|Friday 6th July - Sudan - Alam to Ethiopia - Gonder
We packed up camp quickly this morning because, from the moment we got up, we had an audience of interested onlookers nearly all children, mostly boys. There was nothing at all threatening or demanding about it, but it was completely overwhelming. It is very strange to be brushing your teeth while a dozen people crowd around you. At one point Andrew counted 61 children and 2 adults in the assembled crowd! An older man came over with a big stick and shouted at the kids whilst hitting the stick on the ground. I think this was his attempt to give us a bit of space, but it didnt work for long and even our usual Bye bye! didnt have any effect.
For me, the song that sums up yesterday evening and this morning is The Beatles Hello Goodbye. The line Hullo, hullo! I dont know why you say Goodbye, I say Hullo has been going round in my head ever since we got to Alam. We got into the Land Cruiser with a sigh of relief and waved to our fans out the window, grateful that paparazzi isnt part of our everyday life!
It took us about half an hour to get to the border town of Gallabat. We visited a couple of buildings for various passport and security checks, but it didnt take long to get through the administration on the Sudanese or Ethiopian sides of the border.
Whereas yesterday we drove through very heavy rain, today was mostly dry. It took us about 4 - 4.5 hours to drive to Gonder. The roads on the Ethiopian side of the border arent tarred and they vary from good, level gravel to very corrugated hard ground, to uneven bumps and holes. The scenery was gorgeous so green and lush looking with beautiful mountains and distant, high waterfalls. (This brought to mind our second song of the day - the famously incorrect lyrics in the Band Aid anthem Where nothing ever grows no rain or river flows). Way up on the hillsides we could see houses and fields. The houses gradually changed from round thatched huts to rectangular brick or mud houses with corrugated iron roofs.
People walking along the road were often dressed in very Western clothes, although we also saw many women dressed in more traditional cloth with their hair done in a particular style. Like two members of royalty, Keziah and Naomi loved waving out their open car windows at the children on the roadside.
The road was very mountainous and we had to stop a couple of times to let the automatic transmission fluid cool down, but we made good progress and arrived in Gonder about 3pm. We found the Belegez Pension which is a clean, central place with small rooms around a courtyard where you can camp if you wish. We put up our tent and spent the afternoon there the girls enjoying some space to play with their toys.
This evening we ate local food at a nearby restaurant. We had a variety of typical Ethiopian food served on an injera (a large pancake). The food was spicy and very good and the injera was tasty too slightly bitter but a good contrast to the spice.
In the evening Andrew set about repairing the gas cylinder holder. The road vibration had caused all the aluminium welds to fracture so a few new brackets have been bolted on.