Bale Mountains and Addis Ababa (again)
After leaving our passports at the Embassy of Egypt for a visa and a quick lunch at Wim’s, we made our way to Bale Mountains for the weekend. Knowing that we could not make it all the way, we stopped in Hawassa for the night at a hotel where we could sleep safely on the parking. The next morning we left not too early as our aim was to be at the Sanetti plateau around 15:00. Although still a long drive, already the way towards Bale Moutains was a treat. We drove through a hilly area with lots of small farming villages. Apparently it was the time to get the hay from the land, as we pass many donkey carts packed with hay. The road was completely tarred (with of course several potholes on places where you least expect them). About an hour before Dinsho where we can get the entry tickets for the park, the scenery becomes mountainous and the road starts to climb towards 3700 meters above sea-level. Knowing that the high altitude would have an effect on the engines performance, we were not surprised that the colour of the smoke turned from pitch black into white (indicating an incomplete ignition).
After getting our park entry ticket, we continued towards Gobe, where we would enter the highest (all weather) road of Africa towards the Sanetti plateau, where the Ethiopian wolfs are frequently sighted. With the altitude also the incredible views change for the better (although we agreed not to take any photo’s on our way up as it was noticeable that the truck was not really liking the climb too much). It was our idea to spend the night in Harenne Forest on the other side of the plateau and about 1000 metre lower than the plateau… However, when we arrived at the campsite, it turned out that it had been changed into a luxury lodge (with incredible views). The lodge was fully booked and unfortunately we were not allowed to spend the night on their premise. As a result, we drove back to the campsite on the plateau at 4116 metre J. Next to the road and the Sanetti campsite was a small lake and we stopped to make some pictures from the birds when we noticed a Ethiopian wolf strolling by. Although it is family of the wolf, we immediately understood why some call it the red jackal as it has much resemblance with them as well (maybe even more…).
When we arrived at the campsite, three Spanish walkers also arrived with their guides and entourage (many horses had carried their food and camping equipment the past three days). They explained that they had walked for three days through the area each day sleeping at a higher altitude… They already predicted that we might not sleep too well. In the morning we had to admit to them that they were very right… Wilfred had a headache starting around 22:00 that only disappeared around nine the next morning and Judith woke up with one. During the night the temperature dropped to about 5 degrees below zero and we needed all our blankets to keep ourselves warm (even after having pre-heated the car with our webasto diesel heater before we went to sleep).
The next morning we woke up with the sun and the temperature slowly climbed from 1,5 to a much more comfortable 18 degree around 10:00am. After breakfast, we came to talk again with the Spanish hikers and learned that they would fly back home the next day and that they had only an easy walk to the highest point left. Still in search for a walking stick for Judith, we asked if we could buy one from them…with a proper walking stick in hand, we immediately gave it a shot and did a short hike around the campsite through the dessert like environment. Admittedly, we would have done so as well without the stick, which will serve its purpose in the harsher environment of the Danakil depression. Once back at the campsite, we came eye to eye with a wolf that walked right past the campsite in search of its breakfast. After our hike, we took up the challenge of driving towards the highest point of the area and second highest point in Ethiopia 4377 metres (although we measured it at 4389 metres with our Delorme). Mostly climbing very slowly in first gear, we made it all the way J
Back to Addis Ababa
Around 12:00pm we left this highest point and descended following the same way we came towards the hotel in Hawassa where we arrived just before sundown. The next morning we drove back towards Addis Ababa. In Addis, we decided to drive through ‘Mexico’ the area where most ‘car shops’ are located in search of ‘lock nuts for the wheels’ and a new ‘cup holder’. After the first shop, the truck decided not start any more… We had noticed before the weekend that the remote for the ‘engine blocker’ was giving some hiccups and we had bought new batteries for it. Changing the batteries did however make no difference… Not wanting to stay there for the night, we called Rahel from Wim’s Holland House and she was so kind to arrange a tow truck and picked us up. Luckily we were close to a Total fuel station (the only recognisable landmark around), it however turned out not to be the only Total fuel station along the very long road… Although it was just a 3 km drive, it was an eventful one. The Nissan tow truck was barely able to tow us uphill and was even struggling in 4x4 low gear. Once the car was in its place at Wim’s Holland House, we were very relieved and decided to go for a beer and dinner and leave the problem for the next day… Since none of the regular ‘ignition lights’ on the dashboards were showing, we were hopeful that it was just a fuse. If it really is something with the ‘engine blocker’, we might be in Addis Ababa longer than planned as it is designed and built in, in such a way that it could be (very) difficult to bypass…
Next morning Wilfred checked all the fuses in the truck and all were just fine. After that we did a reset of the engine blocker, got the truck started by using the emergency procedure and synchronized the remotes (again…as we had tried that yesterday as well). And all got sorted out, so fortunately we can still pick up Nienke with our own car from Bole Airport on March 8th.
We also picked up our passports at the Egyptian Embassy and are now ready to apply for our transit visa for Sudan. As we are reluctant to drive around in Addis and park our car in public places (as we heard plenty of stories that something is stolen from your car or they purposely sabotage it… after which, suddenly someone appears to help you…yeah, right!), we booked a taxi to drive us to the Sudanese Embassy.