Ahhhh Ethiopia… you have our hearts! Before I do anything else, let me launch straight into a shout out for this incredible country. While I will be describing how amazing this country is in full throughout, it is important to mention here that Ethiopia is suffering economically as a country… not just because of COVID, but because of the terrible press it has been receiving over the past year or so. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that there are areas of unrest, it remains a tiny percentage of the country that is being affected by it. For the rest, we can assuredly say that Ethiopia is an incredibly peaceful country. But because the  media coverage portrays Ethiopia as a war torn place, tourism has dropped to literally nothing. So I would encourage you, as long as the borders remain open, do not avoid this country… take the opportunity and go… it will blow you away!

Wild camping in the car park of the Moyale border post between Kenya and Ethiopia awarded us time to sort out our visa application forms etc, and we spent the next day (the ENTIRE day) actually crossing the border. As a border post, it is dishevelled, and entirely empty… literally, we were the only people crossing the border. We didn’t see so much as a truck driver, until a biker couple traversing the globe, joined us in the ‘queue’ later on during the day. I dread to think how long it would have taken if it was even a fraction as busy as other border posts we have crossed so far. Whilst you may think that we must have been very bored, you couldn’t be more wrong! We met John… an Ethiopian who spoke good English working as a guide to help people through the border post… he was absolutely great. When it transpired that we would have to wait about an hour for our visas to be cleared, he beckoned to us to come with him… ‘do you like coffee?’, he asked us. Of course we like coffee we answered, ‘but surely not the type of coffee we’re going to get here at the border post’, we all thought, smiling politely. Did we ever have our first cultural experience right there and then. He took us down the stairs,

around to the back of the border post building, where there was a tin shack and quite a scattering of plastic chairs. He manoeuvred us all to sit around a table, and ordered coffee for us. Whilst we waited, our senses were attacked! And because of this, I will always say that you don’t enter Ethiopia and see, you enter Ethiopia and smell!

Having passports stamped with a 30 day visa, we were simultaneously thrilled and filled with trepidation as it suddenly occurred to us that the country we were about to enter was completely new territory… a different language, a different alphabet, a different calendar (the Ethiopians are in the year 2014, and have 13 months in their year) and a whole new looking group of people. Not only that, but as we left the border post, we soon realised that they drive on the opposite side of the road!!!! Driving slowly through the main street of Ethiopian Moyale, we stared in wonder at the literal strangeness of everything….

Before we knew it we were out of Moyale and on the open road. And what we saw delighted us. The landscape opened up, and our eyes were assailed with the most beautifully painted round houses of this southern area of Ethiopia… patterns and colours popping out of the bush like sweeties on a long car journey!

Knowing we would have to wild camp for the night, we kept our eyes peeled for a good spot to stop (quite difficult… we were soon to learn that in Ethiopia, there are people EVERYWHERE!!) Eventually we pulled off to the left and quietly set up our camp and cooked a gentle meal. That stop was so peaceful, and incredibly beautiful. I knew in my heart of hearts at this point that, despite the foreign-ness of this new country, we were going to love it. 

Waking up the next morning we knew that one of our priorities was to try and get SIM cards, and the other to fill up with diesel. So with this in mind, we set off to next biggest town we could find… a place called Yabe-lo. We easily found a Telecom shop where we bought SIM cards with unlimited data for 30 days for dirt cheap… an amazing and hassle free deal to say the least! By this time we were hungry… mmm, what to do? 🤔 We saw what looked like might be a place to eat… at least, other people were eating there.

So taking a big deep breath in, off we went. Here we bumbled our way through ordering something similar to what we had eaten with John the day before… what we now know as njerra and beyeinet. We ate it, it was delicious, and we left very proud of ourselves!!!

Before moving on, we also had to refuel. So we joined the back of a long queue going in to the only petrol station in that town. Eventually we managed to get diesel, but it wasn’t without knowing that refuelling in this country might be more of a challenge than even in Kenya, with it’s well publicised fuel shortage. 

Continuing, we made our way from this town to place called Konso, our aim being to make our way through some countryside towards a town called Jinka and hopefully witness some of the tribal heritage of the Omo Valley. We found a lodge car park, and set ourselves up for the night. It was here that we met our lovely Andy… this man was not only a godsend, but he changed the way our entire time in Ethiopia looked. Andualem, or Andy as he is affectionately known, is a professional guide and is part of the Guide Association of Ethiopia. We were soon to learn that these people are an extremely special group of people, and are integral to Ethiopia’s tourism and hospitality industry. They are also some of the kindest people we have ever had the privilege of meeting.

Eugene and Andy met and chatted early the next morning. Eugene mentioned that we were wanting to go to Jinka but had been warned about trouble on the road (evidently caused by tribal conflict). Andy loved the whole idea of what we were doing, explained that they (he and a small bus load of 13 Israelis) were on their way to Jinka via a different road, and that we were welcome to follow them. Little did we know that this would take 4 nights, and lots of interesting detours! This four day did eventually take us safely to Jinka, but via the town of Turmi and the Mago national park. We followed Andy and his band of incredibly generous hearted travellers, which took us to the remotest parts of the Omo Valley. Here we were privileged enough to visit the homes of several tribes; namely the Hammer tribe, the Bana tribe, the Mursi and the Dashnech tribe. Each of these tribes live as they always have done, and their traditions and rituals still live on strong today.

The pictures here are of the women of the Mursi tribe who wear discs in their lips… from a young age, they split their bottom lip open and start inserting small discs inside which they enlarge over time. This is a symbol of beauty in the Mursi tribe.

The Dashnech tribe (pics below) live right on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya… they claim to belong to neither country, and live on the northern edge of Lake Turkana, where the delta there provides them seasonally with water. Here, they survive off of the desert floor.

Whilst these tribes remain largely uninfluenced by western culture, it is sadly possible to see how this is changing… cell phones and internet rule even here, and the increase of tourism to these areas and tribes inevitably brings its consequences (a huge topic of conversation… perhaps not suited to writing in a blog). Although being up close and personal to these people groups was an immense privilege, and one that we hadn’t anticipated in any way, it probably wasn’t something that we would originally have planned or chosen to do. The reason being that it feels incredibly intrusive approaching other peoples’ homes in such a way, and while some tourists don’t mind this experience, for us as a family it was extremely draining. Not only because it’s not necessarily what comes naturally to us, but because one can’t deny the difficulty of life for these people… the food availability can be meagre and the levels of sanitation poor. One cannot deny the malnutritioned tummies of the children, or the illness that collects in their eyes. It affected us highly… probably a good thing, but as always, triggering – to what extent do we just observe, before acting? And more importantly, how?

En route to the town of Turmi, we stopped for a quick coffee break at a local coffee shop… it wasn’t two minutes before we were surrounded by what felt like hundreds of people… staring, shouting, trying to stroke Evie’s hair… Andy even had to grab a stick and ward people off! 🤦🏼‍♀️ It was actually quite a terrifying experience… extremely  overwhelming. Also, you want to see two big brothers become instinctively protective of their little sister? You should have been there! 😉

At this point it seems very apt to pay tribute to the thirteen Israeli tourists we were ‘bunking’ with. They graciously let us tag along with them as a group without any financial implications to us. They genuinely loved what we were doing, and just completely embraced us. They were all around about 70yrs old (going on 21 😉 and were just the most amazing group of 

people… for those few days, they loved and accepted us – it was rather like being around family.We actually celebrated Evie’s 11th birthday whilst we were with them, and they gave her gifts and sung happy birthday to her Israeli style; they sat her in a chair and picked her up and bounced up in the air 11 times… she won’t forget that experience in a hurry! 😉

Before I move on, it’s vital to honour our lovely friend Andy. Not only was he gracious enough to let us follow him, but he allowed us to camp on his land in Jinka. It is land that he has bought and wants to change into a lodge eventually (Eugene is going to try and help him with the design etc). Here in Jinka, we met his beautiful wife and children. They fed us food, and welcomed us into their lives… and we are privileged to be able to call them friends. Never have we experienced kindness like we did from Andy and his fellow Ethiopians. Jinka is a beautiful town, and is the capital of the Omo region. We really enjoyed staying here for a few days, and when it was time to leave we bade a sad farewell to our new found friends.

The next couple of days were taken up driving up to Addis Ababa. Finding the road long, and towns ‘unapproachable’, we found ourselves having to wild camp. What we soon found however, was that trying to find a spot to camp in Ethiopia is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. As I have already mentioned, it feels as though there isn’t a patch of land in the whole of the country that isn’t inhabited by people. Now, if the people were quite ok with us setting up camp and fairly relaxed about leaving us to our own thing, then it might have been alright (not that you’ll find that anywhere in Africa, mind you). But the dear people of Ethiopia have this thing whereby standing [very] close and staring is the social norm. It was certainly more intense than any reaction we have known to date. We found that people would just stare at us for hours… whether we be setting up camp, sitting around, fixing the car, cooking, eating… you name it, we were equivalent to entertainment of the year. This had a couple of consequences; it made Malachi absolutely livid EVERY time (looking back, it’s quite funny. But at the time, it was very real for him). And secondly, it made going to the loo quite a challenge. 😬

Whilst travelling throughout Africa, we have been using an app called iOverlander. In a nutshell, it’s an app that has been developed for travellers by travellers whereby you can plot and review various things; wild camps, official campsites, restaurants, places to fill up with gas, laundromats etc etc etc. Travelling to Addis, we realised that there wasn’t a whole lot plotted on the app for places to stay in the city. There was one place to camp called Alex’s Spot, with no contact number. It was a Sunday afternoon when we arrived, and rather gingerly we drove up to the gates of aforesaid place. Well, the house was Alex’s and he and his girlfriend were staying there. He was a Canadian diplomat, and she a Maltese one. Evidently before his girlfriend was living there, he had popped his place on the app as somewhere overlanders could come if they wanted (he had once travelled America is such a fashion with his own kids). He was still super keen to have us stay, and was extremely welcoming. We squeezed into his very tiny yard space. He gave us free use of his washing machine and tumble dryer, an outside toilet and shower, and a hosepipe to wash everything down. Thankful was not the word to describe how grateful we felt. Not only all of this, but he said if we were driving back through Addis, we were welcome to stay there again. How lovely!

Whilst in Addis, there was a couple of things we wanted to do besides some stocking up and cleaning. Perhaps the most obvious thing was going to visit Lucy. 


For those of you who don’t know, Lucy is the nickname given to the most famous of the oldest human skeleton remains ever discovered.

There are actually a couple of other skeletons that date slightly older than Lucy (also stored in Addis Ababa’s Natural History Museum) but their remains aren’t quite as complete as Lucy’s. Ethiopia prides itself on its ancient history and for obvious reasons is known as the Cradle of Mankind. It is also known as the Land of Origins… you see, Ethiopia is steeped in history, and it oozes from every corner of it’s fabric.

We also went to see the Orthodox Church in Addis where the great Emporer, Haile Selassie and his wife are buried. Ethiopia has been ruled by a long list of Emporers – its last and most influencual being Haile Selassie (he was overthrown in 1974). 
Among other things, Haile is famous for being hailed as the redeeming 

messiah of the Rastafari movement (his birth name was Ras Tafari)… it explains why the iconic colours of the Rastafari movement are red, green and yellow, as these are the colours of the Ethiopian flag. Although he never claimed this title himself, there is the fact that he believed he was of Solomonic descent, which if you know your bible history is quite something. Because of this, there is quite a portion of Ethiopia’s society which believes Ethiopia is the Promised Land.

Ethiopia also holds great pride in the fact that it is the only country is Africa that was never colonised, despite many attempts. And as you walk its streets, talk to its people, absorb its culture, you can discern its unique identity. It is truly unlike any other African country we have been in this far. 

Maybe something that stands out as it’s own, is it’s music. We had heard that the jazz that comes out of this country is phenomenal, and we were determined to dig it out. We found it… the absolute root of it, Fendika – the club, the man, the vibe.

We spent an evening at this underground club whose reputation precedes it, listening to the most incredible jazz and meeting the most dynamic local people. We also met Fendika himself, who had literally just come back from doing a TED Talk in Canada. The whole evening was just absolutely splendid, and we left feeling like we had glanced a rare gem. 

After a few days in the capital, we felt it was time to move on… we had a LOT of ground to cover. Not only is Ethiopia a huge country, but there is so much to see. We advanced to Bahir Dar via an epic road leading to the bottom of a gorge and up the other side again. It took us 10 hours to drive just over 140kms. It was a crazy CRAZY road, but as you can probably imagine it was unbelievably beautiful… more than any photograph can capture… sweeping escarpments spreading before us, centuries of history within them. 

The bustling city of Bahir Dar held adventure for us. Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and is the source of the Blue Nile river. It is home to hippos and crocodiles, and has a total of 37 islands, 19 of which are homes to ancient orthodox monasteries. We took a boat to one of these islands and were privileged enough to be able to see one of the oldest of these monasteries. Built in the the fourteenth century and displaying some of the brightest frescoes I’ve ever seen, it was a peaceful and sacred sight to see. 

The monasteries on these islands are still used as places of worship, and some of them have become UNESCO World heritage sights. There is one monastery that women are not allowed to visit… only men. It is said that the Ark of the Covenant was stored here for years, before it was taken to Axum in the north of Ethiopia. 

Which brings me to another fascinating story. Ideally speaking we would have headed far north to this place called Axum, but the farthest north we were allowed to go due to the fighting of the Tigray war in this area, was Gondar (which we did… see below). It is said (and the Ethiopians believe it with their whole hearts) that the Ark of the Covenant is stored in Axum. If you look it up, there is very little to oppose this supposition. It was either lost, stolen and destroyed or taken to Ethiopia… what you believe is entirely up to you. But the greatest evidence lies in the fact that it is stored, and closely guarded in Axum by priests in the Cathedral named St Mary of Zion. The one appointed to look after the Ark is called the Guardian of the Ark (when one dies, another is appointed to fulfill his role) – he is the only one permitted to see the Ark. This being the case, it cannot be proved or disproved as the truth. But there are not many theories to oppose it. For me personally (and I think I speak for Eugene as well), I just love the idea of it being present in Ethiopia… the fact that you can’t easily dispute it creates this clash of myth and reality. And this brings so much beauty. And this beauty points to God. The story alone is thrilling, and it is just one of many things about this country that makes it so magical. It holds mystery and draws one like a magnet to dig into its many layers.

Heading to Gondar, the most northern part of our journey, we were about to unfurl more history. And meet with yet more kindness. Upon arriving at this beautiful city, we headed for a hotel in whose grounds we thought we might be able to camp in (they had a huge car park). However, they wanted to charge us in dollars a crazy rate that we couldn’t afford. So we phoned our darling friend Andy in Jinka to see if he could help us to reason with the management at the hotel. Explaining our situation in Amharic, they quickly understood and graciously allowed us to stay there in the car park and use their loos for next to nothing. On top of that, Andy phoned one of his Tourist Guide friends in Gondar and organised for him to come and meet us… nothing like a friendly face. So within the hour, the lovely Ammanuel had arrived at the hotel, telling us his sister had recently got married and that he is hosting a welcoming ceremony at his house for relatives and friends to meet the bride and groom. He’d organised with his wife, and told us that we were welcome to join them for dinner, ‘Please bring nothing… it is our honour to host you.’ Arriving at his humble house in the old quarter of Gondar, it was already filled with people… the bride and groom the centrepiece of the lounge area. Everyone moved and created space for us to sit like we were guests of honour. They handed us beers and soft drinks, and gave us plates, explaining what food there was to eat on the table… ‘we must please help ourselves.’ It was a very traditional affair… njera, shiro, goat meat. How humbling it was to be on the receiving end of yet more African hospitality… one that bends over backwards to serve you and expects nothing in return. If there’s one thing we have learned from the people we’ve met on this trip, it’s that we in the west shamefully know very little about true hospitality.

The next day, they organised for us to see the central tourist point of Gondar, the Royal Enclosure, for free. They said they are grateful that we are in Ethiopia… some of the first tourists they have seen in 2 years, and they would like to thank us.

The Royal Enclosure, or Fasil Ghebbie, was special. 

Gondar was the original capital of Ethiopia and was the home of various Emporers, Kings and Queens of days gone by. Dating back to the early 1700’s, this collection of castles and ancient ruins is authentically preserved and makes for a fascinating walk through (health and safety not a thing ;). They have on site a local architect who works daily on the preservation of these relics and others in the area. 

We were also taken by a colleague of Ammanuel’s to the site of Fasilides Bath… one of Ethiopia’s most sacred sites (yep, there are lots of these). Commisssioned and built by King Fasilides in the 1700’s as a ritual bathing basin, but currently used as a monument that plays an important role in the Orthodox celebration known as Timkat on January 19th. Whereby each year, the bath is filled with water from the river and thousands of Ethiopians pilgrimage here in honour of the Epiphany.

And lastly, we were taken to see a small but very old church, Debre Birham Selassie… one of Ethiopia’s most famous and beautiful churches. Decorated from wall to wall, floor to ceiling with paintings depicting bible stories, this little building has a deep rooted history. Perhaps one of it’s most striking features is the ceiling, painted with the faces of hundreds of angels. We visited at a time when they were reroofing the building with thatch… which is a good reflection of the time spent keeping this old relic alive. Upon entering the church, one’s shoes must be left outside (as with any church or monastery we have visited in Ethiopia). After which, one just enjoys the serenity of the empty building in the knowledge of its having stood here for four centuries, the home of thousands of worshippers.

Leaving Gondar, heading east, we made our way to Lalibela and to the place we knew would probably be one of the highlights of our year. But first we had to get there! We thought we would make it in one go. But! There was a problem with one of the wheels on the car. So we pulled over at what looked like a quiet space next to the side of the road… it was mid afternoon by that time. It wasn’t 20 seconds before the first handful of spectators gathered, which grew gradually to a fair old crowd of people… some sitting, some leaning on walking sticks, some standing leisurely around as Eugene and Gabe tried to sort the problem out. Poor old Malachi had a terrible tummy bug and had to keep running for the bushes (with zero privacy). Eventually, the wheel problem was overcome, but it was beginning to get dark. So, we had to stay right where we were for the night. Problem is, it wasn’t going to come for free. We were obviously on someone’s land (or maybe not?) and it was insisted that two ‘guards’ should stand outside our trailer for the night at a decent fee. Not only was this exercise quite intrusive, but it was noisy and weird to be honest. But anyway!! We survived the night and set out early the next morning. 

It actually took the majority of the following day to get to Lalibela – the mountainous road leading us forever up the ridge to where the town of Lalibela lies. Before ascending the final heights to the town, we had to drive through what appeared to be a huge military encampment. We were later to learn that just four months previously, Lalibela had been taken over by the military as part of the Tigray war crisis. The food of the town folk had been taken from their mouths by the military and their water and electricity had been cut off entirely… the town was essentially in crisis. In fact when we were there, there was still no electricity.
We found somewhere to stay very easily, and planned the next day to do the thing that we had travelled so far to see… to visit the 11 ancient monolithic Orthodox churches carved out of rock. One of the Wonders of the World. 

Lalibela is the name of the saint, once king of Ethiopia, who was responsible for the building of these churches in the 13th century. He was inspired after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to return to Ethiopia and build a new Jerusalem. It is said that the design of each church was revealed to him by God.

There are two main groups of churches and a separate one a short distance away dedicated to St George… each one is carved from solid rock from the outside in, from the top to the bottom. Underneath them all is an immense maze of tunnels and caves, connecting them and providing secret storage and routes. 
While I have mentioned that there is no tourism and that Ethiopia is suffering, I can selfishly say that we are undoubtedly among the few in the world to have visited this incredible sight, and not had to have contended with a single tourist. What an absolute privilege. Not only was it extremely restful to wander through like this, but it added ten fold to the spiritual experience we had whilst there. If God is a mystery, then it can be said that this place as an architectural and spiritual marvel claimed to have been built by angels is an absolute epitome of this mystery. Walking around these sacred buildings, shoes off, cold stone floors, the aroma of incense ever present, the fading frescoes on the internal stone walls, climbing through dark tunnels, staring down the entrances to others… wondering where they lead. Some caves have the remains of old priests just lying there. Some bridges covering the chasms below are upheld by flimsy scaffolding. But you walk on, taking it all in, soaking in the enigma that is this living breathing place of worshippers and pilgrims who choose to make this place their place. Quiet priests who reside in each of the churches all day every day, praying for children brought before them, silently greeting those who choose to tread softly within. 

Never ever will we forget the magic of this place. The sacredness of it’s mystery. The beauty of its actual existence. The tangible reality of its holiness.

After that amazing day, we packed up and left Lalibela, knowing that we needed to head south and out of Ethiopia and through the north of Kenya so that we could enter Uganda. We all knew that road ahead promised to be long and hard going. So we prepared ourselves mentally and set off. Our first goal was to return to Addis Ababa, then onto Moyale which is where the border post with Kenya is situated. This drive took us approximately a week. And it really was quite tough. Besides the drive being a very slow and difficult one through several mountain passes, we had the hope of being able to stay with our newly found diplomat friends’ front yard. For some reason unbeknown to us, they decided they didn’t want to host us again (I think the lady was a bit fancy, and to be honest detested having us slightly homeless looking people in her garden 😬). Anyway, we had to find an alternative, and quickly. We followed directions to a place (a hotel evidently) other overlanders had suggested on the aforementioned app, where they said we would be able to camp in the car park. This took us to an extremely dodgy part of the city. Not only was the area dodgy, but so was the hotel. Anyway, we decided to be brave. We stayed here for a couple of nights in our trailer and used their exceptionally stinky toilets which didn’t flush… I won’t say more 🤢). Late one afternoon, we decided to put raincoats on and take a walk in the damp city. Eugene had heard that there was a magnificent public library in Addis and thought it might be nice to go and see it. After walking for half an hour, we found it and it really was incredibly lovely. We spent probably about an hour and a half just sitting and looking through books and soaking in the beauty and impartiality only libraries can offer (I know some of you know exactly what I’m talking about 😉

Afterwards we sought the refuge of a restaurant we had visited before in Addis… it was a fusion of western and Ethiopian food and was extremely popular and crowded. It was difficult to get a table, but they squished us in, in the underground part of the restaurant

and we soaked up the vibe whilst eating burgers. We felt so happy!
Walking back to our tiny home in the car park of the dodgy hotel, was where we met our ‘One Birr’ little girl. If you would like to know what I am talking about, please feel free to read the blog I posted a couple of weeks ago called, ‘One Birr’.

It was this two night stop in Addis where I believe we all got sick. I may be wrong, but I think we all picked up COVID, and I also picked up something else… still not quite sure what.

But by the time we reached the border post five days later, not only were we all struggling to breathe properly through horrible coughs, but I could barely stand up straight, let alone walk anywhere or keep even a sip of water in. 

Something quite magical happened though. We arrived at the border post, and the first thing you must do is what they call the health check. They just want to know that you’ve been vaccinated against COVID and have a yellow fever card. There was a lady there called Hawo. She saw me sitting in a chair, and came up to me, ‘My dear, you are not well. Let me help you.’ She took me under her wing, and by the next morning had me admitted to a Kenyan hospital at the border post. There they put me on an IV and gave me goodness knows what concoctions of medicines, but by the end of the day, I felt considerably better… at least I could walk a few meters. They still don’t know what the problem was… there was a mixture of diagnoses including bilharzia, a nasty case of gastro, a reaction to some water i maybe came in contact with????? Guess I’ll never know for sure. I took antibiotics for a week after that, and felt much better by the end of them. By which time all of us were on the mend from our COVID type of sickness.

We eventually reached the town of Nanyuki to the west of Nairobi, where Eugene was determined that we take a break from sleeping in the trailer and just park off at a hotel for a couple of days. We all needed a bit of recouperation. We found the most beautiful spot… a tiny hotel just to our taste with a beautiful view over some plains. Breakfast was included and we indulged in the most amazing food we had experienced on our trip to date… it felt utterly luxurious!! 

After this, we hopped back in our car and dragged us and our little house over the west of Kenya through to the border post with Uganda. It has to be said at this point that the west of Kenya was very lovely (having said in my Kenya blogpost that we hadn’t found the country very striking!) The west though was gentle and green and full of farming communities… the drive was peaceful and uneventful. 

And so, back to our beloved Ethiopia! It would be remiss of me not to mention the food and drink of this country, simply because it is so SO different. Firstly, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony; Ceremony might be defined in this sense as ‘ritual’… it is a daily routine, that is an excellent example of Ethiopian hospitality. The reason I say this is that this ceremony takes place anywhere and everywhere. We experienced it from the moment we arrived in Ethiopia at the border crossing, and then every day since… sometimes more than once a day. It happens in homes, in restaurants and by the side of the road. It involves the female of the hosting party roasting coffee beans over a small fire amidst the people gathered. Once they are roasted, she grinds them, and perfumes the room. She then steeps the ground coffee in water held in a clay pot. From here she pours the coffee into tiny china cups and hands them around.Traditionally, incense is burned with the coffee… typically frankincense and myrrh. This is said to carry away any bad spirits so that conversation and socialising can take place freely.

And as for food? Let me introduce you to njera… the staple food of the Ethiopian diet. Quite simply, it is a huge pancake made from a sour fermented mixture. Think sour dough taste intensified, spongy flatbread vibes. The first time you take a bite into it without being warned, it can be a bit of a shock. It literally is sour! It is brought

on a platter dish, usually served with assorted vegetables, like cabbage and tomato, betreet and potatoes. Or with spaghetti, or something called shiro which is a tomato-y paste made with chickpea flour and Ethiopian spices. Sometimes it is served with goat meat, beef or chicken. One eats it with one’s hands, using the njera to scoop up mouthfuls of filling. And yes, there is an art to eating it! After a while, one gets used to the taste, and actually it’s delicious and super healthy!

So my conclusion? Despite the fact that Ethiopia was completely foreign in every way from the language to the food to the history and culture. Despite the fact that our little western white bodies could barely cope with this huge difference. Despite the fact that the country is massive and we actually only got to see the tip of the iceberg. Despite the fact that the altitude is ridiculously different to what we’re used to, and the roads are an abundance of pot holes, and people who don’t keep their camels/ donkeys/ goats in check. Despite the fact that we were walking talking living breathing entertainment for the entire Ethiopian population of curious staring people. WE WOULD GO BACK, YES WE WOULD!!!!

Never have we seen so much beauty as we did in our month in Ethiopia. And evidently we didn’t even go to the most beautiful of the places in the country (the Simien and Bale Mountains, and the Danakil Depression). Never EVER have we been at the receiving end of so much kindness and warm hospitality as we were in Ethiopia.

But I think we would do it differently… we would without a shadow of doubt use Andy (or another member of the professional guide association) to take us round… not only would it support him and his family, but he also knows and understands the culture, and the best places to stay in each area. I think doing it as we did, would be referred to as ‘roughing it’, and I think there is not much wisdom in it. Not in a place like Ethiopia with all its layers and beautiful strangeness.

If any of you are inspired to go, PLEASE chat to us first. We will help set you up for the most amazing experience just by giving you contact details of people we love and trust. And PLEASE don’t think twice about going. We believe it will be a life changing experience.