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
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
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
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.