Ethiopian Driving Joke

After 4 months of driving through Africa I’ve lost count of the number of times our truck has braked suddenly and I’ve winced, expecting to hear the thump and splattering of goat / donkey / dog / human flesh across the bumper. Somehow our body count remains a benign zero. Roads aren’t just for vehicles – they’re for walking, socialising, markets, football games, praying, and … Continue reading Ethiopian Driving Joke

Ethiopian History 101

With an eclectic cast of characters including the Queen of Sheba, a 3.2 million year old hominid named Lucy, and the Rastafarian messiah, Ethiopia’s history is rich, layered, and often fantastical. In fact, as the only country in Africa not to have been colonised, one of the world’s first countries to adopt Christianity, with over eighty ethnic groups, its own indigenous script, a prophetic fusing … Continue reading Ethiopian History 101

Debre Damo: The Pale Knight Rises

In the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises Bruce Wayne is told by a gnarled and pretentious old priest that to climb the wall of the monastery-cum-prison he must not wear the safety rope. He must climb “as the child did….without the rope…the fear will find you again.” Indeed just how else could Bruce “go faster than possible, fight longer than possible….without the most powerful … Continue reading Debre Damo: The Pale Knight Rises

Omo Valley: Mursi Tribe

Until recently the Omo Valley has been inaccessible to all but the most determined and wealthy of travellers. It is considered one of the world’s last frontiers. However, a hydroelectric dam, a sugar plantation, and rumours of oil in the hills have opened up the area to outsiders in the last few years, and with new asphalt roads giving easy access to the diverse array … Continue reading Omo Valley: Mursi Tribe

Omo Valley: Jumping the Bulls

How do I describe a day that now feels like an apparition, a heady day of images, sounds and smells that could have been a dream? In the Lower Omo Valley in southwest Ethiopia – one of the world’s last preserves of traditional tribes, where original practices and dress are still observed – we attended a Jumping of the Bulls ceremony. Constituting a man’s rite … Continue reading Omo Valley: Jumping the Bulls

African food – the best so far

The local cuisine of pretty much all of the countries we have visited so far has consisted of sadza, a thick mash usually made from maize meal, served with a rarely identifiable meat of questionable quality. Like the beer (see previous post), it has not been something to recommend Africa by. However, further up the east coast, from around Malawi onwards, enticing snacks appeared in … Continue reading African food – the best so far

Rwanda Day 2: Mountain Gorillas

Our guide stopped us in a small clearing in the mountainside rainforest half an hour earlier than anticipated. “They’re just over there”, he whispered, languidly pointing over to some shrubs a hundred metres away. I was short of breath and it wasn’t due to the altitude. I was nervous. We’d spend the last two hours trekking through farms and forest in the Parc National des … Continue reading Rwanda Day 2: Mountain Gorillas

Rwanda Day 1: Kigali Memorial Centre

My own memories of news reports from Africa in the mid-nineties extend only as far as images of Nelson Mandela smiling benevolently and shaking hands with people who I didn’t recognise. The overwhelming message was that this was not just a new start for South Africa, but for the entire continent. As a politically naive fourteen year-old in central Scotland I didn’t understand or care … Continue reading Rwanda Day 1: Kigali Memorial Centre

African beer – the best so far

Africa does many things well. Beer is not one of them. Besides the locally brewed Chibuku, a pungent gruel-like beer made from maize, most are bog-standard lagers, with no more character than Carling. In the shadow of Kilimanjaro, I discovered Faru, a dark lager made from sorghum. Rich and chocolatey, it was the perfect companion to Chipsimayai, a Tanzanian chips omelette usually consumed during and/or … Continue reading African beer – the best so far