Star Date:  March 2015
Ethiopia I -  Addis Ababa and  South towards Arba Minch


Hello Dear Family & Friends!

"Selam,  Endeneh?  Dehnanegm.
(Hello, How are you?  I am fine.  Amarec)


"A ship in the harbor is safe.
But that's not what ships are built for."

William Shedd)

A One Way Ticket to Ethiopia.  Ticket in hand there was no going back.  With all the tension in the world and the high radiation readings we had thought to just hide away and let the storm subside.  We have been trying for 12 years to go to the Middle East but the US military had other ideas.  Sitting by the lake having breakfast at Lake Toba, I looked at Joseph and Joseph back at me.  Screw it!  It's now or never and so the 'plans' began.  Ethiopia, Jordan, overland to Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Croatia, Tunisia, Mali, Morocco, Mexico, C*ba, Hawaii and back to S.E Asia.  Not our usual way of traveling but sort of like skipping stones across a pond, or around the world as this case is. 

Sometimes in life, once you have done all you can possibly do, the noise melts into silence and in that Silence the answers are revealed.  Fear is replaced by a certain calmness and strength.  We know that no matter the predicament of our planet and our Universe we are but one Universe in a vast sea of galaxies.  We know that planning is a lesson in futility by its very nature.  Just a chance for the Universe to chuckle.  Plan by plan by plan has been burst like bubbles in the wind.  And so we have decided, with a stronger sense of calmness, to continue our adventure, living proactively rather than re-actively.  And so Ethiopia, North Africa and beyond.  God willing, as they say here.

There is always a bit of apprehension when embarking to a distant continent.  Arriving in Addis Ababa, the capitol, at 1am we proceeded through the customs department.  We had just spent 6 hours in Doha, Qatar one of the most state of the art airports in our 12.5 years of travel.  They had a food court with a salad bar, shops, and even a quiet sleeping room.  Like a needle scratching across a vinyl record we rewound upon landing in the dingy, dirty arrival hall.  We were given our 3 month visa no problem and had a smile on our face, unlike the 50 or so men in line waiting to be deported.  Stepping outside into the complete darkness (power outages are common), we walked across the rocky, uneven courtyard and were relieved to see a small car waiting for us.  Now 2:45am we had arranged for the brother of Choice Guesthouse to meet us.  Tucked under warm covers we quickly fell asleep, ready to embrace whatever lies ahead.

Another day, another adventure, we set out in the morning to explore the side streets and stock up on fruit for breakfast.  Once hitting the main streets we were thrown into the confusion and turmoil that is Addis.  A city of contrasts there are stalls and back alleys that haven't changed in centuries, right next to a super highway under construction or one of the many, many high rises being constructed.  Ethiopia has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 10 years, a far cry from the haunting pictures of starving children flashed across our T.V. screens decades ago. 

What a fascinating history this ancient country of Abyssinia has had.  Cave paintings and archeological digs have proven relics of Stone Age hunter gatherers then millet cultivation as early as 4000BC.  Historians claim that Egyptians, Greeks, Yemenese all settled here and influenced the culture.  Oral tradition in Ethiopia claims that Ethiopic, the great grandson of Noah first settled here.  His son founded Axum and started a dynasty of rulers that lasted 97 generations.  The greatest of these monarchs was Queen Makeda, who in the 10th century BC owned a fleet of 73 ships and a caravan of 520 camels, which traded with ports as far away as India and Palestine.  Her capitol was Sabea, outside of Axum.  Early in her rule the Queen of Sabea, or Queen of Sheba made a visit to King Solomom in Jeruselum.  She was bearing gold, ivory and spices and was invited to stay in the royal palace.  Apparently the Queen of Sheba fell in love with King Solomon and returned to Ethiopia converted to Judiasm and carrying King Solomon's son.  Menelik, born months later returned to meet his Father at age 22.  He studied the Laws of Moses for 3 years and as King Solomons first born he was offered claim to the throne.  He refused but when he returned to Ethiopia, at Solomon's request, he was accompanied by the eldest sons of Solomon's high commissioners, and 1,000 people of each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  Dream after dream led to the Ark of the Covenant being transported by Azariah to Ethiopia and is supposedly housed in the Church of Saint Mary Zion in present day Axum.  The Queen of Sheba abdicated to her son and the dynasty of Solomonic ruled until 1974 when the 237th  Solomonic monarch, Haile  Selassie, was overthrown in the revolution.

Most Ethiopians accept this history unquestioningly.  Only one person alive has seen the Ark of the Covenant in it's supposed location.  Built by the Children of Israel, with God's specific instructions , the Ark of the Covenant was housed in King Solomon's Palace.  When his temple was destroyed in 587BC, it is theorized that the Ark had been removed long before.  Who knows for sure?  This artifact with great powers has never been officially recovered, that is unless you have watched Indiana Jones, "The Last Crusade".  We will look for it in Petra, Jordan when we are in the desert.

Emperor Haille Selassie ruled from 1930-1974, except for the brief 5 year Italian occupation.  He was revered by his people but many questioned his lack of improvements to Ethiopia over 40 years.  When very little was done to help the 200,000 victims of the tragic famine of 1973, a revolution saw a new Prime Minister put in power by the military.  The Emperor was arrested in his palace and driven to prison in the back of a VW beetle, mocking his years of opulence.   Haile Sellasie officially died of a heart attack, or was smothered by his successor while sleeping, or according to the Rastas residing in Ethiopia, Ras Tefari's body was never recovered and this icon will live forever. 

Another famine claimed over 1,000,000 lives in the Northeastern regions of Ethiopia when the rains failed in 1985.  At first the west refused to help the then Socialist Ethiopia and when the aid finally trickled in Mengistu, the current Prime Minister, was too busy doing away with his opposition to distribute it in a timely manner.  The majority of the deaths of this natural phenomenon could have been prevented.  In 1990 the DERG or Socialist party was defeated.  A proud people, Ethiopia is the only African country to have avoided long term colonialism.  Later a try at democracy was spoiled by the bitter war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Peace was declared in 2000.  Two of the poorest countries in the world, both countries ended up losing; with great loss of lives, financial instability, and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons being expelled back into their former countries. 

Much improvement has been seen over the last ten years in Ethiopia and Ethiopians are confident that this progressive movement in infrastructure and business will advance the country and raise the standard of living.  An election in the next couple of months will determine this outcome.  These generous, friendly, helpful people deserve a government free of corruption and greed.  But then where on this planet is this the case? 

The welcoming, friendly owner, "Mr Hope", his family and staff helped get us settled in into Addis and pointed us in the right direction.  We consider Tefaye and Alem his wife, sons Moses & Noh, and daughter Maya new friends in Ethiopia.  A lovely family and so helpful.  We exchanged knowledge, computer information and stories.  Our final night we were treated to the fun, interesting show of Ethiopian music and dance at Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant, while tasting traditional dishes and drinks.  A very fun evening.  We knew, from reading, that we needed to start south to beat the rain that is notorious for wiping out roads in the Lake Turkana region of Southern Ethiopia.  We had made it north along Lake Turkana in Kenya in a truck several years earlier but were unable to cross into Ethiopia because of border disputes.  Never say Never to us!

Sashamene is a busy noisy crossroads heading south from Addis.  The grass is always greener on the other side of the ocean.  The promised land?  Several miles north of town is the eclectic Rastafarian settlement called Jamaica.  A group of Rastafarian devotees of Haile Selasie emigrated to this spot with his blessing, near the end of his rule.  It has been a bumpy road in the Promised Land and about 600 Rastas remain, eking out an existence in the sometimes harsh environment.  Three different groups within the community must get along and work together or it seems their future is uncertain.  Love not fear.  Scattered compounds, usually marked with the familiar red, green, black and yellow colors stretch back from the main little enclave of the Twelve Tribes Office along the highway.  We met several wonderful Rastas who made us feel welcome and showed us around a bit.  We shared computer info and visited Bernice and Karl at their Yawenta Children's Center -  this school/ treatment/counseling/ center for 110 poor children with HIV is an amazing place.  A great hands on project to support! (see below)  We had so much fun visiting the island of Jamaica for 3 months a few years back that it felt good to be in the company of the big hearted Rasta community again.  Minus Rasta Ital (vegan) food and Reggae music it had a different feel than their previous happy island home.  As a coincidence one of our good warm hearted Rasta friends from Jamaica, Ras Bo Bo (his photo on our main page) had been staying here for a couple of months.  We sadly missed him by a couple of weeks.  Wouldn't that have been a surprise to bump into each other 10,000 miles from home.  He helped arrange Joseph talking with Mutabaruka on Irie FM.  Small world. We were sent on our way with the saying, "Jah guidance on your travels".

Lake Hawassa has carved out a little warm spot in our hearts.  Staying in a very basic cottage along the lake, held together by a song and a prayer, this was definitely a view with a room.   Stepping back in time this compound was forgotten by the rushing, noisy world outside.  Just us and the luxurious, enormous old trees filled with monkeys and a steady display of migrating water birds in the lake.  The first morning we saw a few monkeys but once they discovered that "The Vegans' had landed with peelings to share from a fruit salad breakfast and a fresh veggie salad daily we became best buddies.  The next morning no less than 10 monkeys were lined up on our window sill looking in.  The Moms even got so they trusted us and brought their new little babies by for inspection.  At times up to 150 vervet or blue balled monkeys were grazing and scrounging in the woods in front of our cabin.  The striking, impressive, large Colobus monkeys also visited daily.  Looking like a combination of aliens from Battleship Galactica and black and white teddy bears it got so these completely wild yet gentle monkeys not only hung out in our yard but would follow us as we sat along the lake or took a walk.  One day a couple of these funny guys even showed up in the tree above the kitchen where I cooked nightly.  A possible infatuation?  We already had marauding vervet monkeys streaking and grabbing in the kitchen plus 4 hungry cats to feed so they weren't exactly welcome.

A place of relaxation we just couldn't get ourselves to move on.  Sitting by the lake was like watching a Discovery Channel program.  White egrets, florescent green footed ducks, pink footed red eyed doves, herons of all colors and sizes, 4 kinds of king fishers diving for dinner, little blue, yellow and red birds pecking for seeds, geese and ducks galore squawking, bell birds ringing in the tree tops, cormorants like Tuvin throat singers rippling their long throats and drying their wings in the sun.  Too many to observe and always someone new flying up to introduce themselves.  Just as things settled down you would hear a rustling in the reeds and an enormous 6 foot monitor lizard would betray his hunting spot.  Occasionally hippos would swim by, but for a better look at these comical yet deadly creatures we took a trip across the lake to see a couple of groups of hippos with new friends from Australia Colin and Mackers. Sitting along the lake we would watch the brush strokes across the sky at sunset, grateful for a chance to share in the diversity of God's creation.

A long bumpy ride in a broken bus found us in Arba Minch.   A town of dueling mosques, bell ringing evangelical churches, Protestants and the fasting time winners, the praying Orthodox priests.  In days gone by there were no microphones and all this was a pleasant, exotic grey noise in the background.  Now the battle of the loud microphones from before dawn Call to Prayer to the fasting time all night singing prayers of Orthodox priests is a test of one's sanity.  Always scan your possible hotel's location in 360 degrees.  The furthest you can get from the noise the better your nights sleep.  Call to Prayer only last's 5 minutes whereas these long winded priests went on all night!  Ah, life before microphones and loudspeakers!  Simple exotic singing or chanting becomes intrusive to all in the area once plugged in to a loud sound system.  I thanked God for ear plugs!   

Gateway to Omo Valley we had several promises of arranging a budget trip down to explore one of the last remaining wonders of the planet.  All fell through - even the guy who kept saying, "God Willing!"  Guess God wasn't willing.  In our usual synchronicity we bumped into Ephrem and his band of merries; modernized former tribes men: young Hamer, Dorze, Mursi men, all trying their hand in the 'big city'.  We treated them to enormous injera platters and shared some laughs.  We had never seen food disappear so fast in our lives.  It simply vaporized, so we just ordered another.  It is tradition to place a big round platter of injera on the table and all eat with their hands from the tasty vegetables and sauces, breaking off pieces and grabbing a bit of filling before popping it in your mouth. 

"Imalay!" We found endless smiles when taking a bus up to visit the Dorze tribe high above Arba Minch in the mountains.  Great views, clear mountain air, pine trees and even greater hospitality as Asemamaw introduced us to his family and tribe.  Weavers by profession they make beautiful, quality shawls and blankets worn by most Ethiopian women.  They live in 20 foot tall bamboo huts and their total existence is around the Utsa or false banana plant. After visiting Asemamaw's family hut they showed us how they scraped the pulp from the utsa then buried it in banana leaves in the ground for 3 months.  There it fermented and the thick paste was then flattened and cooked over the fire.  Served with honey from the hives in the trees and hot chili paste, it is washed down with the local honey wine or liquor made from, guess what, the utsa.  Cheers of, "Yo Yo Yo" got a response from the crowd of, "Yo Yhoe".  The more cheers the livelier the group got.  Still laughing we started the long journey down the mountain, catching the last bus before dark.  Jammed and crammed to the hilt we had to stand for 37km but arriving tired and happy I noticed everyone was still smiling!  

A communal society, Ethiopians are always out sharing an injera lunch or dinner.  About 4 pm a beautifully dressed woman starts preparations for the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony in most restaurants.  First she lights the charcoal fire, then roasts the fresh coffee beans.  Ah that smell is reminiscent of our home and Big Island of Hawaii Kona coffee.  Ethiopian coffee is also rated among the top coffees of the world.  Next she boils water and pours it in the unique brown ceramic coffee pot.  Lighting incense and popping corn she will serve your table small cups of fresh coffee, wafting the incense around your table, then producing a large bowl of popcorn to snack on - all for under 20 bir or one dollar.  People sit chatting and relaxing well into the evening.   Coffee, incense of the night, permeates the air and demonstrates just how laid back, friendly, welcoming Ethiopians are.  It is a luxuriant garden of smiles.  The "Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine" is also the Land of Endless Smiles!




And so it goes.........................................Next only 50 years ago the tribes of Omo Valley had no idea that Ethiopia existed, yet alone the continent of Africa or the wider world. A unique look into this land where time has stood still.  Let's remember to sail outside our harbor of comfort every once in a while, for it is there that we learn and grow.   Take care and Thanks for keeping in Touch!




Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph



Travel notes:

1 US Dollar equals 20.39 Ethiopian Birr


Addis Ababa:

Bole district, Addis Ababa:

Choice Pension, on the way from Gotera to Saris,  Phone # 0911304040 or  0114707273  A quiet little pension with several modern rooms, cooking facilities, set around a small pleasant courtyard.  Wifi most of the time.  Clean, extremely helpful staff and owners.  Also provide airport pick up.  Check them out on  (The best place in Addis -  or call to check for availability.  We never have a phone but will ask someone to make the call for us and offer to reimburse them.  Always works out.

Check out the fun, interesting show of Ethiopian music and dance at Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant, while tasting traditional dishes and drinks.   

Piazza District:
Lunch Buffets: We lucked out by having the Orthodox devotees fasting(vegan) for 2 months prior to Easter.   (EasterApril12th this year)  All you have to say is fasting food and they will adapt menus for fasting.  They have wonderful vegan buffets for the 2 months and afterwards on Wed and Fri.  The oldest 100 year old Hotel in Addis the Taitu has a wonderful Fasting Buffet for 65 birr - and you can go outside and enjoy the gardens while eating.  Take a mini bus directly from in front of Choice Pension-ask about Piazza district.  You may have to switch once.  Get off the mini bus taxi tell them Taitu Hotel and they will point down the hill. 

On a parallel street down (Mendi St) is the Wutma Hotel.  Excellent lunch buffet also for 75 birr.


Piazza is the backpacker area. The hotels are cheaper and the area is picturesque and very crowded. The name is a legacy of the Italian invasion era, and you will find some Italian cafe's.

St George's Cathedral:

The octagonal St. George's Cathedral is a traditional Ethiopian shaped church that was built in 1896. It commemorates the relic of St. George which was carried into the Battle of Adwa where the...

Skybus Office and tour operators behind Taitu Hotel in Piazza - closed 12 to 1:30pm  You must get your ticket the afternoon ahead.  They only reserve one day ahead at all bus offices in Ethiopia.
Search Skybus for schedule and destination cities.   The webpage makes the buses look wonderful- when our Arba Minch bus arrived at Mescal Square it was 1/2 hour late and bus was in shambles. Best to get your ticket the day before or you will be in the back of the bus.

To avoid the 5am departure we chose to go at 1:30pm to Awasa then the following morning had to get up at 5am anyways to get to Arba Minch.  If we had known we could have gone from Awasa to Sodo (3 hours) then another 3 hours to Arba Minch.(3 hours).  Remember to always check if buses leave later for a city half way through the trip.  This allows you to leave at 9 am rather than 5.  Get to the bus 1 hour ahead to put a bag on your seat while it fills up.

Selam Bus lines go to different destinations.

For a longer bus ride - always starting at 5-6am - get your ticket the day before - go to the public Autobus Terra long distance bus station- Central African Republic St.- north of Merkato . 


The Mercato (from the Italian for "market"), is huge covering several square kilometers (and square miles) of space near downtown Addis Ababa. It is crowded and total mayhem and not nearly as...


Yawenta Children's Center - Berenice & Karl and Bev and Solomon, et all make this school/ treatment/counseling/ center for 110 poor children with HIV an amazing place.  A great hands on project to support!
contact the manager:  Berenice at

Rift Valley Tourist Hotel:  Along the main road on the way to Jamaica, but down in a little green valley away from the hustle and bustle.  Get a high floor room in the 3rd class older building, clean, ensuite with hot water for only 330bir. 

We checked out the Zion Train Lodge but it was expensive (400-500bir), with outside showers, and isolated without transport.

Jamaica settlement is spread out.  Best to get your hotel room then take a tuk tuk for 20 bir to the Twelve Tribes area.  Walk to the Banana Art Gallery and upon return to the main road stop for an excellent juice at Natural African Juice House, just up from Twelve Tribes.

Didn't find good Rasta food like in Jamaica Island.  Just missed our friend Ras Bo bo from Jamaica Island by a couple of weeks.  That would have been a joyous reunion.  Shouldn't arrive in a place with expectations.  Met some new friends and enjoyed our stay none the less.

Banana Art Gallery worth the walk down a side lane across from the 12 Tribes Office.  Extremely friendly, talented artist.

Twelve Tribes Office didn't have much to offer.  Beware of gangster 'wanna be Rasta guides'.  You don't really need a guide! Most places to look at are right there around the 12 Tribes Office.

Midroc Zewed Village or soon to be: Progress International Resort Hotel # 0932189278  Helpful Manager: Tilahum Wendafrash
Room#2- basic, held together with a song and a prayer, this is definitely a view with a room.  The setting is what shines here, trees, monkeys and near to the lake,  it is like living in a zoo.  Wonderful monkeys and waterfowl always visiting.   Demolition and building a new high rise are slated to begin in 1-3 years.   Rooms currently 355bir but everything will change.  They promised the trees and monkeys will stay.  Go check it out.  If the construction has started you can always stay at the Oasis Hotel next door for about 400bir - clean and modern. 

The Lewi Hotel next door starts at $30 - great Terrace by the lake to eat.

The Venezia Restaurant has good pasta and great pizza. (200 m from the Oasis)


Arba Minch:
Must have lunch or dinner at the Paradise Hotel.  Spectacular view.

30birr tuk tuk from town

Stay at the Tourist Hotel (450-500 bir)- a little quieter and a pleasant courtyard.  Close to town - other nicer hotels on the outskirts but you must catch a tuk tuk.  Be aware of where the loud mosques and Orthodox churches are located.

Dorze tribe - above Arba Minch
200 for guide  150 for village entrance  20 birr each on public bus for the 37 km up to the 2500 meter villages

Last bus back down about 6pm so start by 9am and ask to be dropped off at the village.  Better yet contact Ephrem to arrange Asemamaw to show you his village for 200 birr (you pay his bus fare also and maybe buy some honey wine),  Asemamaw is a great guy and he loves to show you his village.

Also you can visit the crocodile farm and take a boat trip across the lake - but you need to find others to share with you and it is a full day excursion.

Until 50 years ago the tribes people of Omo Valley didn't even know Ethiopia existed. Wow is all I can say! We had such an amazing time hanging in the villages.

By chance ran into Eprhem. We can highly recommend Ephrem, in Arba Minsch Helpful, Honest, Reliable, Good prices. He will design a trip for you from full tour to just driver, to bus up to see the Dorzes. We recommend a 3-4 day trip with Dimenka and Turmi Market, The Hamers and Bull jumping, the Karo (who paint themselves, and the Mursi with the lip plates. Prices $120-$150/day with driver Could be helpful to figure out admission fees to villages ahead of time - pay it to Ephram- and then relax. (Can't go April and May due to rain we understand)
Contact him at phone #+251-913-860-007



A Few Birds & Animals of Lake Hawassa:
























 Hippo in Lake Hawassa.


Fishing from a reed boat.


Stunning water lotus.


Looking like a combination of aliens from Battleship Galactica and
black and white teddy bears, the colobus monkeys were
curious and gentle.


 The striking, impressive, large Colobus monkeys visited daily.


No less than 10 monkeys were lined up on our window sill looking
 in every morning.


Mind melding with a new little friend.


Footsie would take her nap every afternoon on our window.


The Mothers brought their new babies by to show us.


Want to come out and play?


The reason these vervet monkeys are called 'blue balled' monkeys.


Semegn worked at the resort by the lake.  She was a sweetheart.
We shared pictures of our children, laughed at the monkeys,
and the last day she picked me a wild flower bouquet.


Great guys!  Father and Son traveling together, Collin and Mackers.


I cooked in the kitchen, with a charcoal burner, while
keeping an eye out for marauding monkeys.  One took
off with a head of cabbage.


Monkeys 'monkeying' around.  They loved to look at
themselves in the mirror.


Hand woven straw hats and bags.


This really bad bus driver was actually driving down the highway
with a bus full of passengers and was fussing with 2 cell phones!!


Impressive terraces for farming.


The Dorze live in 20 foot tall bamboo huts and their total existence
is around the Utsa or false banana plant.


Asemamaw introduced us to his family and tribe.  Here his
Aunty is spinning cotton to be woven.


Dorze  'Warrior'.


Cheers while drinking honey wine: "Yo Yo Yo" - "Yo Yhoe". 


Weavers by profession they make beautiful, quality shawls and
blankets worn by most Ethiopian women.

Great views, clear mountain air, pine trees and even greater hospitality
await visitors to the Dorze village above Arba Minch.


Ephrem with Diamond (Mursi tribe) and Asemamaw (Dorze tribe).
Ephrem is honest and professional and will help you arrange a
trip to Omo Valley.  (see travel notes)


The forever view from the Paradise Hotel above Arba Minch.


Rastas from France, Jaimaca and Chile gather in the Promised Land
of Sashamene.


The friendly and talented artist of the Banana Leaf Art Gallery.


Yawenta Children's Center -  this school/ treatment/counseling/
center for 110 poor children with HIV is an amazing place.


Many beautiful trees line the shores of the Lagano Lakes.


Orthodox cathedrals are everywhere in this 80% Christian country.


St Georges Cathedral in the Piazza district of the capitol, Addis Ababa.


Jovial Orthodox nuns outside the church.


The ultimate fasting injera platter.  Tasty sauces and vegetables
are scooped up in a piece of tef injera bread and popped
 in the mouth.  Injera is the Ethiopian staple food.


Visitors from over twenty different countries enjoyed
traditional food and music in a local cultural restaurant.
Ahead of us was a group from neighboring Sudan.  A
couple of the men got up and sang after a few glasses
of honey wine.  Great fun.


A lively selection of traditional music from north to south Ethiopia.


Old and new transport in Addis.


Injera baskets and hats in the 'Merkato' or Market in Addis; one of
the largest markets in Africa.



You know you are in Doha, Qatar when.....................





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