As we packed up and checked out of the Wenney Eco Lodge, we were excited about having yet another adventure in Awash National Park which was about 4-5 hours away from our current location. Our plan was to spend two nights there in the lodge within the park boundaries and to go on a hike and a drive within the park…an Ethiopian safari, if you will!
Along the way, we stopped at Lake Ziway’s shore to watch the locals doing their thing–fishing, washing clothes, bathing, and filling up water tanks. It was a great place to people watch and it was one of the few places where we were somewhat ignored and people didn’t treat us like celebrities, which was actually quite refreshing.
|Maribou Storks–A face only a mother could love|
|I’ll never complain about doing laundry again|
|Lake Ziway has monasteries on some of it’s islands|
|Cleaning all those fish–a lot of work!|
|Clearly there isn’t a shortage of fish in the lake!|
Alex went and filled up the car with gas and came back to pick us up, but he had brought something else that he purchased–chat. I figured he was saving it for later but as we drove, I realized he was actually chewing on the leaves as we drove. Honestly, it pissed me off at first. He had told us it has the equivalent effect of drinking several cups of coffee and is not dangerous to drive with, but I wasn’t 100% convinced. I wasn’t sure what to do as his driving seemed the same as it had been the last four days (I even sent a cryptic note to Larry in the front seat to get his thoughts and he didn’t notice any difference). Regardless, I felt it wasn’t a professional move on his part and wished that he had saved it for when we were finished with the driving. He is extremely concerned about his job security and reputation within his company so I convinced myself that he wouldn’t do anything to jeapordize his job and after reading about chat’s effects in my guide book, figured it was something that would only make him more alert and not “drunk.” However, when we are in Ethiopia again in future years, I will make sure to be proactive with any driver we have and tell them that I am not comfortable with chat chewing while they drive!
|In case you’re wondering what chat looks like|
About 2 hours into the trip, our car started having a difficult time making it up the hills. I could tell Alex was bothered by this and quickly I knew why when the car started smoking. We pulled over and Alex determined that it was overheating and there was something wrong with the power steering fluid tank (or something like that–I am NOT a mechanic!) We sat by the side of the road while Alex diagnosed the problem (thankfully, he is a trained mechanic). A young boy came running down the road to check things out and Alex asked him to bring us some water. He quickly ran off and came back with another boy, carrying a container of water. Alex poured it into whatever you pour water into (yeah, I know, I should at least know what the thing is he poured the water into–radiator maybe?!) and after sitting there for close to an hour, we were off again. I was so thankful to the two boys who helped us and we gave them some birr as well as my remaining bag of trail mix as a thank you.
|Paige decided to get comfortable for the long wait on the side of the road|
|Our rescuers bringing water!|
|Love these boys!|
|Alex working his magic on the vehicle|
As we started driving again, Alex was having some difficulty steering. At this point, he was only trying to get us to the next town which was about 15 minutes away. When we pulled into the town, he dropped us off at a hotel with a restaurant inside whle he took the car to a local mechanic to have the steering fluid tank repaired. We had a great lunch and as we were eating, Donna, Tsegaye, and all of their guests at Common River came walking in to eat there as well! Talk about a small world! We were so excited to see them! They were traveling to Addis for the medical students to spend some time working in one of the hospitals and to eventually return back to the states.
|This is about how I felt by the end of the day!|
|Buddy was losing it too 🙂|
We waited at the restaurant for about two hours before Alex came back to pick us up. It was late afternoon and there was no way we could make it to Awash by nightfall so we regretfully decided to keep heading towards Addis. As the sun set, driving became ridiculously unsafe. Imagine limited visiblity because of smoke and smog, no streetlights, countless people and animals walking on the side of and in the middle of the road as you drive, and to top it off, completely idiotic drivers trying to pass on double yellow lines and playing “chicken” with everyone they encounter on the opposite side of the road. I held on tightly to the kids, closed my eyes, and tried to call on Mama to guard our car to get us safely back. It was my least favorite experience of the entire trip. Alex was amazing though and it made me forgive his chat chewing quickly as he was so careful and safe with us, especially during this leg of the trip.
After forever, we finally pulled into the TDS Guest House where we would spend the rest of our trip. The infamous Meme, the night manager at the guesthouse, came out to greet us with hugs, kisses, and so much love. We all fell in love with her immediately, as we had heard we would from other adoptive families. How can we NOT love someone named Meme? (it’s what the grandkids called my mom, just FYI).
We checked in to our room and felt right at home. We learned the guest house actually the former house of an Ethiopian woman, and it definitely felt homey and more like a B&B than a hotel. We said our goodbyes to Alex, promising to keep in touch. We want him to eventually come to the US as this is his greatest wish. He’s a good egg, our Alex (despite the one episode of insecurity I had with him)!
|We love Alex!|
We fell into bed, exhausted from the day’s events but Paige was looking very forward to the next day as it finally meant she could go shopping for her souvenir! We were a little concerned that having three full days in Addis would be too much time, especially since we had enjoyed being in rural Ethiopia so much. Looking back, I’m thankful we had all three days because they were action packed with many memories still to be made!