Three Ply
Feb. 15th 2003
We set off at about half six in the morning, and headed to the local garage and filled up with fuel and replaced a bit of oil because it was quite close to the low marker on the dipstick. Dereje made regular stops to check the car, especially if we heard a loud clunk under our feet indicating a strike from a large rock. In the town there were many pople milling about and watching us as we re-fuelled.

Outside Alamata, women were already bringing back the day's firewood, and people were working out in the misty fields. The land was a bit more dry, although it didn't really look it. It was the number of cacti that led me to this conclusion. These are used locally for fences, and for food.

I really started to appreciate the speed of cars. This would have been an incredible journey to make without a vehicle of some kind. The dust was still causing a problem although we could see a bit more with the daylight. I wonder if you could make static electricity mud flaps that knock the dust back to the ground.

Ethiopia has many religions but the most common by far are Christianity and Islam. I can't say that I saw many churches, but there were plenty of beautiful mosques. We left these behind as we turned up a road that took us once again into the mountains for Maichew. Maichew is not on top of a mountain but is surrounded by them so we first had to go up, and then go down. With every blind hair pin bend, Dereje gave a quick blast of the horn to warn oncoming traffic. The road was not busy though.

Maichew, again, was a large town. Wilko's placement took him to a technical college where he was there to teach automotive engineering. He had been allocated accommodation which turned out to include a fridge. Such a luxury. After dropping his stuff off, we had breakfast and were met by the dean of the college who then took Wilko back. Dereje and I headed back down the mountain, and then to Mekelle.

Now, the scenery really did change. We were in a desert landscape. Not the sand sort of desert, but the sort of desert with scraggly plants that you would see in western films. The fields became fewer, and Dereje told me that there were nomadic tribes living here. The huts became round, wooden huts.

Dereje stopped the car just outside a town to give it a quick check. Immediately we were surrounded by people wanting a lift. Normally we would just head on, but two women and their child could be fitted in so we took them to their town. They were teachers, and as such are held in high regard.

Outside of Mekelle, the landscape was sporadically green. This was due to irrigation. The dust was still present though. The buildings had now become much larger and made of stone. It reminded me slightly of pictures bethlehem. This was confirmed later by another VSO who said that if you see one of the huts at night in the very bright moon and starlight, with a campfire burning, you have your Christmas card.

We passed the airport and headed towards MIT, and the university campus to find my contact. They were not there so we headed into town. Failing to find the contact we stopped for lunch. As we got out of the car, another volunteer met us, having seen the car and come over. Normally he would have been in Maichew but was in Mekelle for the weekend with his sisters. He was amazed that we had got there so quickly. And, to be fair to the contact, we had originally estimated 18:00 as an arrival time, yet it was now only about 13:00. The person I needed to see met us in the restaurant and we arranged to go back to the campus and to the room in which I would be staying for a few days.

After unloading my stuff, I headed into town to meet some of the other Mekelle volunteers and sat on a hotel balcony drinking cold local beer while being able to watch Mekelle in action. The TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front) had a noisy march to celebrate their previous victory.

After visiting a local museum, I was picked up by a driver for the institute and taken back to my room. I then found out that there was no water in my room, and no toilet paper. This was a problem because my stomach had been complaining throughout the day. Not to go into details, but have you noticed how the good quality tissue is three ply, yet you don't really need more than one ply at a time.