Day 6: Approaching Addis Ababa – Dec 27
We left Hawassa at 8:30AM – in a jovial mood – musing over yesterday’s adventure with the Rastafarians. We passed Shashamane and saw the same brokers huddled around the gate – waiting for tourists.
The road is busy with traffic in both directions. We passed the towns of Kuyera, Negenem, Bulbula – areas covered by flat landscapes dotted with acacia trees and beautiful views of Lakes Langano and Abiata Shala.
The soil looks white and livestock keepers are literally covered by it as they followed their livestock to grazing areas and water points. There are signposts to tourist lodges around the lakes.
There are several flower and grape farms along and people are standing outside the gates, possibly looking for work. The driver pointed to a Turkish factory on the left with several kilometres of fenced land.
“They make chocolates and other things,” he commented. A man is driving his cattle along the factory fence and I wondered if this was once his land before the company came to the area.
We stopped at Zuway Town for breakfast – Mila Senbera (injera and matumbo). The great Haile Gabreselassie has a resort here but we turned into a travel restaurant by the roadside. It was busy and waiters were fast and friendly. Word quickly went round that I am a foreigner – A waiter mused that I look like Mo Farah, the famous British athlete. The manager came over for a chat. I pointed out that the coffee is late.
“Do you want your coffee before with your meal?” he asked in English.
“Yes please,” I responded.
Coffee in Ethiopia is mostly served after meals. Well, I am just a foreigner, a traveler. Naloolo Ai!
The coffee was heavenly and I could still smell it as we drove out past a chain of donkey carts that are possibly going to the market. Vehicular drivers drove alongside the carts cautiously.
As we approached Meki Town, I saw a few burnt trucks along the way.
“They were burnt by Oromo protesters two years ago,” the driver said. The Oromo people that make close to 50 million of the 100 million Ethiopian national population have had years of run-ins with the government.
We drove past another broken truck with its driver’s palms on his face – in despair. He might have been on the road for days and now stranded with cattlemen walking past him like he did not exist.
Alem Tena Town is green with irrigation fields that draw water from River Awash – tomatoes, onions. The river drains into a lake that I could see it is chocking under hyacinth – a deadly water weed.
A chain of buses passed heading us towards the opposite direction carrying people who will be attending St. Gabriel festival in Hawassa. It is an important festival for the Orthodox Church followers.
The driver made a quick cross prayer as we drove past a church. I remembered passengers from Moyale doing the same and got curious if it means something different. It basically says “God sent his own son to earth to put us from the left to the right. Thank you!”
“We do that short prayer while driving, asking God to keep us safe,” he explained.
We reached Koka Town at 12:30AM. It is another town surrounded by irrigated farms. Hundreds of uniformed high schoolers were walking along the road from schools. Our vehicle lost power about a kilometre from Koka and we pulled over and found out that the battery terminals got loose after hitting a pothole.
We stopped on approach to Mojo Town, 65 KM from Addis, to buy fresh strawberries at the gate of a farm that produces them. The town is named after Mojo River, also transliterated as Modjo. It has all the signs of a well-planned town and a growing economy – new buildings going up, busy streets and a high population. It hosts a major station of the new Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway that connects the country to the Red Sea.
From here we joined the Express Way – a six-lane highway that connects Mojo, Adama City and Addis Ababa. The Express Way started with a toll station – we paid 15 birrs to Adama, another beautiful city that we had planned to see.
Adama whose other name is Nazreth is the capital of Oromo region and just one those places you would love to live in. It sits between the base of the escarpment to the west and the Great Rift Valley to the east. It looks carefully planned – wide, clean streets, colourful buildings, hotels and office blocks.
Now we got 99KM to Addis Ababa and we were cruising, excited, that this journey is finally coming to an end.
We started the approach to Addis Ababa, the city on the foot of Entoto Mountains– the home of the African Union, University of Addis Ababa and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Like all cities, the sky is disappointingly gray – a sign of pollution and I felt a little sad for its 3 Million inhabitants.
We drove into Tulu Dimtu tall station at 2:30P and paid 50 birrs, our cost for using the Express Way and started meandering on various roads towards Bole Area near the airport where I would be staying for the next four days.
1600KM! Welcome to Addis Ababa!
*John Kisimir is a Kenyan journalist and nature enthusiast. He is currently the Board Chair of Friends of Maasai Mara.