Six hours in the back of a pick up truck along the beach on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras brought us to a landing where we could take a dug out canoe to plaplaya for the night before continuing our journey upstream into La Mosquitia. As our “captain” loaded the canoe with our belongings and cargo I couldn’t help but laugh at the “essentials” that were being carried, for a nice price of course, upstream to other settlements. Eventually we were deep enough into the jungle where there was no coca-cola or fanta, but trust me that stuff is everywhere!
After spending a few nights out at the Colca Canyon near Arequipa, Peru we were headed back into town on our way to meet a friend in Cusco. Catching at 6am bus out of the village, we weren’t surprised when the bus stopped along the way to pick up other people, animals and their baggage. This little guy made it on the bus, but we saw a llama and a goat loaded into the baggage hold for a short ride up the hill.
There isn’t much of a road in northern Kenya. A badly potholed dirt track leads from Isiolo to the Ethiopian border, a journey of only about 100 miles that takes about two days. With few transportation options along this road, the local population travels in cattle trucks, which run through the night from the border to Isiolo where a proper bus ticket can be purchased. We were so thankful when we saw this cattle truck that we were in our friend’s car. Although you can pay more to sit in the cab, squished between ten of your closest friends, the experience can not be called pleasant. It’s amazing we didn’t see anyone jolted out of the back of the truck from a pot hole. If you’ve ever read Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Ever since arriving in Ethiopia we’ve been excited to get out of Africa, not that its been bad at all mind you, its just that Africa is difficult. Emotionally, physically and mentally Africa can take it all out of you without you even realizing it. It’s been a pleasure sharing the adventure with others along with way, but frankly we were just exhausted of being in the developing world. I know how that sounds and I realize how lucky we are to be able to leave those difficult situations, but it’s the truth, it was hard. We needed a long break, badly.
Needless to say it wasn’t with heavy hearts that we took the ferry to Jordan. In fact it was with shear excitement for the rest of the journey and perhaps even some anxiety at moving on to another continent that we boarded the much delayed boat. As they ferry motored away from Nuweiba and the Sinai Peninsula at sunset we sat comfortably in the air conditioned lounge playing cards and swapping stories neither of us looking back for one last glimpse.
A week and a half after leaving Africa for good I’m recovered and those dangerous rose colored glasses seem to be on my eyes. Of course we had an amazing time in Africa and I don’t regret going for one minute. More than South America though Africa tested us. It was physically challenging (Mt. Kilimanjaro), emotionally challenging (Ethiopia) and sometimes just downright frustrating (everywhere else), but it was an experience I’d never trade and will never regret.
Our ferry to Jordan left Egypt nearly 5 hours late and by the time we arrived in Aqaba it was well after the last bus to Petra. Some travelers might get annoyed or even angry, but Danny and I just looked at each other and shrugged much as we’ve been doing since arriving on the continent. It was our last chance to say the three letters which have been uttered nearly every day since December: “TIA, this is Africa.”
IF YOU GO: We took the “fast” ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba. From what we gather delays like this are pretty normal, however there were tons of taxi’s willing to negotiate decent group rates to Wadi Musa (Petra) from the port, even at 11pm!
Although we had a nice time in Lalibela, we had some more visa processing to do in Addis so we had to rush away. Perhaps we didn’t tip the priests enough for those pictures, because not more than an hour outside of Lalibela, trucking through the valley before heading back up the escarpment, the Land Rover (Landy or Kaspuuurr as it’s affectionately called) stopped. Climbing out of the car, we popped the hood as the local children swarmed us. With a mix of curiosity and fear, the obviously destitute children approached the car. We greeted them in the little Amaharic we know and with big smiles, but they were more intrigued by the land rover than by us.
Diagnosing the problem after an hour or more of tinkering with everything in the engine, it was decided that Ally and I would hitch back into town on the next vehicle that passed, get to a garage and try to get a mechanic or tow truck back to the boys and the Landy. Easier said than done.
Four hours later, Ally and I had negotiated with the mechanic in Amharic, filled up his motorbike, sent him on his way to help the boys and the Landy, climbed in an out of a steep ravine and been eyeballed by several local men who came to the garage for the express purpose of looking at the “faranji” women. Meanwhile back at the Landy, Danny and Campbell had determined it was the fuel pump and attempted to pump the gas through the system using the air mattress pump. As you can see from the picture, that didn’t go so well. When that failed they worked to turn the car so it was pointed downhill, got it stuck perpendicular to the road, and when they weren’t strong enough to push Danny harnessed himself in as if rappelling and used his body weight against a small ledge to try and pull the car back into place…eventually a truck came and 5 men helped accomplish that job quickly and it was only a short time more until the mechanic we had sent arrived.
All in a days work.
The mechanic thankfully understood the problem and between the guys they rigged the engine to run off a fuel from a jerry can to get it back to Lalibela. The only remaining problem was that the jerry can had to be held on the hood of the car for the 35km trip back to Lalibela…so one of the mechanics sat on the hood the whole time and held it in place.
It would be a couple of days before we could get out, get the needed fuel pump, get back to Lalibela, perform the repairs, and drive off.
As everything transpired, the group of children watching the show grew and grew. They even helped the boys push the car (to no avail) and graciously accepted a few cookies as a thank you. They watched closely every time a door opened and ran around the car to check out what was inside. Their curiosity helped to make for a rather amusing breakdown.