Tuesday, June 19, 2012

African Adventure Day 4: Back to Addis

Monday, June 4th, 2012

We woke up the next morning and headed to breakfast at the restaurant, where we found the Driver and the Henchmen already there. A breakfast buffet was spread out including Western conveniences such as cold cereals, toast, and omelets made-to-order, as well as my favorite fresh fruit juices and some interesting new things like deep fried french toast and some spicy fried bread that I mistook for potatoes.

After breakfast, we made our way down to the beach to see it during daylight and were met with a huge group of vacationers enjoying the water. This resort was much busier than Bishangari had been, and the beach was packed with people. The Godfather met us down at the beach and Todd and I were persuaded to take a ride on the jet ski. Now, persuading me to get on the jet ski was a big task since my last and only other experience jet skiing was when we were in Hawaii in December 2010, and I had thoroughly HATED it. I was also wary considering everyone was still hurting from the spill they had just the day before. In retrospect, the ride was actually (relatively) mellow and fun, and we got to see some great parts of the lake including other resorts and local farms where villagers waved to us as we passed. But still, I screamed the whole way, literally.

Below are some photos from our time at the beach:

We were supposed to check out by noon, and after our ride on the jet ski, that hour was getting close. In the States, if you check out late you are frequently fined, so going on this knowledge, we confirmed that we would all go get ready to check out and would meet at reception in “5 minutes.” Remembering our experience from the night before, we thought we were being generous by allowing 15-20 minutes before we headed over, not wanting to be the first to arrive. And yet, again, we were hit with the realities of “Africa Time.” Five minutes easily turned into 2 hours, but fortunately other members of our group joined us part way through the wait, and we decided to have some fresh juice down on the open bar patio that looked out over the cliff.

View of the beach from the cliff

Blue Agama lizard!

Enjoying some juice

View of the restaurant from the patio

Strawberry juice...yum!

 Once everyone had gathered, we packed up the cars and made our way into our respective vehicles for the drive home. The ride was fairly uneventful, and midway we decided to stop near Lake Zwai for lunch at a restaurant my Friend knew. It was hot and I began noticing that the already overwhelming number of flies was increasing. After a laid back lunch of pasta and botched lunch orders, we got back on the road, taking a new route that the group had never previously traveled before. It was a very back country type of journey, and we frequently stopped to ask local teenagers if we were on the right track. We got to really sample a variety of African countryside during this trek, seeing dry open fields, sparsely scattered flat “Africa trees” (Acacia) with occasional mud huts, small towns with leaning kiosks, and the starkly contrasting jungle of the Rift Valley.

Leaning mud hut and acacia tree

Small town

The restaurant we stopped at for lunch

Great Rift Valley

Great Rift Valley

Rift Valley photo by Todd Sipes

By the time we arrived back at the Godfather’s house, we were all tired and uncomfortable. We re-assembled our belongings and bid adieu to our new friends, ready to eat some dinner and settle in for the night. The original plan had been for us to stay in my Friend’s enormous company villa, but seeing as how it is brand new and still unfurnished, the Godfather graciously offered us his extra apartment for accommodation. This apartment is used for business guests that visit from out of town, and makes our place in California look like a postage stamp in spacial comparison.

Before heading to the apartment complex, we decided to get some dinner. My Friend took us to a lounge/restaurant/ bar called Black Rose. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of some kind of exotic lounge from the Ottoman Empire or something. The walls were lined with low, cushioned seating colored with rich, bright fabrics and elaborate pillows. It all felt very Moroccan with red velvet cushions and flickering lanterns…I could almost imagine some kind of exotic prince holed up in the corner of a harem here.

After a dinner of steak and cheese sandwiches (kind of like a philly cheesesteak, but different) and Todd trying the local beer, St. George pale lager, we decided to go hyena hunting. Apparently, hyenas live in the hills surrounding Addis and are known to scavenge in the rotting refuse overflowing the local dumpsters. As we were leaving the restaurant, we learned something that we would witness throughout our whole stay in Addis: local people will insist on helping you back out of parking spots, watch your car while you are eating, etc. and expect to be paid a few birr for it. Now, to us, that’s just cents on the dollar, but for them it is fairly substantial. The Westerner in me felt a little irritated at being expected to pay for a job we didn’t ask to be done and could quite easily do ourselves, but that is not the attitude of Ethiopians in general. They are far more generous than us in the West, and comparatively speaking, it isn’t a significant amount of money to us but would make at least some difference to those on the receiving end. With that lesson having been learned, we drove around to all the known places where hyenas might be feasting, but we were disappointed and headed back to the apartment complex.

Todd and his local brew

The Godfather’s apartment is in a complex that is not only gated with guards posted at the entrance, but armed guards carrying massive automatic weapons patrol the complex on foot throughout the night. We discovered this as we pulled up after our unsuccessful hyena hunting excursion. I wasn’t sure whether to feel safe that we were guarded, or nervous at the general presence of such firearms. We also witnessed a couple men washing cars under the cover of night, and learned that this apartment complex included nightly car washes as one of its services. A couple guys just go around and wash all the cars on the street when everyone is sleeping! I wish my apartment complex in California offered that!

Inside the apartment we scavenged for some clean sheets and made up the rooms, and admired the Godfather’s art collection of pieces he purchased from the Artist. We had a busy day ahead of us, and fell asleep to episodes of Justified playing on Todd’s laptop.

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