hewn to shape with a machete and fitted securely in place with wet sisal. It's all about precision in Africa! The travel weary men also took this as another refreshment break and had camels milk to sustain them (R1.50 a mug). We decided to refrain, not knowing our bodily responses to the salty delicacy and realizing that this truck trip was perhaps not the best place for experimenting.

The last few hours of the trip I spent practicing agility and skill ducking and dodging the thorn bushes that strove to whip me from my seat. They are not making biltong out of me!!!

We FINALLY rattled into Moyale at 1pm; 24 hours later (lie #3). What an ordeal.

 

These are some things that we learnt on this truck trip:

  • Despite proof to the contrary, you can fit 18 people in 2 meters squared
  • My knees can touch my ears
  • Anything can be fixed with wood and sisal
  • Lying on potatoes after 2 hours can be really comfortable
  • Instant dreadlocks can be created with no products and no hands
  • The lost boys were not only Sudanese
  • My ears flap in the wind, really flap, like flap, flap, flap
  • If you sit on a leg cramp for an hour it becomes almost ticklish (you should try that, Mat!)
  • Beans cause gas (I know you think you knew that)
  • Don't fire before you aim (long drop 'inside' joke)
  • Packed boxes of clothing have no 'give' but bony hips do
  • Thorns whipping you at speed don't draw blood if you wear a kikoi

 

We eagerly waved our goodbyes and crossed over into our 9th country, Ethiopia.

Suddenly English is not an asset. If only Amharic were our mother tongue (suppose none of you would be able to follow our blog then).

We managed to find our way to a dirty little hotel where we booked in, exchanged money and looked for options to traveling to Addis Ababa. We ate Njere - a sour dough pancake thing that looks like a facecloth - and roast meat which is served in a coal cooker. Very tasty and communal. We were careful to only use our right hand. (You work out the possible taboo!)

By 8 we had hit the hay, HEAVILY!

At 4am on Friday morning we woke, packed up and trundled down the dark and quiet hill to the station. We managed, through some gesticulation and divine intervention, to find a bus that could get us half way. After 2 raucous fights that we could not make head or tail of (literally or figuratively) we were on our way. I wished my eyes were a camera with some of the little sights that dotted our journey: a little girl in a dirty frilly dress knocking at a door; a little boy cycling down the road just able to reach the pedals of the huge bike with a bunch of wild flowers fastened to the basket - who were they for?; a family picking coffee beans/berries with much enjoyment; a nude boy peeing proudly in the open now caught midstream in stage fright when my eye caught his…. Ah, this is a good land.

We arrived in Dilla at 3 and caught a matatu to Awasa (1 and half hours away) which would make our next day to Addis shorter and easier. Unfortunately we landed with a drugged driver who was jumpy and jittery and who had no windscreen wipers in the deluge. We took a harrowing 3 hours to get there, praying the whole way. Only God got us to Awasa alive - no thanks to the driver. I wanted to scream and box him. How could he have such low regard for human life??? I managed to refrain but lept out of the death trap at the first opportunity. We followed a purposeful looking man to his accommodation and it was clean and cheap. We then went looking for supper still peeved. No one could understand our questions and there were no English menus. This added, unfairly I admit, to my hostility. But Ethiopia was to be redeemed in the form of Worku and his friend Negatu who both spoke English and invited us into the kitchen at the back of Worku's brothers restaurant to explain all the available dishes. We ordered Njere again with a tasty beef chilli stew. We had café latte's to finish and our faith was once again restored. Worku paid for our meal citing hospitality. May he be blessed hugely.

We slept well and woke early again to catch our bus ride to Addis. It took from 7am to 2pm and our bottoms may never be the same. We ambled up a steep hill and ate pizza for sunch. We will stay the night in a backpackers and hopefully look for a snazzy place (within budget) to stay for our 3 year anniversary. We will apply for our Sudanese visa tomorrow, hopefully, and then wait in Addis until it is issued.

We'll probably be here for Christmas.

 

This comes with much love and blessings for the season. Jesus came and was born for us. He was the greatest gift ever. Stripping us of all the usual Christmas frills has really reminded us of what we actually celebrate. I pray that this realization comes to you all too. Thank you for traveling with us, you are the perfect travel companions.

 

Merry Christmas


11 Comments

Kathryn:
December 13, 2009
you guys are legends! love the updates rach.... i think they need to be made into a book somehow :) have a super blessed christmas. love the rossiters
Carig Graham:
December 14, 2009
That truck drive was amazing. I so wish I was there. Enjoy Christmas! Cheers, Craig
Kathy de Smidt:
December 14, 2009
And happy anniversary to you both tomorrow. We are celebrating ours today, with Rod, Lori and the 3 A's (staying with us from Joburg AIM) plus Mat, Heath, Miss A and Miss T, Brenda and maybe Oupa and Elsie (if she is up to it - has been very ill). We'll drink a toast to you both - you deserve to be saluted - you make me proud! Lots and lots of love, Mom
Lin Tucker:
December 14, 2009
One of our special blessings is knowing how happy and content you two are--- a match obviously part of His plan and we thank you and praise you Lord. Thinking of you and praying for your journey together. Congratulations on your special day! Fondest love Mom, Dad and Grayson
Mamsie:
December 14, 2009
My dearest grandchildren,
Wishing you God's richest blessings on your anniversary.
You are constantly in my prayers and thoughts.
May you have a blessed Christmas and I look forward to hugging you both when you return!
All my love,
Mamsie
Estelle:
December 14, 2009
Im still trying to recover from that ride that seem to take FOREVER! Whenever I read your updates, I trully thank God Almighty that its you giys and NOT me having this adventure. I am totally not made for roughing it...but you guys know that about me already :-)

Ricci and I wish you both nothing but DADDY's very best. Congratulations for committing to successfully seeing through each day together.

Loads of love and Christmassie hugs from the 3 of us
Rory & Dom:
December 15, 2009
Love the blog guys!

Just wanted to wish you both a very happy anniversary! Hope you have an awesome day together and that God blesses your marriage in all your years ahead :)

All our love. Rory & Dom
Anna Pienaar:
December 15, 2009
Hi Tuckers, Happy Anniversary! Loving reading your blog when I have time (between juggling 2 jobs, Sophie - 2 next week, and being pregnant-tired!)
I was in Marsabit in January doing a focus group with some women from the Mothers' Union there - we almost did a project there but didn't get the funding. )I don't know whether to tell you this now or at a later date... I flew there in a tiny MAF plane...)
Lots of love to you both from us here in London!
Anna :)
Nana:
December 15, 2009
Trust you received my sms this morning. Have just read your blog. Can't believe what you went through on the trip. Wishing you a happy anniversary and a very happy Christmas.
Lots of love,
God bless,
Nana and Graeme
Leigh Ernstzen:
December 21, 2009
Three years already!! Congratulations, hope you celebrated well.
Have a Merry and blessed Christmas.

Love Leigh, Denzil and Joshua xxx
Paul Frier:
December 22, 2009
To the travelling Tuckers (The Wilbury's are so 80s!) - Enjoy Christmas and stay safe. Paul and family.
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