I’ve arrived and shell shocked doesn’t even begin to describe it!
From the second I emerged, blinking into the daylight out of Customs I’ve been mobbed by men shouting in what they fondly believe is English. I bought a Pepsi at the airport café in an attempt to get my bearings and try to work out the exchange rate. Unfortunately with no working internet I’ve had to use a slightly out of date guidebook and make a rough assumption. I paid 300 for my taxi ride with Kabrom which seems a lot but saved me attempting the little blue and white minibuses with my wheelbarrow load of birr. On the way, dodging goats in the road and old women covered head to toe in dark red robe type things Kabrom told me the area I’m staying, Kera is ‘very dangerous’ and I should be staying at his cousin’s hotel (of course I should!)
Naturally just before arriving in Kera the cousin made an unscheduled appearance. That makes three phone numbers and names in squiggly Amharic text now and I haven’t even arrived at the hotel! (My chosen hotel…*coughs*
I’m already feeling a bit guilty. Getting out of the taxi, yet another man approached me muttering in bad English and tried to grab my bag. I side swiped him ready to whack him with my brick of a laptop only to realise he does actually work at the guest house-possibly- (who knows? People seem to hang around pointlessly here!)
Once yet another man had given me a key, an unpronounceable name and a phone number for his uncle’s goat’s taxi company I was led to a motel style room which really isn’t that bad despite the absolute chaos outside.
I thought from my time in Malaysia and Newcastle upon Tyne, I knew the third world. How incredibly naïve I’ve been! This is intense!
The one saving grace I suppose is the fact that Addis Ababa is 3,000 feet up and in the depths of what passes for winter here so the heat it isn’t intense. In fact it’s perfect. Cool and damp like an English Spring.
The flight was long but pretty uneventful. Ethiopian Airline’s cabin crew are warm and friendly in a way BA could definitely aspire to.
My domestic flight back down to London was with Maybot Airways. Definitely on their last wings. BA Cabin crew go on strike in a week or two and it's not hard to see why. Unmotivated slow staff reading from a script in a bored monotone. Don't get me started on this ridiculous new 'buy on board' deal with M&S. It's like BA Management WANT the company to fail! The crew weren't bothering to promote it anyway.
The one massive downside to Ethiopian Airlines are the meals! The country has a burgeoning foodie scene and recent memories of starving so you’d imagine their national airline would make a bit of an effort in that regard….
Main course was some kind of meatballs in a bland tomato sauce with clammy pasta tubes. Breakfast was completely unidentifiable.
That’s two unsatisfactory meals notched up in one evening after a week dining out at Poland’s best restaurants with Rav and Ross.
My trip proper was always going to start with Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionist’s Café at Terminal 2.
Apparently his fish and chips are ‘extraordinary’
Perhaps they are-if he’d had any.
I settled for a distinctly ordinary breakfast at an extraordinary price while all the around me the American and Korean tourists were completely oblivious to who Heston is.
I tried the Marmalade on Toast milkshake and it was awful.
Unfortunately it seems Heston is more a marketing genius than a mad scientist.
I’m having doubts about my own sanity right now.
Apparently the owner ‘is sleeping’ and for some reason the bloke couldn’t give me the wifi code (I wasn’t paying him for obvious reasons) so I’m writing this on word. I’ll go over to the bar/reception in a moment for Round 2 of ‘name a randomly high price’ to pay for this place.
It’s supposedly $19 a night.
I’ve just realised, there’s a clock in the room. Ethiopia follows some weirdly complicated Julian calendar system whereby days are 12 hours-or something.
It seems it’s currently 06:50 UK time, 08:50 ‘Western’ Ethiopian time and 3pm ‘Real’ Ethiopian time. Confused?
It’s also 2009. (I think)