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Ethiopia January 2019 Trip Report Final Part

  • Written by Harry
  • May 10th, 2019
  • 23 min read

The next day we arrived in Arba Minch around 4 PM. Arba Minch actually consists of 2 towns, an uptown and a downtown. In the (quiet) uptown you find the rich houses and expensive hotels and the downtown is a  very poor area with very poor looking (often non paved) streets surrounded by hovels and shacks and a few decent looking buildings. It’s also very dusty due to the winds. Downtown is full of people walking around in the daytime and evenings, it’s very busy.

Usually tourists are advised to stay uptown, the downtown area is not considered safe for a Ferengi, lots of gangs are roaming the streets there at night and it is a dangerous area to go out (as we would experience).

We found a hotel (very basic rooms without air-con) near the main street in the downtown are and checked in.

Arba Minch has a more tropical climate compared to AA and even Hawassa. It’s very humid here and the temperatures in the daytime are around 32 degrees, it is very  similar to the climate in Bangkok so the rooms were very hot, I was wondering if I would be able to sleep that night.

I tried to get some mosquito repellent in the pharmacies but not one pharmacy sold it. I made  a mental note to bring it next time with me. We saw one more Ferengi in our hotel, sitting outside in the restaurant area eating tibs from the next door butchery. I talked a bit to him. He came from Germany and was about 70 years old, I guessed. S also tried to talk a  bit to the guy but the guy kind of ignored him.

Around 8 PM we decided to check out the bar scene in Arba Minch downtown. S told me that there are no clubs and bars in the uptown area safe for some hotel bars but those would probably be very quiet so we went to the down town bars. We only found one bar very close to our hotel. There was also a club on the other side of the street from the bar. We decided to first go into the bar. We sat down in the outside area of the bar and had a drink. It was a reasonably sized place with quite a few girls and not too many guys. I spotted one girl dancing around wildly in (again) a tank top and jeans. She had a great body and was dancing very provocatively around a table where a few local guys where having a drink.

S called her over and immediately she came. She had a great body indeed but unfortunately her face was a bit of a disaster area, maybe not that horrible but she was certainly not pretty.

I failed to say so far that I had brought some mood enhancers with me from Holland, namely Phenibut.

Phenibut is a substance (nootropics) from Russia I believe, widely sold in Europe and quite popular as a party drug. It is still legal in most countries (including Ethiopia) so I had had no problems bringing it in. One should not use it every day because then it can become addictive but rather use it just 3 or 4 times a week.

I had taken 4 tablets that night and with the beers kicking in slowly (we already had had a few in the restaurant with dinner before) it worked very well again that night. So I felt on top of the world once more and behaved as such with the girl who liked it a lot and would not move an inch from my side after I interacted with her for a while (of course the money is the main and probably only motivator).

The girl asked S if I would take her. I was actually not sure about that but decided why not, so S asked her how much. She quoted 700 bir and S told me that. I still was not sure and told S to tell her we would check out the club first and then would come back to pick her up. S told the girl and she looked really disappointed but then said Ok so off we went to the club. The club was still empty when we entered. Actually before we entered there was a conflict  between S and the doormen who had requested an entrance fee of 200 bir per person. S did not want to pay that and told them we would drink in the club, so why bother with an entrance fee. After some arguing we were allowed inside. It was still quiet when we entered but the place soon started filling up after we came in. I went to the toilet after a while and bumped into the girl from the bar who had gone to the club also in search of me. She was obviously scared I would not come back to the bar to collect her and was very scared to lose the money. She immediately hugged me when she saw me and after I had come back from the toilet we went into the club together. S saw her and had to laugh.

While we were drinking with the 3 of us I spotted a very beautiful looking girl just across from us also sitting at the bar of the club. She started flirting with me constantly looking and smiling at me while I was busy with the girl from the bar. This very pretty girl was with an older girl.

After some time (she just kept looking and smiling at me) I just couldn’t handle it anymore, so I went up to that girl. The girl from the bar had already noticed my flirting so she had gone quiet and was sulking already for a while. I went to the new girl, who had a great set of hooters also but a very slim waist. She looked very young, probably just 20 or so and we talked a bit. I talked a bit to her and we seemed to get along well, but the old lady kept interfering (cock blocking).  After a while I decided to go back to the bargirl and S, maybe I should have stayed with the other girl. The bargirl was really angry now and was near in tears. She shouted something to S who then tried to calm her down. S told me she had said she wanted to go up to the other girl and kill her. S then told her not to worry and to take it easy since I was not her husband, was I?

The young girl was now with a local guy and they seemed to be very close (maybe boyfriend or booked customer?) so I knew that was off the table. I also did not want the bargirl anymore so we told her she could go. I gave her 300 bir for her troubles. Then we went back to the hotel by Bajai. When we were on the way our bajai guy told us to be very careful because there was a gang of young guys from the local gym who were on a rampage. We actually ran into some of the gang members when we were rounding the corner of the street, while the bajai guy was waiting for some oncoming traffic we saw some guys running to our bajai, but we just moved again before they arrived.

The next day we went to the crocodile farm. A sure bet you can see crocodiles there even though on Lake Chamo it is also a sure bet to see them in the wild. I also wanted to go there to collect some crocodile teeth because I had  a plan to have some crocodile necklaces made. I thought it looked cool and they may also be used as a present.


The crocodile farm in Arba Minch

The farm is located 5 km outside the town. The road to the farm goes through a beautiful lush rainforest. At the farm you pay a small entrance fee (free for locals). We were greeted by our guide, a guy in army fatigues with  a big AK47. I was wondering why he was carrying that gun, maybe to protect us against stray crocodiles? The farm consists of 4 separate  compounds each with a pool surrounded by a big lounge area for the crocodiles to sunbathe. The smell is horrible. Each compound is filled with crocs from the same age. The first one is filled with 2-year-old ones, the second one 3 year olds and the third one 4 year olds and the fourth one almost 5 year olds. There are also 4 small pools each of them with a large adult crocodile. These are the breeders that provide the eggs (2 males and 2 females). Because as the guide told us it is not allowed anymore to harvest eggs from the wild for the crocodile farm.

Each compound contains maybe 300 or 400 crocodiles each. The guide told us the crocs are harvested around their fifth year because if they allow them to grow larger they will have to eat so much food that the profit margin will start to really suffer. He also told us they work together with a lady from the UK who sells the leather from them to make pouches, bags and shoes.

While we were touring the compound there was also a young Ethiopian couple (from AA). The girl was quite stunning and when they walked in front of us the girl kept looking back at me and flirting with me, while the guy was busy filming the crocodiles. S and I then made a plan that it would be a good idea to throw the guy in the pool with one of the big adult crocs. The guide (who spoke English) also heard that and told us he thought it was a good idea and he would help. We were just kidding of course.

After the tour we went to the office to ask for teeth. The guy in the booth then got around 15 or so and told S that they were 100 bir each. S asked him if I could have the whole  bunch for 300 bir and it was agreed. So I got my teeth (about 6 cm each including root). We paid him and the guide and we went back to Arba Minch.

That evening we were eating Tibs with beers in a restaurant on the same road of our hotel. There were 2 nice looking girls seated at the next table who kept looking at us so we invited them over. I had again taken my Phenibut so was feeling good. One of the two girls was particularly nice looking so she was seated next to me, the other one next to S. Then the German from our hotel came past and saw us. He immediately came inside and immediately took a chair next to the girl I was talking to. He almost did not acknowledge us, but immediately started talking in (quite good Amharic as S would tell me later) with the girl I had been talking to. But this girl did actually speak very good English, with a very cute accent. As I had already learned from her, she had received a scholarship to the USA and was due to go there next year. She told the German guy he could speak English to her and then the guy started speaking English to her in a slow and annoying way, as if she was retarded. He said he was an English teacher who had taught many years in Irian Jaya (Indonesian part of New Guinea), and who had managed to teach almost everybody very good English there. If we would ever visit Irian Jaya, and noticed that everybody there spoke very good English, it was because of him, he had taught everybody there and he was a very good teacher. As he said to the girl. IIIIIIIIIII aaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmm aaaaaaa veeeeeerrrrryyyyyy goooooooooodddddd eeeennnglllliiisssshhhh tteeeaaaachhhhheeeeerrr.

S who was visibly upset by now about the  guy started talking to him in a somewhat mocking way, the guy disagreed about everything S was talking about. Then he quickly moved again to the girl whom he was probably trying to pick up. Then S told him to please leave, because the girl was quite uncomfortable, luckily the guy did.

The girl seemed to be genuinely happy he was gone, turning to me and putting her face to my shoulder saying “my gosh, what a weird guy was that”, we hit it off really well and decided to go to the same club as last night. We were greeted or better said halted again by the doormen and this time they would not let us in. We had to pay the 200 birr entrance fee. S got really angry with them and I feared it would turn into a fight, but finally he gave in and I paid the fee for the 2 of us (girls were allowed in free), and we went inside. S was in a bad mood, which got even worse when it turned out there was no beer in the club. “What the Hell”, S fumed “a club that does not even have beer?” The girls asked for a bottle of water and we drank nothing. The barlady told us that beers were coming but it could take a while. S was in a bad mood and wanted to go back so we went out. When we were going out the beers actually arrived, guys were carrying in boxes with beer bottles.

We decided to walk back to the hotel (it was around 10 PM by now) and that turned out to be a very bad idea. While we were walking back (it was very quiet on the streets now), suddenly a group of about 6 guys turned up surrounding us. Bare-breasted some of them were flexing their (not very impressive) muscles and they demanded money and cigarettes. They were also talking to the girls who looked very scared. My girl actually tried to protect me, she had told me she was doing Taekwondo (very slim and small girl but almost same height as mine). S tried to reason with them and it somehow seemed to work. The girls were also having none of it so we came out of that situation unharmed. We walked further and suddenly I heard a popping noise and S nearly fell and grabbed his face in his hands. It turned out somebody had thrown a stone at him that had hit his face. We quickly walked on and when we were near our hotel it happened again, this time one of the girls got hit with a stone, but the stone hurdler was close by this time (a young guy) and managed to grab him and I hit him in the head hard. The guy fell down on the street and after he got up S kicked him hard in his (nonexistent) ass and told him to go home.

We went quickly back in the restaurant area of our hotel and the guard closed the door after us. The girls told us they wanted to go home. None of us were in a good mood at that time one can imagine. I was actually seething with anger and even wanted to punch up the poor guard who had nothing to do with all of it. I gave the girls some money and the guard hailed a Bajai. Then the girls left (we had even forgotten to ask for their phone numbers).

We sat down in the restaurant area belonging to our hotel and the guard sat down with us. We got beers, also one for the guard and the guard told us about the situation in downtown Arba Minch. It turns out the place is very unsafe at the moment with lots of gangs and groups up to no good walking around by night trying to rob and intimidate people. This has partly to do with the political situation in the south but also the local government there who seem to do nothing to stop the gangs, some police even appears to work together with the gangs who also operate as a kind of local mafia, extorting money from business owners. Even the guard told us he has problems with those guys none of whom are working and even think about getting a job, they seemed to know exactly when his paycheck was due because they would come around telling him to take them out for beers every time his paycheck came.

I had enough of Arba Minch and told S we would leave the next day. No Chamo Lake cruise to see the wild crocodiles and hippos (I had been looking really forward to that), I wanted to leave this hell-hole.

The next day we packed our bags and left to Shashemane, just 25 km north from Hawassa. The 2 girls we had met in Hawassa had kept texting S asking him when we came back but S did not want to. There was no running water in Shashemane already for weeks. Every hotel we went said there was no water so one could only take a shower from a  bucket with (foul looking) water. I told S I did not want to stay there more than one night if I could not shower. It was already around 7 PM when we were checked into a hotel there and we went for food. Pretty soon we bumped into a few pretty girls but I was in such a bad mood that the girls practically ran away from us, another missed opportunity.

Shashemane is the place where the Jamaican Rastafarian have their compound, we had seen the compound from the bus (as it is on the main road of town) but we did not go there.

After Shashemane we went to a few other towns (one being debre zaid) we stayed in those towns a few days after that it was back to AA.

I then stayed another 4 or 5 nights in AA and the last trip was with S to Bahir Dar.

In Bahir Dar we ended up staying for 8 nights. Bahir dar is located around Lake Tana, the city is located perhaps 500 km north from AA. It is the regional capital of Amhara state. A modern city with many nice buildings and well laid out. It’s a pleasant city for a holiday and here one sees many tourists.

The trip from AA to Bahir Dar is very beautiful by bus. Winding around high mountain passes where you have magnificent views of the lower lying valleys. You also can see monkeys near the side of the road (some baboons).

We did more of the same in Bahir Dar, among others we visited the monasteries on the islands of the lake which are not old monasteries unfortunately but concrete like structures on the outside, on the inside you see beautiful tapestries depicting biblical scenes and scenes from orthodox Ethiopian history. These monasteries are holy places and the islands on which they stand are beautiful remnants of the biodiversity that ones was common in Ethiopia but nowadays has sadly disappeared almost entirely. The islands are covered in lush rainforest with beautiful large trees.

We also saw some hippos on lake Tana but you don’t see them from as close as on Lake Hawassa. Lake Tana is huge and there is also a big fishing industry there, so we ate a lot of lake fresh tilapia while there.

I actually started to get a little bit bored with the lake fish so I ate a lot of beef tibs and chicken while in Bahir dar. There are many big hotels there so it is easy to find western style food in the city.

The ladies in Bahir Dar are just as reserved and hard to approach as in AA, but still I managed to find 2 nice ones (non bargirls) of course with the help of S, this happened at the end of our stay in Bahir dar. The last morning we decided to move hotel from our hotel near the lake side to a hotel a bit further in town that had a big pool. We decided to spend the day in the pool (the water looked suspiciously green instead of blue but we thought it would still be ok), the next morning we had to leave very early (6 AM) to AA so we went to bed early.

I started feeling really sick around 9 PM. Bad stomach, vicious cramps and diarrhea. I could not sleep that night and try to vomit many times but nothing came out.

5 AM I got out of bed (not having slept one minute) feeling like a wreck and still very sick. Took a shower and after that I packed and got out of my room and knocked on the door of S. S came out and I told him I was sick  S told me he had also been sick but was now feeling better. We suspected the pool to be the cause.

Anyway we went to the bus and this was one of the worst bus drives in my whole life. I was feeling sick all the time and even vomited a few times in a bag. I could not eat when the bus stopped for lunch (or breakfast). I was so happy when we reached AA and after I had booked into the hotel again S went home and I had a rest. The next day was my last day in AA.

This concludes my stay in Ethiopia.


To summarize and some final observations

Ethiopia is nothing like Thailand or Indonesia, you might as well  be on another planet. Only in the Bole area of AA you can find some high-class hotels, western style clubs, cafes and restaurants and perhaps a few outside of Bole. There are also some malls in Bole but these malls are nothing like the malls in Jakarta and Bangkok. Rather empty with some shops here and there inside and some restaurants etc. They are also very small.

The rest of the country is real third world, poor, grimy and often wild.

According to official stats the Ethio economy is one of the fast growing in Africa and has been growing fast for quite some years now but my brother who has been going there for 11 years told me it appears rather to get poorer and poorer instead of richer. This is because only a very small percentage of the population (maybe just 5%) profits from this growth, the rest of the population actually suffers from this economic growth because prices go up and inflation is very high.

Nightlife is nothing compared to nightlife in Indonesia and Thailand and (in my opinion but others may disagree) there are not as many pretty girls in Ethio compared to Thailand and Indonesia. But still there are enough pretty girls there because of the sheer size of the (young) population, Ethio has around 110 million people now and is still growing very fast in population, and most of the people are below 35 years of age.

I traveled with a local guy from a good family who spoke decent English and who knew the best places, this is (in my opinion) advisable if you go there because if I had gone traveling alone I think I would not nearly have had so many good experiences.

Many Western guys who go there for the girls (most tourists don’t go there for girls), usually only stay in and go out around Bole area because they don’t want to be seen with a girl from a lower class. In Bole you can find many high-class and rich and extremely beautiful girls who probably all speak good English, but I think those girls are just as hard to pull as the girls in Indo and Thailand, who usually are only into good-looking Western guys. So I did not bother about going to Bole and decided to go for the lower hanging fruit, girls that the (poorer) local guys also chase.

Girls are girls and some of these (lower) class girls can be just as beautiful and fun as the rich girls, but one has to be a bit picky of course, many low-class girls are not good for various reasons. And 99% of these girls don’t speak English and sometimes this can be a problem, oftentimes when I spend some time with one of these girls I wished I could speak Amharic because it can become tiring and frustrating not to be able to communicate much, I often felt left out when I was with S and some girls and they were twittering happily among each other while I could just sit there. I may have to try to pick up some Amharic but it is a very very difficult language to learn.

About HIV in Ethiopia, the HIV rate there seems to be very low compared to other African countries and maybe even lower than in Asia. The main reason for this is the culture in Ethiopia, girls here are not nearly as irresponsible and stupid and wild compared to many girls in other African countries, they are generally really careful about everything and are not known to act randomly and irresponsibly.

The food in Ethiopia (especially the traditional food) is not to my liking. I am not into goat meat, Injera and mutton. But I met some western tourists there who really loved the local food. If one goes to a remote town one will only find restaurants that serve the traditional food and perhaps some pizza and spaghetti places (but on the pizza and in the spaghetti you will also get goat meat), near lake areas you can always find many fish restaurants.

In the bigger towns and regional capitals it is always possible to find more food in some restaurants and in the restaurants of the big hotels but (again in my opinion) Ethiopians do not know how to prepare food. For me it always tasted a little bit odd, but maybe I am spoiled and picky when it comes to food (I know I am, cooking is one of my number one hobbies).

One thing I also noticed is that there are not many supermarkets in Ethiopia (even in AA) where you can find western food items. There are some, especially in the new satellite towns around AA and Bole but many of the food items are past their use by date (some even far past it) so I did not bother to buy much in restaurants safe from candy and chewing gum.

For lovers of ice cream I also have bad news, even in AA it is hard to find and outside AA almost non-existent. I did find a nice ice cream place in Bahir Dar though.

For me Ethiopia was good, I felt better there then I usually feel in Jakarta, mainly thanks to S who was a very good companion and friend along the way who did everything to make my trip great and memorable and without him it would not have been nearly as good.

Will I go back? Actually, yes. I have another trip planned in August this year and if I can really learn to enjoy it there I might go back once or twice every year. There also seem some great business opportunities there that I would like to explore, and I want to see some other parts of the country also, so there are enough reasons to go back.

The author can be contacted at : [email protected]