I’ve been on a lot of pretty spectacular bus rides the past few years, and some of them are pretty hard to compare with each other with such varying geography, but the 10 hour bus ride in Ethiopia from Addis-Ababa to Bahir Dar just might have been the most impressive of all, not only for the jaw dropping scenery almost the entire journey, but also the small towns, villages, and glimpses of rural life through which the route took.
The bus went through deep gorges along the blue Nile, valleys, massive high plateaus, rolling hills, and mountains, all which were extremely lush and green, almost jungle-like at times, with the occasional towering cliff covered in trees and shrubs. What was not covered in greens showed up as dark oranges and coppers in the bright soil. At one point in the trip we were miraculously looking at the clouds from above, then after a windy descent, looking up at them. Hundreds, even thousands of types of trees dot the landscape, some types of which I’ve certainly never encountered before. A seemingly endless of supply of rivers cutting through the land along the way plus a plethora of waterfalls, most likely all feeding the Nile. In the plateaus, with lots of farming, the irrigation channels these people have built look like they’ve been honed with expertise to efficiently catch and direct all the rain water (all of course made with simple hand tools). And the bus driver must have spent at least half of the 10 hour trip honking, as the entire journey was rural and thus filled with donkeys, ox, goats, and cows and their herders shepherding them along the road. I even saw baboons sitting on the side of the road a few times!
Women with massive woven baskets on their backs on the road or meandering amongst plants and trees in the hills, carrying things on their head, everyone with a huge walking stick, thatch buildings, this is true rural life that seems in many ways to have remained changed for hundreds of years. Some of the villages had electrical lines, but some didn’t. At one point, I saw about 15 guys putting up giant electrical pole (with no machines!). 7 or 8 of them were in a line on one side, pushing it above their heads as high as they could, then 6 or 7 on the other side with ropes tied to the end of the pole, pulling. Just like that show on the discovery channel where they are simulating erecting the blocks at Stonehenge. Plenty of men and women just standing there or sitting on a rock, with their sticks, passing the day by observing the occasional traffic and the beautiful mountain scenery. Of course, if they were wearing jeans and t-shirts, it wouldn’t be as eye-opening, but everyone wears traditional clothes. Mostly which amounts to (for men) a giant blanket wrapped over the shoulders, covering most of their arms, and coming down below their waist and a pair of shorts, often in greens and browns, with either sandals or no shoes.
Our two stops included first a bathroom break, in which the bus simply stopped in the middle of the road and everyone proceeded to go into the bushes to do their business. The second was in a small town for lunch. Needless to stay I stuck out like nobody's business in this town, like an alien from Mars. After lunch, I followed my bus-seat neighbor (ironically an Ethiopian who was a taxi driver in Las Vegas the last 6 years, really really nice & friendly guy), and bought a branch of a tree to clean my teeth from a little boy for a few cents.
Time for a bathroom break:
Purchasing my tooth cleaning apparatus:
In summary, outside of the capital, Ethiopia immediately becomes a stunning explosion of colors, plants, animals, people, mountains, rock formations, gushing rivers, and tranquil earthen cut streams. Incredible.
Sanit & Netsanet at lunch:
Herding the cows across the water:
Turning from mountains into an incredible plateau:
Orthodox Churches amongst the trees:
Passing a village:
Squatting, passing the day:
Above the clouds: