March 8th, 2009
I’ve combined a buncha days here cause not much happened. Other than flying in airplanes and sitting around.
31st March, 2009
Got up, paid my hotel room and tempted the Fates by having breakfast at the Shisha Rooftop Restaurant. Chatted with the Dutch guy and a young English couple. Took a taxi to the airport. The guy didn’t have change for a thousand so I told him to keep the change. Which I regretted for a moment when I found out there was an 1800 rupee exit fee from the airport! Luckily, it turns out, my ticket included the fee.
Flew to Delhi. I had an aisle seat so I didn’t see anything. Only compensation was that it was by the emergency exit and had decent leg room. I had about four hours in Delhi, but it got taken up by customs, shuttle buses and check-in procedures and stuff like that. I had spent all my Indian Rupees so I couldn’t buy a coffee or tea (50Rs., ten times the street price). One thing though. When I booked the ticket, the guy told me my bags would be automatically transferred to the Mumbai flight. I decided just to be on the safe side, I’d watch the carousel. There was my bag. Hoi!
So anyway, flew to Mumbai. Same stuff, only a longer wait. When I transferred to the International Terminal, I couldn’t get in wit my ticket until 3 hours before the flight, so I walked to a waiting room area. Had about five guys try to convinvce me that I should get a nearby hotel. They told me ther were no toilets in the waiting room (there were). Talk about a typical incident for the last interaction in India!
My Yemenia flight wasn’t updated on the departure board, so I had to wander up and down until I found the check-in counter. I stood in line for a while until a guy told me I had to go to a different line first to have my bags security checked. Finally got everything done, and went to Gate 4 to wait. Finally the sign over Gate 3 went on for my flight, and we all lined up only to find the staff wanted us to go through Gate 2A. Goodbye India!
Flew to Sanaa. I figured I would book a room at Wadi Hadroumat, but it turns out Yemenia put all us transit passengers up in their hotel. The room was huge! And it had a bath! First one since I left!. Unfortunately the water was luke warm, but A BATH! I could see the big mosque from my window and the hotel was a fair way out, but not beyond walking distance of my old haunts. So I went for a walk and got 300 USD from the Saudi Bank, and went for a coffee, chatted with a French tourist and went to but a barbecued chicken to take back to the hotel. The guy kept trying to give me two chicken dinners, but I managed to get through to him I wanted a whole barbecued chicken. I bought some water and oranges. Anyway, I was tired when I got back, and figured I’d eat some chicken and oranges, and guess what? I had two chicken dinners (deep fried with chips and buns! Talk about disappointed! I coulda got the same thing at the KFC and walked a quarter of the distance! Except the chicken was quite good anyway, and there was ketchup for the fries. When in Rome….
I fell asleep, only to be woken by some guy knocking at my door around 7PM. Apparently dinner was ready. Free. Compliments of Yemenia! I declined, set my alarm for quarter to eleven (the shuttle was at eleven. Flight at 2:40. For some reason the alarm didn’t go off. I woke up at 10:55, rushed around and got into the lobby at exactly 11:00 We left at 11:40 and had to stop to get air in one of the tires. The Yemenia guy moved all us transit passengers through security (They held our passports while we were in transit) Once through, I followed a woman in a red headscarf. There are about five of us who were in transit from Mumbai to Addis Ababa. When the gate opened trough security I was standing beside it. The woman with the head scarf used me to get in line. Again, in Yemen there’s no such thing as a line. Despite the best efforts of the security staff to make one line, there were three. Women are the worst culprits here for butting in. I think it’s because some places (not all) have a separate line for women. Still it is quite annoying.
And the flight! As I was one of the first on the plane I got my seat and settled uite quickly, but the rest of the plane! Almost every passenger had at least three carry on bags. The plane was filled with women. There were only about ten male passengers on the plane. To say it was noisy was an understatement. I guess a lot of Ethiopian women work in Yemen. Anyway, they sat wherever there was an empty seat, and it wasn’t long before the chaos overwhelmed the stewardesses’ ability to cope. It was like getting on a city bus from Macy’s.
I slept most of the way to Addis. They woke me for some really awful sandwhiches. And everyone stood up as th e airplane was landing (before it touched the ground) to grab their bags from the overhead compartments. The stewardesses managed to get everyone seated before the wheels touched the ground, but as soon as the wheels touched, everybody was standing up again! And so they stood there waiting for at least 15 minutes, bags in hand until the plane reached the terminal.
I had to wake up the immigration people in their office to get my Visa, and then bypassed the various greeters and had a cup of tea. It was still dak out and I decided I would have some tea and then head into town when it was light. None of the staff at the hotel would be up until 6:30 anyway. I chatted with an Indian guy (from Kerala, it turns out) who was teaching for a year in Ethiopia, and he said I should stay at the Hotel Wutmu cause it had private bathrooms. So that’s where I went. He let me have the only available room (100 Birr) and waited for another one that was getting ready.
Here’s the thing about he taxi from the airport in Addis. The Lonely Planet Guide says the fare is 60 Birr. It’s 80. So every driver goes through a haggle as people try to talk them down. The Indian guy did that too. Talked the driver down to 75 Birr. When we got to the hotel, the Indian guy went inside to check for rooms and I gave the taxi driver a 10 Birr tip and told him not to tell th Indian guy I did it.
So the room is almost as nice as the balcony room as at the the Taitu, but for the extra 10 Birr a day, I have my own bathroom. It’s got one of thoose cool water heaters that heats the water as it flows, which is really great. Why? ‘Cause the power goes out here a lot, and the tank heaters take around four hours to get hot. This way, as long as there’s power you got instant hot shower. I eat at the Taitu cause the Wutmu food is a little spicy, and they don’t have porridge. Also, I can’t get milk for my coffee.
The Hotel Baro is across the street and their courtyard is beautiful. I checked out some of the rooms but they wanted 125 Birr and the rooms weren’t really any nicer than the Wutmu. But it does have character. And the flowered trees in the courtyard are nice. The Wutmu is pretty soulless, except all the women working here are gorgeous! As my friend Chany seems to be the owner, it’s not surprising. I can’t go into details online, but it makes sense, trust me.
Some drug dealer on the street here has taken a liking to me, and he shakes my hand every time I pass him. He has toned down his weed, chat, girls sales line, and our encounters are not that long any more. This area has a buncha bars, but as I don’t drink much, that’s not a bonus. But the fact there’s an ATM, an Italian bakery with awesome Lattes, the Hotel Taitu, The Baro Hotel (When the sun is shining, their little restaurant is really pleasant if you don’t mind yowling cats).
So the day I got here, I went to the Canadian Embassy to get a Letter of Introduction for the Sudanes Embassy. Basically it says who I am and my passport number and would they be nice enough to give me a Visa. Cost me 400 Birr. But what a shock when I got to the Egyptian Embassy! Not that it was closed that day, I kinda expected it as it was Thursday. But the next day, they have a new policy started the 3rd of March, 2009 (te day I was there) that it would take 4 days to process the VISA! Arrgggh!
Actually I took it all very calmly. The guy ahead of me didn’t. He demanded to see the Consul. He didn’t get to. He demanded to see the Vice Consul. The Assistant Vice Consul. He eventually demanded his passport back and stormed out. No Visa for you!
The woman there, actually both of the women there, were very nice and we had a great chat while paperwork was filed. I told them about Lee and what a great son he was and stuff. He comes up a lot in conversations, especially in India where one of the first questions is about marriage and the second about children. The weather isn’t much of a topic (it’s always hot). She said to phone back later in the day. SO, she told me to phone back later in the day to check when the visa would be ready. I thanked her and as I was about to leave a Scotsman came in, and turns out he didn’t have a receipt for his Birr.
OK. Here’s the thing about having a receipt for your Ethiopian money. There’s a currency black market that undermines the local economy by underselling Birr for dollars. Anyway, because of it, you can’t change Ethiopian money to foreign currency unless you can show by receipt where you got it. Also the Embassies insist uupon seeing a receipt before they will accept the Birr. For some reason, the Canadian Embassy didn’t. Knowing that, I really freaked when the Dashen Bank ATM didn’t give me a receipt. Here, they very often don’t. After freaking, I hunted down the nearest Dashen branch and managed to convince the guy to get me a receipt. This involved getting the head office on the phone, and waiting for a fax, and I got a computer printout of my transaction. I had photocopies made. Now I have a receipt for 3,000 Birr that I can use. I found an old one from my previous visit.
But the Scots Guy wanted me to pay for his Visa (he would pay me dollars), but it didn’t seem to cross his mind that would be the same as a black market exchange. I toyed with the idea of giving him my old receipt, but decided that circumventing the rules in fron of the Embassy staff wasn’t the best way to make sure my Visa was processed efficiently, and I quietly left.
The Ethnological Museum is nearby (part of the University) but the power was out and it was too dark in there to see any of the exhibits. With the visa thing, I got time to go back I think. I pushed my flight from Addis to Cairo to the 9th. I’m hoping to use it to fly into Khartoum, cause the Ethiopian Airline Cairo/Addis flight stops there.
I walked back to the hotel and took a nap. I woke around three, and went down to the Nina Internet. The place drives me crazy. They use Firefox, and its screwed up completely. MSN Messenger is completely fucked up here cause they insist on tying it into Windows Live ID which is fine if you own the computer you use, but not for Internet cafes. You have to register your .NET passport EVERY TIME you log in and it’s a real pain in the ass, cause if you do it wrong, that terminal tries to log in as you long after you’ve left. I often have to relog in cause someone in an internet café is starting up a terminal I used and booking me off. And the connections here in Ethiopia (with the exception of the Africa Hotel in Axum) work about as fast as corresponding by passenger pigeon.
So anyway, I get an email from Phoenicia.org to ask if I wanna join the crew to move an ancient Phoenician Sailing Ship Replica from Hodeidah to Aden! I had starngely put in my application the day before, having put it off since I had talked to Eric from Oakville in January. ABSOLUTELY! I was ecstatic! So I sent off a reply, and things are gellin! We’re meeting in Sanaa on the 2nd of May, and should be clear of stuff in Aden by the 17th.
To make my day even better, I phone the Egyptian Embassy and I got my Visa! Pick it up at 4:30! I walked to the embassy, and got my Visa! What a great Day:
3rd March, 2009
I just did that to highlight the date. I’m gonna talk about:
4th March, 2009
Just kidding! I went to the Sudan Embassy but it was closed. I kinda thought it might be. The only days its open for visas are Monday, Wednesday, Friday (I think. I’ll update it if that’s wrong). I stopped to see how much it would cost to fly from Egypt to Sanaa. The only flights are from Cairo. $481 USD. Stopped at Egytian Air $354 USD, only it leaves at 23:00. The flight from Aswan to Cairo is $138 USD. Looks like I’ll be flying to Sanaa Egyptian Air. I’ll change my Cairo/London flight to June from May I guess, cause the sailing thing takes three weeks. I will have to do that soon, so that I can guarantee I can get to Sanaa by May 2nd. I am so excited! Course it really cramps my time for the Sudan, but I think I can get as far as Aswan by the 2nd of May.
I can then get back to Egypt where I left off. Bought a book at the bookstore near here. It sells English books, but they’re mostly academic. But they’re cheap! I bought a copy of “Geomorphology and Hydrogeology: A Handbook” for 80 Birr, and took it to the Baro Hotel and started reading it over lunch (macaroni, not great). Came back to the hotel took a nap. Edited my Magdalene Trilogy and changed the endings of Book Two and Three. I went out later and tried to do stuff on the Internet, but Facebook is so script and graphics heavy, it never loaded. No way to reach the Outside World.
I sure wish thes cities where you have to wait for visas were by the ocean. It would make the whole process so much more bearable…
6th April, 2009
Got up early and left the hotel around 6:45 and walked to the Sudan Embasssy. There was quite a line up there. Tried to get coffee at a few places along the way, but nobody had any. The coffeee machines depends on electicity, so when the power goes out, there’s no coffee. Nescafe, but that doesn’t count. So the gates opened at 8:30AM and a rather surly black guy in a suit sent people to one side of the window or another. The guy was definitely not amiable. At least not until the rush was over. Here’s something about the line though: there’s about four times as manu people in it than are applying for visas. Just before the gates opened , the soldiers chased all the friends and relatives of the applicants away. So, I handed over my papers at 9:30 (when the actual office opened) and got a form, filled it out and returned it to the triage desk.
And sat until 12:30. Promised a guy I’d sponsor him to immigrate to Canada, almost sat on a lump of poo on the couch. Everyone yelled as I was about to sit down, and saved me from sitting in it. It wasn’t there earlier. At 12:30, the process shuts down, but they put me in a line at the last minute, and I went into another very bare room and paid $61 USD for my visa, then was sent to the first window and paid another $39 USD and was told I could pick up my visa at 3:30 tomorrow. On the way back, I stopped at Ethiopian Airlines to change my flight from Addis to Cairo to a flight from Addis to Khartoum. It was about another hour, and after that was done, their printer gave out and we all had to wait till the IT guy flew in from Siberia and fix it.
That done, I walked to Egyptian Airlines to book my flight from Aswan to Cairo, Cairo-Sanaa return so I could join the crew of the Phoenician Sailing ship. They wouldn’t take my Ethiopian Birr without a receipt. It took me a while to convinve them they could use the printout from the bank, but it was for only 3000 Br. I had an old one for 4000 Br. From January, but I couldn’t find it. I walked back to the hotel. It was on my desk in my room. Went back to the airline office and had a really hard time convincing them the receipts were mine. It’s not like the ATM prints your name or anything. And here in Ethiopia, you’re lucky if a receipt prints at all. It usually doesn’t.
Anyway, I got through the muddle, and then rebooked my Cairo-London flight for 16th of June. We shall see if it’s needed! The return portion of that flight was only an extra $20 more than the one way.
I still have a couple of copies of my ATM transaction, and as I was broke after paying for the online tickets, I took 1,000 Br, out of the ATM around the corner from the hotel, and guess what? The fucking thing gives me a fucking receipt! Trouble is, that machine has a 2,000 Br. Limit on it. I’ll try again in the morning, and if I get a receipt, I can load up and get US dollars at the Sheraton. They require a ticket outa town for that, and I have one. With the two receipts, I should be able to change about $400 USD That’ll give me around $800, which I hope is enough. The LPG says there aren’t any ATM’s in Khartoum. I have some Euros as well, so I’ll wing it. I have Egyptian pounds, so I hope that’s enough, and hopefully there’s an ATM in Aswan.
I may try and move my flight up a day to the 8th, but with all the dollar exchange and all, I might have to stay to stock up. I’ll find out tomorrow, and you’ll know right away. Read on…
7th April, 2009
OK. So I decided to keep my flight on the 9th. That way I can get most of what I need to do done before I fly to Khartoum.
I got up, had a shower, went to the Hotel Taitu for brekfast had their very tasty special omeleete and coffee. I take my meals at the Taiu instead of here at the Wutma Hotel mainly cause they don’t serve milk with coffee here. Chatted with a woman who’d buying stuff for her store. Tooks ome money outa the Dashen ATM and it gave me a receipt, so I took out some more so I can change it into USD at the Sheraton, maybe tomorrow or maybe on the 9th. Went on the Internet and studied cantilever bridge and roof designs, and took a nap. Pretty excitin, eh? So I walked toward the Sudan Embassy. Stopped at a pharmacy to see if I could get mosquito repellent. I swear it doesn’t exist anywhere in Ethiopia. They didn’y have any but they did have mosquito nets for 87 Birr so I bought one. I need it when I get to the Sudan cause it’ll be really hot and I won’t be able to hide from the little critters under my down filled sleeping bag. I stopped at a café and promised another guy I’d sponsor him in Canada. Got some more passport photos from a place down the road from the café. Pid 35 Birr I think for 8. Got to the Sudan Embassy. The guard wouldn’t let me in cause I was early. I sat outside and chatted with a guy whose sister was getting a work visa, and went in around 3PM. My passport was in a box with a buncha others and was probably sitting there when the guard turned me away, but then, he has a job to do.
So after I decided to walk back to Egyptian Airlines to change my booking from May 2nd to May 1st to give me some time in Sanaa in case I wanted to get anything done or have to get a travel permit or something. Bought some razor blades at a supermarket. Had supper at the Hotel Taitu. Watched CNN and chatted with an Ethiopian Guy who hangs out there. After I went on the internet for email, and got back to the Hotel Wutma, chatted with Chancy and he introduced me to Grege (I think that’s his name) a Canadian soldier working for the UN in the Sudan, and turns out he met Eric (Hiebert of the Phoenicia Ship) on Kilamanjaro in Kenya! Small world don’t you think?
I’m gonna see how this mosquito net is gonna work now…
March 8th, 2009
Went to the Hotel taitu for breakfast, ordered porridge without toast and got porridge with toast. They give you bread with everything in Ethiopia, and it’s a little dry, though the butter tastes really good. Anyway, I withdrew some more cash from the Dashen Bank ATM and got a receipt (HALLELULIAH!) and then headed down to the Sheraton to exchange mt Birr for dollars. Ended up with $500.00 USD. I’m gonna have to get some more out today cause I’m mailing home some books, CD ROM computer backups from about a month ago, and my SD cards from my camera. I’m sending it in three separate envelopes so I won’t lose everything if I lose something. Of course that could be a bad thing and I just might put it all in the parcel at the last moment.
I had lunch at the Hotel Baro, and if I was going to stay here again, I think I’d stay at the Baro. The courtyard is beautiful, and I sat on the verandah with four travellers, 2 English, 1 Norwegian and Mike from Victoria (BC). We went to a really nice rooftop café nearby and had a fruit cocktail drink. Very tasty and I had a Macchiatto (some kinda café latte). Went to the Internet place and then met up with the same guys after a nap. Bought some mosquito repellant from the Norwegian guy cause he doesn’t use it, and we sat around and chatted and then went for pizza. The pizza was excellent. Said goodbye to Mike cause he was flying to Toronto at 4AM.
9th March, 2009
But I haven’t got anything to say, cause I’m still in my room, almost packed (except for the computer) and checkout time is in twenty minutes. I’m hoping they’ll keep my pack here for me, cause my flight doesn’t leave for Khartoum til 9PM something, and I have to be at the airport around 7PM. So I’ve got everything done I had to do, except buy a hat, but I might wait to see if I can buy a turban type thing when I’m in Sudan. Probably head for the Taitu for breakfast and then to the Post Office.