Day 1: Arrival in Addis
After a ridiculously long day of being up and down in various different aircrafts and moving between continents, we finally arrived in Addis sleepy eyed and bushy tailed at around 9 o clock local time. This being after Leigh-Anne had her bag checked at both Newcastle and Amsterdam airports and toiletries confiscated after having bought them minutes before!
It took us a while to get our money changed and baggage found, when we finally did however, we also realised that we were without tents and they were still in Newcastle, bad crack!! We pressed on like brave soldiers toward the Yonas Hotel in the city centre on a true Ethiopian style bus- our baggage strapped to the top of the roof. Meheret, sister to Bisrat who we will get to meet in Bahir Dar, met us at the airport and helped us along toward the hotel. Once we had unloaded our bags and located our rooms, we chilled over a nice cold bottle of Mirinda- Ethiopia’s alternative to Fanta- and discussed our activities for tomorrow.
Alex T and Greg A
Day 2: Day in Addis
Our first morning was an early rise, after which we headed down to breakfast where we could choose between eggs, porridge and toast. Shortly after, we were split into groups to tackle our first real experience on the streets of Addis, where we were set the task of finding certain items for the cheapest price by haggling with the locals. Not as easy as it sounds! We also slowly became accustomed to the regular sights such as corn on the cob and farm animals on the street.
After purchasing our lunch for the day ahead, which consisted of gourmet fresh bread, bananas and oranges, we were given a spare hour to explore the local surroundings. Whilst doing so we stumbled upon one of the most violent football matches we’ve ever seen! A pitch which was covered in pot-holes, muddles and sharp rocks which didn’t seem to faze the locals as they threw themselves into vicious tackles.
After the football match ended we then headed off in the mini bus to the Entoto. What an experience this was, with children climbing on the bus and clinging on. In the mountains there were spectacular views of Addis and we were treated well by the children living in the mountains, who showed us how to crack a whip in style – not that any of us picked it up! On our return to the hotel, we stopped at the market to do some haggling which was quite an experience, as we were constantly surrounded by the locals trying to get us to buy what they have to offer. A funny moment when at the market was when Jack was continuously referred to by the locals as ‘Harry Potter’, which the whole group found hilarious; Jack, not so much! Later on at night, we ventured to the ‘Zebra Grill’ where we were all mildly surprised by how delicious the local cuisine was. Overall the first day in Addis was an eye opener to say the least, but an enjoyable day all the same, from haggling with the locals to experiencing the top of the picturesque Ethiopian mountains the day was a complete success.
Jack & Alex R
Day 3: The market – Museum – Prince Abi
Today we went to the indoor market – said to be the biggest market in Africa! It was so so busy and we were all a bit wary but we soon got used to it, and put our haggling skills to the test – particularly Alex T and Ashleigh who were at one particular stall for about 20 minutes!! We all felt famous because everywhere we turned everyone was staring at us, and we couldn’t believe how friendly the people were. There were so many sights, sounds and smells that we were overwhelmed but all thoroughly enjoyed it.
We went to the museum which was really interesting as we got to see all different bones in a timeline from the very oldest to more recent times. We were all particularly fascinated by Lucy who was the 2nd oldest homo-erectus skeleton in the world at 3.2 million years old. She was tiny!! And we were all surprised to hear she got her name from ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles!
When visiting Prince Abi, a very eccentric Rastafarian who claimed to be a prince, he told us that his restaurant/museum had cost 5,000 birr to build and was of an Indian design; it was beautiful! He was very welcoming, friendly and the food was delicious – he was vegetarian, which suited Lauren and Anna just fine! He also told us how he got his dreadlocks and by the end of the night none of us wanted to leave. The taxi ride on the way there was an interesting experience, half of us managed to squash in somehow and it was a very bumpy ride! On the way back we were pleased to have English music which, despite being Myley Cyrus, we were excited to hear!
Back at the hotel, we all joined in with the biggest, longest card game of ‘Cheat’ ever which brought us together even more as a group as we all had lots of fun.
Lauren and Georgia
Day 4: To Awash National Park
Today was an early start, considering we had very little sleep after the most spectacular thunderstorm you could ever imagine! We had to be all packed and have had breakfast by 8.30! Pancakes with marmalade seemed to be especially popular today. We all jumped back on the bus to start a new adventure! First we headed to the market to buy lunch, as well as onions, as we only had 3 to go between 20 people. Then we were ready to head for Awash, all excited at the possibility of seeing lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!! (had to be done!) The journey was unbearable with the heat hitting temperatures we never thought existed! After getting a bit lost, and lots of turns around, we stopped at the Family Hotel in Debre Zeit. It overlooked a volcanic crater filled with water, making beautiful scenery which we could enjoy whilst having a nice, cool drink. At one of our stop offs, we saw another lake, complete with crocodiles on the waters edge!! After getting back on the road, we drove past about 20 dead camels, not sure how they came to their death, but it silenced us all. After that we needed a boost, so a sing song was in order. Songs led by the back of the bus included Disney classics, Grease medleys and R&B favourites.
Finally we arrived at the park, before the heat completely took it out if us. On arrival we spotted an Oryx which got us all suitably excited! Some were also lucky enough to see some klipspringers, jumping across the road. As we were trying to find the campsite, we stumbled across a rather angry caged lion! (which we later found out was caged for a murder in Somalia!) We eventually found the camp site with a visitor waiting to greet us, a baboon! We couldn’t believe our eyes, and we nick named him Rafiki, for obvious reasons! We quickly got to work putting up the tents and cooking tea, on the menu was pasta and tomato sauce, mmmm! The inviting smell attracted some more of our neighbours, vervet monkeys, a few with their very cute little babies clinging on tightly! After tucking into our tea, we went to the Awash River and water falls, which were amazing to see. The spray from the falls was a refreshing moment for all! We headed back to camp to try and settle for the night, as we knew we had yet another early start – 5am! We sat for a while watching the lightning which seemed to be all around, and heading our way, yet it seemed to pass over us which we were all grateful for, sleeping only in tents! After the fire died down and the night closed in we headed into our saunas (oops we mean tents!) We all braced ourselves for a very uncomfortable, moist and sticky night. Lush! As another day’s adventure ended we looked forward to the next day including a safari style experience!
Anna and Viki S
Day 5: Back to Addis
Wednesday was the earliest start yet. We were woken up in tents at 5 o’clock, greeted by the roar of a lion which some people had heard through the night. Thankfully it was only the caged lion we had seen on the way in. While some took down tents, others cooked a breakfast of porridge. Meanwhile, the monkeys were back, dropping stuff out of trees on to us, which usually missed, but hurt when it didn’t!
After stopping to watch a beautiful African sunrise, we finished packing and washing up and we set off for a day of safari! Driving the bus around the park we saw gazelles, Oryx, ostriches, a huge tortoise, some guinea fowl and a warthog running across the road in front of us with its baby. No wild lions, but a great experience all the same.
Much of the rest of the day was taken up by travelling back to Addis, stopping for the odd drink. We stopped at the crocodile stop from yesterday again and all saw more crocodiles and marabou storks.
Back in Addis, a long awaited game a football was organised with the locals. We mixed the teams to keep things fair and drew 6-6 after what was surely the most frantic game of football ever played. About a third of the pitch was an ankle deep muddy swamp and at one point there was a huge water fight in a puddle in the far corner. The English “ferenjee” (foreigners) kept out of that one though.
After some shirt swapping and showers all round, we went out for some food and ate local injura (rolls of. . .something. a bit like pancake but more, umm, rubbery) Matthew accidentally ate a whole jalapeno and that certainly did make his eyes water!
Another early start tomorrow – up at four o’clock for a flight to Lalibela!
Matthew & Vicki Y
Day 6: To Lalibela
Today was a very early start, we all had to be packed and ready by 4:40! Everyone was a bit grouchy because they were so tired from the late night before. On the bus everyone was squashed as the cases had to come on with us inside the bus because of the rain… nobody could move!
Our busy schedule had caught up with some of the group members who were suffering a little and we were all quite tired. Despite a few dodgy tummies we all enjoyed our journey to Lalibela which was very interesting to say the least! We boarded a tiny little aircraft with propellers that were unbelievably noisy! Despite the noise the take off and landing was smoother than expected. Most people missed the airline drink and sarnie on the plane because they were sleeping!
When we arrived at Lalibela everybody was amazed at how small the airport was, we watched our cases being brought into the airport; we were in and out of the airport in a matter of minutes as there weren’t any queues because our aeroplane was the only one in the airport!
Driving in the minibus to the hotel was breathtaking…the views were incredible and very different to those in Addis. There was a lot of little mud huts named tukuls and everyone seemed to be farming with their cattle. As we got closer to Lalibela town the houses seemed to get bigger and ‘posher’.
Feelings about the hotel were mixed. The Seven Olives has an amazing view and nice food…but there was no electricity and therefore no running water and no flushing toilets! We have decided that the muddy unwashed look and fragrance is quite attractive.
A group of us went into the town to explore after lunch and met a group of children. They were very different to the children in Addis because they didn’t ask for anything at all, they just wanted to talk to us and have their photos taken. A few people got emotional when one boy named Gabree told us about the family history of many of the children. Despite being so poor they were so happy and cheerful. When one old lady pestered Ashleigh for money, all the children told her off and chased her away. We were quite concerned for the children because the soldier was watching and they kept getting told off for ‘bothering us’, so we spoke to the soldier and explained we didn’t mind and were enjoying it.
Whilst some were wandering the town, a few stayed back at the hotel. Alex R found a sick baby bird and Mark had brought it with him to the seating area of the hotel, he tried his best to nurture it back to health. He managed to get it to drink some water and it seemed to be recovering. We left to visit the churches of Lalibela so Mark had to leave it behind but had put it in a bird food house and we hoped it would be alright.
The churches were amazing. It is so hard to believe that they were carved down into the rock. We had to take our shoes off before entering the churches and in each one there was a priest dressed in cloaks carrying crosses. They also sported sunglasses for the camera flashes, which looked bizarre to say the least. There are thirteen churches but we only had time to see nine today, the rest we will visit tomorrow.
Richard decided it would be best to eat at the hotel and give our stomachs a rest from Ethiopian food. Everybody enjoyed their meal and spirits were lifted as we ate our dinner in candlelight and talked about first days at school etc. Despite a few stomachs still grumbling, the night went really well and we are all looking forward to the football match tomorrow!
Mark and Ashleigh.
Day 7: Day in Lalibela
At half past five some of the group got up early to go and see a ceremony at one of the churches, but the lazy majority of us stayed in bed and took the opportunity for an extra few hours sleep. Sean went his own way and attended a different ceremony to everyone else and was the only ‘forengie’ in the entire church. When the rest of the group gathered and had had breakfast after a bit of a lie-in, we got ready to visit the churches of Lalibela that we hadn’t had a chance to see the day before.
The remaining churches were all connected by underground tunnels, one of which was twenty five metres long and completely pitch black. We had to walk through this tunnel holding hands in a line and guide each other along; some students cried, but some sung some hit tracks by Bob Marley to keep up group morale. At another of the churches the priest performed with his drum and some impressive dance moves and also let some of the group try it out themselves. After the church tour we retired to the hotel for some gourmet sandwiches.
A football match was scheduled for 3 o’clock, between the Ryton group and Lalibela’s St. George team. We got into the spirit of the event, all wearing matching red football shorts and blue tops. The group was nervous and things started off slowly but after a while everyone got more into it and momentum had picked up by the end. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves even though it was a close defeat at 5-1 to Lalibela! We decided to put our loss down to the altitude making us more out of breath…
Some lucky souls in the group managed to get some water out of their showers back at the hotel and got cleaned up after the football, however the rest of us relaxed and went out spending until it was dinner time. In the evening we walked in the rain to a quaint little restaurant where a joyful woman served us delicious pizza and pasta. Some of us tried the local beer and then we experienced our first coffee ceremony. The water flooded into the restaurant, but there was going to be nothing to take the smile off our host’s face. She even served us free scrumptious popcorn and heated flatbread to compliment the coffee. The whole group felt complete and even those few who had been feeling a little under the weather all felt much better. United as one, we retired to the hotel in hope of a good nights sleep.
Sean and Abi
Day 8: To Gondar
It was an early start for some of the group who wanted to go up to the top of the hill behind the hotel to overlook Lalibela. The views were beautiful in the early morning sun and as well as seeing the sights, they met some local kids who showed off there gymnastic skills by doing the splits, much to the amazement of Mark and Richard. For the rest of us, we had to be up, packed and fed by 9a.m for the bus to the airport. We checked in at around ten for our twelve o’clock flight, which was going well until- shock horror- Leigh-anne was stopped and frisked, maintaining her record of a frisk at each airport we’ve been too so far! She retains her innocence about the whole affair, but we’re beginning to think she is up to no good…
Whilst waiting in the airport café for our flight and occupying ourselves with cards and books, Richard broke the devastating news that our flight was delayed indefinitely. To beat the boredom, several card games were played and numerous card towers were broken, and as if the delayed flight wasn’t enough, the Snickers and Mars bars at the café were extortionately overpriced! We did however receive a complimentary free meal and drink for our pain and suffering. This did, unfortunately, leave Anna a wee bit traumatised after being served a ‘vegetable’ pasta, which contained lumps of meat which she proceeded to munch through for a good two mouthfuls. Bad craic for the veggie! We eventually boarded the flight at around 3:30 for our 25 minute journey to Gondar, which passed over exceedingly quickly thanks to the celebrity name game, introduced by Sean.
On the ground and in a local bus and two taxis, we were eventually on our way into Gondar. The taxis were hilarious; one shared by Alex T, Abigail, Ashleigh and Sean did not have wing mirrors, working doors or a closing boot- SAFETY FIRST! Once we got to the Belegez Hotel, we were informed that our rooms had been given away amid the confusion of our delayed flight. So, whilst Richard tried to sort the situation, we split into two groups to go off and buy supplies for the mountains. One group went to the market and the other to the local shops (and the forengie ‘foreigner’ shops to buy chocolate spread and other vital food from home.) When we returned, we were told we were to go to the Amber Grass Hotel and that we needed to split our bags up between two of us with our mountain gear inside one. Upon arriving at the new Hotel, we realised that it was, in fact, gorgeous! The rooms were lovely and big, some even having a bath and shower! We met in the restaurant for a quick meal after getting settled in: pasta and tomato sauce for some and vegetable rice for others. We wolfed down our food and headed off to bed, ready for a 5 o’clock start to the mountains!
Alex T and Leigh-Anne
Day 9: To the Simiens
We got up at the Amber Rass Hotel at about quarter past 5 in the morning for the bus to pick us up at 6. or so we thought, as the bus was late by over an hour but to the joy of some people it was the original bus we had in Addis. Once it arrived we were able to get on our way just after 8. We stopped off at the bakery to get the trip’s supply of bread and some doughnuts and somosas for breakfast. We then headed off towards the Simiens. After a few hours of travelling we stopped in Debark for some food at about 11:30.
Whilst at Debark we invested in a “Reggae” cassette for our minibus, which then turned out, almost unsurprisingly to be anything but, however included a huge range of….erm, classics such as Boys to Men and the Macarena, which entertained us all for a good hour of so. Shortly after this we then began our approach to the mountains, driving up skinny mud tracks which meandered up the mountainside. The views were spectacular, like nothing we had ever seen before, drops of indescribable depths and wildlife such as baboons roaming in packs right outside our windows, so close in fact we decided to get out for a closer look, the interesting animals weren’t very inviting to begin with, however after a short period of time the baboons began to let us get that little bit closer to examine them, which made for some excellent photographs.
After about another hour or so our driving up the mountainside we finally arrived at camp in Sankobar where everyone immediately started to set up tents to avoid the rain, once we had settled in and gotten used to our surroundings we sat down around the fire in the tuckle to our first camp meal, pasta with tomato sauce, followed by a drink of hot chocolate or tea. After our drinks most of us headed off to bed ending our first night in the mountains. The small group of us that stopped up that little bit later got to make and have some popcorn we made over the fire in one of the pans before we decided to turn in. We thought it was late but it was only 9 o’clock.
Greg and Jack
Day 10: To Geech
People on duty for porridge had to be up at 6.30am but everyone else was allowed an extra half an hour in bed which made all the difference. It was a beautiful morning and we all enjoyed the walk to begin with, walking steadily uphill to see some spectacular views, the likes of which we have never seen before. We started to notice the difference in altitude as what we could have managed at home, was now much more difficult. We reached the Jimbar waterfall which has the highest drop of any in Africa of about 350m, and it was incredible. We were there for about 10 minutes before the mist set in and suddenly it just disappeared, so we were very lucky to see it.
Further into our walk the rain began but it wasn’t like any ordinary rain; within minutes we were surrounded by muddy torrents and we were all soaked through. We managed to get above the floods and eat our soggy bread throughout the continuous rain. Like true Rytoners we carried on despite our wet boots and eventually we seemed to have dried off…
We rounded a corner and to our surprise came across a huge, fast-flowing river. There were differences of opinion about crossing it as some were scared whilst others were excited, but Richard and the scouts guided us safely across using a rope as a banister. We eventually reached Geech camp and after a bit of confusion over which tuckle was ours we settled down to cook the tea. Everyone was cold and tired so we ate, put our boots around the fire to dry and got an early night, ready for the next day.
Lauren and Anna
Day 11: A day in Geech
Today we were allowed a lie in!! No wake up calls or plans that needed an early start! (However some still woke up earlyish due to their new routine!). Once all had emerged from tents and made it to the tuckle for the same old lovely porridge, we could all decide whether to go on a walk (not very popular) or just have a chilled day around camp, later venturing into the village for eggs. A few who did decide on the walk didn’t get far in the end! After making it up a hill to the edge of a cliff (although this couldn’t be seen due to clouds!) they sat and had lunch then made their way back down to camp. While making their way back to camp they did come across some local children who were showing off their whipping skills and after trying their hand at it themselves some people made a purchase! After arriving back at camp and testing out their new whips, Richard decided to also, all ended in tears when he hit his face rather than the ground and now has an impressive scar to tell the tale!
Meanwhile while the walkers went trekking, the others who decided on the chilled and relaxed day did just that. While a few stayed snuggled in tents, Emma took Victoria S, Georgia, Alex R and Lauren into Geech for eggs where we also met Dawit’s (our mountain guide’s) sister who made real coffee right in front of us in her mud hut home! She washed the beans, roasted, ground them before boiling them up in a kettle on the stove – can’t get fresher than that! After leaving here the heavens opened and it hail stoned all over us while heading back to camp! We decided to collect the eggs from passing by children for 1birr each! (5p!). Although dripping wet – yet again, we had our eggs for eggy bread! While Victoria S got cracking on with the yummy eggy bread (LOL) the tea was bought.
As we had been previously warned tonight was the night that we were to ‘choose’ our goat for a stew/curry dinner. Where we were, with meat being a luxury, we appreciated that we were lucky enough to do so, something we so often take for granted at home. As some of us decided to steer clear of the killing, however some brave and seemingly more curious of us huddled to the other tuckle as the goat (named Billy by Victoria S and Leigh-Anne) said his goodbyes as a cute petting goat becoming butcher meat soon to fill our tummies. No pain was felt as the actual killing was quick and soon became more of a Biology lesson! Billy was soon found to be a ‘she’ when ovaries were discovered and once all other ‘bits’ had been the whole experience was over. Richard, Andy and Matthew took charge of the chopping, slicing and cutting the meat as others prepared the vegetables and rice.
Once all cooked and ready to devour- that’s exactly what we did! (Except for our veggies who enjoyed the meat-free version!) Some of us exclaimed it being one of the nicest meals we’d had so far, others bravely trying the meat yet not taking to it as well. Overall it seemed a success.
The night was ended with all huddled in the tuckle around the fire with all our soaking clothes! As the night drew in people gradually began lugging themselves to their tents for a cold and uncomfortable night and the thought of a rather early morning due to the huuuuge walk back to Sankobar the next day.
Vicki Y and Viki S
Day 12: Back to Sankobar
Day 12 saw the group split in two again. For most, the day involved a long trek back to camp Sankobar, about a five or six hour walk. However, for a dedicated (or possibly mental) few, the day began with an hour and a half walk out to Imet Gogo, a four kilometre high viewpoint, followed immediately by the walk all the way back to Sankobar . . .
The Imet Gogo group begin to rise, steeling themselves for a ridiculously long day to come.
The Straight-to-Sankobar group catch up on some much missed sleep.
Group Imet (Ashleigh, Lauren, Matthew, Sean, Andy, Sarah, Dawoud and random, rifle-carrying scout) are packed, porridged and all but ready to go.
The Straight-to-Sankobar group are still catching up on some much missed sleep, some are beginning to stir, having shared a tent with the Imet group.
Group Imet set off on the beginning of their extended trek, walking across grassy hills, between palm trees and gurgling streams, towards an orange African sunrise, sleepy, slightly fatigued and again, possibly mad.
The Straight-to-Sankobar group are beginning to rise for their part of the trip, readying themselves for their long (not as long as the Imet Group) trip back to Sankobar.
Group Imet have made it to the dazzling viewpoint of Imet Gogo, 3,926 metres above sea level. There are some clouds, but here and there, through gaps in the white blanket, incredible views of the hillsides a kilometre below can be seen, with villages and clusters of tuckels the size of pinheads. Behind, the cliffs stretch onwards, dropping vertically into the clouds. It is spectacular but already the group are beginning to tire. It’s going to be a long walk back to Sankobar.
The Straight-to-Sankobar group are enjoying a breakfast of, you guessed it, porridge, having packed up their luggage and their tents.
Group Imet have begun the trek back to Sankobar, following the line of the cliff around so as to avoid the river which had caused so many problems on the way to Geech, by walking around its source.
The Straight-to-Sankobar group are setting off. The mules are waiting to be packed, apart from one which has been hired by the group to ease the journey back for a tired and footsore few.
Group Imet, after several hours of walking, have made it to the road. The countryside is looking very English; endless grassy moor-land, dotted with grey rock. You could almost believe you were in Dartmoor, if not for the 3½ km altitude and sporadic ground-cloud. The afternoon rains have begun with a few light showers, but its nothing too bad. . . Yet . . .
The Straight-to-Sankobar group have also reached the road in their part of the trip back, having had lunch about 10 minutes before, and are beginning the easier but still muddy trek back to Camp Sankobar.
The Straight-to-Sankobar group have made it back to camp, tired and weary from a days walk. The river crossing again caused problems as Vicky Y found herself in the river underneath one of the guards, following some confusion with Andy’s almost infallible rope-relay river crossing technique, but all was well in the end.
Group Imet are still on the road and are concealed in thick cloud. The rains have held off, but only being able to see a few metres in any direction makes for a strange journey.
Group Imet make it back to camp, just as the rains begin, shattered after a nine hour walk.
The tents are set up, the kettle is on and everyone sits back and relaxes with a cup of hot chocolate.
Following an evening meal of pasta and very herby tomato sauce, people begin to head off to their tents, ready for an early start and the long drive to Bahir Dar tomorrow.
Day 13: To Bahir Dar
We had a lie in today…7:00am. The morning was a bit of a rush, packing up the tents, washing up and sorting out what to leave behind for the scouts. The majority of us left cups, plates, marmalade and chocolate spread: they thought all their Christmas’ had come at once!
The bus was full to the brim. There was a family from Geech that we were taking to the clinic, scouts and a woman from Israel that had been walking with us the day before: we felt like we were on a cattle truck as we were almost sat on top of each other and were sweating buckets!
We stopped the bus on our way out of the mountains and all clambered out so that we could stand on the edge of the mountain and witness the spectacular views; there were massive birds of prey circling the forest below us which was enchanting to watch. Once we managed to tear ourselves away from the edge and back onto the bus, we drove a bit further down the road to see some baboons.
We sat and watched the baboons play, eat and fight…it was fascinating, Everyone was baffled as to how they all stuck close together and didn’t leave anyone behind. The younger ones were doing cartwheels and pulling the tails of the adults which was amusing to say the least. Dawoud spoke to the group about the baboons and taught us about their ways, whilst Richard hid in the trees with his video camera trying his best to capture the baboons!
When we reached Debark the truck became a little less cramped as the load of people lightened. We had some lunch in a hotel (more eggs!) and bought some more cassettes for the journey; this time it was Ethiopian Reggae and Michael Jackson! There was plenty of singing on the bus, although we discovered that you can only listen to the Macarena, Boys to Men and Michael Jackson a few times before it becomes painful! Once the singing died down from the students and the bus driver had grown tired of dancing to MJ, Sarah and Emma piped up with songs from ‘their era’…which was caught on camera.
It was a long journey to Bahir Dar and by the time we arrived it was the evening and we were all ready for a nice hot shower and some long awaited food that wasn’t pasta with tomato sauce. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the hotel the electricity was off again and we had yet another cold shower, but other than that we felt immersed in luxury as we were able to set our eyes on running water and cool bottles of Mirinda.
The group settled at about half past seven for some delicious food at the restaurant and after that people made their way wearily to bed. It had been a long day and we were all ready for our first good night’s sleep in what felt like years.
Abigail and Ashleigh.
Day 14: First Day of Project
After spending our first night in Bahir Dar we all woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after spending a night in an actual bed as opposed to a cold, wet tent. We all met to have breakfast and were all very relieved to find that porridge was not our only option and many ordered the French toast which was truly delicious. After being fed and briefed about the day’s agenda we all piled onto our trusty minibus and set off for Shimbet School where we were going to carry out our project. When we arrived at the school we were given a friendly welcome by the Director of the school and were swiftly taken on a tour of the classrooms. Walking around the school we were shocked at how little there was and how basic the classrooms were and it was evident that our help would be greatly appreciated.
After being shown around the classrooms we soon realised that we had a huge workload ahead of us as most classrooms had gaping holes in their muddy walls, desks and doors needed repairing and all of the rooms were in desperate need of a spring cleaning. We decided to go to a local café to discuss what needed doing and also we gathered to brainstorm our ideas about how we thought we could transform the school. Working in groups, we came up with numerous ideas which ranged from painting walls, creating murals to more original ideas such as Sean’s beanbag suggestion mentioned in his speech, which provoked a lot of giggles from the rest of the group. After deciding a list of possible improvements that we could carry out we began to create a shopping list in preparation for our trip to the market.
Once we had composed a list of ideas and a ‘to buy’ list we set off to visit the New Day Centre where we would also be carrying out another project. We were really excited to finally see the centre and meet the students who would be helping us with our numerous projects. Once we got there we were amazed at how bright and inviting the centre was and we were overwhelmed at how friendly and polite the Ethiopian students were as each one greeted us with a handshake and introduced themselves. After meeting the students we were shown around the centre and really got a feel of how important the centre was to the students and we also got a feel of how hot it is in Bahir Dar during the day which was a bit of a shock to find we would be working in the heat.
We made our way back from the centre via a ‘Tuk Tuk’ which is a small three wheeled vehicle which are a very popular form of transport in Bahir Dar. Our first ‘Tuk Tuk’ experience back to the hotel was both exciting yet absolutely terrifying at the same time due to the constant fear that you would simply roll out when turning corners. Once at the hotel we made our way to the market to buy cleaning supplies. The market was both a relief and a nightmare at the same time as the paths were extremely muddy, yet it was a relief that we didn’t receive too much attention from the locals. We tested our haggling skills to get all of the things we needed such as mops, buckets, sponges etc and once we had everything we needed we made our way back to the hotel with armfuls of cleaning supplies which were met with a few laughs and funny looks from the locals.
Back at the hotel we made a plan of the week’s events and then went to a nearby hotel for something to eat where we were seated under a metal shelter outside which didn’t prove to shelter us from the torrential rain attacking us as we ate. Once full everyone made their way back to the hotel and straight to bed ready for the day of cleaning ahead of us.
Leigh-Anne and Sean
Day 15: First day of Project
After looking at the work we had cut out for us the day before we got up early, ready to set out on the new project of improving the school. We got the bajaj to the school and were all allocated a job to do. Most people were sent to clean the newer blocks ahead of painting them and others cleaned out the older blocks and took the tables out ready for fixing or scrapping.
Once the older blocks were cleaned out and the tables were sorted, the people working in them headed out with scrubbers and brooms to begin the tidying of the newer blocks so the painting could arrive faster. While all this was happening at the school some people were up at the centre preparing that for a spot of painting and doing some gardening ahead of the possible dinner evening that would be held some point in the next week for the centre to raise its profile and some money.
During this time a few of us, along with Fanta the night guard, headed out to the market and other local shops to buy the bread, oranges and bananas for lunch. Unfortunately we miss calculated the amount we needed to feed all the students, ‘forengie’ and teachers. So Sarah Andy and Emma headed out to make up the numbers to feed those who were left hungry.
After lunch, we swapped groups at the centre and carried on doing the same work so that we could start head on tomorrow with the paint! It was good hard work, with plenty of impromptu water fights. We finished at around 4 and all headed back to the centre to re-group and plan out the next day.
We had a free night without the teachers, so we all tagged along with Ashleigh, Alesha and Josie to Rendezvous Pizzeria for some pizza with ACTUAL cheese!! It was so good, we all ate way too much and struggled to get in the bajaja’s and back to the Ghion for a good nights sleep.
Greg and Alex Tips
Day 16: Second day of project
This is the day we started to paint the school and the first block was done by lunchtime as the Ethiopians were particularly quick. We all enjoyed ourselves listening to them singing traditional Amharic music whilst they worked. It proved hard for us to keep busy as they were all so eager to help we kept losing our jobs. At the Centre they had begun to paint the new boy’s changing room amongst other things, making it look better already.
In the afternoon more painting was done at the school and the preparation for the next day; which involved scrubbing years and year’s worth of dirt off the walls. Things got pretty messy at the Centre that afternoon as we started to paint the bamboo walls of their outside classroom in a bright blue colour. As time went by more and more paint ended up on the faces of us all and Lauren and Vicky S discovered that the white paint they had all over their hands was actually gloss! New tarpaulin was put up to keep the sun out of the student’s eyes whilst they worked and the centre looked much brighter by that afternoon.
A group of us went back to the hotel to set the tents out to dry whilst a few of us stayed back to tidy everything up. It had gotten quite late and everyone had worked so hard that we decided it would be a lovely idea to take all the kids from the Centre that wanted to go to get ice cream at a place near our hotel. We walked along with them all, chatting and finding out more about them. When we arrived we all went up onto the roof terrace with an amazing view of Lake Tana. We all ordered an ice cream except Simachu who was the only one that had had it before and it had made him ill – he had Fanta instead. We couldn’t believe that they had never had ice cream before, some hadn’t even heard of it! So we were really pleased to be giving them this treat. We don’t know who was more excited by the Flump / Fruit Salad flavour; it was the best ice cream ever! We all had a great time and took lots of photos.
That night we ate in the hotel as we needed an early night for getting up to visit the Blue Nile Falls the next morning.
Lauren and Jack
Day 17: The Falls and more Project
We had another fairly early start, with breakfast at 7 and the usual French toast, cornflakes and fried eggs! We had to be all ready for getting on the bus by 8.15am to set off for the falls. The journey took about half an hour in our trusty bus, and once there we were surrounded by guides all wanting to show us around. After guiding ourselves towards the falls, we were met by several children introducing themselves to us and desperately trying to sell us souvenirs. The short climb uphill was made slightly harder by the blazing hot sun – it was sun cream all round! We reached a spot where we caught our first glimpse of the ‘not so’ Blue Nile Falls, but it was still quite spectacular. One group photo later and we were off to get one step closer to the action, but first we had to cross yet another river! However, this river was no where near as bad as those in the mountains. The only downside was the locals offering their ‘help’, which we didn’t really need and knew would come at a price. Our trip across the river in groups of three was surprisingly refreshing in the heat and we were soon all safely on the other side. “Just a little bit further” we were told, however a muddy hill to climb first, which was difficult for those wearing flip-flops to negotiate! The noise from the falls was growing ever louder so we knew we were getting closer now, but still no sign. Eventually, “just around one more corner” and we were met by the incredible sight of Africa’s second largest waterfall. The spray was very powerful and soon we all looked like we had just had a very bad spray tan! Some of the group decided to get even dirtier… They ventured right down, the gloves were off and there was a mud fight to be had! Andy started it, and Greg, Jack, Ashleigh, Abi, Mark and Matthew all joined in. It was good fun for all, especially for those watching them trying to climb back up the hill covered from head to toe in mud, mud glorious mud. Nearly unrecognisable, they made it up the bank and we pressed on heading back for the bus. Soon we were faced with yet another river crossing, but this time we were going to be staying dry. A boat trip was in order because of our crocodile friends. Safely across nice and dry and we were back to the bus, ready to head back to Bahir Dar to get on with the project.
After the muddy lot got a quick clean up some of the group headed for Shimbit School, the others to the centre. At the school it was all hands on deck for painting and more cleaning of the classrooms- which took a fair bit of elbow grease and sweat to get those walls gleaming! By the end of it the painters had nearly as much paint on themselves as on the walls and the cleaners were soaked through! Fun all round!
Meanwhile the centre was also undergoing its makeover! Some of us continued working on the scrapbook project with a group of the centre students and the others started on the tuckle. This included repairing the bamboo, giving it a lick of vibrant blue paint and adding a plastic covering to keep the sun out for lessons. However this vibrant blue paint also seemed less on the bamboo and more on those painting! A shower of white spirit later and our busy, busy day was coming to an end, yet the night just beginning…
Once back at The Ghion it was decided we should chill and grab a bite to eat there. The centre manager Fikeru joined us, we taught him how to play a few card games, ate some really nice fish or pasta dishes then we headed out for a spot of shoulder dancing. When we got to a well known traditional club, unfortunately we discovered the clubs were a lot smaller than ours back home and it was pretty full. Some decided to make our way to another club, others deciding an earlier night was in order. The eager party people found ‘Dreamhouse’- a little less of a traditional place to go. We found the DJ out back and took full advantage of requesting songs!! After truly dancing the night away we called it a night and tiptoed back to our hotel rooms and all were sound asleep as soon as heads touched pillows.
Anna and Victoria S xx
Day 18: Last day of project and fundraising evening
Tuesday brought with it the last day of our project in Bahir Dar, and there was a lot of preparation to be done for a special fundraising event that evening: the members of the New Day Centre were going to put on a buffet meal for about twenty foreign hotel guests, with performances of traditional Ethiopian music and dance, at the centre.
Teachers and students from Ryton spent the day spreading the word and selling tickets for the evening at 100 birr each. As well as this, there was a lot of work to be finished at the centre and at Shimbat School. While some of the Ethiopian students fixed furniture at the school, the Rytonians busied themselves by building a reading corner from eucalyptus wood and bamboo, and fixing some plumbing for the washing of clothes. Others set up a shop, gathering all sorts of things for sale in the evening, includin g clothes and jewellery produced by children at the centre. Some went to a Catholic school nearby to buy handmade table cloths and traditional Ethiopian clothes for the children to wear, and trained some centre members as temporary waiters for the evening.
Some more spent there time preparing the food for the evening, with Ashleigh, Vicky S and Abi mashing fruit for puddings by hand (the electricity had cut out)
Although we did not attend the evening ourselves, we were assured it was a great success, raising nearly 4,000 birr for the centre. A lot of us were lucky enough to catch some rehearsals of the children’s performance, with some shoulder shaking and some very good drumming.
Matthew and Vicki Y
Day 19: Shimbot and The New Students
On our nineteenth day we had the biggest lie in yet… we didn’t have to be ready until 9 o’ clock, and then we had a relaxing morning with no manual labour involved. As part of welcoming the new students to the centre we were in charge of making up goody bags to present them with at the celebrations that afternoon, so in the morning we split into groups and went to the market to get things like candles, tissues and oranges to fill up the bags.
When the goody bags were finished, we packed up any clothes we were leaving behind and then headed over to the Day Centre. The new students had arrived when we got there; sitting with the current students, getting to know each other and all looking very nervous. Each of our group was paired with a current student at the Centre with good English who could translate what the new students were saying when we interviewed them about their past. Hearing their stories was hard for us as we have realised, since coming to Ethiopia and meeting people who struggle from day to day, how much we take things for granted. It was a nerve wracking experience because asking them about what they’ve had to deal with in the past had to be done tactfully and was tricky for some of us.
After the interviewing, everyone at the centre walked down to Shimbot for a big game of rounders; something the Ethiopian students had never experienced before. Some of us were pleased as their inability to queue made sure that some of our group didn’t have to take a turn batting. Some of the current students at the centre made coffee and we had a coffee ceremony and presented the new students with their goody bags, which they seemed very pleased with. Also, the Director of Shimbot School dropped in to thank everyone for all of the work we had done in making the school looking so much better than when we started out; it was very rewarding.
In the evening we went back to the centre to spend our last night with the students and were joined by some traditional Ethiopian dancers. The Ethiopian students put us all to shame with their fantastic shoulder shaking, but we had a great time giving it a go anyway. We all got carried away dancing and singing. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed spending time with our new friends. At the end of the night we spent a long time saying goodbye to everyone at the centre, even though we were popping back in the morning to say goodbye properly in the daylight. All in all, it was a great day and hopefully we made the new students feel as welcome at the centre as we were made to feel after just a couple of days.
Later on, after some food, some of the group went out into town and found a traditional Ethiopian shoulder dancing bar, where we put our new skills in to use once again. Some of us even tried Tej (honey beer) and had mixed reactions to the taste. We spent the night dancing and thoroughly enjoyed our last night in Bahir Dar. We fell into our beds wearily, not looking forward to the morning where we would have to leave the beloved centre.
Abigail & Mark
Day 20: A birthday to remember
Today was a very early start, we were all out of our rooms ready for our boat trip around Lake Tana by half past 5. We met the new students from the New Day Centre and took them on the trip too; they were all very excited and many of them had their new football tops on that we had given as gifts the day before.
The boat trip was very interesting; we saw pelicans, hippos as well as local fisherman in little boats. In total we spotted around 4 hippos…they were enormous! The sunrise was spectacular and the colours were beautiful.
After the boat trip we went for breakfast and gave Greg his birthday cards and present. Once we had all eaten we climbed aboard our beloved bus and headed for the Day Centre. Everybody was surprised at how emotional saying goodbye to the children at the Centre was, as we had all grown attached to them. It was nice to know that the children had made a lasting impression on the group.
The bus journey was very enjoyable with some amazing views when travelling through the Blue Nile Gorge. The usual sing along to Michael Jackson’s greatest hits cassette took place…however the singing died down when we realised the bus brakes were burning up and we dreaded the thought of having to use the Vango tents for one final time! Luckily our trusty bus driver fixed the problem and we were back on the road to Addis in no time.
We were greeted by the familiar fragrance of Addis Ababa as we stepped off the bus at the Yonas. After some delicious sandwiches and chips in the hotel restaurant we retired to our beds relishing the thought of having a warm shower in the morning!
Alex and Sean
Day 21: Market and the UN
Today we were treated to a bit of a lie in as we were allowed to laze around in bed until 9:30 which was greatly appreciated by all. After breakfast we left the hotel at around 10:30 and set off on a short walk to the local market to buy some souvenirs. The market itself was fairly small yet there was a vast selection of beautiful scarves at habashawagga (local, cheap) prices meaning that they were quickly snapped up. After spending about half an hour browsing around the market and a few local shops we made our way back to the hotel in order to have a spot of lunch ready for an afternoon at the UN.
Once lunch was eaten we all piled onto our trusty mini bus and made our way to the official UN building. Once we got there we had our passports checked, were all issued with our visitor passes and met our guide who was to give us a private tour around the building. Stepping through the glass doors of the building we were all blown away by the direct contrast in our surroundings as we were met with modern, clean décor which seemed world’s apart from the scenes on the surrounding streets outside of the building. We were first shown the huge stained glass windows which consisted of three windows: one showing Africa’s struggle during slavery, Africa’s triumph over slavery and also the people of Africa being united in their fight for freedom. The windows themselves were breathtaking as the colours glistened in the light and it is believed that the windows in the UN building are one of the largest free-standing stained glass windows in the world, standing at 150 metres squared, created which is extremely impressive to have witnessed for ourselves. After viewing the windows we were shown into a couple of conference rooms which was interesting to be in the same rooms which had been used by many important African politicians and many of us felt a certain air of power standing on the stage behind the podium, especially Greg who gave an impressive speech on school dinners. After being shown around the conference rooms we were then allowed to visit the shops within the UN centre which had shelves overflowing with beautiful handmade items which were added to the ever expanding list of souvenirs purchased by all. Once we had bought some souvenirs and had finished our tour we gave a huge thanks to our guide, Sophia, for help in showing us around and answering our questions about the work of the UN itself. We then got our passports back and hopped back onto the bus back to the hotel to get ready for our surprise night out for a belated celebration for Greg’s birthday.
We were all taken to a local restaurant and were all blown away when sampling the traditional food Injera as well as some amusing shoulder dancing by the professional dancers.
More to follow.
Leigh-Anne and Alex T
Day 22: Shopping till we dropped
After a nice long lie in we crawled out of bed to our last breakfast at the Yonas Hotel. Today we spent almost the entire day touring the local markets for souvenirs, trying out our now brilliant haggling skills to get the best price for our gifts. The first market we visited was called Shiro Meda where we found a great deal of goodies such as bracelets and necklaces. We also went to the Former Women Wood Carriers’ Project where we saw some beautiful scarves being made on old looms. We walked away having bought lots of these scarves. Meanwhile some others of the group were given money to buy lots jewellery, hats and more scarves all of which are going to be sold in aid of the centre back in the UK.
From there we then went to a second market named Churchill Avenue, which had a nice combination of market shops and shops with fixed prices which were still reasonable.
Once our pockets were empty and our feet were sore we headed back to the Yonas to get ready for our last night out together and for the long night ahead that faced us. We didn’t know where we were going to go for our last meal but what was wanted was the Zebra Grill, the place where we went for our first meal. We had to wait until 9:30 to find out but we got what we wanted and once there we all enjoyed a nice meal together for the final time. After our food we headed back to the Yonas and waited for the bus to come at half past midnight to take us to the airport and the long journey home.
Greg and Jack
Day 22 Back Home
Each year, when we return home, it is with mixed feelings and this year was no exception. As we flew over the Sahara I looked out of the window of the plane at the sandy landscape. Soon we would be back home with friends and family, turning on a tap and getting running water, hot when needed, with an reliable electicity supply, a working mobile phone, familiar music and of course that perfect roast dinner that we had been thinking about for the last three weeks. But looking out at the unimaginably large expanse of nothingness below my thoughts were of a small group of children, in a corner of Bahir Dar, a town in the north west of Ethiopia, a country of now over 70 million.
The Ryton2Ethiopia trip is not just about visiting an amazing country in Africa. The New Day Children’s Centre was set up in July 2006 to support disavantaged children in Bahir Dar and when we left the centre, just three days before, a new group of students had joined us. They were understandably a little shy and very nervous but the elder students welcomed them in manner that was deeply touching to observe. It was clear that the moment these children had stepped foot into the centre they had become part of a family, something many of them had not experienced for a good number of years.
Three years ago I remember opening the gate of our first centre to see a group of young people standing there, hanging off each other, saying that they had come for the computer class – they had been told we were opening a computer school. This was the first group of students who were to join the centre. We explained exactly what we were doing and two days later welcomed them in. They too were very nervous but it was the look of sadness that they had about them that I can remember so vividly. I look at those same students now – Genet, Aweke, Abera, Semachew, Worku and the others – the look of sadness has long since gone and they are now happy, healthy, confident young adults.
This year’s trip saw the fifth group of students from Ryton travel to Ethiopia. They were a wonderful group and they were a pleasure to be with and they should be exceptionally proud of what they have achieved over the past year. Not only have they experienced three weeks in a world very different to what they were used to, but in being there to see the new cohort of students join the centre in July they have played an extremely important part in changing the future of these children to one that is much brighter and full of hope. And this is what makes all the difference – we have met them, we have talked to them and we will remember them.
On behalf of Ryton Comprehensive School, myself, Emma, Sarah and Andy, my thanks goes to everyone who helped make Ryton2Ethiopia 2009 such a success. Without your hard work and support it would not be possible.
The New Day Children’s Centre
Supporting education in Ethiopia