Day 358: Birdstrike!

24.12.09:

Another 6am bus didn’t seem like a lot of fun, but the minibus up to Addis turned out to be quite an eventful one, as after just half an hour on the road we hit a massive vulture at 70mph. It totally SMASHED the windscreen to bits and gave us all a bit of a fright, to put it mildly.

Silvia turns out to be one of those wonderful sheilas who are more than happy to poke a dead animal with a stick, so she jumped out of the minibus and procured a few feathers for our respective hats. The vulture however, turned into state’s evidence and the minibus crew picked it up and threw it on the bus, much to my chagrin, as it was laid out a little too close to number one here for my liking. After managing to get it moved to the front of the bus, we discovered the reason for the roadkill getting a free ride north – it’s illegal to drive with a cracked windscreen in Ethiopia (unlike in Senegal where it is illegal not to) and so the minibus guys had to get the police to write them a letter explaining what had happened or else we’d be high-tailing it back it Yabello and all hope of reaching Egypt by New Year would be dashed.

But we plundered on through dusty villages and dried-up towns. Two things I haven’t seen much of on my journey so far – exceptionally skinny people and flies, legions of flies, cropped up a little too often for comfort, yes there’s a drought here (again) although the government seems more interested in picking the wax out of its ear than doing anything about it.

Lunch in Awasa was pleasant enough, we found a decent restaurant and I used the western flushing lav to squeeze out a dead otter for the first time since Monday morning. I can hold it in for a week if necessary – quite frankly, I refuse to squat. It’s smelly, uncomfortable, demeaning and I hate it. I keep meeting westerners who have lived in Africa for some time and say they prefer it – I find them mad. If you can’t comfortably play Tetris on your Gameboy for an hour then it’s not a trip to the loo as far I’m concerned. The very idea of standing on slippery urine-soaked porcelain and hovering your nethers a few inches from horrors I am not fit to describe fills me with awesome dread. Some other travellers may see this as a weakness, but I don’t care. There’s bog seat on my backpack for a reason – everyone deserves a decent dunny.

Actually, it’s been remarkable how few squatters I’ve used this year. Yes, my friends, we are progressing as a species!

After lunch we pressed on towards Addis, the unlovable sprawling capital city of Ethiopia. About as attractive as John Merrick eating spaghetti. Asier and Silvia joined us in the Dil hotel, the only mid-range place in the guidebook. Notice how I’m suddenly staying in a lot of hotels? Well, unlike me, Matt the Editor gets his expenses back, so I’m happy to abuse that fact for a few days and cadge a free night’s kip courtesy of the powers that be. Of course, if we really wanted to splash out, we could stay at the Sheraton hotel here, where a suite will set you back a cool $8,081 for a night’s accommodation. But, realistically, that place is reserved for African politicians – you know the guys who preside over those people living off less than a dollar a day. Hey, maybe after working for 21 years solid (and living off air) they too could afford one night in the f***ing Addis Sheraton.

When we talk about gaps between rich and poor we really have no idea. These aren’t gaps – they’re parsecs.

Matt got himself an early night while I stayed up with Asier and Silvia drinking and hark-the-heralding in the Christmas cheer.

I’ve come a long way since Comoros, but I’ve got a lot further to go before I’m reunited with Mandy a week from today.

Dar es Salaam to the Pyramids in two weeks, without flying? That’s a world record right there.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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