Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Preparing to travel in Ethiopia is almost like a full time job, so time consuming it is. I am currently getting ready to travel south to Konso, the Omo valley and Arba Minch in the Great Rift Valley. Booking the various hotels and lodges took me about ten days between the many phone calls and trips to their Addis office to make the payment. This is the way it works in Ethiopia: most tourist hotels and lodges have an office in Addis, whose main task is to take reservations and cash. No room is ever confirmed until full payment has been received. As we are going as a group of 12 people including children, we cannot run the risk of not having accommodation once we get there!
Once all of that was done, I could start worrying about medicine supplies. Before we travel anywhere in the country, we need to check that we bring all the medicine needed for any eventuality, as the likelihood of finding the right medicine at the right time in a remote area is rather limited. So I checked that nothing was missing in my medicine bag, and of course I completely overlooked the malaria risk, which I was told is prevalent in the South. Having heard that, I spent the last couple of days trying to find malaria tablets in Addis. They can be found but with difficulty and at a very high price, so I blew part of our travel budget just on pills. Once this was solved, I moved on to the next item which was to change some of the car tyres, as it is advisable to travel with very good tyres to avoid getting too many punctures.
Now I have one day left to worry about the food to take for the journey. I know we will find restaurants serving traditional Ethiopian dishes, but it will be more difficult to buy snack food such as biscuits, crackers, crisps, dry fruit and nuts to help us last on a long car drive. Outside Addis these are extremely difficult to find as people stick to their own traditional diet. Reading Evelyn Waugh who travelled twice to Abyssinia in the 1930s, I realised that he was confronted with the same logistic issues. In his times, he even had to bring his own tent and petrol when travelling outside the capital, as there was no accommodation of any sort for visitors. But he did it in style, he took with him a Fortnum and Mason’s picnic basket full of Champagne, foie gras, and other preserved fine food! Maybe, I should learn from him.
(Evelyn Waugh, When the going was good, Penguin Books)