“Boerenkool” en “Bitterballen”

Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 8After our tour through the north of Ethiopia and our visit to Lalibela, it is time to drive to the south again. We will go to Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia, where we have to apply for a visa for Kenya. But to me that is not the main reason to go to Addis. I especially want to go to “Wim’s Holland House” in Addis Ababa. In the middle of the city Wim has a bar that serves Heineken beer, a restaurant with Dutch specialties as “Boerenkool” and “Bittenballen” and a camp site for “overlanders”. It is like a hub where many travelers come together. That is where we will go!

From Lalibela we drive to Addis in two days, with one night in Kemissie. On maps very often a green line is drawn along roads which are nice to drive, so-called “scenic roads”. In Ethiopia they can easily draw such a line along all the roads, because it again is beautiful! As in the north, we marvel at the scenery and the rows of hills becoming a shade lighter as they disappear into the distance.

Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 24And we can enjoy the view, because we cannot really drive fast. This is despite the good asphalt and the great curves that do invite to speed. There are way too many people and animals on the road. It often happens that we have to break hard to avoid a donkey that is standing or even lying on the road. Occasionally it happens that the cattle crosses the road just before we arrive, encouraged to cross by a farmer who is hitting the back end of a donkey of sheep on the side of the road. Sometimes we even have the impression that they push their animals on the road in front of our bikes in the hope that we will hit them after which they can ask us for a compensation. We have to watch out!

The other traffic on the road mainly consists of Toyota Land Cruisers. There are countless of these large and expensive cars around in Ethiopia. They are not driven by the Ethiopian ‘John Doe’, but by tour operators and NGO’s. The number of aid organizations that are active in Ethiopia is very high. In the villages we pass through all sorts of signs stand along the side of the road with the name of the organization and the nature of the project. It is indisputable that the assistance provided is badly needed and that the outcome of the projects is good. We have experiences that first hand in Mekele where we learnt about the project of Kevin and Els. Yet we have also raised some questions about the way help is in some cases offered. For example, would it really be necessary to have a team of aid workers drive in an expensive Toyota on the predominantly good roads in Ethiopia? And would it not be possible to spread the aid a bit more? In some villages the organizations seem to stumble over each other, we see so many signs along the side of the road. A big difference with Sudan, where it seems a part of the population could also use some help.

Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 26We also have the impression that the presence of aid organizations has somewhat affected the population of Ethiopia because we have not previously encountered so many people who hold their hand up as we drive along. The motto in most travel books is: do not give what is asked for. The population would be helped more by programs in education, health and food distribution run by aid organization than by just receiving money, food or water along the side of the road. The latter would especially not encourage children to go to school and to learn to work for what they need. Yet it is not easy to follow this advice.
Having lunch by the side of the road with five pairs of inquiring eyes looking at your sandwich remains extremely difficult and a challenge we do not want to face everyday. On the way to Addis we have lunch twice in a hotel before we drive on with a full stomach.

At the end of the second day, we arrive in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. From the elevated road we look out over a crowded neighborhood with small houses that are built closely together. Between the houses swarm unpaved streets that turn into mud slides after a downpour. All shops are located along the road on which we ride. Although it is Sunday many shops are open. It is buzzing. With a full bag of groceries shoppers stand along the side of the road to stop a minivan that can take them home. The minibuses stop at the oddest places and sometimes even suddenly cross the street to pick someone up on the other side of the road. Very dangerous if you just want to take over that minivan. In front of us a long row of minibuses, taxis and motorcycle taxis drives in to the city. We follow a speeding taxi that zigzags through the traffic further into the city.

Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 13The further we drive into the center of Addis, the more modern and high buildings we pass. A two-lane road with several flyovers leads us along high office buildings and large hotels. Until we reach the first road construction. The first, but certainly not the last, because the entire city is a mess! The GPS is puzzled at some times. Whenever he wants to send us to a certain direction we drive passed that closed road after which the GPS needs to recalculate. But even on that new route we came across several junctions where the road is closed. It is in some parts a big chaos and a muddy mess because of the rain that has fallen in the previous days. However, we do have bikes that are made for this kind of work! We drive past the gates, onto the muddy street towards the bus station in the direction of Wim’s Holland House. After a huge detour through the city and a major quest for the bus station, we stand in front of a big ‘SHELL’ sign and we see a Heineken flag fluttering over a red-white-blue fence. We made it!

Wim is playing cards with his friends in the restaurant. Once the round is played, he comes to meet us and says “So you are Peter and Leonie? You are already famous around here“. Then he points to the wall behind us. On the gray wall a message is written with pink chalk:
”Dear Leonie & Peter, Happy New Year! The fries and fried rice are delicious! Enjoy it. We think a lot of you. Also note messages in Hawassa and Arba Minch. Big kiss, Leon & Celine
A message from my cousin Celine and her boyfriend Leon! Great! Leon works in Ethiopia (see his website to learn more about his wonderful project). Celine had come to see him in Ethiopia early 2014. During a trip around the country they had left messages of which weBitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 19 had now found the first one! What a surprise.

And there was not just one message on the wall at the Wim’s. Underneath it was message by Billy and Ross, the motorcyclists with whom we had traveled through Libya, saying: “Leonie, Peter, Just a quick hello. Hope you are well! Billy + Ross”. While we take a look at the messages, Wim is standing behind us, grinning about our cheerful response. For two months he had been wanting to know who the mysterious Peter and Leonie were and he thought it good that we were in Addis now. Then he takes us to the other side of the road to the campsite.

At the camp a big Toyota Land Cruiser with Dutch license plates and a roof top tent is parked. We meet Pim, who is en route from the Netherlands to southern Africa through the Middle East (his blog). We had already been in contact with him by email after we had left a message in the guestbook at Tim & Kim Village that we were looking for other travellers with whom we could drive to Kenya via Lake Turkana. Pim had responded to that message. Nice to now meet him in person and exchange stories.

Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 16Once we say that we have traveled with Billy Ross in Libya he says, “Ross? From England, with those curls? Yes he is still here. I think he is in his hammock.” He points to a blue plastic tarp that hangs between two trees. Ross still at Wim’s? What a surprise! Form his messages on Facebook (link) we had understood that he was on his way to Tanzania, but it now turned out that he had engine problems again and had had to return to Addis. At that time, the plastic tarp starts to move and then Ross steps out of the hammock in his boxershorts. A cheerful encounter and embrace (still in his underwear) follow. Really nice to meet him again so unexpectedly.

If our tent is pitched and Ross has put on some trousers, we all go to the bar where we exchange stories while enjoying a beer and a plate of nasi goreng. It would be a long night.

After the first successful evening, seven more follow! In those days we chat with Pim and Ross, we get to know Wim and his wife Rahel a bit better and we are introduced to Jim who travels through Africa on his bicycle. We enjoy pancakes with syrup, fries with “Bitterballen” and delicious cold beers. We toast with Philip, the Consul of Belgium, chat with Dutch flower growers who also love “Bitterballen” and meet Chiel -cousin of Wim- who starts his ‘gap year’ by visiting his uncle. We exchange waypoints with the Dutch couple Peter and Carla who make a tour with their car from Uganda through East Africa. We drive through the city to the Kenyan embassy to apply for a visa and ride the same route back again a few days later to pick it up. Peter works on his motorcycle and that of Ross, while I update the blog and our administration. We walk into the city to find a hotel with a decent internet connection, find a hairdresser for Peter and do some shopping. Finally, we are also introduced to Michael and Judy from Australia, who shipped their (great!) Toyota Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 15Land Cruiser to South Africa and ride from there, via Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Mongolia and China back to Australia (Blog) .

A wonderful week at Wim ‘s Holland House and a great time with Wim and Rahel. As we pack up our tent after a week, Wim comes to say goodbye: “Welcome to the Wim’s Holland House Family! Keep us updated on your whereabouts.

After we have refuelled in Addis, it takes an hour before we are really out of town. From Addis Ababa, which is at 2,400 meters, we slowly drive to the lower part of Ethiopia. The lower we go, the hotter it gets. Mid-afternoon, Peter hears a strange noise coming from his motorbike. We drive off the main road and find a place in the shade to check it out. The front sprocket does not seem to fit perfectly any more on the shaft and makes some noise. Peter must replace it to prevent any damage on the splines on the output shaft. That means the rear wheel has to be taken off, so that Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 29the chain can get off and the sprocket is free to be replaced. While Peter is working on the motorbike and I hand him his tools, there are already a number of people around us. After about an hour the sprocket is replaced and we can continue.

Bitterballen en Heineken in Addis Abeba 14At the end of the day we arrive in Hawassa. In this city Celine and Leon had also written a message with chalk. To find the messages they sent us the GPS coordinates. The coordinates lead us to the entrance of the Agricultural University in Hawassa. Unfortunately, we could not find the message any more as the rain had erased it. It was still fun to try to find it. They had also recommended a hotel, where we indeed find a nice room. We can park the motorbikes in the courtyard.

The next day we set the GPS for Arba Minch. There we will again meet Pim to ride from there to the south and eventually through the Omo Valley to Kenya. Along the Ethiopian lakes we descend further and when we enter Arba Minch the GPS indicates that we are at 1.250 meters. It quite warm there.

We try to find a room at one of the hotels, but cannot agree on the prices at the first four hotels. Above the reception desk of every hotel is a form with the prices for 2014. Prize for ‘Faranji’ is twice as high as the price that Ethiopians have to pay. We have not seen that before in Ethiopia. It is low season and the hotels are almost empty, so we try to get a reduced price. A win-win situation you would say; we have a good room, they have paying customers. But no, if we want to stay, we have to pay full price. Then we will try somewhere else. Finally we have had enough of it when we arrive at the Tourist Hotel. We finally accept a room at a slightly reduced Faranji-price. As soon as there is water from the tab, we freshen up, take a shower and dive into our sleeping bag liner under the mosquito net.

Tomorrow we will search for Pim and go shopping in preparation for the “Turkana Route”. More about that in the next blog posts .

Click here to view the photos.

Distance to Arba Minch: 12,457km (7,740 miles)

Previous story “Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela” – Next story “Turkana Route I – To the Omo Valley

| Leonie | AFRICA, Ethiopia

6 Reacties (Comments) - “Boerenkool” en “Bitterballen”

  1. Jan en Mariët

    Denken jullie morgen wel aan Koningsdag!?
    Misschien een oranje sjaaltje achter je aan laten wapperen….Dikke kus xx

  2. Gert

    Hoi Leonie en Peter,
    Zit hier samen met Mieke in Zuid-Spanje jullie verhalen bij te lezen. Geweldige verhalen, iedere keer weer!
    Tot nu toe heeft Mieke reacties gestuurd maar nu was ik sneller dus ‘ mocht’ ik deze keer.
    Geniet lekker verder van jullie reizen en zet ze dan snel weer op het net dan kunnen wij met z’n allen hier ook weer genieten!

  3. Mip

    Leuk verhaal en prachtige foto’s weer! Leuk he, zo’n stukje Nederland midden in Afrika :-D. Ik kijk nu al uit naar jullie verhaal en foto’s over de Turkana route!
    Liefs, Mip

  4. Celine en Leon

    Super leuk dat ons bericht is aangevuld door Ross en Bily, en dat Ross nog in een hangmat lag te wachten op jullie!
    Arba Minch was inderdaad ook schrikbarend voor ons wat betreft de verschillen in prijs. Ook wij zijn een nachtje in het Tourist hotel blijven slapen, maar vonden het uiteindelijk oplichters en toen zijn we verkast naar een klein guesthouse (die er nauwelijks meer te vinden zijn, erg jammer). Hawassa daarentegen is gastvrij en prachtig he? Dikke kus!

  5. Jan en Anna

    O, heerlijk alweer een bericht. Eerst even lekker lezen. Het eten moet maar even wachten. Fijn dat het jullie zo goed gaat en wat goed dat Peter zo’n goede monteur is. En wat weer een mooie foto’s. Heel veel plezier en een veilige reis verder. Heel veel liefs, Jan en Anna.

  6. Irish Dave

    Thank you for the fantastic stories and great pictures, to travel with you both has been wonderful, I hope our paths cross again. Ride safe and keep in touch, Irish.