I awoke early to the sounds of the nearby church. Like the mosques, the orthodox churches in Ethiopia are round and have speakers where the priest blasts out his prayer songs.
I was led up to the highway to Jibril’s café where I was served sugar with some tea and a loaf of bread I was expected to finish on my own. The other guys in the shop were all presented with the same breakfast and they scoffed it down in minutes.
I struggled to get through the loaf as I was still blocked up by the three servings of njera the night before. Once I finished my cup I was presented with another, again with a bit of tea to go with the sugar. I managed to eat up the loaf and then Jibril and Abdu lead me through the village of Hayk to the shores of the lake.
I noticed the fishing canoes were bamboo tied together and paddled out like stand-up paddle boards. I took some photos and we headed back to Jibril’s place where I packed my gear, thanked the lovely family for their hospitality and hit the highway.
The road appeared empty and only taxis and bajajs (tuk-tuks) were coming my way. I continued to hike for about a kilometer when Banhu and Li pulled over. In the three years of hitchin’ I’ve only ever been picked up by one Chinese national in Dar es Salam, Tanzania.
Africa is full of Chinese who have come to engineer the roads and other construction jobs like the railways and buildings. They provide an economic boost to Africa and are connecting this continent like no has ever done before. But they’ve never stopped for me and I’d always tsk-tsk at them when they’d fly past.
So I was surprised when Li warmly offered me a ride to Mahor, “Two hours south of Makele,” he said.
I put my gear in the back of the Hilux and Li insisted I take the front seat. I had my camera ready as the landscape was just mountain after mountain after rolling hill after mountain.
“It’s so beautiful here,” I complemented Banhu on his country’s nature.
We passed through villages and towns, stopping for coffee in a small town before continuing on to Alamata where we stopped for lunch and more coffee. I saw what happens to a truck when it hits a camel (the camel didn’t make it. The truck had a smashed windscreen) and continued to be surprised by the smoothness of the roads.
We reached Mahor at about 16:00. I thanked my new friends and hiked through the town – that was full of bajajes.
No other transport except for some idle trucks.
As I walked and greeted the locals I noticed the dark clouds rolling in on the horizon. Looking back I saw a red dump truck and managed to flag it down.
“I’m going 35 kilometers further and collecting sand,” said Marwhatu. His colleague hopped to the bunk as I passed up my gear. After climbing steep hills we reached a bridge where Marwhatu guided the truck along the river bed to where a collective of people from the Onano tribe waited with spades.
As soon as he reversed into position, about 15 people shoveled 25 tonnes of sand into the truck’s tray within 90 minutes. By sunset we were back on the road.
And stuck in the mud up the incline to a school where the sand was to be dumped.
“I gotta keep going,” I said to Marwhatu, thanking him for the ride. He nodded understandably and I hit the road, chased by curious kids calling out, “China! China!”.
Ignoring the calls, I sped-walked the empty highway, hopping that a car would come by.
Joseph and Mengwasi pulled over in their Hilux.
“Where are you headed?” I asked, shooing away the kids surrounding me.
“Makele,” Mengwasi said. “Come on.”
I threw my packs into the tray, warned an overly curious kid to back-the-fuck-up from my guitar that had Animal strapped in and we pulled away into the setting darkness. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I philosophised with the guys as we passed two trucks that had been involved in a head-on collision, completely blocking the highway on a bend. Further ahead another truck was stuck in a ditch, a grave reminder of the dangers of erratic driving.
By 20:00 we reached Hannah’s place, my couch surfing host. I had a dinner of rice with some veggies and we watched Paper Towns, a feel-good movie to bring me into Makele.
And I did. I felt good.